DEDICATED Dorothy Greene is the reason that Clifton Park Museum focuses on Rotherham’s history — and she gave All Saints’ Square its name.
Her commitment to heritage and archaeology saw her given an honorary degree by the University of Sheffield in 1960 and the freedom of the borough in 1971.
Dorothy was also key in rescuing artefacts from the Roman fort at Templeborough before it was bulldozed to allow the steelworks to expand and boost the war effort.
Now Rotherham District Civic Society has ensured her contribution is recognised by erecting a blue plaque above Churchills Bar & Bistro in the square.
Collections officer Karl Noble, from Clifton Park Museum, said: “Dorothy developed a strong passion for local history and archaeology from a young age.
“In 1916, as an 18-year-old, she volunteered to work on Thomas May’s excavations of the Roman fort at Templeborough.
“This was a public sponsored emergency excavation, as the site was needed to expand the steelworks to create munitions for the First World War. The experience she gained deepened her interest in archaeology, especially that of the Roman period.
“Hundreds of boxes of finds were taken from the excavation to be sorted and identified, including ceramics, metal and glass.
“Much of this is now preserved in the collections of Rotherham Museums, Arts and Heritage.”
A large stone granary was among the many Roman buildings discovered during the excavation — but they were only visible for a brief time because the site was soon bulldozed and covered.
But it was decided to save the granary and move it to a spot behind Clifton Park Museum, where it can still be seen today.
Greene joined the Hunter Archaeological Society in 1919 and published many journals within their Transactions as well as the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, being the latter’s Roman editor between 1945 and 1958.
The Hunter society was founded in 1912 by a group in Sheffield and named in honour of antiquarian Joseph Hunter.
Rotherham Borough engineer’s department was where Dorothy was first properly employed. She held responsibility for sets of maps and recording the corporation’s property.
Part of the role was being an unofficial adviser on archaeological and historical discoveries made within the borough, for which she had training from a colleague.
“Dorothy made good use of her role, overseeing numerous excavations and making meticulous records in her notebooks,” said Karl.
“The outbreak of the Second World War took her back to the site of her first archaeological experience, the Roman Fort at Templeborough, this time driven by the need to build air raid shelters for the steelworks.
“Dorothy took the opportunity to record and collect more archaeological evidence of Roman life in Rotherham. Many of her finds from the excavation were placed in the museum.
“Dorothy’s experience and enthusiasm led to her becoming the honorary keeper of Roman antiquities at the museum in 1946.”
University of Sheffield PhD researcher David Inglis said: “Dorothy became the first professional archaeologist in our region when appointed keeper of Roman antiquities at Clifton Park Museum in 1946 and was recognised in 1960 by the University of Sheffield for her contribution to South Yorkshire’s heritage with an honorary masters.
“She was the only woman to be made a freeman of the borough of Rotherham during the town’s centenary celebrations.
“However, like so many female forerunners within archaeology, Dorothy is seldom acknowledged in wider circles.”
Dorothy made references to abandoning hopes of being published in the future following the death of her mother Annie in 1958.
David said: “To the outside observer it appears as if her private life was tinged with sorrow. Her father, a miner, died in an industrial accident for which he was blamed.
“Her childhood sweetheart was given a one-way ticket to the Somme and when she did marry, late in life, to another Hunter member Lt Col Blundell, it was short-lived, with him passing only five years later.
“She also retired in 1958 from her employment with the borough engineer’s office. Whether she took a step back from her archaeological endeavours or was put to pasture by male society is a matter for debate.”
Also in 1958, Dorothy also referred to the lack of respect shown to her by her employers and the local archaeological community in a letter to former Hunter president William Northend.
She said: “This is the first time that Rotherham Museum has acknowledged I do any serious work archaeologically!
“Sometimes I feel quite discouraged by the almost complete indifference shown locally to my efforts and as I gave my lecture the other night, I realised again how obvious it was that the Hunter society did not intend to acknowledge that I am indeed an archaeologist.
“I am also perturbed by the growing rebellion of these quite irresponsible and ill-bred members of the research committee. I fear the society which you guided so well for so long is falling to pieces rapidly and it distresses me.
“However, there is little I can do so I warn you that in future I shall write up more and more of my material and get it published in Transactions so that at least it is a record over my name, not the pirates who propose to get all the material together in the index and then free it of any embargo on its use. That you foresaw and so did I, and now it is upon us.”
Dorothy was an enthusiastic historian as well as an archaeologist. It was during her time as keeper that the museum’s focus changed from covering the world as a whole to telling the story of Rotherham and its people.
With town archivist Freda Crowder, she co-wrote a history of Rotherham aimed at the general reader. It was during her research that she looked into her own family tree and changed her name from Green to Greene.
Civic society member John Hargreaves said: “Dorothy told me about a corporation engineering meeting in the late 1920s, when the area in front of the parish church was being cleared.
“The question arose about the name of the new area. Dorothy said: ‘Well, as it’s All Saints’ Parish Church, why not call the area All Saints’ Square?”
Karl said: “Upon her 70th Birthday in 1968, Dorothy requested that her role as honorary keeper was not ended just because of her age.
“She went on to receive the freedom of the borough in 1971 as a token of appreciation for her work. Dorothy devoted her life to studying and preserving the archaeology and local history of the borough and remained an active historian until her death in 1998.”
Dorothy bequeathed 1,383 items, including notes related to 15-plus excavations, to Clifton Park Museum.