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SHEFFIELDER

Random notes on the Steelopolis. This isn’t just a history page. It’s about appreciating everything around us – the buildings, people, products and events that shaped the City of Sheffield. It’s about taking notice of what is around you now, and observing the things that will become history for our descendants.

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People

Roger Moffat: “Nobody did it like me.”

Roger Moffat at Radio Hallam. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

There I was, looking for something completely different, and I discovered that on this day in 1986 Roger Moffat died (aged 59) at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

It was a hard-drinking, fag-fuelled, career with Radio Luxembourg and BBC Radio, not to mention TV with Pinky and Perky (1957), Here’s Harry (1960) and Like … Music (1962).

Roger Moffat was best-known to us on Radio Hallam (as was) – an eccentric, masterful storyteller, and leader of controversy. As somebody commented, “Who would dare hire somebody like this nowadays?”

‘Our Rog’ might only have been on the airwaves at Radio Hallam for seven years, but it is quite incredible that Sheffield people still talk about him 35 years later.

The photograph above is dated 1980/1981 which meant his days at the station were numbered. He “sally forthed” to Scotland for a holiday, was dropped by Hallam, and only reappeared when his own pre-recorded obituary was broadcast after his death.

Here is a sad story that takes place in 1985, a year before he died.

I was working at a supermarket at Broomhill in Sheffield and asked to deliver provisions to him. Carved ham, cut half an inch thick, and Italian garlic salad dressing. He was bed-ridden in a ground-floor bedsit. Memorabilia was piled high – records, cassettes, newspapers, books, fag packets, and, of course, a radio to listen to.

Roger looked a lonely old man, very charming, and still able to entertain an audience of one. He was a brilliant storyteller. I was so captivated that I forgot to take payment for his shopping and ended up paying for it myself.

Had he still been alive, Roger would have been ninety-four.

Long-gone, not-forgotten, and if only he had completed his autobiography that was to have been called ‘Nobody Did It Like Me.”

Announcer Roger Moffat announces the end of the Light Programme, 1967. Photograph: BBC

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

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Other

How did that happen? Sheffield tops high street recovery charts

It might not look like it, but we are told that Sheffield has seen a significant increase in footfall in recent months. According to data collected by Centre for Cities, Sheffield city centre saw a huge increase in footfall in September, with the level reaching 89% of the pre-pandemic average – way above the UK urban average of 73%. Footfall figures included not only residents but people venturing into the city from other parts of the country.

Crowds gather to watch performances during the African-Caribbean market last month. Photograph: Sheffield City Council

The Centre for Cities figures were so impressive that Sheffield came out on top with the best high street recovery score of the 63 largest towns and cities in the UK in September.

Whilst Sheffield is still not seeing the footfall of pre-pandemic levels, compared to other big towns and cities we are on the up and doing well considering the circumstances people faced during the pandemic.

And it appears large numbers of people chose Sheffield as a destination to visit while the events were taking place. Occupancy in hotels in and around the city rose to 79.5% – making Sheffield the highest scoring northern city except for York during September.

At the end of October, the African-Caribbean market, the first of its kind put on in the city as part of Black History Month in Sheffield, attracted thousands of people to the city centre.

That week alone, around 180,000 people visited Fargate, with a 30.9% footfall increase, equating to around an extra 30,000 people. There was also a 19.3% increase in footfall at Moor Market, equating to around 10,000 extra people.

Centre for Cities is a leading think tank, set up in 2005 by Lord Salisbury of Turville, dedicated to improving the economies of the UK’s largest towns and cities.

I’m sure we’d all like to know how the data is collated.

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Buildings Companies

Castle House: From the Co-op to Hollywood in 80 languages

Castle House designed by George S Hay, Chief Architect for CWS, with interior design by Stanley Layland, interior designer for CWS. Reinforced concrete with Blue Pearl granite tiles and veneers, grey granite tiles and veneers, buff granite blocks, glass, and brick. Photograph: DJP/2019

Ever wondered who creates the subtitles for Hollywood movies from the likes of Disney, HBO, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, Viacom, and Netflix?

Look no further than Sheffield company, Zoo Digital, established in 2001 by Stuart Green and Ian Stewart of Gremlin Interactive. In 2003 it had a worldwide smash with the first interactive DVD game, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? Afterwards, it developed new tech and started subtitling, dubbing, cloud operations and streaming.

Zoo Digital creates subtitles and dubbing voiceovers in 80 languages for Hollywood films shown around the world. But unlike rivals based in studios shuttered by the pandemic, its cloud-based tech can be used anywhere. The firm has 7,000 freelance voice artists and translators who mostly work from home. It also has offices in London, Dubai, and Hollywood, with total global staffing at more than 270.

Recently, it completed a strategic investment in Istanbul-based media company ARES Media to grow ZOO’s services for Turkish content.

Zoo Digital posted posted a 64% increase in revenue for the six months ended 30th September 2021. Photograph: Insider Media

Based on St Mary’s Gate, it’s now moving all its 160 Sheffield-based workers into the former Co-op department store on Angel Street. It joins another top city tech firm, WANdisco, which made the building home in October 2019. Castle House is also home to popular food hall Kommune and a Barclays tech accelerator.

Grade II listed Castle House was designed by George S. Hay, chief architect for the Co-operative Wholesale Society, for the Brightside & Carbrook. It was built between 1959 and 1964 before closing in 2007.

ZOO operates from production facilities in the key entertainment hubs of Los Angeles, London, Turkey and UAE and has a development and production centre in Sheffield. Photograph: Netflix

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

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Buildings

Ellin Street: Change ahead for the forgotten Sheffield street

Ellin Street can be seen in this satellite image. The road starts at the entrance to the retail park and follows the line in front of the building. Photograph: Google Earth

Is an outlying part of Sheffield city centre about to be redeveloped?

Theatre Delicatessen and the Forces Support charity shop have been served notice to vacate their premises on Eyre Street by January 2022. Both units were once branches of Mothercare and Staples (later Office Outlet).

It is understood that both properties are owned by NewRiver and Bravo Strategies, which bought The Moor, the adjacent 28 acre estate for £41m.

The former retail park will almost certainly be demolished and there is speculation that it will be replaced with a new Lidl supermarket. Any redevelopment will be subject to planning permission.

Earlier this year, the discounter urged landowners to come forward with the focus on ‘town centre, edge of centre, retail park and metropolitan locations’ which are prominent, easily accessible and have a ‘strong pedestrian or traffic flow’.

Areas of interest included Beauchief, Broomhill, Burngreave, Chapeltown, city centre, Crystal Peaks, Ecclesall, Ecclesfield, Fir Vale, Fulwood, Gleadless, Handsworth, Hillsborough, Holbrook/Mosborough, Meadowhall, Norton and not surprisingly, St Mary’s Gate.

The site was once Ellin Street (still listed on maps) and edges Porter Brook. It was named after Thomas Ellin who had used water power from the Porter where it widened into Bennett’s Dam. Here he founded Vulcan Works with cutlery shops and a steel furnace. The dam, roughly where St Mary’s roundabout is now, was later covered over and the Porter culverted to Leadmill Road.

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People

Robert Eadon Leader’s long life saw the greatest development in world history and Sheffield shared it to the full

Robert Eadon Leader (1838-1922). “One may be quite sure in reading anything he wrote that if he made a definitive statement he had verified everything before committing to writing.” Photograph: Picture Sheffield

If it had not been for Robert Eadon Leader, we might not know much about Sheffield history. Today, his work provides us with a definitive account of our past. “He was an antiquary to the finger-tips, with an infinite relish for patiently searching among old records, and a comprehensive knowledge which enabled him to distinguish truth from myth, almost at a glance.”

Robert Eadon Leader, journalist, Liberal activist, and historian, was the son of Alderman Robert Leader and was born at Broomhall in 1839. He was the descendant of an old Sheffield family, his ancestors for four generations connected with the firm of Tudor, Leader, and Nicholson, silversmiths.

His grandfather became proprietor of the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent in 1830, and his father succeeded to the paper in 1842.

In 1860, Robert and his older brother, John Daniel Leader, were admitted into partnership. Four years later, the father retired in favour of his two sons, though he continued to take an active part in the editorial work until 1875.

The brothers divided work between them. Robert became editor and John became commercial manager, an arrangement that lasted until 1892, when Robert became a Liberal Parliamentary candidate and gave up the editorial chair. The  Leader family sold the paper a few years later.

“Occasionally when some question arose regarding Sheffield history I wrote and asked him about it and invariably received a courteous reply giving me all the information I wanted. It was invariably accompanied by a note that I was at liberty to make what use I liked of it, but not to mention his name.” -Unknown journalist – 1939. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

His expertise in local history was comprehensive, and his most famous volumes were ‘Reminiscences of Old Sheffield’ and ‘Sheffield in the Eighteenth Century’. He also published two volumes of the ‘History of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire’, written at the request of the Company. It was completed when King Edward and Queen Alexandria visited Sheffield for the opening of the University and handsomely bound copies were presented to them.

Robert also wrote ‘Local Notes and Queries’ and ‘Spectator in Hallamshire’ for the Sheffield Independent.

He lived at Moorgate, on Crookesmoor Road, and moved to London in 1893. He died at his home in Whetstone in 1922 and was cremated, his ashes afterwards brought to Sheffield and interred in the family vault at the General Cemetery.

The widespread collection of his papers is held by Sheffield City Archives, and what a treasure trove these will be! And don’t forget that Leader House, the ancient family home, still stands at the end of Surrey Street.

R.E. Leader had the reputation of being able to put more cutting sarcasm into a few words than any man in Sheffield, and wielded a terrible lash with merciless power. But, personally, he was an agreeable man, with a charming manner.” Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

NOTE
Next year will be the centenary of Robert Eadon Leader’s death and I plan to put together a more comprehensive history then.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Buildings

Berona House: It’s business as usual for this unpretentious building

Berona House. One of the survivors of Pinstone Street’s Victorian building boom. Similar properties have had their interiors removed as part of the Heart of the City II project. Photograph: DJP/2021

We all know it, we all pass it, and we tend to overlook it. This building has stood at the corner of Pinstone Street and Charles Street for generations, and while the shops have repeatedly changed hands, we know little about it.

Berona House, or to be more precise, 95-107 Pinstone Street/31-35 Charles Street, has worked hard to hide its history.

The appearance of the building has remained unchanged since it was built, including the rounded first-floor corner windows. Photograph: Google

In 1897 the last plot of vacant land on Pinstone Street was sold by Sheffield Corporation to a private company. Prior to this, the corporation had systematically bought old properties on narrow Pinstone Lane, demolished them, and created the Pinstone Street we know now.

The land, opposite the Empire Theatre, was used to build a block of shops and dwelling houses. With brick and stone dressings and distinct first-floor corner arched windows, it was designed by Sheffield architects Holmes & Watson and constructed by George Longden and Son.

Edward Holmes (1859-1921) was in partnership, 1893-1908, with Adam Francis Watson (1856-1932), and were responsible for the City (later Lyceum) Theatre, Leopold Chambers, Norfolk Market Hall, as well as being associated with the city’s improvement scheme as valuers and advisers.

Harry Cassell, furriers, about 1910 (above) and (below) different names above the doors in the 1950s. Photographs: Picture Sheffield

The building was completed in September 1898 at a cost of £10,000 and consisted of seven shops and a restaurant – five shops on Pinstone Street, one at its corner with Charles Street, and one shop and the restaurant in Charles Street.

The list of shops that occupied ground floor premises is extensive, but one of its earliest occupants was Harry Cassell, furriers, which did a big trade in sealskin jackets. Later shops included Neville Reed, Lea-Scott opticians, Bradleys Records, and Colvin male outfitters.

It is perhaps fitting that the upper floor flats, later converted into offices, were adapted into apartments again in 2002-2003.

And maybe somebody might be able to explain the meaning behind its current name – Berona House.

Berona House, with the recent addition of a Post Office on Charles Street. Photograph: Google

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Buildings

The signs come down and John Lewis disappears

Workcrews abseiled off of the roof of the store in Barkers Pool to remove the last letters of the John Lewis sign from Sheffield’s skyline. Photograph: Sheffield Star

The last call for John Lewis in Sheffield. The signs are down and its association with the city since the 1940s has been obliterated. It was one of eight stores axed nationally and brought to an end the history of Cole Brothers, the beginning of which went back to 1847, when John Cole, silk mercer and hosier, opened a shop at No.4 Fargate. He was later joined by his brothers, Thomas and Skelton Cole. Their Fargate store was taken over by Selfridge Provincial Stores in 1919, before being sold to the John Lewis Partnership. Cole Brothers moved to its purpose-built department store in 1963, and was renamed John Lewis in 2002. It never reopened after the lockdown and confirmation of its closure came in June.

The signs were lowered to ground level before carried away by work crews. Photograph: Sheffield Star
The John Lewis store by Barkers Pool closed down permanently in August after the decision was reportedly taken at the start of the third national lockdown. Photograph: Sheffield Star

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Other Streets

Gritting Sheffield’s roads: Winter is a season of recovery and preparation

Gritter lorries on standby at the Streets Ahead Olive Grove depot. Photograph: Sheffield City Council

Temperatures are set to fall this week, with ice and possibly some snow forecast, and Sheffield’s gritters are ready to treat the roads. One thing is certain, we’ll all have a good moan if they get it wrong.

There are five weather stations across the city providing up-to-the-minute weather forecasts. This helps Streets Ahead contractor Amey to determine when there is a need to grit our roads.

Contrary to belief, over 60% of the city’s highway network is gritted in priority order. That is 610 miles of urban and rural roads and can take up to 8.5 hours to complete a full gritting run. Priority 1 routes include main arterial roads linking Sheffield to other towns and motorways. Priority 2 routes are bus routes, link roads, roads where public service facilities are located, and rural routes. Snow is also cleared from city centre pavements, but pavements across the city are not gritted anymore.

As the temperature drops to near freezing point the gritters will be out, but it isn’t grit they are spreading. It is rock salt. And the salt used comes from mines of ancient underground deposits in Cleveland, County Antrim, and below the Cheshire town of Winsford, and lowers the freezing point of moisture. Pure salt is the most effective pre-treatment, but grit is often added once snow has started to lay and compact.

The pre-treating of the highway network mitigates the formation of ice and snow, although traffic is needed to make it effective. Very often, when an area has slush or rainfall, it washes the salt away and makes the road vulnerable again, necessitating them to be re-gritted a second time before the weather freezes.

Gritter lorries and road rollers at Sheffield Works Department’s Manor Lane site in 1982. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

In 2003, the Highways Act 1980 was amended to place Sheffield City Council (and others) under a legal obligation to keep the roads clear. According to the amendment: “A highway authority are under a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.”

It is a far cry from Victorian times when sand was shovelled off the backs of horses and carts, and although the switch to motor vehicles greatly improved operations, it wasn’t until the development of the first spinning salt distribution gritter in 1970 by Ripon-based Econ Engineering that the process was speeded up.

Today, Econ supply 85% of the UK’s rock salt spreaders and even have a dedicated gritting museum with fully restored vintage road maintenance vehicles, gritters, spreaders and snowploughs.

October is the start of the Streets Ahead winter maintenance period and is in operation 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Photograph: Sheffield City Council

Whilst rock salt has been the choice for generations it can have a negative effect on soil and plants, interfering with the nitrogen cycle, and causing roots to absorb salt instead of important minerals. Salt water can also drain into soil affecting insects and can disturb the eco-system in watercourses. In addition, sodium chloride can be harmful to animals. And let’s not forget that it can cause damage to road surfaces.

As you might expect, alternative methods are being sought including urea (used in the production of fertilizer), potassium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium acetate (all incredibly expensive), beet juice, cat litter (yes, you read right), sand, ashes, and stone grits. Other eco-friendly alternatives being explored are cheese brine, garlic salt, potato juice, pickle brine and coffee grounds.

But for now, it seems rock salt will be here for a while because it remains cheap and readily available.

Finally, the truth surrounding gritter lorries in the summer. In very hot weather when tar is at risk of melting the gritters spread salt. This absorbs moisture from the air and cools the tar and creates a non-stick road surface.

Gritter and snowplough seen here in a wintery 1977. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Streets

“And hence, True-Love’s Gutter, it’s old name was given.”

Castle Street, Sheffield. The original Truelove’s Gutter. Photograph: Google

In 2009, singer-songwriter Richard Hawley released a dark album called Truelove’s Gutter, said to refer to an ancient Sheffield street which was allegedly named after 18th century innkeeper Thomas Truelove, who used to charge people to dump rubbish in the gutter in the street that then flowed down into the River Don.

Thomas Truelove may have existed, I can’t find any evidence, but the Truelove family did own houses and land nearby.

The album reawakened interest in a long forgotten street.

In the 15th century no proper drainage existed, so as an aid to cleaning the streets a pool was constructed to make a reservoir for the storage of water supplied by springs on the hills above West Bar. This came to be known as Barker’s Pool and had a pair of sluice gates that could be opened to allow water to escape when required.

All the streets had an open drain or gutter which ran down the middle of the narrow road and into this, all the refuse and filth of the town were thrown.

To cleanse the town, bells would be rung about once a month to warn people and the water would be allowed to escape from the pool to rush down the sloping streets until it joined the River Don at Lady’s Bridge.

The drains also carried rainwater and after very heavy storms they became rushing torrents. Rails or fences were erected at the side of parts of the drain and in places bridges were put across the gap.

It was upon one of these small bridges that a courting couple were seated when they were washed away in 1690.

This inspired James Wills, a local writer, to pen a poem in 1827 called ‘The Contrast: or the Improvements of Sheffield’ and referred to a town about sixty years previous.

“You remember the sinks in the midst of the streets –
And when rain pours down each passenger greets
His fellow with ‘What a wide channel is here!
We all shall be drowned I greatly do fear’;
For lately two lovers sat here on a rail,
On the side of the ditch, fondly telling their tale,
When the flood washed them down in each other’s embrace,
For no longer could they keep their seat in the place;
And hence, True-Love’s Gutter, it’s old name was given,
Because by the flood these two lovers were driven!”

The historian Robert Eadon Leader destroyed this sad and romantic tale, and said the name really derived from the family of Truelove who lived for many generations in the vicinity.

The gutter exists in old deeds and in 1677 True Love’s Gutter Bridge is said to have been repaired by the Burgess. Also, in a Directory of Sheffield (1787), many tradesmen are living in this street – a grocer, baker, victualler, butcher, inkpot maker, linen draper, shoemaker, saddler, and hairdresser – as well as William Staniforth, surgeon, and man midwife.

Truelove’s Gutter, a narrow street, was renamed Castle Street in the early 1800s and widened a century later. It extended into what became Exchange Street and there have been recent suggestions that the name should be revived.

Richard Hawley. Truelove’s Gutter (2009)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Streets

“We have indeed seen Sheffield burn.”

“We have indeed seen Sheffield burn. Many parts of our city have been destroyed; our peacetime occupations have been replaced by a complete conversion to wartime conditions. We must rebuild, reorganise, and reabsorb the men who are now away fighting. What a task! It will not be done by talking. It can only be achieved by enterprise, organisation, and very hard work. Also, we shall need good fortune and that which happens elsewhere will determine in large measure our own opportunities. If this war has taught us one thing, it is that our city is simply a cog in the wheel which is our country, and that our country is a part, and no mean part, of the mechanism of the civilised world.” – Dr W.H. Hatfield, Sheffield, 1943.