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The Dream Scheme

In 1995 Kate King, with her husband Jeff, developed the inspirational Dream Scheme, which has since changed the lives of thousands of young people around the world.

ImageIn March 2013 Kate returned to Wincobank after an absence of more than ten years to share her memories and meet up with old friends.   Click here to listen to Kate interviewed by 12 year-old Dylan Barker.


Always hungry

Retro Open Day at Wincobank Chapel, SheffieldAlways Hungry (click here to see video interview with Graham Cliffe)

Over a hundred people gathered at the Chapel on 26 January 2013 despite deep snow that made driving impossible.  They came to the Wincobank Retro Day, organised in partnership with Sheffield Star to launch our All Our Stories project.  We had invited people who used to come to the chapel to return to share their memories and make a recording for the Chapel Archive.  After a technical glitch or two we are just beginning to upload them to YouTube.  Click on the title above to see the video interview.

There are lots more interesting videos about Wincobank on YouTube and more coming daily – have a look!

Into the 20th Century

Upper Wincobank Congregational Church

By 1905 the Sheffield Board Schools had been founded and the little Wincobank Day School was no longer required. However, the congregation and was growing so the decision was made to extend the room used as the chapel, doubling its length as can be seen when this photograph is compared with earlier images.

In the 1920s an extension was built on to the back of the School Master’s House to house the ever-growing Sunday school. Many local people remember this building as the Concert Hall.

Records of the trustees for this period show that Mary Anne’s nephews, Henry Joseph and John Wycliffe Wilson continued as trustees and were joined by various other members of their family up to and including 1955 when Ronald Eliot Wilson, son of J.W. was the sole representative. R.E. Wilson was the last descendent of John Read to be a Director of the company he had founded in 1760, the Sheffield Smelting Company.

We would be delighted to make contact with any surviving members of the family.

The last wishes of Mary-Anne Rawson

Last wishes of Mary-Anne Rawson 1887

Several days reading in Sheffield Archives has shed dazzling light on the distant and dusty years of the chapel’s history. Tucked amongst the papers of the Sheffield Smelting Company lie letters, documents, accounts and records, waiting for someone, one day to find them. Once pieced together with our working knowledge of the chapel, originally a school, it all begins to make sense.

Mary-Anne, in her will, leaves £400 to be invested to provide an income for the school. In a  handwritten note, written in 1885 she adds the furniture and stove from the chapel in the laundry for use in the room in the school building that will be “appropriated” for worship. This brief note helps clarify our confusion as to the original function of the building. It seems it was built as a school for multi-purpose use when Wincobank Hall and the outbuildings were sold off. What foresight – how modern!

In addition to the £400 left to the school trust that she had set up, Mary-Anne planned that the proceeds from the sale of Wincobank Hall should be invested in an annuity fund so that the school master and his wife would have a permanent income and so would never have to leave Wincobank. They were also bequeathed the rights to live in the School House for their lifetime. Mary-Anne estimated that the Hall was worth the £4,000 specified in her will, but by the time she died the building had fallen into such a state of disrepair that it could not be sold.

Despite the fact that they themselves, only received a quarter share of the sale of furniture from the Hall worth £59, her nephews, Henry Joseph Wilson and John Wycliffe Wilson seem to have honoured the commitment anyway. Records show that there were outstanding debts for the school and that it was at least temporarily closed while they sorted out what can only be described as a well intentioned mess.

Like her father before her, Mary-Anne had been ambitious, innovative and a compulsively generous risk-taker. It was just as well that her sister’s descendents proved to be people of great integrity and conviction who honoured their respected aunt’s intentions and acted as trustees of the charity well into the next century. Well done the Wilsons!

We should love to make contact with any direct descendents of HJ or JW Wilson and show you how hard we are working to carry on their good work.

Wincobank Chapel Archive

2013-09-12 Keith's Archive

Keith’s Archive

Keith Lemm has looked after the Wincobank Chapel Archive for years so it was really good that he was pleased with the new protective packaging that we have been able to purchase with our HLF funding.  We have begun to catalogued the items and the next phase will be to transfer the information onto a database.  One day we hope to have an online archive but it seems a long way off just now.  Nevertheless, we are making great strides and everyone is very pleased.

Visitors love to pick up the items to inspect the old documents so we have put the most fragile items in acid free polyester wallets and secured them in a special ringbinder box folder.  That way the pages can be turned and the box lifted up but with luck everything will stay where it is put.

The Chapel archive includes the Minute Books of the chapel, the various social clubs and youth clubs.  Early copies of Conveyance Documents and the Deed of Trust from 1880, Notices, Order of Service Sheets, news cuttings and numerous photographs spanning the decades.  Additional record Books and Accounts are in the Sheffield  Archives.  We also have a growing collection of documents, photographs and even a framed carrrier bag from a local greengrocer, long since gone, all of which have been donated by local people.

A Gift from Sheffield Traditional Heritage Museum


Writing Kit donated by Sheffield Traditional Heritage Museum

Sheffielders have been very sad that the Traditional Heritage Museum on Eccelsall Road, which opened in 1985, has had to close. The collections have been rehoused across the city and we were pleased to receive a consignment of fascinating household objects and clothes that include a beautiful 1862 wooden cradle, a mechanical orange peel shredder for serious marmalade making, as well as a number of mysterious items we have yet to identify.  We are looking forward to collecting thoughts about  this collection and how it can best be used to help children learn and older people remember what everyday life in Wincobank was really like in days gone by. We hope people will come along on Saturday 14th September 10am – 4pm when the Chapel will be opening the doors to welcome old friends and new as part of National Heritage Open Days.

Undenominational? What’s that?

So why Undenominational?  This is an interesting question since the Mary Anne’s family were Congregationalists and attended Zion Church, Attercliffe.

The question has to be seen in the wider context of the struggle for religious freedom.  The Read family had been Non-Conformists as far back as the Civil War when Thomas Read of Kilsby fought on the side of the Parliamentarians.  The Protestant Reformation pre-dates Henry VIII’s break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England.  The Protestants rejected Rome and the Non-Conformists further rejected the Established Church of England, refusing either to pay tithes to the Church or to attend services. They were considered heretics and many were imprisoned, executed or exiled.   As the centuries rolled by, a more tolerant climate saw the springing up of many non-conformist denominations following inspirational leaders such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Wesley, each with slightly different creeds. The Wesleyans split into five different versions of Methodism in Sheffield alone.  Undenominational New Testament Christianity was a growing movement i 19th century, America, attempting to bring all together into one Church of Christ, rejecting any human figurehead or doctrine and accepting the Bible as the only binding rule of faith or creed.  The absolute autonomy and independence of every local congregation was a central tenet.

This is very much the way things work at Upper Wincobank Chapel today, with all its advantages and disadvantages.  The Undenominational ethos is protected by the Deed of Trust set out by Mary Anne Rawson in 1850.  If it were not for that safeguard, and the absence of any dissolution clause, the chapel would probably have been demolished long ago.  For 170 years the Trustees and the congregation  have kept faith and continued to maintain an independent church, serving the neighbourhood, with little additional income beyond the rent from the house and the interest from the £400 invested in 1850.

Although the future of the chapel is once more under debate, its guiding principles are clear.

Upon Trust

1880 Indenture_cropped_110KB_1286This is the 1880 document that sets out the terms for the conveyance of the school building, house and grounds from Mary Anne Rawson to the Charitable Trust that she established to safeguard her legacy. It is a lengthy, wordy document, but here is the section that sets out the original purpose:

“Upon trust to permit the Schoolroom erected or built upon the said piece or parcel of land or any other building which may be at any time hereafter erected therein in place of the present building to be used as a Day-school or place for the instruction of children in secular and religious knowledge either gratuitously or otherwise by the present Teacher or Teachers thereof or such other or others that may from time to time be appointed by the said Trustees and who may hold and teach the religious views now commonly known as and called decidedly Evangelical. And upon further trust to permit the said building to be used as a Sunday School for the gratuitous religious instruction of children and as a place for the public worship of God and the preaching of Christ’s Holy Gospel on the Sabbath or on any other days.”


With an eye to the future, there is a clause regarding alternative use if the building cannot be advantageously used for a School, provided such use is considered to be of benefit to the neighbourhood.  If the building is to be used as a place of worship this must be for “the simple preaching of Christ’s Gospel without any exclusive or sectarian or denominational bias.”  

Hence the chapel’s designation as “Undenominational”.


Delving into the Past

Elizabeth Knight Sampler_91.KB_1270

So – it’s back to the C1879_Amelia Knight Schoolbook_1185hapel for us to look again at the treasures that have been passed down, donated and collected. Some pieces whisper across the years and bring the past alive. The schoolwork of Amelia Knight and her sister Elizabeth was donated by an anonymous donor who was left with the task of clearing a house of a descendent of the of the girls. The work has recently been on display at Sheffield’s Weston Park Msueum.

Enchanted Chairs

2013-08-01 12.05.21

Jennifer Vernon-Edwards from BBC Radio Sheffield will be broadcasting her report on Mary Anne Rawson tomorrow morning, Saturday 3rd August on the Breakfast Show, from 7 – 9am.  She is pictured here, sitting in the Chain Chair, one of the fascinating Enchanted Chairs opposite the Chapel that sweep the sitter back into Wincobank’s past. Each chair is different and you may see reminders of Wincobank’s ancient woodland, the local brickworks, the steelworks, farmland fencing, a forge or, as in this case, the cruel chains of the Slave Trade.

On our own journey to find out about the Chapel’s history and that of its founder, we have been astounded to discover that whole family who lived at Wincobank Hall in 1840 seem to have been present at the very first meeting of what is now Anti-Slavery International.  The Chain Chair links us in more ways than one to the tireless campaigning of Mary Anne Rawson, her Read siblings and her elder sister’s family – the Wilsons, who were to continue to play an important part in Sheffield life into recent times.  Sure, Wilberforce visited, but he wasn’t the only one doing the work.   Wincobank was once a hub of political struggle for universal freedom and equal rights. Now we take it all for granted – even though the battle is not yet won.  Jennnifer’s report will be broadcast on Radio Sheffield Breakfast Show in two parts, starting on Saturday 3rd August.  LIsten in between 7 and 9am and learn more.