MARPLES  HOTEL - THURSDAY DECEMBER 12th 1940

Standing on the corner of Fitzalan Square and High Street, the site was occupied during the 1870s by the Wine and Spirit Commercial Hotel. By the late 1880s it was known as Market Street Wine Vaults. The owner was a John Marples, and the licence held in the name of Edward Marples. Despite a further change of name to the London Mart, regulars always referred to the pub as Marple's. It's official name was still the London Mart in 1940. The building itself was seven stories high comprising of guests bedrooms, concert rooms, bars and lounges with a network of cellars - it was thought of as a solid and safe building. The photograph taken below shows Marples on the right with a local firm of nurserymen next door in the three storey  building.

The following postcard shows the Marples at the time of the Royal Visit of King Edward V11 to Sheffield in 1905

The first warning of the raid came at seven o'clock on a cold and clear winter's evening, and as the night wore on the intensity of the raid grew especially in the city centre area. At 10.50 p.m. C&A Modes department store which lay opposite the Marples on High Street received a direct hit. Flying debris from the explosion crashed into the Marples pub injuring a number of customers who were taken down into the cellars to receive attention for their injuries.  At 11.44 p.m. fifty four minutes after the explosion at C & A's, a German high explosive bomb completely demolished the building. William Reading a Corporation Inspector who was in the nearby Fitzalan Square transport offices at the time recalls

"When I rushed outside I saw that the Marples building had been hit, the building had collapsed and where it had stood was a heap of rubble fifteen high"

In February 2009 William's grand-daughter contacted the Sheffield History Forum  with additional information

"My grandfather was the Richard William Redding referred to in the article, which was originally printed in 'Sheffield at War' published by the Sheffield Telegraph in 1948. My mother was also one of the rescue team; unfortunately at the end of her life (she died in 2003 at the grand age of 98) the memory came back to haunt her as she frequently kept telling us that 'you can't go in there, there are only bodies behind the wall now'. It must have been etched on her memory"

    

It was thought that no-one would have survived the explosion but nevertheless rescue work commenced the following day at 10.00 a.m.  Miraculously over the next few hours seven men were pulled alive from the wreckage. Two of them actually walked away unaided from the scene and were never heard of again. Of the other five who were pulled out, only one Edward Riley age 36 of Ecclesall Road, was from the Sheffield area. The other four were

  1. John Watson Kay age 46, Boma Road, Trentham, Stoke on Trent respectively. 

  2. William Wallace King, Arbett Parade, Bristol

  3. Lionel George Ball, Knowle West, Bristol

  4. Ebenezer Tall age 42, Clarissa Street, Shoreditch, London

"They told vivid stories of how they spent the night trapped in the cellars. How they could hardly breathe for smoke and dust...how they dug with their hands to make an air vent - how they dozed, weary and light-headed from the loss of blood."

As a footnote, there was a very interesting posting to the excellent Sheffield History Forum in October 2008. The subscriber stated that

"After researching my family tree into my paternal grandmothers side of the family I have reason to believe that one of those two who "actually
walked away unaided from the scene and were never heard of again" was a man called Edwin Wainwright (1891 - 1943) of Pomona Street,
Sheffield. My great grandmothers younger brother. Family story has it that he was in The Marples on the night of the bombing and was rescued from it alive and apparently uninjured.
However, it appears that he never recovered from the mental trauma of the incident and committed suicide by hanging himself at home in 1943. A sad end after such a remarkable and lucky escape. Edwin was married and did have descendents, one of which, a grandson, I have made contact with through Genes-Reunited although he was unaware of the incident which had left him growing up without a grandfather. In the 1940's suicide, like being born out of wedlock or being in debt, carried a social stigma. Technically suicide is a criminal offence but how it is possible to bring a legal prosecution against someone who by virtue of their "crime" is already dead is beyond me." 

Mary Walton in her book " Raiders over Sheffield" ascribed the tragic loss of life to the fact that the roofs of the cellars in the London Mart were not strengthened. The people who survived the explosion were said to have been in the smaller bottling cellar that had a stronger ceiling. Given the buildings size and structure the staff at the pub thought that it would be able to withstand significant bomb damage. A case of complacency? Possibly but I think the more likely cause is the size and impact point of the bomb on the pub which caused the building to fall in on itself.   

  See how the Sheffield Blitz was reported in The Times and The Scotsman newspapers

We can never know for certain how many people died in the explosion that devastated Marples. Over the following weeks 64 bodies were recovered from the rubble and the partial remains of six or seven other people were also identified. The force of the explosion and the ensuing collapse of the building meant that only 14 people could be visually identified : the remainder were identified through their personal belongings that had with them when they died. The most accurate estimate is that 77 people were in Marples at the time of the explosion and 70 died as a result of the injuries they received. It was without doubt the worst single incident for loss of life in Sheffield during the whole war. 


The table below lists the 47 persons who appear on Index to the "Civilian War Dead Roll Of Honour "for Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire.

NAME AGE ADDRESS
Beardshaw Ethel 27 20 Fowler Terrace Sheffield
Brewer Arthur 33 34 Thornhill Street, Savil Town, Dewsbury,West Yorks 
Brisbane Dorothy Ethel 42 43 Broomgrove Road, Ecclesall, Sheffield
Brisbane Robert Winning 40 43 Broomgrove Road, Ecclesall, Sheffield
Brown Francis 70 86 Fairfax Road, Manor Estate, Sheffield
Burgess Arthur Clarence 46 196 Bradway Road, Bradway, Sheffield
Butcher Alfred 49 15 Bernard Buildings, Sheffield
Buxton Ada 35 144 Sutherland Road, Burngreave, Sheffield
Carpenter George Frederick 40 58 Dovedale Avenue, Barkingside, Essex 
Carr Evelyn 36 62 Southey Drive, Southey, Sheffield
Charles Edith 51 139 Broom Lane, Rotherham
Cockayne Jess 43 128 Westdale Lane, East Gedling, Nottinghamshire
Cooper Harold  46 19 Thorpe House Avenue, Norton Hammer, Sheffield
Dalby Winifred 35 34 Southey Drive, Southey, Sheffield
Davis Norman Plaxton 23 11 Court 1, Summer Street, Walkley, Sheffield
Davis Phyllis 23 11 Court 1, Summer Street, Walkley, Sheffield
Dean Mabel 30 14 Kimberley Street, Attercliffe, Sheffield
Dixon Frederick Charles Theodore 59 20 Barncliffe Road, Lodge Moor, Sheffield
Ebbatson Winifred Margaret Victoria 39 327 Crookesmoor Road, Crookesmoor, Sheffield
Fletcher James  34 51 Kent Road, Hillsborough, Sheffield
Fletcher Lily  32 361 Main Road, Darnall, Sheffield
Guess Edith Annie 29 54 Lound Road, Handsworth, Sheffield
Hattersley Henry 63 21 Cookson Close, Southey, Sheffield
Hoggins Henry John 30 3 West Street, Lower Gormal, Staffordshire
Khan Edna May Ahmed 22 11A Filey Street, Broomhall, Sheffield
Kirby William 57 99 Dagnam Road, Manor Top, Sheffield
Longden Florence 25 212 London Road, Sheffield
Marsden Joseph Clifford 66 16 Machon Bank Road Nether Edge Sheffield
Peace Ernest 33 47 Rush Avenue, Rawmarsh, Rotherham
Peace Ezra 49 313 Sheffield Road, Tinsley, Sheffield
Rackham Noreen 23 72 Broomhall Street, Broomhall, Sheffield
Raynor Henry Vincent 47 301 Sheffield Road, Tinsley, Sheffield
Roe Bernard Douglas 22 18 Nether Green Road, Fulwood, Sheffield
Sansom Harry 32 5 Wilmot Terrace, Owlerton, Sheffield
Shooter Lilian 32 4 Dawlands Close, Manor Estate, Sheffield
Siddall Elsie 45 144 Sutherland Road, Burngreave, Sheffield
Smith Charles Frederick 51 4 Leppings Lane, Hillsborough, Sheffield
Steel Irene 26 341 Belhouse Road, Firth Park, Sheffield
Taylor George Herbert  42 341 Chesterfield Road, Sheffield
Taylor Lily 46 45 Holme Lane, Hillsborough, Sheffield
Thorpe Gertrude 27 Back 317 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield
Travers William 51 29 Normandale Road, Sheffield
Walker William Henry  29 182 Penistone Road, Sheffield
Wallace Albert  30 37 Fawley Road, Sheffield - member of the AFS
Westby Eva 34 30 Southey Drive, Southey, Sheffield
Wildsmith Elizabeth 38 2 Court 1, Fulton Road, Walkley, Sheffield
Wilson Edith Grace 30 5 Bastock Road, Sheffield

Ethel Beardshaw and Lilian Shooter were sisters. They were the daughters of James and Emma Dodd of 152 Cross Lane, Crookes, Sheffield 

Ada Buxton and Elsie Siddall lived at the same address - 144 Sutherland Road, Burngreave, Sheffield 

Lilian Shooter and Edith Wilson were barmaids working that night

Norman and Phyllis Davis were a married couple

I also received an e-mail in March 2011 from someone who had come across the article

" I have just come across your feature of the above and wish to say my maternal grandfather was one of the victims of the bombing of the Marples. 
He was Joseph Clifford Marsden and was sheltering on his return from work as a steel worker.  He was 66 years old and left his wife and my mother who was aged 11 at the time.  There was no body for them and he was identified from his tags.
 I have only just begun my research on this side of the family and my mother died in 1984.  I do remember she had said there was no body only the tags and that he had died in the Marples.  The sad thing is that I had never asked her or even spared any thought for the the whole episode and now many years later researching this actually opens up my mind to the whole trauma of her experience.  Thank you for your article."
 

Name: MARSDEN, JOSEPH CLIFFORD
Regiment/Service: Civilian War Dead
Age: 66
Date of Death: 12/12/1940
Additional information: of 16 Machon Bank Road. Died at Marples Hotel, Fitzalan Square.
Reporting Authority: SHEFFIELD, COUNTY BOROUGH

And then just a couple of days after that I received another e-mail from someone who had lost their grandmother that night

" I have just been reading your article on Marples Hotel.  My Grandmother Irene Steel was one of the people who died in the hotel. She was 26 years old and left a 3 year old daughter (my Mother) and husband Alfred, who was away fighting in the war!.
I have recently become very interested in discovering more on the tragic night when so many people lost there lives.

In a subsequent mail I was told that Irene was only identified by her wedding ring.

Three months later in June 2011 I received some further information about one of the fatalities

"I am related to George Frederick William Carpenter who was killed in the blast so I read the pages with much interest. I had spent years looking for a Eugene Stringfellow who my mother said was chauffeur to Lord Ancaster and was killed by a bomb in Sheffield. Then I found the list of dead at the Marples hotel and recognised the Carpenter name and all became clear". 

Name: CARPENTER, GEORGE FREDERICK WILLIAM
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Civilian
Regiment/Service: Civilian War Dead
Age: 40
Date of Death: 12/12/1940
Additional information: Son of George Alfred Carpenter, of Ormonde Gardens, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex; husband of Violet Iris Carpenter, of 58 Dovedale Avenue, Barkingside, Essex. Died at Marples Hotel, Fitzalan Square.
Casualty Type: Civilian War Dead Reporting Authority: SHEFFIELD, COUNTY BOROUGH

And in May 2014 I received this e-mail from a descendent of someone who was in Marples that night and who left minutes before the bomb destroyed the building

" I have just discovered your website whilst completing some research on Sheffield, the birthplace of my father. My grandfather took shelter in the Marples hotel during the blitz in December 1940 with a friend whilst on his way home. My grandfather decided to leave the hotel and try and get home to his wife and 7 children in Crookes, leaving his friend behind. He had only left the hotel minutes before it was destroyed. 

I noticed that like my grandfather, one of the victims was a steel worker and I think from Crookes too. Perhaps this was my grandfathers friend who he reluctantly left behind. 
I understand my grandfather was extremely shocked and unwell after the event and most upset about losing his friend. However, if he had stayed he would have almost definitely lost his life. 

Reading the stories and different articles from that evening has made the dreadful experience of my grandfather that evening so much more vivid in my mind as well as the horrors my father, who would have been 9 years old at the time, and his mother, brothers and sisters had to live through." 

Postscript

The clearance of the site took many weeks. It was estimated that over one thousand tons of rubble had to be removed from the site before it was cleared. In common with many bomb-sites where lives were lost, the ground was covered with quicklime - quicklime is used in epidemics, plagues, and disasters to disintegrate bodies in order to help fight the spread of disease. It also helps to neutralize the smell emanating from any uncovered remains.   

The site lay derelict for nineteen years. There is a photograph that was taken in 1950 that still shows the damage that occurred ten years earlier. The  cleared area  to the left of  the gutted building is where the Marples once stood

 
The site also seemed to have had profound effect on the people of Sheffield. It was enclosed within a wooden fence and from time to time, people would place flowers against the fence or attach them to the fence itself. A contributor to a local history message forum noted that

"If you were passing with your parents, you would get clip round the ear if you slowed down to look or dawdled. Sometimes there were kids in town on the their own and if they were thought to be hanging around the fence, they were told to clear-off and mind their own business, not only by the police but passers-by. When the site was eventually cleared, and before redevelopment, it was briefly a car park. I knew people, my father being one, who would never dream of parking there. Many people looked on it as almost hallowed ground."

 

 

At the end of the  1950's , a full nineteen years after it was destroyed a new public house  was built by John Smith's Ltd. It re-opened in 1959 and was for the first time officially known as Marples. The pub traded right up until the early summer of 2002 when it was suddenly closed. It was thought the pub was undergoing the usual periodic refit but it turned out that the pub was closed for good. It remained empty until the early part of 2003 when it re-opened as "Hein Gericke" motor cycle accessories shop. The floors above the shop are believe it or not occupied by student flats

The above photo was taken in 1940 and shows the Marples pub just a few months prior to its destruction. On the opposite side of the road is C & A Modes department store which received a direct hit on that Thursday evening. The buildings further up High Street were to suffer major bomb damage that night. 

Sources

Commonwealth war Graves Commission

A - Z of Sheffield Public Houses - Michael Liversidge

Index to the "Civilian War Dead Roll Of Honour"for Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire.

The Sheffield Blitz was reported in The Times and The Scotsman newspapers

Raiders Over Sheffield - Mary Walton

Sheffield History Forum 

Sheffield at War - Sheffield Telegraph 1948.

Sheffield Blitz - Paul Licence

Authors Notes

One of the reasons why I'm interested in this incident is that my wfe's great Uncle Charlie (Charles Simpson) was due to play an exhibition snooker match against the reigning World Champion  Joe Davis at the Marples that night. However due to the disruption on the railways caused by the effects of war, Joe was unable to travel from Hull and so that match was postponed

The Marples was not the only pub in the centre of Sheffield that was destroyed that night. A further eight more have been listed in a separate section

When the war in Europe was over, a total of  60 595 U.K. civilians were killed, (29 890 in London), and 86 182 admitted to hospital (50 507 in London). For the month of December 1940 the UK civilian casualty figures were: 3,793 killed, 5,244 injured

And what of the man who gives his name to the tragedy. John Marples died in August 1908 and his obituary was reported in the Sheffield Telegraph dated 30th August 1908

The burial records of Sheffield's General Cemetery reveal that John was cremated and then interred in the family grave

burial no: 27489 grave no: C2 78 death date: 19 Aug 1908 burial date: 28 Aug 1908 name: John Marples sex: age: 79 cause of death: description: Wine & Spririt Merchant (Cremated Aug. 21 remains interred Aug. 28) birthplace: residence: 357 Fulwood Road parents: informant: minister: H. F. Kennedy burial type: consecrated

Sarah Ann MARPLES - Wife of John Marples, Spirit Merchant, Market Place age: 27, buried: 8 Jul 1855
Mary Eyre MARPLES - Daughter of E. J. Eyre Marples, Wine & Spirit Merchant, 8 Westbourne Road age: 3m, buried: 6 Nov 1885
Eliza Ann MARPLES - Wife of John Marples,Gentleman, Wadsley Grove age: 57, buried: 1 Mar 1886
Arthur Eyre MARPLES - Son of Edward Marples, Wine Merchant, 14 Southbourne Road age: 11m, buried: 6 Jul 1889
John MARPLES - Wine & Spririt Merchant (Cremated Aug. 21 remains interred Aug. 28), 357 Fulwood Road age: 79, buried: 28 Aug 1908
Dorothy M. MARPLES - Daughter of John Marples, Merchant (cremated at City Road Crematorium), 41 Roseberry Road, Muswell Hill, London
age: 17, buried: 8 Oct 1908

I believe the grave C2 78 no longer exists

Return to Main Homepage

This page was last updated on 24/05/14 18:41

"There is no life that does not contribute to history."
Dorothy West