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Ethel Haythornthwaite

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Ethel Haythornthwaite
Haythornthwaite addressing ramblers at access rally event in Winnats Pass
Haythornthwaite in the 1950s
Ethel Mary Bassett Ward

(1894-01-18)18 January 1894
Sheffield, England
Died11 April 1986(1986-04-11) (aged 92)
Sheffield, England
Burial placeCrookes Cemetery, Sheffield, England
  • Environmental campaigner
Known for
  • Countryside protection
  • Town and country planning
Notable work
Henry Gallimore
(m. 1916; died 1917)
Gerald Haythornthwaite
(m. 1937)
  • Thomas Leonard Ward (brother)
  • Gertrude Miller Ward (sister)
  • Alan Bassett Ward (brother)
  • Frank Joseph Ward (brother)
  • George Bassett (great-uncle)

Ethel Mary Bassett Haythornthwaite (née Ward) MBE (18 January 1894 – 11 April 1986) was an English environmental campaigner, activist and poet.[1][2] She was a pioneer of countryside protection as well as town and country planning both locally and nationally.[3] She founded the Sheffield Association for the Protection of Rural Scenery, also known as the Sheffield Association for the Protection of Local Countryside in 1924, which became the local branch of CPRE in 1927, and worked to protect the countryside of the Peak District from development. She forefronted the appeal to save the 747-acre Longshaw Estate from development, and helped acquire land around Sheffield that became its green belt. She was appointed to the UK government’s National Parks Committee, and helped to make the successful case for the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, which led to the founding of the Peak District National Park in 1951. She also helped make green belts part of government policy in 1955.

She was awarded an MBE in the 1947 New Years Honours List for her services to the countryside.

In 1963, she was awarded an honorary master's degree by Sheffield University.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Ethel Mary Bassett Ward was born on 18 January 1894 at the family house on Millhouses Lane, Sheffield.[3] She was the daughter of Mary Sophia Ward (née Bassett) and Thomas William Ward. Her parents were both Methodists and of notable Sheffield families.[3]

Her mother was part of the Bassett's sweets dynasty. Haythornthwaite was the great-niece of George Bassett (1818-1886), a noted politician and founder of the confectionary firm.[5]

Her father was a wealthy industrialist who built his family a large mansion on Endcliffe Vale Road which he called Endcliffe Vale House.[3]

She had three brothers and one sister; Thomas Leonard Ward, Alan Bassett Ward, Frank Joseph Ward and Gertrude Miller Ward.[3]

She grew up in a life of privilege[6][7] surrounded by horses and carriages.[3]


Haythornthwaite, and her sister, went to an elite private school, West Heath in London, running in circles with privileged young girls and foreign princesses with exotic accents and baroque names.[5] She excelled at English and Literature.[3]

She later went on to read English at London University.[3]


Haythornthwaite's love of literature led her to also study the romantic poets such as Wordsworth, Coleridge and Blake.[1][3]

Personal life and marriage[edit]

Haythornthwaite kept many diaries from an early age and was a frequent letter writer.[3]

She has been married twice.

On 26 February 1916, during World War I, she married Henry Gallimore, a captain in the Royal Field Artillery. On 26 May 1917, Gallimore was killed whilst in combat over in France. She was widowed at the age of 23.

In 1937, she married Gerald Haythornthwaite, a lieutenant colonel in the army who served overseas in Norway during World War II.

Countryside protection[edit]

Devastated following the death of her first husband, Haythornthwaite became ill and her family encouraged her to take restorative walks in the countryside.[6][7]

She soon became enamoured of the rural beauty surrounding the city of Sheffield, and decided to apply herself to protecting the countryside from development and urban sprawl.

Campaign to Protect Rural England Peak District and South Yorkshire[edit]

In 1924, she founded the Sheffield Association for the Protection of Rural Scenery, also known as the Sheffield Association for the Protection of Local Countryside, which in 1927 became the Peak District and South Yorkshire branch of the CPRE (Council for the Preservation of Rural England, later renamed Campaign to Protect Rural England).[6][8][7] She was to be secretary of the branch for 56 years from its inception.[9]

Longshaw Estate[edit]

In 1927, the Duke of Rutland sold the Longshaw Estate to the Sheffield Corporation. Prior to this sale the Corporation had purchased over 3,000 acres of moorland.

In 1928, Haythornthwaite spearheaded an urgent appeal to the Yorkshire public, which helped Peak District and South Yorkshire CPRE to raise the funds to buy the 747-acre Estate, which was threatened with development.[10]

The Estate was gifted to the National Trust in 1931.[11]

Sheffield's Green Belt[edit]

In 1932, she helped acquire a further 448 acres of threatened land at Blacka Moor. In 1938, this became part of Sheffield's Green Belt (the first to be created in England).[10] She also was instrumental in the purchase and protection of other rural areas including Whirlow Moor, Dore Moor, Dovedale, and many other surrounding rural areas.[10]

Haythornthwaite wrote, at the start of World War II when many of her fellow CPRE administrators were away on active service:

"Unquestionably, CPRE and all its branches should strive their best to hold on. If not, much more of England’s beauty will be lost for those who return after the war. I believe our aims are too profoundly important to let go. Those who see what rural England means to the English should work to save it."[10]

Haythornthwaite spent most of 1942 in London, "leading the national organisation in the crucial early debates on how the post-war reconstruction of the country should be achieved by democratic planning".[10]

National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949[edit]

In 1945, Haythornthwaite was appointed to the UK government’s National Parks Committee, and her hard work there helped to deliver the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.

First UK National Park[edit]

Much to her delight, and in no small part due to her endeavours, in 1951 the Peak District became the UK's first national park.[10]

National Green Belt Policy[edit]

In 1955, Haythornthwaite helped form national government policy on green belts. She stressed their importance to city dwellers:

"My childhood impressions of the city were a gloomy, noisy, shapeless phenomenon. But outside the city – there one began to live. The escape into clean air, the gradual return to nature – with this came satisfaction, peace, freedom, solitude, excitement. One grew to become conscious of its profounder value, something beyond health and high spirits – something to worship."[10]


Haythornthwaite died after a long period of illness[5] in 1986.[7] She is buried in Crookes Cemetery, Sheffield alongside her husband, her father, mother and sister.


“Whatever else is forgotten, the Branch [Peak District and South Yorkshire branch of the CPRE] will go down in history as a major force in environmental conservation because of the achievement of its two ‘grand purposes’: the designation of a national park in the Peak District and the creation of a permanent Sheffield Green Belt. But there were so many more equally successful campaigns in the wider countryside and urban fringe that the reader gasps with admiration. And at the head of this crusading society for so long, the tireless, single-minded, and selfless Ethel and Gerald Haythornthwaite were without parallel. We shall not see the likes of Ethel and Gerald again.”

Sir Chris Bonington, Protecting the Beautiful Frame 2001 book by Melvyn Jones[8]

Haythornthwaite Wood[edit]

In 1994, eight years after Haythornthwaite died, a woodland was planted near Dore in honour of the charity founders. It is located on the edge of Sheffield, approximately 1 km from the boundary of the Peak District National Park.[12][13][14][15]

The woodland itself was saved from housing development as part of the 1936 Whirlow Bridge to Dore Moore campaign.[12]

Peak District Boundary Walk[edit]

On 17 June 2017, in celebration of Britain's first National Park, the Friends of the Peak District launched the Peak District Boundary Walk.

It was officially opened by Emma Bridgewater, President of the CPRE,[16] at 12 noon outside Buxton Town Hall.[17]

The route consists of twenty stages that broadly follows the park's boundary, as envisaged by Haythornthwaite and her husband,[18] covering a total distance of 190 miles.

Heritage Open Days[edit]

In September 2018, during Heritage Open Days in Sheffield, two illustrated talks were given about Haythornthwaite's life and work.[19][7]

Date Talk Speaker Occupation Venue
9 September, 2018 Ethel Haythornthwaite (1894–1986): Her Legacy for Sheffield and the Peak District Jean Smart Haythornthwaite's secretary (from 1963 to 1995)[5][20] Sheffield Botanical Gardens
6 September, 2018 Ethel Haythornthwaite: A Sheffield Woman of Considerable Consequences Clyde Binfield Professor Emeritus in History, University of Sheffield Regather Co-operative, Sharrow, Sheffield

Restoration of graves[edit]

Plaque honoring Haythornthwaite at Crookes Cemetery
Graves of Ward and Haythornthwaite restored in 2018 with achievements plaque

In February 2016, a local resident reported that he found the graves of two of Sheffield's most generous philanthropists were neglected.[21]

Councillor Sioned-Mair Richards, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Sheffield Council said:

“The maintenance of privately bought memorials is always the responsibility of the family or purchaser. The graves of Sir Stuart Goodwin and Lt Col Gerald Haythornthwaite are private memorials and therefore their families are responsible for maintaining them.

“We acknowledge the significant contributions they made to the city and those of the many others buried in our cemeteries who gave generously, fought bravely and were champions for Sheffield.

“And whilst we would like to be able to maintain all neglected memorials, we have never funded private graves because budget pressures make it impossible for us.

“We have no objections to repairs being carried out and should the family or purchaser wish to instruct a stone mason we can provide information to help them do this.”

Following a public appeal in 2018, the graves of Haythornthwaite and her husband as well as her father and mother were restored.

A new plaque and monument at the site marks this event and explicitly acknowledges some of the achievements of Haythornthwaite.


On 7 April 2019, Haythornthwaite's work was featured in the BBC1 television programme Countryfile. The episode marked the 70th anniversary of the national parks of the United Kingdom and covered the impact of her legacy in Sheffield and the Peak District.[22]

Campaign for National Parks tribute video[edit]

In October 2019, the Campaign for National Parks released a 6-minute video to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the National Parks. The video featured actress Caroline Quentin, who was President of the CNP at the time, as well as numerous voiceovers of key individuals.[23][24]

One of which was Jean Smart, who served as secretary to the Haythornthwaites and also a countryside campaigner herself. Smart talks about the importance of their work in the Peak District. Quentin highlights it was the first of 13 national parks in the UK.[25] Smart also talks how it was Haythornthwaite's vision for the soldiers post-war to come home to their Jerusalem, a reference to the poem by one of her favourite poets, William Blake.[3]

Trespass debate[edit]

On 19 April 2021, during a trespass debate, Olivia Blake MP for Sheffield Hallam referenced Haythornthwaite as she opposed the Government's proposal to impose harsher measures.[26][27][28]

The Ethels[edit]

In May 2021, the summit of 95 hills in the Peak District of England were named The Ethels in her honour.[29]

Similar to the Munros in Scotland or Wainwrights in the Lake District.

Blue plaque[edit]

Blue plaque at grounds of old Endcliffe Vale House location
Blue plaque found at Endcliffe Student Village

On 2 August 2021, a campaign to honour Haythornthwaite was started by The Star newspaper, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England Peak District and South Yorkshire (CPRE PDSY), Blake,[30][31] University of Sheffield and former Lord Mayor Councillor Anne Murphy.[32][33] CPRE had previously created a crowdfunding appeal campaign on GoFundMe on 20 July 2021. It successfully achieved its target amount, with a total amount of £591.

On 25 May 2022, a blue plaque to commemorate the life of one of Sheffield and the Peak District’s leading environmentalists and most influential women was put in place.[34][35][36] The plaque is located at the old site where she lived, Endcliffe Vale House, which is now a student village. Plaque, which rests on stone from the Peak District, was officially unveiled by Dame Fiona Reynolds DBE, the CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire branch president and an honorary graduate of the University of Sheffield.

Other plaques[edit]

In August 2021, Tomo Thompson, CEO of CPRE PDSY, stated that there was a plaque in honour of Haythornthwaite at Longshaw and a small tribute located at Dore.[33]

Street named after Haythornthwaite[edit]

On 23 August 2021, Murphy stated more, than the blue plaque, should be done to recognise the impact of what Haythornthwaite had achieved and who she was including "something within the city centre and a road named after her".[37]

Murphy died on 23 December 2022 after a short illness.[38]

Haythornthwaite Biography[edit]

On 11 October 2022, it was announced by Thompson that a biography of Haythornthwaite had been commissioned.

Poet and author Helen Mort will be involved with a released date planned for May 2024.[39]

The title of the book is officially called Ethel: The biography of countryside pioneer Ethel Haythornthwaite.[1][2]

100 years of CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire[edit]

On 8 March 2024, to celebrate International Women's Day and 100 years of CPRE PDSY, the National Trust are hosting a talk on the life and work of Haythornthwaite followed by a guided walk up Higger Tor, the closest Ethel to Longshaw Estate.[40][41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Ethel by Helen Mort – the biography of Ethel Haythornthwaite - Adventure Books by Vertebrate Publishing". Vertebrate Publishing. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  2. ^ a b "Ethel: The biography of countryside pioneer Ethel Haythornthwaite". AMAZON UK. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Smart, Jean (16 September 2020). "Stories from the Archive: Ethel Haythornthwaite her legacy". CPRE PDSY. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  4. ^ Sheffield University. "HONORARY GRADUATES". Sheffield University. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  5. ^ a b c d Simpson, Mollie (26 June 2021). "The quiet subversive of Sheffield". Sheffield Tribute. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  6. ^ a b c "Preview: Ethel Haythornthwaite". Big Issue. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Blackledge, Richard. "Sheffield's Heritage Open Days 2018: Why city's 'force of nature' Ethel Haythornthwaite is responsible for country's Green Belt". The Star. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Friends of the Peak District: About". Friends of the Peak District. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  9. ^ Jones, Melvyn (2004). The Making of Sheffield. Wharncliffe. ISBN 1903425425. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "Women countryside campaigners: the '30s and beyond". CPRE. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Longshaw". Peak District National Park. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Haythornthwaite Wood". CPRE PDSY. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  13. ^ "Stories from the Archive 1: The Fight for Sheffield's Green Belt". CPRE PDSY. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  14. ^ Townsend, Cassa. "CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire Woodland Conservation Task Day". Welcome to Sheffield. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  15. ^ Townsend, Cassa. "Have a go at dry stone walling with CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire". Welcome to Sheffield. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  16. ^ "Emma Bridgewater announced as new CPRE President". CPRE. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  17. ^ "Peak District Boundary Walk, a fabulous 90 mile trail". Explore Buxton. 7 June 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  18. ^ "Boundary Walk". Friends of the Peak District. 12 October 2017. Archived from the original on 11 August 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  19. ^ "OUR EXTRAORDINARY ETHEL". Friends of the Peak District. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  20. ^ Kessen, David (24 August 2021). ""I'm backing Star campaign to honour green space pioneer Ethel Haythornthwaite" says Ethel's ex secretary, praising her for saving Longshaw estate". The Star. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  21. ^ The Newsroom (23 February 2016). "Has Sheffield forgotten its past heroes?". The Star. Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  22. ^ "National Parks". Countryfile. 7 April 2019. BBC One. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  23. ^ Blow, John (9 October 2019). "Call to pick up the mantel of pioneers who won right to roam the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  24. ^ Hall, Andrew (11 October 2019). "New film with Caroline Quentin uncovers the moving history of one of the UK's greatest environment achievements – National Parks". Campaign for National Parks. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  25. ^ "70 years of National Parks with Caroline Quentin". Campaign for National Parks YouTube Channel. 8 October 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  26. ^ Parsons, Rob (20 April 2021). "Sheffield MP Olivia Blake uses words of Peak District campaigner Ethel Haythornthwaite to oppose plans to make trespass a criminal offence". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  27. ^ Blake, Olivia (20 April 2021). "Olivia's speech during the Trespass debate". Olivia Blake MP YouTube Channel. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  28. ^ "Trespass - Volume 692: debated on Monday 19 April 2021". Hansard Parliament Debate. 19 April 2021. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  29. ^ "Peak District hilltops named after Sheffield woman". BBC News. 11 May 2021. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  30. ^ Blake, Olivia (7 October 2021). "September Newsletter". Olivia Blake MP for Sheffield Hallam. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  31. ^ Kessen, David (4 September 2021). "MP 'surprised' that Sheffield national parks pioneer Ethel Haythornthwaite is not famous in her own city". The Star. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  32. ^ Edwards, Paulette (25 August 2021). "Ethel the trailblazing environmentalist". BBC Sounds. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  33. ^ a b Kessen, David (2 August 2021). "Campaign to honour Ethel Haythornthwaite - the woman who fought to make Sheffield the green city we love". The Star. Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  34. ^ "CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire have unveiled a blue heritage plaque to commemorate the life of our charity's founder, Ethel Haythornthwaite MBE". CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire. 25 May 2022. Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  35. ^ Kessen, David (25 May 2022). "Blue plaque unveiled for Sheffield countryside pioneer Ethel Haythornthwaite as Star campaign a success". The Star. Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  36. ^ Fletcher, Alice (26 May 2022). "University of Sheffield hosts blue plaque for Peak District campaigner Ethel Haythornthwaite". University of Sheffield. Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  37. ^ Kessen, David (23 August 2021). "This is why a former Sheffield mayor wants to name a street after Ethel Haythornthwaite". The Star. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  38. ^ Marshall, Sarah (26 December 2022). "Tributes pour in for former Sheffield Lord Mayor Anne Murphy following death". The Star. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  39. ^ Thompson, Tomo (11 October 2022). "Ethel Haythornthwaite Biography". CPRE PDSY. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  40. ^ "International Women's Day: Talk on Ethel Haythornthwaite and Higger Tor Walk". Welcome to Sheffield. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  41. ^ Jennings, Tim (21 February 2024). "National Trust celebrate Ethel Haythornthwaite for International Women's Day, a conservation activis". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 26 February 2024.

Further reading[edit]

  • A People's Charter?: 40 Years of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949, John Blunden and Nigel Curry, 1990
  • Protecting the Beautiful Frame: A History of the Sheffield, Peak District and South Yorkshire Branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, Melvyn Jones, 2001
  • The Making of Sheffield, Melvyn Jones, 2004
  • Sheffield Troublemakers: Rebels and Radicals in Sheffield History, David Price, 2011

External links[edit]

  • [1] 2018 talks about Ethel Haythornthwaite
  • [2] Stories from the Archive: Ethel Haythornthwaite, her legacy (CPRE PDSY)
  • [3] Stories from the Archive: Ethel Haythornthwaite’s Countryside Campaigns (CPRE PDSY)
  • [4] Stories from the Archive: Ethel and Gerald Haythornthwaite (CPRE PDSY)