A History of the Sheffield Battalion


The following account of the history of the Boys Brigade in Sheffield was originally produced from Battalion records for the 1950 Diamond Jubilee edited by Albert Drury Smith. This account has been slightly edited to assist in the reading adding titles and some minor word changes and one or two paragraphs have been slightly altered as the original had some first person accounts which in reading now make little sense to the modern reader. However the majority is preserved as written in 1950 and the overall feel and style of the late Victorian and Edwardian manner from the records has been maintained. Some additional information in square brackets has been added to help with the historical context. Some conventions in the writing should be noted. The word Boy is always written with a capital letter B a convention carried on from the founder. The Boys’ Brigade originally was for Boys over the age of 11 the modern organisation age ranges from 5 to 19.

In time links to other history sites for places and names mentioned in this account will be added as further research is completed on the Battalions History.

The Early Years

The Boys’ Brigade in Sheffield started with the formation of the 1st Sheffield Company which was connected to the Norfolk Street Wesleyan Chapel,[ this is now where the Victoria hall stands], in 1889. This was just six years after the Boys’ Brigade had started in Glasgow. The company met on Thursday evening at 8:30 in the school room on Chapel Walk. [note the late start time most if not all of the Boys would have been working and few would have been in school]. There were 3 Officers and 73 Boys. Mr Harry Budgett was Captain aided by Arthur U. Cole as Lieutenant. As the year went on more companies started and by May 1890 there were 7 companies 31 Officers and 383 Boys. The following companies and Capts are listed below:

1st Sheffield. Norfolk Street Wesley. Harry B. Budgett.
2nd Sheffield. Ranmoor Wesley. William F. Osborn.
3rd Sheffield. Sale Memorial Church Rev. T.W. Brawn
4th Sheffield. St John Wesleyan, Crookesmoor. Samuel Osborn (Jnr)
5th Sheffield. Brunswick Wesley. W.H. Allcarr.
6th Sheffield. St John C/E Park G.H. Wood
7th Sheffield. Carver Street Wesley Rev. V.W Pearson

At a joint meeting of the companies held on July 10th 1890 it was decided to apply to the Boys’ Brigade HQ for enrolment as the Sheffield Battalion. A provisional constitution was drawn up, and battalion officials elected.

Mr Harry B. Budgett. Battalion President
Mr A.U. Cole Battalion Secretary
Mr S (now Sir) Osborn Jnr. Battalion Treasurer
The executive committee were made up of
Rev. C.A. Worsford
Mr G.L. Griffeths
Mr. G.H. Wood
Rev. V.W.Pearson
Mr. J.A. Manton.

On the 19th September, 1890, the Council Meeting met to receive the Annual Report and at the meeting a letter from the B.B. Secretary intimating that the Sheffield Battalion had been duly enrolled was read. The rules of the Battalion were passed and Battalion Officials confirmed. Four Sub Committees were appointed they being Bible Class, Drill Ambulance and Recreation. The report noted that “three companies held inspections at all of which the Boys acquitted themselves creditably. Company Church Parades took place in connection with two Companies, Ambulance work, including First Aid to the injured and stretcher drill has also commenced in the Battalion with gratifying success whilst cricket matches and bathing parades proved the chief source of recreation.”

Officers’ drill and Battalion drill had taken place in the playgrounds at Wesley College. All companies paraded with their respective Schools at the annual Sunday school demonstrations on Whit-Monday. Here it should be noted that the meeting was held at the Y.M.C.A. in Norfolk Street, who were always ready and willing to help the B.B.

The First Battalion Church Parade

On the afternoon of Sunday 24th May 1891, the first Church Parade of the Sheffield Battalion took place at the Montgomery Hall, when 18 Officers and 264 Non-commissioned officers and Boys were present. The hymns were selected from the Brigade Hymn card and were accompanied by the band of the 1st Sheffield. The preacher was the Rev. C. Clementson, M.A. Vicar of Crookes and there were also on the platform Mr. Wm A. Smith Brigade Secretary [and founder of the Boys’ Brigade], Rev. V. Broadly, Rev. Alfred Wood, Rev .H. B. Worthington, the President, Secretary, and Treasurer of the Battalion and others. Mr Clementson took his text from Zechariah IV.10. “The day of small things” Taking the Boys’ Brigade as and example he showed how great results generally have small beginnings. This was true of evil as well as good. He compared sin to a spark, which should be stamped out as they would a spark among inflammable materials. He called attention to the fact that in nature, most things were small in their origin, even their daily bread was the result of a tiny seed. He gave a beautiful illustration of the effect of sunlight on plant life, and concluded by urging the Boys to open out their hearts to the influence of the Sun of Righteousness. It being the Queens Birthday, [Queen Victoria] the service concluded with the National Anthem, the Boys remaining at the “salute to the front” the whole time.

The Initial Battalion Inspection

The First Inspection of the Sheffield Battalion took place on Saturday, the 23rd of of May,1891 at Hyde Park, the Head-quarters of the Hallamshire Rifles, kindly lent for the occasion by Col. T.E. Vickers, JP. Although somewhat cloudy dusring theday, the rain kept off, and the weather was all that could be desired..

The parade state showed a total of seven companies, 18 Officers, and 230 Non-commissioned Officers and Boys. Mr H.B. Budgett Battalion President, was in command. The Brigade Secretary, Mr William A. Smith was the inspecting Officer. He was accompanied by Capt G.E. Branson, of the Hallamshire Rifles, and punctually at half-past five, both Officers rode onto the field on horse back. The Battalion, drawn up in line, at open order, received them with the general salute, and this was followed by a careful inspection of the ranks by Mr Smith. The Battalion then formed Column to the right and advanced in column , changed direction to the left twice, and marched past. After arriving at the original alignment the Companies with Arms were put through the Manual exercises by Mr. A.U. Cole, the Battalion Secretary, and the Battalion again formed column to the right, formed fours on the left, and closed in on the centre Company. The inspecting Officer then rose to address the Battalion. He complimented both Officers and Boys on a particularly smart turn out, and on the way in which they marched past, and went through the whole various movements. He alluded to the steadiness and thoroughness of the drill and reminded the Boys that the future of the Sheffield Battalion lay very much in their hands, urging them to carry the same principles into their daily life, which had made them so efficient on parade. Three Cheers were then given for the inspecting officer, and the Battalion left the ground in fours right, headed by the Military Band of the 1st Sheffield, and the Drum and Fife Band which accompanied the 7th Sheffield Company. Immediately in the rear of the Band rode the Inspecting Officer, Capt Branson, and the Battalion Marched through the centre of town to the Jubilee monument where it dismissed at a quarter to seven.

At 8 o’clock, 25 Officers sat down to a mess Dinner at the Albany Hotel, on invitation of the Battalion President, after which the council was addressed by the Brigade Secretary, the Rev. Alfred wood, (Capt.8th Sheffield Coy.), and the President and the Secretary of the Battalion

The First Battalion Camp

The first Battalions Camp was held at Hornsea in 1891, the Wesleyan Chapel School Rooms being the headquarters for the week. Among the Officers who went two from other Battalions, namely Edwin Adman, the Edinburgh Battalion Secretary, who acted as Adjutant, and Edward Lyons of the 9th London, Who was Q.M.

The main party was preceded by the Advance Party, who apart from getting tents up, and palliasses for 220 Filled, erected wash places, unpacked stores, etc. and had for the arrival of the main body, everything in order, including “a goodly amount of bunting displayed”

The main body left the LMS station on Friday 31st July, in a special train, having marched from the Sheffield Parish Churchyard, headed by the 1st Company Band.

On arrival a march around Hornsea was made to announce the arrival the Battalion.

Sunday Morning, the Battalion was represented by one company at each of the four Protestant Churches, viz., C of E., Wesleyan, Congregational, and Primitive Methodist.

The Usual routine of camp life went on during the week, boating, swimming and camp sports. On one day, however, the Battalion was entertained to tea by a local dignitary and then inspected, there being Admirals, colonels etc., etc., present.

Camp Struck on Saturday, August8th., the entire Battalion being photographed before it left Hornsea, amid good wishes, cordial farewells and good cheer. The cheers being renewed at Sheffield some three hours later when the battalion detrained and went their several ways.

A Short History of the Boys Life Brigade in Sheffield

The Boys’ Life Brigade was later to become united with the Boys’ Brigade, was instituted in 1889, and the first company was formed in Sheffield by the Sheffield Sunday School Union, in the Autumn of 1906.

The Chief aim of the B.L.B was the development of true manly character, and the advancement of the Christian Religion amongst Boys of this Country. Memebrs being continually reminded of the importance of healthy and clean living, honest and upright conduct in ordinary life, and the duty which they owed to God, and their fellows. The whole spirit of the Brigade beig service, and the most important phase of this viz: - Service to their maker always kept at the forefront. Each Boy who joined a company being required to attend either Sunday school or Company Bible class, and in this way to receive guidance and instruction in those matters which to form the highest types of Christian Character.

There was, as in the B.B., instruction in ambulance and first aid, life saving from water and fire, scouting, drill, discipline and sport and lastly patriotism and citizenship.

Every endeavour was made by Officers to appeal to every side of a boys nature, and so to direct his energies and spirit that he would become a better patriot, a better citizen, and a better man in every way, as a result of his membership of the B.L.B.

As previously stated, the first company was formed in1906. This was at the Montgomery Hall and on October22nd ,1907, a meeting of Officers was held at Nether Congregational Church and a Battalion was formed, consisting of three Companies, viz:-

1st Coy. B.L.B. Montgomery Hall
2nd Coy. B.L.B. Nether Congs
3rd Coy. B.L.B. Wicker Congs
Mr.H.J Wilson. JP., M.P., was elected President.
Mr W.A.Hydes, Commandant.
Mr. A.J. Outram, Treasurer
Rev. Jasper J.Frewing, Secretary

On May 4th 1909 the Battalion was affiliated with the Royal Life Saving Society, and later with the Amateur Swimming Association. Growth in the B.L.B was very rapid and owing to this for the sake of greater efficiency and effectiveness, the Battalion was divided into halves with separate Officers, on May 11th 1909

In the following year it was again necessary to re-organise, and a division consisting of three Battalions formed, Mr. William Webb, who had acted as deputy Commissioner for a year was appointed Commissioner, in which position he did excellent work. The following table gives some idea of the tremendous growth of the movement.

Oct 1906 1 Coy 6 Officers 30 Boys
7 3 Coys 15 Officers 150 Boys
10 19 “ 99 “ 820 “
11 25 “ 109 “ 886 “
12 28 “ 114 “ 1113 “
13 32 “ 120 “ 1200 “
14 16 “ 140 “ 1350 “
15 43 “ 151 “ 1550 “

The movement was linked on February 22nd 1909, with the Sheffield Sunday School Union, and the Montgomery Hall, became the Headquaters. [ The Montgomery Hall remained the Boys Brigade Shop right up to the 1980’s

Owing to the pressure of work, the secretary was compelled to resign in July 1913, and Mr. Joseph Tuffnell, one of the original officers, was elected in his place. He became joint secretary along with Mr Maurice Cole at the amalgamation in 1926, Secretary in 1928, and held the position until 1932.

The first Battalion inspection was held in Hyde Park, in 1909, when Capt. J.B. Priestman was the inspecting Officer, and subsequent Inspections in Endcliffe Park. Early Company Camps were held at Bridlington, Cleethorpes, Withernsea, and Skegness.

By 1914, the B.L.B. in Sheffield had won the Edgar Allen Swimming Trophy, which was open to various brigades, three times; and were doing great work. The Annual Meeting of the whole Brigade had been held in Sheffield at the Montgomery Hall in September, 1910 under the Presidency of Sir Francis. F. Belsey, J.P.

The 1914-18 war interrupted, and took away Officers and Boys., although in 1915 a Divisional Inspection was represented by 40 Coys. By 1920 the organisation was again in full swing and an inspection on May 15th 1920, in Encliffe Park, the Division was comprised of 5 Battalions, representing 59 Coys. The President at this time being Councillor (later Alderman) Harold Jackson, L.L.B, and the Commissioner G. Rex. Smith, who had, as his deputy Mr C.L. Widlake,

The last Inspection of the B.L.B. before amalgamation, took place in Encliffe Parkon May 8th, 1926, and Col. D.S. Branson, DSO., M.C., was inspecting Officer, Alderman H Jackson was still President, but Mr. C.L. Widlake had become Commissioner. Six Battalions comprised the Division. There was also the Rotherham, Battalion, consisting of 5 Companies.

It is interesting to note that the in 1923, the Life Boys, came into existence, the name being suggested by MR.C. L. Widlake in a Meeting of the B.L.B Council in Birmingham.

The Boys’ Brigade 1891 to 1900

The Advancement of the Boys Brigade in Sheffield was excellent, and the numbers of Boys more than doubled themselves from 1890 to 1891 session to the next the numbers being 395 and 838 respectively. In 1892 to 93 the numbers dropped by 100 but by the next session it had improved again to 800. In 1893, two items of interest took place. The final tie of the football competition took place between the 3rd and the 5th Companies at Bramall Lane Ground. The 3rd Company running out winners by three goals to one. The 3rd Annual Battalion Church Parade was held in Sanger’s Circus on the 18th June, when the Rev. T. D. Barnes, later Chaplain to Her Majesty’s Forces in Egypt, conducted the Service. It is reported the Circus was crowded. By this time, there were 16 Companies operating in the Battalion.

The following year, 1894, Lord Scarborough inspected the Battalion in Endcliffe Park, When 30 Officers and 430 N.C.O’s and Boys were present. The camp of that year was held at Lytham, but due to “bad trade” not all the Boys could meet the fee, (12/6d) and the strength was only 240.

In 1894, Mr. (later Sir) Samuel Osborn, was elected President and continued in that Office until 1911, when the Rev. E. P. Blakeney became President.

1895 marked the retirement of Mr U. Cole a very severe loss the Battalion. In this year, inter- Battalion Football matches were played with Glasgow and Edinburgh. There was too a public Demonstration in the old Sheffield Albert Hall, when among other awards, the Sutton Cup and the Battalion Colours( presented by Sir Sam) were presented to the 15th Company( All Saints Church). As there was not a Battalion Camp two Companies the 13th (St Andrew’s Sharrow) and the 15th embarked on Company Camps at Bakewell and Grindleford respectively.

On 21st May, 1897, Her Majesty the Queen [Victoria] visited Sheffield and the Battalion Paraded, and helped to make her visit a memorable occasion.

That year the 15th Company, a company of over 100 strong went to Sleaford for their Annual Camp. Half of the Battalion, numbering120, under the Command of Mr A.V. Chambers went to Filey, while the rest of the Battalion, ( 4th, 5th, 7th, and 9th Coys.) numbering 67, went to Flamborough, under the command of Mr. S. Osbprn, (captain of the 4th Coy)

1900 to Amalgamation

By 1900 the Battalion’s numbers had exceeded the 1,000 mark, and the Battalion Inspection of that year, Col. Sir C. E. Howard Vincent. K.C., M.G, C.B., M.P., inspected 740 Officers ad Boys. He presented the Shield for efficiency (given and bearing his name) to the first Winners, the 18th Company (St Anne’s Netherthorpe). The increase in numbers may be accounted for by the visit the preceding year of the Earl of Aberdeen(Hon. President of the B.B.) and Mr W.A. Smith, the Founder and Secretary who were principal Speakers at the Town Hall, when an appeal for the extension of the B.B movement in Sheffield was made.

1901 again showed a increase. Statistics showed 24 Companies, 99 Officers and 1,137 Boys and at the Battalion inspection, over 1000 Officers and Boys were on Parade. In that year the Earl Fitzwilliam invited the Sheffield Battalion B.B., R.C. Boys’ Brigade and the Jewish Lads Brigade to Wentworth Woodhouse. Mr W. A. Smith who was staying in Sheffield accompanied the party under the command of Mr. S. Osborn.

Summer Camps were becoming more numerous, and these had been held in Rhyl, Whitby, Colwyn Bay. The 15th Coy camped at Whitby and it is interesting to note that White drill hats (costing 3/11d. doz.) were worn by all Boys, and looked well, hooped Baden Powell-wise at this camp.

For the 1911/12 session, Rev. E. P. Blakeney became President, and held that Office until 1914. The Battalion had been split up nto Districts by this time, the Central under the command of Mr T Widdowson, the Western C.O. Mr A. Darwent, and the Eastern commanded by Mr. F.E. M. Chambers.

Some Notable Facts published in 1913 were given among them being:-

72 Boys were Confirmed or became Church members
363 Boys attended Camp
£26/15/1d was contributed for Foreign Ministries
46 Officers were old Boys

The Battalion that year was inspected by Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, who gave the following advice.
1. Don’t Smoke
2. Never lie
3. Keep Sober
4. Don’t Gamble

The parade strength on that occasion being 1,005.

Camps were held at Rhyl, Mablethorpe, Cleethorpes, Lodgemoor, and Birley Carr.

And then “War”. The Battalion still functioned, but calls were made on both Officers and Boys, many making the Great sacrifice. Changes in both President and Secretary were enforced. Mr. A. Darwent was President for two years, followed by Mr F. M. Osborn, F. E. M. Chambers, and then in 1923 Alderman S. Osborn, J.P., became President and held that Office until 1930. Mr Maurice Cole became secretary in 1914 and apart from 1917 to 1920 was secretary until 1926.

1926 mark the unification of the B.L.B. and the Boys Brigade. The officials elected were as follows:-
Hon President Councillor H. W. Jackson LL.B
President Samuel Osborn, J.P.
Vice President C. L. Widlake
Hon Treasurer Joseph Ward. J.P.
Hon Secretaries Mr. J Tuffnell and Mr. M. Cole

Amalgamation and Onwards

Few serving Officers of today remember the Union in 1926, and the years up to 1939, during which the Boys’ Brigade grew significantly with over 80 companies operating. However, with the Sheffield Blitz in 1940 many Official Records of the Battalion, which were being stored at the Montgomery Hall were lost, and in writing these reminiscences it has been much easier to chronicle the happenings of the BB and the B.L.B., to 1914, than it has since that date.

The first Annual Inspection after Amalgamation was held in Endcliffe Park, on May 28th 1927, when Major General Sir Frederick Sykes, C.B.E., K.C.B., C.M.G., M.P., was Inspecting Officer.

Five Districts comprised the Battalion.
The 1st District Commanded by Mr H.L. Bull had Coy
The 2nd District Commanded by Mr. J.C.P. Toothill had 24 Coy
The 3rd District Commanded by Mr W. Foster had 16 Coy
The 4th District Commanded by Mr. T Drury Smith M.C. 13 Coy
The 5th District Commanded by Mr. T Widdowson, had 8 Coy

The Thirties Opened with a Gymkhana at the Montgomery Hall, which was held in two nights, Thursday February 6th and Saturday February 8th. Each item on the programme was heralded by a bugle call and the Bugler for the occasion was Sgt France of the 28th Coy. (Cemetery Road Baptist) The show was a good one watched by a large audience.

In 1932 when yet another successful Gymkhana was held the Battalion strength was 66 companies made up of 2300 Officers and Boys. In addition there were 43 Life Boy teams, with a membership of 1,300 Leaders ad Boys.

1933, was the Jubilee year of the Brigade. Many Battalions staged Battalion Pageants, Sheffield among them. How many people remember the very spectacular event named “the crusades” staged on the Sheffield Wednesday football ground on Saturday May 13th, 1933when the Reviewing Officer was Alderman Ernest Wilson, the Lord Mayor of that year? Enough to remind you that there were Saracen Army and the Crusader army, and many who read these accounts perhaps were on the ground that day.

There was also a Great Demonstration in Glasgow. The Officers and Boys who represented Sheffield on that occasion will long remember the weekend which included the Royal Review of 32,000 Officers and Bys, and the Sunday afternoon Conventicle of 130,000 people. The celebration concluded throughout the country by Holding a thanks giving services on 4th October 1933 at 8 p.m. the date and time corresponding with the first meeting of the first B.B Coy in 1883. The Sheffield Service was held at the Victoria Hall, conducted by the Rev. Pendril Bentall, B.A., and the Lord Bishop of Sheffield gave the address.

The annual; Battalion Church parade of that year was held in the Victoria Hall when over 1000 Officers and Boys attended. The Rev. P.M. Medcraft conducted the service. His Grace the Duke of Rutland was the inspecting officer at the annual inspection for the 1933-4 session. During this session a very successful weekend Battalion Conference was held at the “Guest House”, Hope.

The Year was marred by the untimely death of Mr. “Billie” Foster, who was Captain of the 14th Coy., and also the Rev. Jasper Frewing who was the first secretary of the B.L.B. Mr A. Dawson and Mr Parnell also passed to a higher life.

In the 1934-5 session Mr. C.L. Widlake was elected President, in succession to Alderman H. Jackson and Mr. W. Dalton succeeded Mr. A. E. Lloyd who had done excellent work as Secretary, leaving the City to go to Southampton. In the following year Mr. C. A. Saville became Secretary and held the Office until 1939.

1937 was Coronation year and the Battalion staged a “Coronation Review” on May 10th at Bramall Lane Football Ground the Lord Bishop of Sheffield being inspecting Officer. The Battalion was divided into four Districts and the Old Boys of the Battalion under the command of Sir Samuel Osborn, J.P. LL.D., headed the March off.

The Battalion was inspected in 1938 by Col. F. A. Neill, that year’s Master Cutler. He referred to the anchor as and the cross of the in the B.B. Badge as symbols of Stability of purpose and of service to God, their King and Country, when addressing the parade, he urged the need for keenness.

Little did one think at the night of April 13th and 15th, 1939 when The Sheffield B.B held its jubilee Year Display “Carry On” at the Montgomery Hall that in less than five months time, the Country would be at War, and what havoc it would bring in its wake. As in 1914, B.B. Officers were to the fore in serving their country, both in Services and at home, and it meant in many cases the disbanding of Companies. The few who were able to fit company work in with their labours, carried on valiantly, but there was a disastrous decline in numbers.