The village of Bolsterstone stands on high ground between the Stocksbridge and Ewden Valleys. It is one of the last remaining hill villages in the Sheffield area. At nearly 1000 feet above sea level it lies on the edge of moor land to the south east of Stocksbridge. The boundary of the Peak District National Park runs along Heads Lane which borders the village on its southern edge. Unlike the neighbouring villages of Wharncliffe Side, Bradfield and Midhope, Bolsterstone comes under the jurisdiction of Stocksbridge Town Council and not Bradfield Parish Council as they do. As a settlement it is much older than either Stocksbridge or Deepcar.
It is believed that the village originated as an Anglo Saxon settlement. It lies on a Salt Route between Cheshire and Yorkshire. No-one is quite sure how the village got its name but it may be a corruption of Walder, a local Saxon chief. Walder’s Low is the name of the mound that lies to the south east of the village. Alternatively the name could be derived from the existence of two large stones now situated in the Churchyard and generally known as the “bolster stones”.
A short heritage trail giving details of Bolsterstone’s historical features is outlined on an interpretative board set outside the Village Hall. This gives further information about the “bolsterstones”, as well as the Stocks and Whipping Post, St Mary’s Church and the Lych Gate, the Jubilee Tree, The Porter’s Lodge and Bolsterstone’s oldest building, Castle Cottage.
Historically it is thought that a Manor House belonging to the Earls of Shrewsbury was situated in Bolsterstone on the area more commonly referred to as the “Castle”. It has been suggested that this term “castle” has remained in folk memory and may allude to an ancient fortification that once stood here. There is some evidence to show that there were Manor Courts held in Bolsterstone, for the tenants of the Manor, as well as at Townend for the tenants of the properties held by the Knights of St John. A letter written by Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury to his brother in law John Manners and dated 17 August 1587 shows the Earl obviously came to Bolsterstone for his health for he writes “I have come here to try if change of air will ease my gout”.
In 1627 Captain Adam Eyre records in his diary that he had been to Bolsterstone to play “bowles” – probably on the level grass of Court Fields. He adds that he not only lost 7/6 on the game but spent 6d on his dinner and 4d on ale which also suggests that even then some kind of hostelry existed in the village.
The 1861 Directory shows Bolsterstone still to be the centre of civilisation in the area. It describes the village as “an ancient chapelry and ecclesiastical district and village – population 1,904. Deepcar is a thriving and populous hamlet and railway station. Royd and Stocks Bridge are hamlets.”
St Mary’s Church Bolsterstone stands on the site of much older places of worship. From early records we know that a small ancient Chapel of ease was in such a bad state of repair by 1790 that the local inhabitants could not assemble “for the public worship of Almighty God without manifest danger to their lives”. Consequently this chapel was demolished in 1791 and replaced by a “plain but substantial” structure completed in 1795. Our present Church replaced this plain building and was in turn completed in 1879.
The above text can be found in full length on the Stocksbridge Council website, giving further information about the different groups and institutions that are active in the village.