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My Ridgeway Archer Family History




Elisabeth Templeman



John Archer with his wife Anne, came to Geer Lane Farm, Ridgeway from Elmton, near Creswell, in 1833 to make a better living for their large family. Their family roots could be traced back to Keepers of the Kings Forest in Derbyshire, in the reign of Henry ll, via the De Rhodes estate. John had been a premier tenant of theirs himself and had also held land in the area from Earl Bathhurst.

Their children:-

William (1801), John (1802), Jonathon (1807), Mary (1808), Elizabeth (1810), James (1812), Sarah (1814), and Daniel (1816).

Their eldest son William did not move to Ridgeway with them but left England for America around 1850 like his youngest brother, Daniel and his wife Annie. William was later to return to his son Nicholas and live near Rotherham.

Daniel and his wife Ann(ie) lived for many years, farming in Wisconsin, before moving west to Oregon and on to California after the end of the Civil War, regularly writing home to tell of their successful farming life there. They both died and were buried in California. His descendants still keep in touch with family back in England some of whom have visited California in return.

Johnathon lived in Sloade Lane and was twice married, before returning to Elmton with his second wife after the death of his first.

Second Son John and Sarah Rose, daughter of Joseph Rose of Camm House, were the first couple to be married in the newly finished Ridgeway church in 1840, the building of which John had been involved by carrying the stone used on site (Unfortunately they discovered that it was not yet licenced for Marriages and two weeks later they had to go to Eckington to make everything legal)!  Sarah was the niece of Benjamin Rose, a well-known Sheffield character and an Apothecary there.

John and his wife lived with her elderly father at Camm House at the top of the village and the first of their 5 sons, Joseph was born in 1842. He was to leave farming to become Mining and Mineral Agent for the Duke of Norfolk, living in Claremont Place, Sheffield in 1891 with this wife Emma, their daughter Mary Elizabeth and sons John Fletcher, Joseph Carr and Harold De Birley. It was a time when Joseph’s talents were very valuable, due to the opening of local Coalfields around Sheffield and Doncaster, the reason for his later move to live and establish his own firm in Doncaster. He died in December 1912 but his wife, daughter of The Rev. John Fletcher of Bradfield, lived on in the family home until her death 1938. Her brother John was a gentleman of means who had spent many years researching their family history, leaving behind records of the connection with the names Carr and De Birley!

All of Joseph Archer’s three sons were involved in Civil engineering and had distinguished World War I records. Harold, my grandfather, was awarded a Belgian Croix de Guerre for his efforts and was given a commemorative bowl by the village in recognition of this. (This was given to back to the village more recently).

He had married Julia Clark from Wakefield in 1906, meeting her through his land survey and estate business in Doncaster. They had a son, Joseph Anthony my father and three daughters, Jean Mary, Katherine Rose and Margaret Winifred.

By the 1920’s Harold had returned to Ridgeway with his wife and family and began using his business experience to draw up plans and extend their home at Jessamine Cottage, on the crown of the hill in the village, a little in the style of Edwin Lutyens, taking advantage of the wonderful views over the Moss valley.

His new firm now Holmes Son & Archer, had been set up in Sheffield near the Cathedral where other Ridgeway families like the Renwick’s also had offices. Harold was always a forward thinker and even had a driving licence at the opening of the century, although his first car had to be garaged on High Lane as the hill from the village was too steep for its engine.

By the 1930’s he owned a beautiful Riley car which had gears for racing too. The car meant that his previous daily horse rides to his work, via the lanes to Intake and the city tram from Deep Pits, were now a thing of the past. The stable at the back of garage block still remained beside the house for many years although the horse that he took with him to war never returned. His daughters, Kitty and Peggy as they were known, could also drive, like my father and both did sterling service using this talent during WW2. Jean was already married and so not available for service.

My father had cars of his own before the war, the current one had to be ‘requisitioned’ when he was called up for service. His army career was to be interrupted when he contracted scarlet fever on duty and his life hung in the balance for many months in Lodge Moor hospital.

War time for me as a small girl of only three in 1940, meant dividing time between Granny and Gandpa’s at Ridgeway, away from our more risky Norton home, on the German bombing run to Sheffield. This meant that I spent many happy hours at Jessamine Cottage, going down the garden with granny Judy to pick out vegetables etc. for our meals, sometimes running the gauntlet of Mad Vic the retired race horse owned by Mr Marsh, down the hilly fields.  (His son David brought the milk by horse and cart and used a ladle from the big churn to fill our jugs).

When my father was later declared fit to join the local Dad’s Army at Norton he was still only a young man and so became what would be the Private Pike to (by now elderly Prominent Sheffield businessmen) Colonel Newton,  Colonel Neill, Bernard Gallagher and Harold Strong’s platoon based at Norton House.

It was not until 1944, near very end of the war that he was declared fit enough for non-combative duty and he joined the plans for D day as a driver instructor in the RASC. This meant that mother and I went with him to live in Wales and I went to the local school in Towyn, (Merioneth). There I was to learn the lovely language and acquire a Welsh accent which stayed with me for two years and even now is never far away. It was a delight to my grandmother who often loved to hear me recite poems for her. Sadly she died at home around VE day, in May 1945 of the illness which had kept her in hospital in Buxton several times before then.

Harold survived her by nearly two years, being cared for at home by his youngest daughter and my last memory of him was being taken into his bedroom upstairs on Christmas Day 46 when all the family were downstairs having tea. He was awake enough, ever the architect and Surveyor, to frown at my efforts with a Bako building set, saying there were holes in the corner of the house I had built. He died in the January when the dreadful snow made us wonder about both his Funeral and burial.

It was the end of a great era for me, as the house where I had spent so many happy hours was to be sold, even though it was to be lived in by my Aunt Kitty and Uncle John Biggin.  My mother and Father with myself and new baby sister, Catherine Rosemary, made our return to the village at the end of 1947, living at Commonside, by the farm opposite the end of Sloade Lane. I taught in Sunday school, sang in the choir and was PCC Secretary. In 1990 I was proud to take part in the Church’s 150th Anniversary Service.

Mr and Mrs Lucy lived at Oak House just below there. He was quite a character and an active rider of a very fractious horse. His wife was artistic and into amateur dramatics. Her drama was to be carried on by Elizabeth Purnell, nee Newton when she and her Doctor husband Douglas, moved to the house. It was to become an important part of the Ridgeway WI formed in 1947.

Through their friendship with my parents, Elizabeth invited my mother to join the Drama group and at one time, my sister and I were also members. My own membership was to last for over 60 years and the only office I managed to avoid was the secretary’s.

I gave up my WI membership recently, meaning that it was the end of almost 200 years of the Archer connection with Ridgeway.


November 2018


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