William Arthur Sanderson

1913 – 1996

For Auld Lang Syne

This part of the family story was designed to be for the male Sanderson forebears, of which William was one, but I find, it is impossible to write about him, without including wife Esme, and expanding this page to include both my Grandparents.

Billie and Vincent c1922

William Arthur Sanderson was born 13th December 1913 the youngest of four children to Vincent Sanderson and Nora (Thompson) at Carlby Road, Stannington. He was known as ‘Bill’ in later years, but as Billie when he was young. He was of small stature and a very quiet and reticent lad, but did get up to some pranks before his teens. On one occasion coming back from Sunday school, he was egged on to stand on the end of a horse trough all dressed in his best clothes. One of his ‘friends’ gave him a gentle push and in he went full length! Needless to say, his parents were not amused when he arrived home sopping wet, but we don’t know what punishment was administered. As a child, he contracted scarlet fever, which left him deaf in one ear.

His older siblings, Mabel born 1906, Gladys 1907 and Vincent 1908.

Sanderson children, Mabel back centre, Gladys front centre, and Vincent front left.
Malin Bridge School football team c1923. William back centre (goalie)

William went to Malin Bridge school for the whole of his formal education and remembered his teacher Mr. Bradford. He passed his 11+ exam and had the opportunity of going to Firth Park Grammar School which was quite an achievement for a working class boy in 1924, but due to lack of confidence he decided to stay on at Malin Bridge until he left at fourteen. He went to work at Burdalls custard and gravy powder factory, as a warehouse boy, in the old barracks on Langsett Road, and remembered carrying sacks of custard powder for the girls who worked there in the packing department. He then got a job in Cross Burgess Street working for Mr. Winstone in a furniture warehouse, then on to Castleburns Garage where he worked for Mr Radford. He was mechanically minded and loved motor bikes and cars.

His father had a good job as manager at Hutcliffe Wood ganister mine, and a car (a bull nose Morris 8) came with the job. He had worked his way up from ordinary underground miner, which he had done since leaving school. So the family did not have the breadline living that Grandad would have us believe!

Grandad learned to drive whilst under age and was nearly caught out by the local bobby who saw him at the wheel. Some smooth talking by his dad managed to allay the situation and after a reprimand from the policeman, no further action was taken. Bill decided he would like to study motor engineering and the princely sum of £25 was paid for a three year postal correspondence apprenticeship course with Bennett College, which was a forerunner of the Open University. He passed all his exams and worked for various vehicle repairers until the war broke out in 1939.

1939 Register.

William married Esme Gillott in 1940. They had known each other for some years, and apparently met on ‘the monkey walk’. (The boys link arms and walk towards the girls, who are also linking arms and walking towards the boys. They then make a grab for the girl they liked the look of).

In January 1940, they rented a house in Harrison Road, Malin Bridge, Sheffield, at 13s/6d (67.5 new pence) per week. This remained the same for ten years, until they moved next door.

Taken in 2009 and still looking good after 123 years !

Dad (David), was born 1940, in Sheffield Northern General hospital.

During the 1940-45 war, ‘Bill’ worked in the steel industry, a reserved occupation by day, and in the Home Guard at night, manning the ack-ack guns at Stannington. After the war, he went back into motor mechanics at Hewards garage in Grenoside and then to the Co-op laundry vehicle maintenance depot in Bellhouse Rd in March 1951. By 1974, many homes had washing machines and the domestic laundry business was in decline. The Co-op decided to amalgamate their facilities and close the depot and he was made redundant. It was around this time that Bill sold his motorbike, which he had used to travel to work, as the co-op was awkward to get to by public transport.

I recall this event was a worrying time, and much discussed, although I didn’t really understand what it was all about. Grandad soon found another job, as a porter in Westbourne College, one of the University halls of residence. I didn’t know much about it, other than that he worked ‘shifts’, which was not particularly popular. The only other occupation that involved ‘shifts’ that I knew of was the mining industry, and for sometime, thought Grandad had a job as a miner!

Sometimes he left very early in the morning, other times it was late in the afternoon, and Grandma would make him up a flask and some sandwiches.

From time to time, we would go on the bus to meet him from work, outside the Botanical Gardens, calling in to see the Minah Birds in their cages.

We often saw members of the Gillott family, but Grandad’s family were something of a mystery. I never met Mabel, only met Gladys when I was a baby, and we bumped into Vincent one day whilst waiting for a bus. Grandad and Vincent chatted, but I was not introduced, and not told who it was until he had left.

In those days, heavy drinking amongst working men, was a common and accepted part of life, unfortunately Vincent, (Grandad’s father) became a heavy drinker, which made him argumentative and violent. The Sanderson children did not have a happy home life as a result. The three older children left home as soon as they could, leaving Bill at home with his parents.

In 1933, Vincent died from pneumoconiosis, (miners lung). However he carried on in life, it would have been a nasty disease to contract, and for his family to witness.

Nora had managed to save money and bought all four properties in the yard where she lived. She let two out and her daughter Gladys and her family lived in the other. This provided Nora with an income after Vincent’s death, but on her death was a source of family friction on the division of the estate.

After Vincents death, Nora lived a fairly reclusive life, especially after she was told she had a heart defect. However she lived to be 80 years old, dying in 1957 from cancer. With her death, came further family falling outs, and from then we rarely saw members of the Sanderson family.

William Arthur Sanderson 1913 – 1996

‘Bill’ was intelligent and well read, he could turn his hands to just about anything practical, – electrical, plumbing, carpentry, DIY. He enjoyed marquetry (making pictures from different coloured wood pieces), and was often called upon to mend broken toys, or later on, model trains or scalextric cars from ‘The Match Box‘, that had broken.

He was quietly spoken, and a person of few words, until it came to politics, when he would give anyone a run for their money. He would take up the traditional, Sheffield, socialist point of view, and argue black was white. I was never completely convinced that he actually believed what he was arguing about, but he certainly didn’t show it.

He enjoyed a flutter on the horses, having checked their form, and Saturday afternoons at Grandparents house often included the horse racing on television. In the summer he followed cricket. Watching the cricket at Bradfield, had been a regular family outing during the 1940’s and 50’s.

Caught in the act!

My grandparents loved days out, and were very well travelled considering the age in which they were born, and that they never owned a car. They had been to all corners of Britain, before venturing further afield, Jersey, Austria – (where I imagined they had ridden an Ostrich), France, Spain, and visiting us in Malta twice. Many holidays were spent with Uncle George Gillott and Auntie Louis.

They began by travelling by motorbike, later with sidecar, other than that, all journeys were taken by coach.

Grandparents generally, are our link with the past. It is usual that they would have known our Great Grandparents well, and likely they met our Great Great Grandparents, possibly even our 3xGt Grandparents.

My Grandparents were both alive at the time of my birth. Grandad lived to see the birth of three of my four children, and Grandma, all six of her Great Grandchildren.

Angela, not too sure, 1965.
Meeting Paul, Malta 1967.
Grandad and Elizabeth, 1973.

They were an integral part of our lives, and joined us every Christmas and New Year, 1971 until 1995, with Grandma continuing until 2006.

My Grandparents loved to travel and visit places of interest, so whenever they visited us, or us them, there would be days out. As we moved around, there was always somewhere different to explore. We visited them several times each year which would involve overnight stays of a week or so, often holidaying together too.

Whereas when we visited them, it was often the familiar outings, such as the Sheffield Parks, Rivelin Park was the closest and we could walk there. Hillsborough Park was also in walking distance, and we would often wait in there, for Grandma to finish work on the cake stall in the Coop. Further out, Fullwood Park, involved a bus ride and then we would walk back down to Endcliffe Park, and catch the bus back from there. We usually went to Millhouses Park, by car. A day trip would often be out into the Peak District.

They got on well with my maternal Grandmother, and Grandma helped Mum to care for Nana, in her final days.

In the early 1980’s, Grandad surprisingly, became interested in family history. Perhaps this was as a result of a visit to Bradfield or Stannington, and seeing ‘Sanderson’ gravestones in the graveyard, and wanting to find out more. He spent time in Sheffield archives, copying out lists of ‘Sandersons’ from the local parish registers, and looking up any other Sanderson, or related references. Sometimes Grandma joined him, but she wasn’t particularly impressed with this new hobby. However, Dad was, and began computerising the information discovered by Grandad, on his new computer.

In late 1995, Grandad became ill, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. The disease started to make him act erratically, and Grandma and Grandad came to live with my parents in Norfolk, so they could help Grandma care for him, as his health deteriorated.

Dad took the opportunity of his sudden chattiness, by asking about his early life. This was a diversion from trying to prevent him from dismantling every piece of electrical equipment in the house including socket fittings. Sadly he had lost his technical ability, as a result of his illness, but not in his mind, and Dad had to lock all his tools away. It was unfortunate to see this happen to such a sensible man, who was so talented with mechanics and close work, but the brain works in mysterious ways, and I am sure Grandad would have also been fascinated by this (not in himself though).

It was particularly sad, when out of the blue, he would get us all together to link hands, and sing ‘Old Lang Syne’. We always sang this at New Year, and has been part of our family Christmas Tradition for generations.

He died on 7th July 1996 at the Priscilla Bacon Lodge hospital Norwich. He wished to be cremated, and his ashes were scattered in Bradfield, near the cricket pitch where he had spent many happy hours with his family. Grandma’s ashes joined his in 2008, following her death in September.

Angela Weatherill, David Sanderson with memories from ‘Bill’. 2021