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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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Steelopolis

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It came as a surprise to learn that the Pepperpot building on Pinstone Street once had a distinctive spire on top. The Victorian building will be transformed as part of Sheffield’s £480m Heart of the City II redevelopment. Only the façade will remain, and Hallamshire Historic Buildings are calling for a replacement steeple to go on top of the famous corner turret. The original one suffered from time, neglect, and weather, and disappeared in the middle of the Twentieth century leaving behind its truncated appearance and the nickname, the Pepperpot. It was designed by Flockton & Gibbs in 1884 for the mayor, William Henry Brittain, on a corner plot at the junction of Cambridge Street.

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People think their local newspaper is worse than others…not realising that people say the same things about the supposed better newspapers.

There are a few things we like to moan about in Sheffield – the Council, buses, potholes, empty shops – the list is endless. We should also add the Sheffield Star to this list, judging by comments regularly directed to me. Perhaps unfairly, I might add.

We have a stalwart editor in Nancy Fielder who isn’t afraid of hiding and posts on twitter almost daily.

In January, the newspaper (along with sister papers like the Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman) was taken over by National World, created by David Montgomery, and promises to ‘change the business model for print and digital news publishing.’ Its previous owner, JPI Media Publishing, had little resource, and I have to say that the look and content has certainly improved since.

However, the website comes in for a lot of criticism, not just because it is hiding behind a paywall, but because it appears clunky and slow to update. Blame the previous owners, because National World has embarked on a project to expand its website footprint in all Britain’s major cities.

Having quietly launched a new national newspaper online, nationalworld.com, it is extending its digital only ‘World’ brand into eight new markets. Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Glasgow are up and running, with new sites in London, Birmingham, Bristol, and Wales launching soon.

Which begs the question as to what will happen with Sheffield Star’s digital content? Is it about to become Sheffield World, or even part of a wider Yorkshire World?

And what future for the weekly Sheffield Telegraph, alleged to be put together by a team of only two journalists, and whose meatier content appears to be shifting towards the Sheffield Star in ‘The Sheffield Weekend’ supplement? 

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An interesting new name for Sheffield Arena. We should now refer to it as the Utilita Arena after a new 5 year seven-figure sponsorship deal with the energy supplier. It follows similar agreements with arenas in Newcastle and Birmingham. Utilita, based in Hampshire, claims to be the UK’s first specialist Pay as You Go Smart Energy supplier, and is already a junior and women’s football sponsor at Sheffield United.

Constructed at a cost of £34m, Sheffield Arena was opened by the Queen in May 1991. I’ve thought that since the opening of the Fly Direct Arena in Leeds, its star had dimmed somewhat. Not, according to Pollstar, the ‘voice of live entertainment,’ which ranks the DSA (sorry Utilita) Arena at No. 53 in its last world Top 200 Arena Venues chart, three places above our Leeds rival. The table, based on ticket sales, was last published in 2019 because last year’s figures were decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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There are murmurs of discontent from the old fellows who wander up and down the bar at the Benjamin Hunstman carefully examining the cask ale pumps through reading glasses.

They’ve learned that the former Sportsman pub further down Cambridge Street (aka Tap & Tankard) will have its interiors demolished as part of the Heart of the City II scheme. It is a cause already taken up by Ron Clayton, that down-to-earth historian, and friend of Sheffielder, who says that despite alterations over the years, it is still recognisably the pub built in 1883, along with a fine club room on the first floor. Once again, only the facade will remain, much the same fate as the former Henry’s Bar nearby.

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Construction workers renovating the disused Bethel Chapel on Cambridge Street have found a time capsule stuffed with a letter from 1938. Builders from Henry Boot Ltd found a small canister inside a cavity wall. It contained a letter which turned out to have been written by John Woodhouse, foreman of local plastering company Bradbury & Sons, listing the names of all the men on the site. Bethel Chapel closed in 1936 and was purchased in 1938 by George Binns, outfitters, who built the familiar front extension The list, secreted at this time, includes an apprentice called Boy Teddy – likely to have been aged about 14.

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© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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People

“War and work, work and war, and it is said it might have been so different.”

On the nights of 11th and 13th December 1940, a German attack on Sheffield lasted for many hours, and cinemas, stores, and shops, were wrecked, and some churches damaged. Two days later, on the 15th and 16th, Sheffield was again attacked with material results, explosions, and a considerable number of fires observed.

“Between 3.30 and 4.00 a.m. on 13th December 1940, from our terrace we watched Sheffield burn. Sheffield is my native city. I felt then that the rest of my life must be devoted to helping to restore and rebuild the fortunes of the city.”

These words were written by Dr W. H. Hatfield in the introduction of his book, Sheffield Burns, published in 1943, in which he idealises and hopes the city will have a brighter future.

“My father desired to rest with his father, and I remember subsequently on a quiet wintry afternoon standing before their tombstone and reading the dates on which my grandfather and my father passed away, and then realising that I could from the inscriptions before me, predict the approximate date upon which I, given good fortune, would also pass away.”

Hatfield gave the final proofs of his book to his publisher on 13th October 1943 and died four days later, much sooner than he had probably anticipated.

He died through strain and overwork in furthering our war effort,” said his wife Edith at the time. “Working unflinchingly at all hours, day and night for four years without rest or holiday, for our armaments and aircraft industry.”

William Herbert Hatfield was born in 1882, and worked in the laboratory of Henry Bessemer and Co, while at the same time studying at University College, Sheffield, where he became Doctor of Metallurgy in 1913. Later he became a metallurgist at John Crowley and Co and was subsequently appointed director of the Brown-Firth Research Laboratories, and later with the board of Thomas Firth and John Brown.

It was Hatfield who discovered 18/8 stainless steel in 1924 which happens to be the most widely used stainless steel in the world today. For all his efforts, he is sadly overlooked by history, except for the Hatfield Memorial Lecture, held every December by the University of Sheffield.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Graves Art Gallery: another touch of the benefactor

Sheffield Central Library on Surrey Street is also home to Graves Art Gallery. Photograph: DJP/2021.

You’ve probably seen the Bowmer & Kirkland signs on hoardings and cranes around Sheffield. The Derbyshire-based construction and development company is responsible for Moor Market, No.3 St. Paul’s Place, St. Vincent’s Place, New Era Square, and is backing the developer behind the West Bar scheme.

The company was established in 1923 as a partnership between joiner Alfred Bowmer and bricklayer Robert William Kirkland. The current chairman is Jack Kirkland, businessman, art collector and philanthropist.

Bowmer & Kirkland was founded in 1923 and is based at Heage, near Belper, Derbyshire. Photograph: Bowmer & Kirkland.

Kirkland first started buying art around 20 years ago, purchasing a work by the US conceptual sculptor Tom Friedman. While big on American modernism and Latin American contemporary art, his collection also includes Hellenistic bronzes, a Carracci portrait, and an Egyptian faience baboon. 

His sizeable collection of interwar European photography is promised to the Tate, where he is Co-Chair of its Photography Acquisitions Committee. He is also the chairman of Nottingham Contemporary and a trustee of the Bridget Riley Art Foundation.

Kirkland is also chairman and settlor of The Ampersand Foundation, a UK-awarding charity that supports the visual arts, exhibitions, projects, and supporting public collections, provided they are free to the public at least one day per week.

Jack Kirkland’s art collection has been loaned for international exhibitions, and some of the works have been previously shown at Graves Gallery in Sheffield. Photograph: Apollo Magazine.

Last Friday (3 Sep 2021), the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield reopened after six months of renovation work to redecorate, re-clad the walls in galleries largely untouched since 1934, bring many artworks out of storage for new displays, and to showcase work with a fresh perspective on classic art.

It has all been possible after a grant of £455,000 from the Ampersand Foundation, a long-time backer of Sheffield Museums, and the largest single amount ever awarded by the charity.

The grant echoes the day when Sheffield Central Library and Graves Art Gallery were opened by the Duchess of York (Queen Mother to our younger readers) in July 1934.

The newly reclad and redecorated temporary exhibition space, galleries 2 and 3, will reopen with an exhibition celebrating the work of sculptor Mark Firth, great, great grandson of steel magnate and philanthropist Mark Firth. Photograph: Sheffield Museums.

The total cost of the building was estimated at £141,700, of which £114,700 represented the structure, and £27,000 the furnishing. Alderman John George Graves contributed £30,000 and gave the gallery’s director, Dr J.M. Rothenstein, unrestricted choice from his own art collection, with power to borrow whatever was needed.

John Rothenstein was born in London in 1901, the son of Sir William Rothenstein, whose family was connected to the Bloomsbury Set. Photograph: Geni.

Sir John Knewstub Maurice Rothenstein CBE (1901–1992) had served as Director of Leeds City Art Gallery, and was appointed Director of Sheffield City Art Galleries (1932-38) where he oversaw the establishment and opening of the Graves Art Gallery. From 1938–64 Rothenstein was Director of the Tate Gallery in London.

Rothenstein carefully planned the interior which was of dark blue rough-textured paper, to take advantage of each collection in its eight galleries.

It’s been a long road since, overshadowed by recent events in which the Central Library and Graves Art Gallery were almost sold to become a five-star hotel, and the fact that it needs about £30m investment in maintenance.

Kim Streets was appointed to the role of CEO of Museums Sheffield (now Sheffield Museums)in 2012. She is seen here at Graves Art Gallery before the reopening to the public. Photograph: Sheffield Telegraph.

The gallery has not had a major redisplay and some of the spaces were in desperate need of a refresh.

The project began back in the winter with the removal of the artworks from the gallery walls, allowing skilled contractors to re-clad galleries 2, 3 and 6. The contractors removed the existing wall cladding before fixing new sheets of MDF to create smooth walls – a first in decades for these galleries.

The final phase of the improvements was the installation of new MDF walls and woodwork, that were then painted and finished ready for the new displays. 

Top layer of the walls coming away to reveal vertical wooden planks. These planks had been covered in hessian many decades ago and the hessian had then been covered with layers and layers of paint over the years. Photograph: Sheffield Museums.
A set of signatures by the original builders of the Central Library and Graves Art Gallery, which opened in 1934. Photograph: Sheffield Museums.
Refurbishment and re-hanging nears completion as Graves Art Gallery gets ready to reopen to the public. Photograph: Sheffield Telegraph.

It is understood that the Ampersand Foundation will be supporting the Graves Art Gallery with further redisplays, conservation of the city’s art collection, work with schools and artists, and more over the next four years,

Jack Kirkland, the charity’s chairman, says Sheffield Museums is “using the money as it was intended to be used: that is for the benefit of all Sheffield residents and visitors, and in particular children and young people”.

I might suggest that J.G. Graves would have approved.

A fresh new look for Graves Art Gallery. Photograph: Sheffield Telegraph.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Bank Street and the building that never came to be

“The architects have embodied and concentrated, in an excellent manner, the scattered ideas that were floating in the minds of many.” – Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (1847). Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

From the archives. The year is 1847, and there was talk of a new public building in Sheffield. People were excited. The town was without a public building worthy of its name and enviously looked to Liverpool with St. George’s Hall, and Birmingham with its noble Town Hall.

Unexpectedly, the architects, Flockton, Lee, and Flockton, off its own back, came up with a design, and presented it to the Town Council. This would have been an ample hall for public meetings, a large room for public dinners or lectures, permanent places for the Town Council, the Bankruptcy Court, the Small Debts Court, the School of Design, and a large Museum.

The Town Council was shocked, flinched at the cost to build it, and dismissed the proposal.

However, the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, a supporter of the scheme, had other ideas. The newspaper published a detailed sketch of the building, along with floor plans, and advocated that it should be built.

The public was divided. Some said it had to be done, others said they would like to see it built because Sheffield would then have had a building unequalled by other towns, but the general feeling was that times were hard, and that it could not be allowed to continue.

It wasn’t built, and if it had been, we can only speculate as to what its future fate might have been. Would it still be standing? What condition would it be in? Might it have been destroyed by German bombers?

Most of us will be surprised as to where it was intended to be.

The proposed site comprised nearly 3000 square yards, in an oblong shape, stretching from Bank Street (bottom) to Hartshead (top). “It was occupied by buildings which are of small value.” Photograph: Google.

The site was a plot of sloping land bounded on the north by Bank Street, on the south by Hartshead, on the east by Meetinghouse Lane, and on the west by Figtree Lane. Today, it might seem to have been absurdly in the wrong place, but in the 1840s the area was close to where Sheffield began.

Bank Street wasn’t created until 1792, and was intended to be called Shore Street, named after John Shore, a banker, and this was the name used on leases granted when he cut up his land for building purposes.

In 1793, we find reference to a “new” street in Sheffield called Bank Street, indicating that Shore had just built the town’s first bank here. In effect, the area was a developing financial district, and a public building might not have been so preposterous after all.

“Is the town prepared for so large an undertaking?” asked the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent. “Perhaps not, just now; but there are several considerations that may tend to prepare it.

“In the first place,  if the town is to build, as build it must ere many years have elapsed, it must look beyond the present. A public building is not made like a coat, to fit exactly when made, and be soon worn out. It should be built for two centuries, or more.

The question should not be how little will it serve now? But how can we adequately provide for the present and future, combining at once magnitude of conception, liberality of spirit, and wise economy?

“The expense could not fail to be considerable, but spread over thirty or forty years, it would never be felt as a very heavy burden. This is a wide policy of the Wesleyan body, who, when they build a chapel for the next generation as well as for the present, conceive that the payment should be by those who are to enjoy it hereafter, as well as by themselves.”

What would our ancestors have got for their money?

The descent from Hartshead to Bank Street was about 30ft, allowing for two frontages – one to Bank Street, and the other to Hartshead.

It was proposed to make the Bank Street entrance into a large hall for public meetings, affording standing room for 9000, or sitting room for 3000 persons. This hall would have occupied the whole base of the building with a grand staircase leading up to Hartshead.

The entrance hall at Hartshead would have led to a Bankruptcy Court on one side, and a Council Hall on the other. To these rooms would have been private apartments for the Mayor and the Bankruptcy Commissioner. The entrance hall would have led into an Exchange, covered by a glass dome 50ft above. Alongside would have been offices and committee rooms, with a Banqueting Hall at the Bank Street end.

The topmost story would have extended the whole of the building, excepting the Exchange, and would have provided a Museum of Arts, as well as four additional museum spaces.

Simple plans were prepared by the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent that showed the three-floor layout of the public building. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

In connection with the plan, it was intended to open a new street from Hartshead to High Street (along the line of what became Aldine Court) and opening the end of Watson’s Walk into Angel Street. Figtree Lane and Meetinghouse Lane would have been made wide enough for carriages.

“We do not suppose that the Town Council will embark hastily in this measure. They will listen for the public voice.”

The newspaper was correct because it was never built, and had it been so, we might not have had a need for Sheffield Town Hall or City Hall.

The building that never came to be. This modern-day image shows where the Bank Street entrance would have been had it been built. Photograph: DJP/2021.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings Other

Don’t block the daylight – our right to ancient lights

A person was historically entitled to ‘ancient lights’ if natural light and air had passed freely through their windows for a certain amount of time. Newman Passage, London. These old signs can still be found around the country, although seemingly not in Sheffield. Photograph: Matt Brown.

You might not be aware of an ancient piece of legislation that affected the way many of Sheffield’s old buildings, and new ones for that matter, were built. The Ancient Lights Law was the right of a building or house owner to the light received from and through his windows. Windows used for light by an owner for 20 years or more could not be obstructed by the erection of another building. This rule of law originated in England in 1663, although was superseded by the 1832 Prescription Act.

If a neighbour attempted to infringe upon this by building a structure or planting trees, the owner had the power to sue them for ‘nuisance’.

The law led to the placement of ‘Ancient Light’ signs under windows that were protected by the ordinance, and today some of these signs can still be found on buildings around London, although I’m not aware of any in Sheffield.

In the 1920s, an Ancient Lights expert, Percy Waldram, proposed a method that would, ideally, standardise, the amount of light people could claim. He suggested that ‘ordinary people’ required one-foot candle (a measure of light intensity) for reading and other work.

The London & Midland Bank (now part of Lloyds Bank), on High Street, Sheffield, was built in 1895 taking into account the ‘ancient lights’ of older properties on the other side of York Street. The opposite corner was later redeveloped with the Telegraph Building which had to reciprocate the ‘right to light’ of the bank.
When built, the Telegraph Building had to conform to the control of heights to which buildings were permitted, and the ancient rights of light afforded to properties opposite and adjacent. Hence the broken skyline, the setting back of the upper storeys and the pyramidal form of the building. Even the tower had to be kept with an angle of 45 degrees.

In Sheffield, the design and construction of many of our old buildings was dictated by rights to light. One such, the Telegraph Building, on High Street, had to be built in such a way as not to affect light to properties on the other side of the street.

We’ve also covered the old Mulberry Tavern, on Mulberry Street, which took the owners of the ‘new’ Victoria Hall to court because its construction had affected light inside the pub.

And there have been other cases.

In 1900, Mappin and Webb objected to the building of a property on the other side of Norfolk Street because it would have affected light coming into its ground-floor showroom.

The Sheffield Cathedral extension in the 1930s prompted discourse from occupiers on St. James’ Row, as did the building of Central Library from the Lyceum Theatre and Masonic Hall.

Broadcasting House, the BBC’s London headquarters, owes its peculiar shape to Ancient Lights claims made by residents of since-demolished nearby homes – the slanting of the east side of the building was a concession to those people’s light-rights. Photograph: Shortlist.

The power that property owners have, to demand ample daylight, is still a relevant debate. However, modern planning laws usually prevent disputes afterwards.

Interestingly, the Ancient Lights doctrine never caught on in the United States where it was deemed restrictive of new commercial and residential developments and thus limiting urban growth.  

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Apartments plan at former Boys’ Charity School

Grade II-listed, No. 14 East Parade. Its front faces Sheffield Cathedral, with a side elevation on Campo Lane, and the rear on York Street. Note the former playground on the roof. Photograph: Google.

A Planned and Listed Building Consent application for 17 shorthold tenancy apartments has been submitted by Pinebridge estates for No. 14 East Parade. It was built in 1825 as the Boys’ Charity School and has been empty for several years.

The actual date of the Boys’ Charity School (or ‘Bluecoats’ School) was in 1706, and for some time the boys were taught in a room at the Earl of Shrewsbury’s Hospital. But in 1710, premises were built at the north-east corner of the Parish churchyard, and these were rebuilt in 1825, and enlarged in 1889. The school was a home for orphan boys. They were lodged, fed, and educated free of charge, partly out of income from endowments and partly out of subscriptions and donations.

“Who has not seen those neat boys whose conduct is in every way a credit to their master, dressed in their old-fashioned blue cloth coat, buttoning up in front and cut away into tails behind with yellow braid and brass buttons, green corduroy trousers, white bands, and a blue ‘muffin’ cap?” (Sheffield Daily Telegraph – 1911)

Six of the boys were maintained out of the charity of Thomas Hanbey (founder of the Hanbey Charity) and wore the complete dress of a Christ’s Hospital boy. Ten other boys wore the letter ‘W’ on their arm, signifying that they were appointed by the heirs of Thomas Watson, who gave £3,000 to the school. There were a hundred boys altogether.

Both the original school and the larger replacement appear to have been formed from a donation in the will of Thomas Hanbey in 1782. It was built to the designs of Woodhead & Hurst who were a Doncaster-based architectural practice, also responsible for St George’s Church, the Music Hall on Surrey Street, the Grammar School on Charlotte Street, Shrewsbury Almshouses on Norfolk Road, and the enlargement of the Town Hall.

Up until 1830, the boys played in the adjacent churchyard, but after being turned-out, they played cricket and football on the third floor, and in a small open playground on the concreted roof of the building (now described as a roof terrace), both made possible by the generosity of Samuel Roberts, the cutler, and supporter of benevolent causes.

The land on which it stood had been leased to the trustees by Joseph Banks of Sefton, for 999 years, at a rental of 20s. a year, but in 1911, the school transferred to new buildings on Psalter Lane, and it was sold for £7,000 to the Government to be converted into a Central Labour Exchange.

It was later used by the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, and in recent years was used as an Industrial Tribunals Court.

The planning application is for 17 apartments, and as part of the conversion it is proposed to create additional accommodation on the former rooftop playground.


The building was separated into various office units and used by several Government departments. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

The Grade II-listed building originally comprised two wings with a central linking range where the main entrance was along East Parade and also a rear cour tyard enclosed to York Street with a wall. This open space was presumably a playground for the pupils. By 1855 this courtyard had been infilled with a new central block of the building creating its current planform. Photograph: Stephen Richards.
Proposed East Parade design. Photograph: Pinebridge Estates.
Proposed Campo Lane design. Pinebridge Estates.
Proposed York Street elevation, with roof extension. Pinebridge Estates.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
People

John Harris: a bestselling author over four decades

John Harris (1916-1991). Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

He might not have been from Sheffield, but Rotherham counts, and the steel city had a big impact on his career.

Ernest John Harris (1916-1991) was a sailor, airman, a journalist, travel courier, cartoonist, and a history teacher. He was best known as a productive author publishing a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pel, as well as numerous war books. He wrote under his own name, John Harris, and under the pennames of Mark Hebden and Max Hennessy.

He wrote more than 80 novels, including The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1953) that became a film of the same name starring Michael Redgrave, Dirk Bogarde and Anthony Steel.

Harris was educated at Rotherham Grammar School before getting a job as a reporter at the Rotherham Advertiser in the early 1930s.

He married Betty Wragg in Rotherham and had a son, Max, and a daughter, Juliet, who carried on the Pel detective series after her father’s death.

Harris moved to the Sheffield Telegraph and during World War Two served in the RAF as a corporal attached to the South African Air Force. It was said that he served two navies and two air forces during the war.

Afterwards, he re-joined the Sheffield Telegraph as a political and comedy cartoonist, drawing comic strips such as the Calamity Kids and Amateur Archie, and published his first novel, The Lonely Voyage, in 1951.

Amateur Archie featured in the Sheffield Telegraph, as well as other regional newspapers during the 1950s. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

He stayed in Sheffield until the 1950s and following the success of The Sea Shall Not Have Them became a full-time author, moving to West Wittering in West Sussex.

After turning to full-time writing, Harris wrote adventure stories and created a sequence of crime novels around the quirky fictional character Chief Inspector Pel.

Covenant with Death was published in 1961 and despite critical acclaim has long-since been overlooked. Photograph: Sphere.

Harris’s books are still in publication, and for Sheffielders, a must-read is Covenant with Death (1961), a ‘fictionary’ account of the Sheffield City Battalion from its formation to catastrophe at Serre on 1 July 1916.

“When war breaks out in 1914, Mark Fenner and his Sheffield friends immediately flock to Kitchener’s call. Amid waving flags and boozy celebration, the three men – Fen, his best friend Locky and self-assured Frank, rival for the woman Fen loves – enlist as volunteers to take on the Germans and win glory.

“Through ramshackle training in sodden England and a stint in arid Egypt, rebellious but brave Fen proves himself to be a natural leader, only undermined by on-going friction with Frank. Headed by terse, tough Sergeant Major Bold, this group of young men form steel-strong bonds and yearn to face the great adventure of the Western Front.

“Then, on one summer’s day in 1916, Fen and his band of brothers are sent to the Somme, and this very ordinary hero discovers what it means to fight for your life.”

Harris interviewed battalion survivors for the book, and the central character, Mark Fenner, is partly based on his Sheffield Telegraph colleague Jess Richard ‘Roddy’ Robinson.

John Harris died in 1991.

A master of war and crime fiction. Photograph: Curtis Brown.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Places

Lost in France: We may count this little plot of ground ‘Forever Sheffield.’

In 1927, Sheffield made plans to purchase land near Serre-lès-Puisieux where Sheffield City Battalion suffered heavy casualties in July 1916. Photograph: Pierre’s Western Front.

Jean Lois Legrand, is a bit of an embarrassment to the village of Serre-lès-Puisieux, and he’s also a nuisance to the French police. The volatile farmer works land near Sheffield Memorial Park in northern France where there are memorials to the famous Pals Battalions of World War One.

To reach the Pals’ Battalions memorial, which is owned by Sheffield City Council, visitors must use an unmade public right of way that crosses land owned by Legrand. The path is owned by the town of Serre whilst the park itself is looked after and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

The fiery farmer has been threatening visitors who use a track that leads to it, shouting at them, starting fires – and even driving his van towards them at high speed.

The matter is yet to be resolved, the French aren’t happy about him, and it clouds this quiet place on the Somme battlefields.

Jean Lois Legrand, the feuding farmer. Photograph: Philip Ide.

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 men of the 12th battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment (“the Sheffield Pals”) were entrenched ready to launch an attack on the German position in the fortified hilltop hamlet of Serre. The troops met with devastating machine gun fire and by the end of the day, the Battalion reported 248 killed, 246 wounded and 18 missing.

“Two armies that fight each other is like one large army that commits suicide.” – Henri Barbusse, 1916.

In 1927, Alderman Wardley chaired the Sheffield-Serre Memorial Park committee which raised £978, part of the proceeds for which came from a friendly football match between Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town, and a gift of £60 from Sheffield Town Trustees.

The Park on land at Railway Hollow, near Serre, where the Pals had been entrenched on the 1 July 1916, contains a cemetery with the graves of 107 British and two French soldiers. Only some of the graves are of Sheffield soldiers because the practice was adopted of burying those who could be identified near where they had fallen, irrespective of their nationality or regiment.

A memorial service at Sheffield Memorial Park in 1939, weeks before war was declared again. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

Sheffield Memorial Park was opened in May 1931 by Mr J. Lawson, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary  to the Ministry of Labour, who represented Sir Fabian Ware, Chief of the Imperial War Graves Commission, and the dedication service was conducted by the Rev. Edward Cattell, of Sheffield. Also present, was bugler Heber Joseph Revitt, the Sheffield man who sounded the ‘cease fire’ call in France on 11 November 1918, and who rang the Last Post and Reveille on the same bugle.

Sheffield’s greatest benefactor, J.G. Graves, presided over the ceremony:

“Let me say how grateful we all feel to the former owner of this land for his kindness in making its use for this noble purpose. So now we may count this little plot of ground ‘Forever Sheffield’.

“Well may we count this soil sacred and desire that it shall remain forever consecrated and apart as an altar on which was offered the greatest sacrifice our city has ever made in the cause of right and freedom.”

The memorial represented some 10,000 men whose names were inscribed in a roll of honour (4,898 from Sheffield) kept in a stainless-steel casket given by Sir Robert Hadfield and placed in a teak case with a glass front presented by Walker & Hall in a shelter, designed by Mr F. Ratcliffe, an original member of the Sheffield Battalion.

Observers will notice that the shelter we see today is different to the one unveiled in 1931.

During the Second World War, Sheffield Memorial Park didn’t suffer as badly as it might have. The Germans allowed a Commission gardener, Mr B.M. Leach, to maintain the grounds, and he hid the memorial casket and roll of honour in his tool shed and at the end of hostilities deposited it at the nearby Chapel of Notre Dame de Treile, Serre, but was found to be in damp condition. This casket is now in the Town Hall at Puisieux. However, the shelter didn’t fare so well, and was eventually replaced with a more modest structure.

In 1927, the owner of the land at Serre-lès-Puisieux gave orders to his solicitor for the transfer of his land to the City of Sheffield. Nearly a hundred years later the land is still owned by Sheffield City Council and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). Photographs: ww1cemeteries

The Sheffield Memorial Park is a wooded area where the original frontline trenches and the shell-holes in the ground have been preserved. There is an information tablet placed by Sheffield City Council near the front of the park. This has a coloured map, showing the positions of the various battalions here on July the 1st 1916, along with the German trenches and machine-gun positions they advanced against.

The memorial park slopes downhill, and the land still bears the scars of battle, with shell-holes and vague outlines of other trenches still visible today. Within the park are several memorials to the various “Pals” battalions that fought here or near here that day, including the Accrington Pals, the Barnsley Pals, and the Y (Chorley) and Z (Burnley and District) Companies of the 11th East Lancashire Regiment.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Companies

Béres: from Budapest, a Sheffield success story

The Béres hot pork sandwich has been hailed as a Sheffield favourite for the past 50 years. Photograph: Béres.

If it hadn’t been for a speech in 1956 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev then you might not have been able to enjoy your modern-day Sheffield pork sandwich.  Khrushchev attacked the period of Joseph Stalin’s rule and, encouraged by the new freedom of debate and criticism, a rising tide of unrest and discontent in Hungary broke out into active fighting in October 1956. The following month, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary to stop the revolution.

Sandor Béres , a young Hungarian butcher, left his home city of Budapest after communists had taken possession of his father’s butchers shops, and arrived in the UK as a political refugee. He was one of many evacuees to seek a new life in Sheffield, and in 1960 married a Barnsley girl, Eileen Lovell, whom he met at a dance.

A year later, Sandor and Eileen, opened their first butchers shop at Wadsley Bridge, and set up a mobile round selling to nearby estates. Béres specialised in pork and beef, and quickly realised the potential of selling freshly-made pork sandwiches to Sheffield folk. Within a few years, they’d opened three more Béres shops.

Photographs: Béres

Their son, Richard, joined the business in 1988, and under his leadership embarked on a significant expansion plan. In the 1990s, he was joined by his two sisters, Helen and Catherine, and the business trebled in size with further shops in the north of the city.

Larger production facilities were needed, and Béres converted a factory on Rawson Spring Road allowing it to bake its own bread.

In the early part of this century the company expanded into Crookes, Woodseats, and Chapeltown, as well as shops on Pinstone Street and Crystal Peaks, and will open their fourteenth shop at Broomhill next month.

Béres shop at Crystal Peaks shopping centre. Photograph: Béres.

Béres bone-out and roast all their own joints and each pork sandwich is freshly made to order. The success of the Béres Pork sandwich is said to be down to the taste, enhanced by the roasting juices that each breadcake is dipped in. And, of course, the company sells a range of other tasty products, including pies, cooked and raw meats, and pork dripping.

After 60 years, Béres (note the Hungarian diacritic) is a Sheffield institution.

Béres production facility on Rawson Spring Road. Photograph: Google.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

Aldine Court: named after a Venetian printer

Aldine Court looking from High Street. Photograph: DJP 2021.

The glitziness of Sheffield’s High Street has long disappeared, now it’s a modern-day Miss Havisham, whose dilapidated appearance attracts only those of similar behaviour.

As such, we’re not likely to risk cutting along Aldine Court to Hartshead if we can help it. However, it is one of our oldest streets, and although concealed by surrounding buildings, it can tell a few stories.

Up until 1913 Aldine Court meandered from High Street towards Hartshead in so erratic a fashion that historian Robert Eadon Leader suggested its origin could have been from a primeval footpath across the waste.

Aerial view of Aldine Court. Its entrance is to the immediate right of the Telegraph Building on High Street and passes between later newspaper extensions behind. Photograph: Google.

It was Leader who disclosed a deed from Mary Trippett’s time, she was descended from  John Trippitte, yeoman, and Master Cutler in 1794, which revealed the haphazard buildings that had wantonly appeared; a malthouse (once William Patrick, then Thomas Wreaks), a maltkiln, a stable, workshops, and a bakehouse, as well as the old Sheffield Iris newspaper office at the Hartshead end.

“No two buildings were the same shape, the same height, scarcely of the same alignment; yet, decayed and ramshackle, they proved good enough for a typographer.”

Aldine Court had been called Trippett’s Yard, Wreaks Yard, and in 1845, when Joseph Pearce set up a printing works here, was referred to as Wilson’s Yard (probably after George Wilson, of the Sharrow Mills family, who had set up a snuff shop on High Street in the 1830s).

Pearce, the son of a bookseller in Gibraltar Street, was a stationer, printer and part-proprietor of the Sheffield Times before launching the Sheffield Telegraph, Britain’s first daily provincial newspaper, in 1855.

Aldo Manuzio (Aldus Manutius) (1449/52-1515)

The narrow thoroughfare would become forever linked with newspapers, and it was Pearce who renamed it Aldine Court, honouring one of history’s publishing greats.

Aldo Manuzio arrived in Venice in 1490 and produced small books in Latin and Italian, publishing the works of Dante, Petrarch, and Erasmus. Over two decades, his Aldine Press published 130 editions, famous for its imitation of the handwriting of Petrarch, using a typeface called ‘venetian’ or ‘aldine’, but later known by the name we are familiar with today – ‘italic’.

Between 1913-1916, Aldine Court was somewhat straightened to accommodate the Sheffield Telegraph building, and partly covered with later newspaper extensions.

Aldine Court looking towards the back of the Telegraph Building. Photograph: DJP2021.
Aldine Court looking towards Hartshead. Photograph: DJP2021.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.