Barracks went from guns to gravy and now to shopping

A soldier's gravestone at Hillsborough Barracks
A soldier's gravestone at Hillsborough Barracks

Hillsborough Barracks is a name long associated with Wardsend Cemetery, its military connection is well established with more than 400 soldiers, wives and children buried there.

But after the army left the barracks, then what? From 1930 to the present day the fortunes of the barracks have taken several turns.

A preserved sign to the old Burdall's factory

A preserved sign to the old Burdall's factory

In 1930 the 29th Howitzers left the barracks, ending 82 years of active service that saw several well-known regiments founded there including the Warwickshires who became the South Wales Borderers.

They made history at Rourke’s Drift, winning 11 Victoria Crosses in the Boer War.

The years following start with two years unoccupied before in 1932 the site was put up for auction by the war office and auctioned by Eadon and Lockwood.

However, when the bidding stopped it had reached only £12,000 and the lot was withdrawn from sale.

Historic buildings preserved at Hillsborough Barracks

Historic buildings preserved at Hillsborough Barracks

Later that year the site was bought by Burdall’s, manufacturing chemists, they were run by Herbert Moses Burdall and are best known for their gravy salt but made many other goods besides.

Alongside him was his son Herbert Alonzo Burdall.

They opened there in 1935 after a fire at the Gibraltar Street works.

They let out other parts of the old barracks site to others including Sheffield Insulations.

Burdall's staff at Christmas in the 1940s

Burdall's staff at Christmas in the 1940s

The man himself was born in Lincolnshire in 1857 and was described in Sheffield as a dry salter.

Dry salting concerned the making of dyes, varnish, wallpaper paste, paint, soap and glue.

In the same year he bought the barracks he was elected to the council, representing Hallam, where he served until the 1940s.

One habit of his was that he had two hats – a straw boater he wore in spring and summer and a more serious hat he wore in autumn and winter, changing from one to the other on certain dates each year regardless of the weather.

An advertisement for Burdall's gravy salt from The Star in 1945

An advertisement for Burdall's gravy salt from The Star in 1945

The works was sold in 1976 and closed. After a spell where the site was mainly empty the site was sold in the 1990s to Morrison’s supermarkets and is now the thriving commercial centre that is part of Hillsborough’s fabric.

Morrison’s used the old parade ground as their supermarket covering it over, inside the supermarket are the frontages of the buildings that once looked out on the open parade ground, the outside was now inside.

Morrison’s have thoughtfully and genuinely kept the barrack’s character and history in a conserved state.

The old Burdall’s door sign is still there behind the offices that run down to Morrison’s from Langsett Road on one of the turrets.

Also by the Langsett Road entrance is the old Burdall’s painted sign on the stone wall by the car park.

Herbert Alonzo took over after his father’s death and was in charge when the firm closed. Their best-known product was gravy salt, it contained no gravy! It was caramel and salt combined!

How Hillsborough Barracks looked in 1986

How Hillsborough Barracks looked in 1986

If you had a cough you could take their syrup of squills (sea hyacinths).

Clean your teeth with their carbolic tooth powder or use their denture cleaner. Rhuematics, no problem they had salts for that and ointment for your chilblains.

 They supplied eczema and dermatitis paste, fuller’s earth ointment, Glauber’s salts (no idea what that was for!).

You could if you wish clean your hair with soapless shampoo powder or use their hair cream on it. They made suntan oil and perfume.

Your stomach could be eased by carbonate of magnesia or Dr Hugh Maclean stomach powders (does anyone remember trying the good doctor’s powders?)

As one of Hillsborough’s biggest employers they hold a special place in our local history employing lots of local people, mainly female.

They and Bassett’s have had a big impact on the area’s commercial and personal outlook.

The Garrison Hotel which lies within the old barracks walls houses a memorial to George Lambert VC.

He was awarded the highest military honour for bravery during the Indian Rebellion in 1857.

He collapsed and died on the parade ground (now Morrison’s car park) and is buried at Wardsend Cemetery