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Letwell music wins plaudits at awards ceremony

The continuing success of the live music events at Letwell Village Hall won acclaim at the first ever Rotherham Music Awards.

From 100 entries the judges shortlisted the village hall as one of three finalists in the best venue category.

Letwell didn't ultimately win the award, but the judges praised the enthusiasm of the volunteers, and said they deserved much credit for bringing high quality live music to a venue far off the beaten track.

The village hall committee attended the ceremony at Magna, and enjoyed the experience immensely.

Vicky Bennett, chair of the hall committee, summed up the feeling.

"It was a huge achievement getting shortlisted. A lot of people put in a lot of effort, and we came away from the ceremony feeling a great sense of pride."

Letwell celebrates at Music Awards

Letwell celebrates at Music Awards

Letwell Parish Council annual audit 2017/18

The external auditor appointed for this financial year are PKF Littlejohn of 1 West Ferry Circus, Canary Wharf, London E14 4HD, phone 0207 516 2200.

Notice of period for the exercise of public rights and other information required by Regulation 15 (2) Accounts and Audit Regulation 2015

Please note that the accounts and accounting records can be inspected for a single period of 30 consecutive working days from Monday June 18th. This will include the first ten working days of July as required.

To inspect the records please contact the clerk Martyn Sharpe at 4 Barker Hades Road, Letwell S81 8DF or telephone 01909 731626.

Download our annual audit for 2017-18

The slow death of Letwell Post Office

Mary Marsden might struggle to make sense of it all.

In her day the Post Office was at the very centre of village life.

No competition from the supermarkets in 1922. If you wanted to buy a stamp at Letwell almost a century ago then Mary's cottage was the only place you could go. If you wanted to claim your pension - which was running at around 8 shillings a week for a married couple in those days - Mary's front room was the place to be. Automatic bank transfers weren't on anyone's horizon way back then.

Mary's tenure of office lasted over 20 years, and the mother of 12 went on to become the oldest postmistress in Britain continuing to work and serve the community five days a week until she was 89 years old.

Little changed during Mary's time. But my wife, Mary's modern day successor, has not been so fortunate.

When Janice initially took on the responsibility back in 1975 business was booming as much as it ever would in a tiny South Yorkshire farming village with a population of around 140.

Often there was a queue of customers cashing pensions, sending parcels, buying stamps, postal orders and TV licences. The local farmers would pop in to buy their National Insurance stamps.

The post office, such as it was, filled the front porch of our cottage, and measured a mere 6 ft. by 6 ft. There was no security screen just a shelf with leaflets and a desk on wheels which Janice moved into place each morning at 9 a.m.

The porch was abuzz with chatter most of the time. The elderly would call in for a second class stamp, and stay for an hour or more. If anyone from the village knocked on the door at 7 or 8 o clock at night wanting something or other then Janice would always open up come what may. We'd take in parcels and deliver them to the door or keep them for a couple of weeks if someone was on holiday.

In 1979 the arrival of our first child saw Janice retire. The post office moved to our neighbour Margaret's cottage 200 yards up the road. Customers would knock on the door, and end up being served in Margaret's front room.

Janice returned to run the post office again in 1996, but things were never the same again.

Management cut the opening hours from five days a week to three mornings. In future the business would only operate on a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 am till 11.

Successive governments got in on the act as the years went by chipping away at the core of the post office's business. Pensioners - who had been encouraged to have their weekly benefits paid direct into the bank - no longer queued outside the front porch. Janice lost the right to sell TV licences. National Insurance stamps were no longer available either. Postal orders were a thing of the past.

Most of the customers bought their stamps while they were doing their weekly shop at Sainsburys or Tesco. It was easier than making a special trip to the post office.

The end was nigh when management undertook a review of Janice's pay. The outcome was devastating. Instead of £265 a month her salary for 26 hours a month was reduced to £175, a huge cut just short of 33 per cent. In simple terms she was now earning less than £7 an hour - an amount even below the Government's minimum living wage.

You could earn more cleaning the toilets at the local Town Hall. The girl who washes the floor at our village hall gets £10 an hour. She's got a job, of course, where safety's not an issue. Stand behind a post office counter, and there's always the danger that a man in a balaclava's going to turn up one day holding a shotgun.

We turned to our MP for support. He felt it was a case of "closure by stealth" and so did we. But his intervention brought no results. Janice asked her union for help, but senior management stuck their heels in and refused to budge.

When she finally resigned one of the managers asked her if Janice had "anybody in mind" to take over the office. Her reply was simple: "Who's going to do it for that salary....." Not surprisingly no volunteers ever came forward.

Now nobody chatters in our porch anymore. A focal point has disappeared from our village forever. Letwell Post Office is no more.

Let's be grateful that Mary Marsden wasn't around to see it happen.

Village Fair on Facebook

Letwell's Village Fair now has a Facebook page - and we need everyone's help to make it a success.

The event, which is run by volunteers to raise money for the village church, has been running for more than half a century and is our busiest day of the year by far.

The more people who know about the Fair, the better, and the new page aims to attract people from Langold, Dinnington, Rotherham, Sheffield...

It's already packed with pictures and a superb video (courtesy of Stephen Boot of Theory Media Productions), so click through and take a look.

The most vital thing is to like and share the page and any posts you see.

The more you engage, the more people see the page, the more people come to the fair and the better 2018's event (on Saturday July 7) will be.

Like Letwell Village Fair on Facebook

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New ideas for New Year's Eve

The Letwell New Year's Eve party is heading for a change of format.

There won't be a band or a buffet this time round. There won't even be tickets to buy. Instead the village hall committee are proposing a free and easy open evening with villagers encouraged to bring along their own food, drink and music.

There's already been offers of support from a famed local ukulele player and a retired DJ eager to dust down his old turntable. The festivities will start at 9 pm. Phone 731626 or 540694 for more information.

What an offer!

Letwell's annual Christmas party takes place this year at the village hall on the evening of Saturday December 9th with the Dinnington Colliery Welfare Band in attendance. Villagers will qualify for free pie and peas courtesy of the village hall committee. Visiting friends and relatives will be charged £3.50 a head.

There will be a quiz - designed to challenge the local brainboxes - and carol singing will round off the evening. If you intend to join in then please call 731626 or 540694 with food orders by Monday December 4th or risk missing out on the pie and peas!!

The event starts at 7.30 pm.

Closure by stealth

Letwell Post Office closed its doors for the final time on Thursday October 12th after a pay review - which saw the postmistress earning less than the minimum wage in spite of all the responsibilities.

Senior management - unable to shut down rural offices as part of Government policy - came under fire from local MP Sir Kevin Barron amid accusations that they'd pursued a policy of "closure by stealth..."

Janice Sharpe, postmistress for five years from 1975 to 1980, and then for a further 22 years from 1995 till 2017, remains appalled by the Post Office's high handed tactics.

"I pity anyone who has to work for the Post Office. It's a great shame it has come to this, especially for my loyal band of customers, but nobody is going to take on all the risks and responsibilities for less than £7 an hour.

"Letwell's had a post office for at least a century, but that doesn't count for anything anymore. I'm just very sad to be the village's last postmistress."

Annual parish meeting

Villagers are invited to attend the annual parish meeting to be held at the Village Hall on Monday May 15th. The meeting will start at 7.30 pm and our local ward councillor Simon Tweed will be present along with Letwell's five parish councillors.

Everyone is welcome. If you have any concerns about village affairs this is the opportunity to raise them.

Please try to attend.

Streetpride gives way

Our two parish councils at Firbeck and Letwell are rightly celebrating Streetpride's decision to lift the ban on gritting Kidd Lane - which effectively stopped school and public bus services running to both places for a week in the winter and caused chaos for countless motorists as well.

The council had refused to back down intially blaming budget cuts and claiming that crews could be endangered working on the steep hill. Under pressure from both parish councils highway engineer Stephen Finley finally agreed to meet South Yorkshire Passenger Transport, who subsidise operating costs for our local bus services.

Afterwards, Streetpride said that the route would be added to the precautionary gritting programme after all for the rest of the winter.

Kidd Lane should be added permanantly to the council's progamme after a review during the summer.

Three cheers for local democracy!!

De-fib arrives at Letwell

Installation of the Letwell de-fibrillator went ahead as campaigners prepared to host a question and answer session about the new life-saving equipment.

The de-fib has been fixed on the external wall of the village hall - in the alleway next to the main door fronting Barker Hades Road. Extra lighting has been put in place to help in the event of a night-time emergency.

Villagers were urged to attend an information evening at the hall.

Rita Harrison, who helped organise the cabaret show which largely funded the equpment, was hoping for a large turn out.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service's community officer Emma Scott - who was in the audience on the night of the cabaret - had been invited to demonstrate the equipment.

Rita said: "The meeting was a one off opportunity to gain knowledge and learn how to use the de-fibrillator. A lot of enthusiasm has gone into the project, and we're really pleased that the equipment has been put in place so quickly.

"We don't know how often it's going to be used - but the de-fibrillator would only have to save one life to pay for itself many times over."

Like Rotherham Heart Town on Facebook

Defib installation

Yorkshire pride

Letwell's flying the flag for the first time.

The parish council installed an 8 m. high flagpole beside the old red telephone box a few weeks ago, and hoisted the White Rose flag of Yorkshire to mark the village's location right next to the county boundary with Nottinghamshire.

The flag, which measures 8ft. by 5ft. came free of charge via campaigners at the Yorkshire Ridings Society, who encourage "border villages" to fly the White Rose as a symbol of Yorkshire pride.

The parish council unveiled a St. George's flag in time for the annual festival day on April 23rd.

A flag commemorating the 70th anniversary of VE Day appeared on May 8th as 45 villagers and their guests gathered to mark the occasion with a lunch at the Village Hall and two minutes silence at 3 pm.

A bugler sounded the Last Post. Villagers then sang Abide With Me and rounded off the occasion with a rousing rendition of the National Anthem.

Clerk Martyn Sharpe said: "The event was a big sucess, and we're grateful to the village hall committee for coming up with necessary funding."

Yorkshire flag

Kenny will be back

FLAG wishes Letwell farmworker Kenny Bowskill a happy and healthy retirement after 21 years behind the wheel of his shiny blue tractor at South Farm. The 65 year old veteran is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and family, but admits he'll miss the annual cycle of ploughing, planting and harvesting.

Letwell hasn't seen the last of Kenny though. "I'll be back working part time when things are busy at the farm," he says.

Kenny bowskill

Fed up of slow broadband?

Gally Knight resident Dr Pete Jones has been fighting a personal battle for some years now since he moved to Letwell.

Pete talks through the issue here....

"No doubt residents will have experienced with some frustration the snail like pace of our broadband service. Whilst friends and family from outside the area enjoy smart TV, steaming video and on demand TV, we are left with a service which at times is little better than dial up.

"The difficulties encountered by residents and businesses actually wanting the ‘superfast’ broadband service we pay for (or even a tenth of it) have exercised me since 2011 when the BT web site suggested that we were on the list to get FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) in 2012. This should have significantly improved broadband speed for customers served by the cabinet at Gildingwells crossroads. However, it seems that the money given to BT to improve rural broadband acquired a ‘economically viable’ criteria and we were taken off the list for FTTC. Subsequent funds allocated to councils also failed to help as the Gildingwells cabinet is in one county and most service users are in another.

"The last remaining chink of light offered was through the Digital Region network, but this quango also got the sums wrong and folded before any progress was made. There are alternatives; satellite (too expensive), beamed service from a local high speed connection (too many trees) and 4G (not yet available locally and limited in download limits).

"Enter stage left the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and the Sheffield City region matched funding bid. This promises 24mbs+ broadband to areas where conventional funding models are not viable. BDUK are now conducting an exercise for expressions of interest in provision of the 24mbs+ service in rural areas. This may be our last remaining hope, and if residents want to make sure we are on the list we need to register our interest on the BDUK web site."

Visit the BDUK website

The South Yorkshire superfast broadband manager is Natalie Ward.

Email Natalie

Call Natalie on 01226 773107

Battle goes on

Villagers at Gildingwells and Letwell are continuing battle against proposals to erect a 21 metre high industrial wind turbine in the midst of Green Belt land within close proximity of Burrs Lane.

Planners at Rotherham have been forced to delay a decision following an avalanche of objections from far and wide. Further site investigations over a perceived threat to local wildlife were pending as FLAG went to press. A bat survey is scheduled to take place in May - though campaigners have accused RMBC of cutting corners, and are pressing for a more detailed study to take place throughout the summer to gauge bat numbers and also measure the turbine's possible impact on migrating, breeding and wintering birds.

Meanwhile, a new map has been published revealing which properties will be able to see the turbine should it receive the go ahead. Those who are intertested can view the map on the village noticeboad at Letwell.

Rare coin commotion

Treasure hunters descended on Letwell en masse after a TV camera crew arrived in the village to meet an enthusiast who had struck lucky with a rare find worth up to £600,000.

Metal detectorist John Stoner unearthed the precious American threepenny piece - which was the currency of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1652 - in a field at King's Clipstone near Edwinstowe last August.

But fellow enthusiasts jumped to the wrong conclusion and rushed to Letwell after John was filmed in the village talking to Sky TV about the find.

John, a member of the Coil to the Soil Club, which routinely combs the farmland around Dinnington, Thurcroft and Tickhill, was apologetic about all the fuss afterwards.

The dad of two explained: "We did the interview in the village because it's somewhere I do go detectoring quite regularly and it was convenient for the camera crew - but I actually found the coin near Edwinstowe.

"Quite a few people identified the fields in the background and the next day they were out there. That was the last thing I wanted because the farmer in Letwell is really good about allowing us access to his land and I didn't want him to be over-run."

The coin has since been valued by experts at the British Museum, and sent to the United States to be sealed in a special protective case.

Although estimates suggest the find could be worth £40,000 to £60,000 in the UK, enthusiasm for early American currency is such that the coin could fetch up to £600,000 on the other side of the Atlantic.

The find went under the hammer at St. James' Auctions in Knightsbridge, London, in December. Proceeds from the sale will be split 50-50 between John and the farmer who owns the land at King's Clipstone.

John said: "I'm trying not to think too much about the money."