... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Ecclesall Bierlow Poor Law Union offices and Workhouse

The Workhouse in the distance - now a gated community of a different kind
I put this one off for a while after picking it (rather like the Big Day Out to Ladybank) as it was a relatively long walk - in the end I made it a round trip of seven miles, nicely broken by a cup of tea and a chat with a friend in Nether Edge, and Saturday June 12th was a perfect sunny day for it.

Workhouses were built across the country following the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834 (and I could have told you that date without looking it up) which ended 'outdoor relief' - i.e. the provision of parish funds or food to people in their own homes, forcing the destitute into the workhouse instead.  The Act was based on the principle of 'less eligibility' - the idea that claiming parish relief should be the absolutely worst thing short of starvation, lest a life on benefits otherwise prove too attractive to the lazy and indolent.

The Ecclesall Bierlow Workhouse Union was founded in 1837, and purchased the land for the Workhouse in 1839. It was built in 1841-2 (according to Pevsner) and opened in 1844, the architect being William Flockton. It was expanded considerably over the following decades, with the  addition of an infirmary, an asylum, a school and 'casual' or vagrants wards, where a (wooden plank) bed for the night could be bought for the price of nine hours hard labour.

The Workhouse was built on Cherry Tree Lane, but later gave its name to Union Road. Opposite the Workhouse are the Ecclesall Bierlow Poor Law Union Offices, built in 1902 (and yes, Holmes and Watson really were a firm of Sheffield architects).

The Poor Law Union Offices
Both buildings are now flats; from 1929 until the end of the 20th century, the Workhouse buildings were in use as Nether Edge Hospital.

There is an interesting history and lots of old photos here, and they have also published an account of a visit in 1896 by a Sheffield surgeon, whioch is well worth a read.

Monday, 24 May 2021

What's this? A boat?

Still afloat! Hooray!
 Yes! We went to Alvecote on Saturday - with some trepidation - to check on Chertsey. Given that Jim was last there in November, clothing her up with Aaron, and I last saw my precious boat some time in 2019 (later than August? Maybe. But only maybe) - our trepidation was understandable, but largely unfounded. 

The cloths were all still securely fixed, and it was very dry in both the hold and the back cabin, with no more than three or four inches of water in the back end. Given how much it has rained, this is testament to some really excellent clothing up. 

Where the neglect is showing is in the paintwork. The slides (wooden runners and tops covered in galvanised sheet) are in a pretty poor state; the wooden handrails likewise need fairly urgent attention, and the cabin top is horribly flaky. This last was done only a couple of years ago, but the (highly recommended) paint, whose name, perhaps fortunately I can't recall, has been very disappointing. It went dull and faded almost immediately and is now flaking badly. All Chertsey's 'red oxide' when we first applied it in 2010 was Leyland's gloss red oxide; fabulous paint - exactly the right colour, easy to apply and very durable, and not even expensive. The inside of the hull is still looking great ten years later. So naturally they stopped making it.

The starboad cabin side (in the photo) isn't too bad but the other side (which wherever we moor always seems to get the sun) is much worse. It will have to be satisfied however with a light rub and a varnish, while the other bits are going to have to be done properly. That, however, is a bit further into the future.

Immediate plans (for next weekend, in fact) are to get a new translucent sheet on (they seem to have a life of a couple of years) so that we can see what we're doing, then give it a bloody good clean and clean the water tanks. Then we can maybe check the engine and inspect the diesel (more trepidation), and make more detailed plans for the painting. Small steps ...

I have a week booked off at the beginning of July, and have vaguely pencilled in a trip up the Ashby. You may be getting a strong sense of deja vu here, as the times we have planned and then aborted a trip up the Ashby are without number.

Our new neighbour behind the pub is Lancing, a boat which I had a little steer of in 2009. It looks very different now, and has lost both its PD2 and its licenced bar. I'm not sure which is the greater impoverishment.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Collegiate Hall

My most recent walk (I still have a couple in reserve to write up) took me back to Broomhall, seeking Collegiate Hall, on the corner of Collegiate Crescent and Ecclesall Road. This is very much Sheffield Hallam territory, and I got a serious case of campus envy strolling past their collection of handsome stone villas connected by paths winding through lawns.

As an aside, I get the impression that Hallam have a much better record with buildings than we (University of Sheffield) do. For example. We demolished this

photo credit
to build this - runner up for the Carbuncle Cup (and it wuz robbed)
photo credit - creative commons
Whereas Hallam took over and restored the abandoned and rapidly declining Head Post Office for their Sheffield Institute of Art
photo: SHU
Anyway, I digress. Also part of Hallam's Collegiate Campus is the former Anglican Sheffield Collegiate School, and Collegiate Hall began life in 1837 as the headmaster's house (probably, Pevsner says, designed by J.G. Weightman, who was responsible for the school, 'in a very convincing Tudor' style). When the school became a teacher training college, additions were made in the form of 'substantial stone blocks' either side, in 1906 (by our friends Gibbs and Flockton) to create halls of residence, further expanded in 1911 by the City Architect (teacher training colleges owned by the local authority; what a quaint idea).

The building as it stands today is very large, and I wasn't readily able to identify the original house within it. I did stroll insouciantly into the grounds (well, it's all HE isn't it) but as they were deserted I didn't want to make myself additionally conspicuous, so I contented myself with walking half way around and exiting on Broomgrove Road before making my way home.

This was a 3.8 mile walk, on Thursday May 6th around 4-5pm, mostly sunny but with a cold breeze, and a shower towards the end, and I saw 8 discarded masks.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Camellia and magnolia

I think. 

A tree and a bush in gorgeous flower on my way back from Broomgrove Terrace. Pretty sure this is a magnolia (although far removed rom the insipid paint colour we associate with the name)

I'm fairly (albeit slightly less) confident that this is a camellia
The intriguing thing was that the stripy flowers really did seem to be on the same bush as the plain pink ones. Is this a possibility, or was I just failing to see the join?

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Broomgrove Terrace, Broomhall

I had always thought of Broomhall (as opposed to Broomhill, where I used to live) as the slightly insalubrious area behind the office; thatks to Pevsner, I now know that it actually encompasses the Botanical Gardens, and began life as an estate of middle and upper-middle class housing, including some very fine large houses, in the early to mid nineteenth century.

This was in one way an ideal Pevsner walk, taking me to a not very remarkable building in the suburbs which I would not otherwise have noticed. That's one of the joys of this approach; the taking notice of the not otherwise noteworthy.

Broomgrove Terrace warrants a scant sentence on p. 261: 'Numerous pleasant mid-C19 houses on the s side of Clarkehouse Road. Further w, Nos. 61-67 Broomgrove Terrace are a group of four Italianate Houses, C1844 with shared doorcases.' 

Once again, I was sufficiently familiar with the territory to set off without map or satnav to Clarkehouse Road, and identified nos. 61-67 without much difficulty.

Just as the view of Barclays Bank was obscured by street signs and a tram wire pole (perhaps those things have a special name?), again here some traffic lights and a parking restrictions sign hampered the view of the front of the houses, behind their relatively neat privet hedges. You can just about see those shared doorcases. At least one of the houses (and probably all) is student accommodation; this whole area is very much the territory of Sheffield Hallam, surrounding their Collegiate Campus. This was actually the first part of Sheffield I ever visited, as I had an interview at Hallam some time before the one that landed me the job at Sheffield ('Uni of' as our students appear to call it to distinguish it from our post-92 citymate).

I couldn't walk all the way around the terrace, but managed to capture the back and one flank
complete with coal hole and decorative cast iron grilles, and this window which I rather liked
I did this walk on Sunday 18th of April, which was a lovely bright morning. I took a roundabout walk through three different parks, making a total round trip of 3.65 miles, in the course of which I saw nine discarded masks.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Barclays Bank, Glossop Road

Occupying another of those acute corner sites, the Birmingham District and Counties Banking Co. set up shop in Sheffield in 1907. If you have not heard of the Birmingham District and Counties Banking Co., this is probably because less than ten years later, in 1916, they were taken over by Barclays Bank. This building on Glossop Road was still a branch of Barclays when Pevsner was published in 2004.
When I visited on April 17th, it was a defunct hairdressers, and looking slightly the worse for wear.
However, there were signs of life round the back, so hopefully that portends new tenants and a new use.
My first guess would have been an another eaterie of some kind, but I didn't notice a planning application (might have been and gone of course in all the months I didn't set foot near the city centre).

Pevsner notes that the building originally housed the bank, plus three additional shops, in the plainer part of the building. These 1985 photos from Picture Sheffield (an excellent online photo archive held by the City Council) suggest that by then it was all in use by Barclays.

So, some little details that I spotted:

The carved wooden frames in the mullioned windows around the back
Some lovely stonework
Some of it suffering the depradations of time, weather and above all, pollution
but generally holding up well
Pevsner (p. 129) says that the bank was designed by Gibbs and Flockton, names - Flockton in particular - that crop up very frequently. It turns out that there were three generations of Flocktons, working over the years in various partnerships, as part of a complicated and incestuous web of family firms and partnerships working in Sheffield. Given time, I might disentangle them. This Flockton would have been the youngest of three generations, Charles Burrows, whose father Thomas had worked as an assistant to George Gilbert Scott of St Pancras Midland Grand Hotel fame. Mostly though it seems that Sheffield's significant architects mainly trained and worked within Sheffield.

I couldn't make out whose sign the traces of remained here

Hidden along the redbrick back of the building
was my very favourite little detail:
Perhaps originally where the manager lived? A lovely little bit of (slightly inexpert) old signwriting directly onto the brick by the (more modern) doorbell.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Final seaside postcards

 A few more views to wrap up my trip to Newhaven.

The remains (we think) or a marker buoy, planted in the shingle.

A wooden boardwalk at Tidemills - again, that's what I'm assuming it is.
And a close up with some of the amazingly varied fauna to be found there.

Along with traces of nearby fauna - how many bramble bushes end up with whelk* egg cases in them? Loads of big black mermaids' purses had washed up as well.

Here's a proper postcard view, looking from the cliffs out over the harbour arm towards Seaford Head.
And finally, looking in the same direction from the beach at Tidemills.

*possibly. It's great that we can Google 'identify fish egg cases'  but I wouldn't say I was 100% certain.

This is by way of an interlude - I already have a backlog of random building walks to write up, and there's not much time between work and snooker. Perhaps things will improve once the snooker's finished ...

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Aberdeen Works

My first stab at Pevsner (with the pin of a brooch; it was very much an impusle thing) sent me seeking the Aberdeen Works. Although the Sheffield Pevsner is a relatively recent edition, it's still seventeen years old now, and in a fast changing city I fully expect some of its entries to be either gone, or significantly altered. Setting off to find the Aberdeen Works, I wasn't sure whether it would still be there.

It turns out I picked - in historical continuity terms - a real gem for my first random(ish) foray. Pevsner (p.127) notes that the Aberdeen Works has been occupied since its construction in 1883 by the same firm of silversmiths, and it still is: Francis Howard continue to produce tableware and giftware in 'traditional and contempory' sterling silver and plate, and are still based at the same address. I suspect that's pretty unusual.

We tend to think of Sheffield as a city of big steelworks, and numerous small cutlery workshops (the 'little mesters') but it was a significant centre for silversmithing too, and of course where the first method for producing a cheaper (than solid silver) silver plate was invented - 'Sheffield Plate', made by fusing a layer of silver and copper in ingot form before rolling it and working it - a hundred years before the invention (or discovery?) of electro-plating. 

The importance of silversmithing is evidenced by the fact that in 1773 Sheffield, along with Birmingham, successfully petitioned Parliament for the right to establish its own Assay Office, in the face of stiff opposition from London, which had previously held the monopoly in England. A really interesting and comprehensive history of the Sheffield Assay Office - which while its fortunes have waxed and waned, and its address has changed, over the years, has been in continuous operation ever since - is here, on their website.

Pevsner notes that 'one office [of the Aberdeen Works] has a big tripartite window, with ashlar surround' which I tried to get into the photo, but it was quite hard in the narrow street. You can see a bit of it at the extreme left of the top photo, and just below and to the left of the 'incised lettering' (which I had assumed meant cut into stone, although the letters here are actually in relief - I don't know whether carved or cast). Love that full stop after the name.

Further on down the street - which is Trafalgar Street, just off Devonshire Street, Pevsner describes the Trafalgar Works ('c. 1900. Very plain fourteen-bay facade with central carriage entrance ... two storey workshops ... four hand forges ...') and notes that it was 'threatened with demolition in 2004.'

I think this is it: i.e. a cleared site at the end of the road and oh dear, this looks ominous.

Behind the Aberdeen Works, on Canning Street, is a terrace 'of six former blind-back houses, c. 1830 with simple three-storey facades, some retaining sash windows.'

I was pleased to see that they are still recognisably there, albeit now painted a different colour to the terracotta in Pevsner's photo (p. 127), and possibly actually looking a bit smarter; I don't know what their current use is although at least one (the right hand end one) looked as if it might be residential.

By taking a roundabout route, I made this into a three mile walk, and it was a lovely warm sunny spring afternoon. As an added bonus for Joho and other fans, at the end of Canning Street there's a work by Phlegm 'in the wild'.

I'm labelling all these 'Walking with Pevsner'  posts, by the way, so should they be your main interest you can filter for them easily. I'm also using bigger image files, so hopefully the pictures should look a bit sharper - although interestingly with the earlier ones, if you click the image to enlarge it, it appears clearer than the in-line version.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Sticking a pin in Pevsner

Whilst down south, I got right back into the habit of walking. It's so easy there, with a variety of coastal walks less than a mile from the doorstep. Up here I am of course enviably near the Peak District, but I baulk at getting into the car to take a quick stroll. I'm reasonably near the Rivelin Valley Trail, which is a lovely walk - but it starts a hilly mile and a third away - so worth it for a long walk, but less so for a daily stroll.

Of course I love urban walking and the urban environment as well - maybe even more, in terms of the interest it offers me (I was always more interested in history and social science than geography and botany) if not the fresh air. But again, walking aimlessly tends to lead to the same local circuits which after a while is less inspiring.

However, on returning from Newhaven I had an idea. I wasn't sure if it would work, but so far it seems to. As I mentioned the other week, I have a 2004 edition of the Pevsner Guide to Sheffield (and I should here credit the authors, Ruth Harman and John Minnis) and it has two indexes: one of 'artists, architects and other persons mentioned', and one of 'localities, streets and buildings'. So I opened up the second of these, and waved a pin over the first column. It yielded me the Aberdeen Works, in the 'Devonshire Quarter', an area that I hadn't visited in ages, but within easy walking distance. Since then I have applied the same process to each column of the index in turn, and so far it has worked well. If the randomly selected location is too far away to walk, I just move down the column to the next one - but as a large proportion of the significant and interesting (to Pevsner) buildings are in the city centre and the west and south west of the city it doesn't take long to find one. Others I will put aside for when I have time for a longer walk. So far this has let me to walk to, investigate, and read about the Aberdeen Works, Barclays Bank, a terrace of Italianate Villas in Broomhall, the Carnegie Library in Walkley (a brief stroll, that one) and the Children's Hospital. 

You will no doubt be delighted to hear that part of the fun will be poking around, taking photos, reading up on the buildings and writing about them on the blog.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Woo! Pictures of Geoffrey

Jim's rescue Galgo, who is a lovely, gentle big and handsome dog.

Although he's got more stamina than a greyhound or whippet - Galgos are bred for hare coursing on Spanish plains - he can still sleep all day with the best of the sighthounds.
He always seeks out the highest ground and the best view, and then scans the horizon looking for hares (or rabbits will do). Unlike Ricky, who barks like mad at the sight of any small (or large) furry (or woolly) animal, Geoffrey is a consummate professional; a highly trained assassin, and - if he's on the lead, just freezes.
He has inordinately long legs, which he's not always quite sure what to do with. When Jim first had him, he had no idea what a sofa was for. I'm pleased to report that he has now got the hang of it.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Scenes from an abandoned village

I've written before about Tidemills, the little industrial hamlet on the coast between Newhaven and Seaford, and there is a very good history of it here.  But it was looking particularly photogenic in the sun last week so here are some pictures.

The mill creek and the site of the mill.

Part of the boundary wall (I think) and buildings in the distance.
From memory (don't hold me to this) the stationmaster's cottage - one of the few buildings which recognisably remain.
Standing on the site of the mill - directly over those arches you can see in the top photo, looking down the creek towards the sea, where the water ran out after it had powered the grindstones.
And finally, looking the other way, the creek above the mill, which was filled on each tide, with the remains of some buildings on the right.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Transport treats

As the fortunes of the Port Access Road have ebbed and flowed over the years - nay, decades - the rationale for it has also changed (a bit like HS2).

Originally it was all about shifting lorry traffic from the residential Beach Road and Railway Road; back in the nineties there was still a lot of freight and produce coming in by lorry. There were also big scare stories around the time the incinerator was built that there would be imports of (quelle horreur) French rubbish. As it stands - and in the much lamented absence of the Sussex Express' 'Harbour Jottings' - the two main products passing through Newhaven appear to be scrap metal and aggregates.

Still things you would rather not have lorryloads of driving past your house, but perhaps not in the volume anticipated (as I recall the prospect of a constant caravan of noisy. dusty. smelly lorries was dangled in front of us when I was on the Town Council many years ago). In our walks last week I think I spotted a total of two aggregate lorries on the relevant roads - although there may be another, very exciting, reason for that, which I will come to later.

Latterly the argument for the road has been that it will 'open up development land' for industrial use, thus bringing jobs and the aforementioned prosperity beyond our wildest dreams. The land in question is (or in the case of quite a lot of it, already, was) to all intents and purposes natural, brambly scrubland - it may once have been industrial, but it had very largely returned to nature. At the same time as former industrial sites on the edge of town are being razed to build housing in their place, industry moves further out to the margins . And fair enough, you couldn't build housing there - it's too vulnerable to flooding, I would imagine. It's sobering though that part of the development has entailed 'species relocation'. The question is, are there really takers for all this new industrial land?

Well, an aggregates firm has already moved in, which seems very fitting. And this is the exciting bit - a new railhead has been constructed for them, so that at least some of their aggregates - which come in by sea - will go out not along Beach Road, nor even the new Port Access Road, but by train!
When I make my layout (oh, didn't I mention that?) I am seriously tempted to base it on Newhaven, which has a lot of railway interest (sidings! aggregates! three stations! ok, one redundant and condemned, but I could model the return of the Boat Train) and I could have 313s! (yes but not at the same time).
While all this was being set up there was a footpath diversion, from which I got the railhead photos, but on our last walk before I returned to Sheffield, they had just re-opened the new, permanent, footpath route, and we were the first to traverse it. This felt very fitting as we - especially Jim - have been following these developments for so long.