Formed in 1924 as ‘the Sheffield Association for the Protection of Local Countryside’ the charity formally became the Peak District and South Yorkshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England in 1927.
Ethel Gallimore, nee Ward (the daughter of TW Ward, the famed Sheffield industrialist), was the far-sighted and pioneering founder of the organisation at a time of tremendous social change.
In his book ‘Protecting the Beautiful Frame’ Melvyn Jones (Hallamshire Press, 2001) describes how the organisation shaped thinking about landscape conservation by “a combination of vision, unshakable principle, meticulous research, rational argument, dedication, doggedness and, not least, by the devotion and generosity of its ordinary members”. And the archive which informed his book “demonstrated the unique roles played by Ethel and Gerald Haythornthwaite”.
Sheffield has much to be grateful to this influential couple for. For example, the Longshaw estate is probably one of the most popular Peak District destinations for Sheffielders and it is still there largely as a result of Ethel's efforts. And, although it wasn't formally enshrined until 1983, the UK’s first Green Belt around Sheffield, is now largely as it was submitted by CPRE and approved by the City Council on 1st June 1938. Although it was not legally binding, Sheffield City Council operated it as if it was, with only a very few exceptions.
As Sir Chris Bonington said in his foreword to Melvyn Jones’ book “Whatever else is forgotten, the Branch will go down in history as a major force in environmental conservation because of the achievement of its two ‘grand purposes’: the designation of a national park in the Peak District and the creation of a permanent Sheffield Green Belt. But there were so many more equally successful campaigns in the wider countryside and urban fringe that the reader gasps with admiration. And at the head of this crusading society for so long, the tireless, single-minded, and selfless Ethel and Gerald Haythornthwaite were without parallel. We shall not see the likes of Ethel and Gerald again”. Some of our work by Ethel and Gerald in the 20th Century was also supported by the Sheffield Town Trust.
Aspiring to their formidable purpose, our objectives now are to:
• Protect and preserve the natural beauty of our landscapes
• Pursue campaigns against unsuitable developments which threaten the rural environment
• Educate the public about the beauty of the natural landscape and to the damage being caused by uncontrolled development
• Persuade local authorities, builders and developers to design buildings and choose materials appropriate to their regional and local setting
Highlights of our 92 year history include:
• In 1931, we raised funds from the people of Sheffield, including the Town Trustees, to buy the Longshaw Estate and save it from development, then handed it over to the National Trust for future preservation.
• Many other sites were bought to protect them from adverse development, often through the generosity of the Ward family.
• A planning application was made to build a housing estate between Dore Moor and Whirlow Bridge which was contested by the Branch and subsequently refused.
• In 1932 the first Town and Country Planning Act was passed. Six years later Sheffield introduced the very first plans to protect countryside from urban sprawl - the beginning of the provisional Sheffield Green Belt.
• In 1951, thanks in part to our lobbying and influence, the Peak District became the UK's first national park. As Mrs Gerald Haythornthwaite MBE, Ethel was a member of the Hobhouse (National Parks) Committee in 1947.
• In 1983, we celebrated the designation of Sheffield's green belt.