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
John Watson Kay age 46, Boma Road, Trentham, Stoke on Trent respectively.
William Wallace King, Arbett Parade, Bristol
Lionel George Ball, Knowle West, Bristol
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
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.
|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
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
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
Regiment/Service: Civilian War Dead
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."
In June 2017 Sheffield Libraries and Archives announced that they had unearthed eye-witness accounts of the events of that night and its aftermath.
In November 2019 I received this information from the grandson of one of the fatalities
"my grandfather, Arthur Burgess, was the manager of the Marples hotel/pub when it received a direct hit and was killed. Although some survived, I believe some bodies were recovered. However my grandfather was never found. My mother, Elizabeth, was in the WAAF in Bomber Command as a plotter and was involved in plotting the raid as it happened. She returned to Sheffield on compassionate leave and saw the horror of the bomb site. She was 20 years old and had lost her mother through illness in April that year. That year was something that haunted her for the rest of her life, particularly that her father could never have a funeral. Yet again one of the awful stories of war and sadly the world never learns."
Arthur is remembered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Civilian War Dead - BURGESS, ARTHUR CLARENCE
Died 12/12/1940 Aged 46
Husband of Elsie Victoria Burgess, of 196 Bradway Road. Died at Marples Hotel, Fitzalan Square.
Deaths Jun 1940 - Burgess Elsie Victoria age 42 Sheffield Volme 9c Page 1152
And two months later in January 2020 I received this information from someone whose grandmother worked at the Marples but due to her sons illness did not work the night of the tragedy
""My granny was Mary Ransom (born Dec 1909 died 1998) married to Grandpa Albert 1906-1986/7) I understand grandpa was a fire watcher on the roof of the Childrens Hospital, he had a reserved occupation as a Gas-fitter and plumber.
Granny was an accomplished pianist and I am told that she was due to play the piano on the fateful night in question at Marples. She had to swap with another pianist because my uncle Mike, born 1936, was, poorly and needed to take care of him. It seems an incredible story but likely.Sadly I never thought to question Granny further being only 14 years old hen she died. I remember asking if she kept her ration book as I was doing a Year 6 project on WW2 and was told quite officiously, "Why would I need to keep it?"
I was fascinated to read the article, sad to see the names of the deceased thinking Granny could have been among the numbers and wondering who the pianist was. I must admit I wish I could find more time to research my grandparents during the war, they are long gone and born probably a generation older than most of my peers grandparents...."
Of course I do not have any idea of who took over from Mary on the piano that night, and I feel it will be nigh on possible to find out. But I would dearly like to know!
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.
Commonwealth war Graves Commission
A - Z of Sheffield Public Houses - Michael Liversidge
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
Sheffield Libraries and Archives
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: Male Age: 79 cause of death: Description: Wine & Spirit Merchant (Cremated Aug. 21 1908 remains interred Aug. 28 1908) birthplace: Residence: 357 Fulwood Road Minister: H. F. Kennedy burial type: consecrated
John Marples, of Endcliffe Edge, who died on 19th August 1908 was buried in the Anglican part of the cemetery (Grave C2 78). He was cremated two days after his death, and his remains deposited on 28th August 1908 in a private vault. There is a note in the Independent on 22 August 1908 reporting that the 37th cremation (that of Marples, wine and spirit merchant) had taken place. John's cremain's were the first to be placed in the General Cemetery.
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
The final photograph is of the Marples building as it is today - it is a cash shop.
The building opposite that is boarded up was the site of C & A Modes, a Dutch department store. The company had the store rebuilt in the 1950's and remained there for nearly 50 years. They withdrew from the British market in 2000 and the store was bought by a clothing retailer Primark but the relocated to premises on The Moor Sheffield in the late 2010's and the building was boarded up. It has been unoccuppied ever since.
Return to Main Homepage
This page was last updated on 02/02/21 16:39
"There is no life that does not
contribute to history."