... 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.

Monday 25 October 2021

Sunday 26 September 2021


Fuchsias were one of the things in the garden I grew up with, so I tended to think of them (I think it was the solidly reliable 'Beacon' variety) as rather ordinary everyday plants. It was only as an adult, after a break from them, that I came to love and appreciate the delicate exoticism of the hardy varieties, and the cheerful blowsiness of the showier ones. Also, they are one of the few plants I can propagate. I have roughly forty different plants in my not very large garden, and  that includes eight different varieties of fuchsia; some small in pots, and some threatening to take the place over.

As I have no idea what any of them is called, I've created an index of photos and given each a letter, so that I'll be able to identify my cuttings. And here are those that were in flower last week when I photographed them.

The first two are from cuttings brought from Newhaven, the second one originally from when the man over the road was trimming his and we picked some bits up off the pavement. It's hardy and will grow massive given the chance. The top one is possibly my very favourite. Again it grows very big, but has the most delicate flowers.

These next two are plants I bought in Tescos a couple of years back. They've never got very big, but cuttings I took from them in the spring seem to be doing OK.
In a pot I have two fancier, double and trailing ones. These are also from Newhaven cuttings and arrived with me via Braunston a few years back. We had to put them in the shade of the hedge every afternoon. Now it's the frost getting them that worries me, so I tuck them up against the house and wrap them up for the winter. The other one is darker but didn't have any flowers last week.

And finally, the monster. This was from the garden centre in 2019. It was a faitly well-established plant then, but has grown madly since, and in quite a sprawly way. I'm planning to cut it back hard this year (which will require a saw) and I'm pretty confident it will recover. It's other main feature is that its leaves are a very bright green, almost yellow when new, in contrats to the others' darker leaves. Being as it's so vigorous, I planned to take a lot of cuttings to put in troughs in the front garden next year.  Sometimes I pot cuttings up straight away, and sometimes I root them in water. I put these in water, and not only did they not root, they were all dead within a few weeks, all at once. I have never known that to happen before. So I'm a bit mystified by that but there's plenty more where they came from so I'll try some more in water and some in pots.

Saturday 25 September 2021

Hallam Tower(s) redux?

I ought to have a photo of the old Hallam Tower Hotel. I could see it from my window for the four years I lived on Manchester Road. Unfortunately, the one time I posted about it, the photos have disappeared. I mused then on whether it would be demolished, or end up as luxury flats. The one answer I didn't expect was 'both'.

Demolition began shortly after I moved away in 2017. And now it is essentially being rebuilt as flats (sorry, luxury apartments and penthouses), with the bottom two storeys of the original building remaining, and an additional two storeys on top, looking very similar to the old building. I wonder if that is a planning permission thing. I haven't checked, but I'd have thought it unlikely that a building like that, there, would have got permission today - it always did look very out of place - but like for like replacement can't be objected to.

It is, apparently, 'Sheffield's most iconic address.' 

The developers'/agent's pointlessly overengineered website says it is 'set in the heart of one of Sheffield's most exclusive postcodes'. 'One of' is doing quite a lot of work here, as S10 - nice as it is - certainly is not exclusive of students, and I can think of more expensive (and student-free) areas. 

Interestingly, the website studiedly gives the impression that this is a conversion of the hotel rather than a new building, with phrases like 'leading architects have considered every detail within this once celebrity-adorned hotel building' and 'the signature luxury style shines throughout the once majestic and renowned Hallam Towers Hotel' (I have read the website so you don't have to). On the plus side, they will have great views.

So here is the new block of flats going up, as incongruous in its setting as the building it replaces. Somewhere along the way the Hallam Tower Hotel has become Hallam Towers, plural. I am (mercifully) seeing only one actual tower block in the 'artist's' impression. I presume there is some market research that suggests that 'towers' sounds less sinister or overbearing than 'tower'.

The CGI interiors have a retro look to them (and an entrance lobby of audacious vulgarity), but I'm not seeing any fluted teak, without which it can never be a worthwhile recreation.

I think this comes under the heading of buildings you might not want to see demolished, but definitely don't want to see rebuilt.

Monday 16 August 2021

The Odeon, Barkers Pool

Not a randon Pevsner walk, but this is in Pevsner (p. 98, where it is described as 'brash'), so ... This was the continuation of my stroll down Division Street to see the Kendal Works.
I had not known this was originally built as a cinema; I knew it only as the retail building it became. It is quite the most ghastly building in all Sheffield (beating even the Diamond).

And yet, and yet. There is still a pang of regret at the thought of it going. Not for aesthetic reasons - not for me, at any rate - but historic. It is an outstanding example of all that was the most egregious in 1980s architecture, and in a few more decades we may be looking to save such examples.

No architectural style is valued in the decades between its newness wearing off and its appreciation by those as yet unborn. Look how the sixties ripped through the Victorian (look, and weep, at Euston); and how we have only recently come to value and appreciate (if not, perhaps, love) the concrete of the fifties and sixties. The day will come when the mirrored glass and primary coloured steel of the eighties is back in fashion, but it will be too late for the Odeon (latterly 'Embrace'), Barkers Pool.

The Gaumont Building, as it will become known in honour of the cinema which the Odeon replaced in 1987, is not being demolished, merely given a 'facelift' so that it can continue to provide redundant retail space, but with a rather (from the artist's impression) fifties look plus living walls (which sound a bit high maintenance/garden bridge to me).

Less actively ugly perhaps, but is it really any more interesting, arresting or worthwhile?

Sunday 15 August 2021

Kendal Works

Today's random pick took me back to the 'Devonshire Quarter', where I took my first Pevsner trip back in April. 

Pevsner (p.124) describes the Kendal Works as having 'a pedimented front range of c. 1830 and workshop ranges of the usual Sheffield type with a blank rear wall onto Carver Lane and large windows facing the yard. The rear range was probably a grinding hull. In the courtyard is an early c. 20 scissor forge, single storey with a hipped roof, large casement windows and two hearths. Part restored in 2004.'

A 2013 post on the Sheffield History forum suggests that it was in bad shape again by then - but also alerted me to its Grade II listing, which led me to the Historic England website, where I found a more detailed description of the building, along with a photo that showed it as more derelict in 2001 - prior to the restoration Pevsner mentions. I took a photo from the same angle to compare:

The windows, for example, have been replaced.

Like many former industrial buildings in the area, it is now a 'cocktail lounge', although how active or viable a one was hard to judge at eleven on a Sunday morning. It wasn't looking very well cared-for.

After exhausting the photographic possibilities of the Kendal Works I continued down Division Street to Barkers Pool and thence to Pinstone Street, and sort of wished I hadn't ... but that's for another post.

I did this walk on Sunday August 15th, and it totalled 3.7 miles.

Saturday 14 August 2021

Desirable addresses

In the course of landing the four jobs (two fixed term and two open-ended) I've had in HE since 2003, I applied for somewhere in the region of 300, and probably had 20-30 interviews. Once you get to the interview stage you can't help but star to fantasise, and research online, where you might live. 

The one that sticks in my mind was when I had an interview for a Philosophy post of all things, at Manchester Met's Alsager campus. The estate agency website's most attractive offering in the area was at 13 Primitive Street, Mow Cop (presumably named for a Primitive Methodist Chapel).

I was reminded of this by this location spotted near Hillsborough Barracks.

Friday 13 August 2021

Hillsborough Barracks

A very quick post-work walk, along a familiar and not at all pleasant route. Hillsborough Barracks is situated on the Langsett Road, where I regularly used to walk, and even run, early in the morning. I even knew the distance before I set out, as the far entrance was the marker for my first mile on that route.
As you can see, the site is now a shopping centre.
A very recognisably 1980s shopping centre,
fallen on harder times,
with many empty units. There are a few charity shops, and this formed part of one of my chazzering circuits, taking in the ones at the Barracks followed by those on Hillsborough's main shopping street.

The Barracks was built between 1848 and 1854 and was one of the largest in the country. Military presences were common in cities and one of the reasons for the massive contingent in Sheffield was the Chartist riots of 1839. These began when troops were called in from the earlier barracks at Hillfoot to break up an illegal, but previously peaceful, gathering on August 12th that year. The Chartists were a national movement, calling for democratic reform, including the vote for all men over 21, payment for MPs, the removal of the property qualification (the requirement that someone own property of a certain value to be eligible to stand for parliament), a secret ballot, equally sized constituencies, and annual parliaments. Following the 1839 riots, in which the government forces were seen by many to have over-reacted, Chartist membership and radicalism grew in Sheffield, with frequent demonstrations and real and imagined plots to stage riots and take over the Town Hall. Hence the perceived need for a strong military presence, not only in Sheffield, but in many other industrial towns too, as working men agitated for their political rights.

The turreted building fronting onto the Langsett Road was the officers' quarters and mess, with a chapel at the far end.

One parade ground is now a car park
The other, beyond the stables, has had an enormous Morrisons built on it.
If you look above the ground floor windows in the top photo, you'll see neat black shapes on the stonemwork. A similar phenomenon can be seen on this wall.

These blocks of black haven't been painted on; they're where there was a sign, which was in place when the stonework was cleaned but subsequntly removed. I don't know when the cleaning was done, but prior to then, the buildings - all the buildings - were that colour all over.

With the addtion of a little bit of wandering about, this walk was a fraction over two miles, on Wednesday August 11th.

Friday 6 August 2021

Heeley Station extra

Paul of Waterways routes has found some more old photos of the station so I thought a second post was in order (incidentally the Chertsey blog's 1600th post).

This photo shows the entrance to the subway

which now looks like this

You can see where the roof of the entrance 'porch' was. And it looks as if the original low wrought iron railing to the right is still there:

Kevin Smith has recently added four photos from 1987 to his Flickr account - starting here and then going back, two of the front and two of the arches (I'm guessing from the non-road side, accessed from behind the station).

But despite all our best efforts, still no photo of the whole of the front of the building from any time between 1901 and 1968!

While I'm here, here are a few more details from that walk.

This is the view from Heeley Bridge, of a rather low River Sheaf - the river that runs in a culvert under the city centre and the Midland Station, and gives the city its name.

Next to the bridge, temporarily fenced off because of what appears to be a small sinkhole in the pavement, is a rather nice information point in the form of a wheel. I only photographed the section pertaining to the station.

It's a step up from your usual interpretation board, and crams in a lot of information; the photo should be big enough to read if you click on it.
In particular it notes that the road was lowered under the railway bridge to accommodate double decker trams, which has exacerbated flooding issues.
I'd previously come across this at Stretton Aqueduct on the A5 (albeit for lorries rather than trams). 

Just before I got to the station I found this ghost of a doorstep or entrance porch on the edge of a fenced off lot.

And finally, for fans of rust and rivets:
And pigeons

The local press have recently been reporting that Heeley Station and the line its on might re-open. I shall not be holding my breath.

Thursday 5 August 2021

Heeley Station

This post starts with a confession: I have driven past this car breakers' on the A61 dozens of times without recognising it for what it was - Heeley Station, built by the Midland Railway in 1901 (and closed by BR in 1968). I had always vaguely assumed it was a former garage. In my defence I can say that I was always driving past, concentrating on other things, and never had the opportunity to step back and look at the whole building.
Because when you do that, it is obviously a railway station. The criss-crossing railway bridges and the embankment extending along the road are also dead giveaways.
Pevsner notes that the station building is 'by the Midland Railway's architect Charles Trubshaw, in his characteristic style. Red brick with plenty of terracotta dressings (now overpainted).'

To be honest, I don't recognise that style, but other aspects were much more familiar from the main Midland Station

Including this, the entrance / exit of the pedestrian subway that ran under the tracks:
Previously bricked up, it was apparently opened up a couple of years ago for inspection / maintenance purposes - although it's only open for a few yards before being completely blocked with concrete. This info is again from the Sheffield History Forum, where there are also photos of the interior.

Not much to be seen round the back of the building - this was one I definitely couldn't circumambulate.

Strangely, I haven't been able to find any photos of the front of the station when it was still in use, prior to 1968. This nice one from Picture Sheffield shows that it became a breakers' yard quite early on - early 1980s? The current encumbents were established in 1987 and have expanded to take over the whole building.
The station's parcel office became a Post Office branch for a time.
This probably wasn't the healthiest walk, as much of it was along the A61. But it was six and a quarter miles of exercise on a pleasant, if slightly muggy, morning, on Wednesday August 4th.


Tuesday 3 August 2021

Bower Spring Furnaces (Franklin Works)

And so the time comes, at last, for another random(ish) Pevsner walk. My pencil hovered over the next column of the index, and alighted on the Franklin Works (p.163).

The works themselves, however, are mentioned only in passing. They are long gone - but have left a legacy: the remains of a pair of cementation furnaces. Although there is little of these left, and what there is is overgrown to the point of invisibility, they are sufficiently rare and significant to have been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument by Historic England. 

I've written about cementation furnaces before, notably the complete and largely intact one on Doncaster Street, which is the only surviving example in Britain - in their heyday, in the 18th and 19th centuries, there were more than 200 in Sheffield alone. The Hoyle Street / Meadow Street / Doncaster Street site on the corner of which it sits is still abandoned with work barely begun, which may be a blessing.

Building work progresses in other parts of Netherthorpe / Shalesmoor though.

This is the site of the Queens Hotel (Ward's Fine Malt Ales) and the Robert Neil works on Scotland Street
Fortuitously taken from exactly the same angle. An urban exploration from 2016 (just two years after its closure) yields some poignant images of the pub's interior.

Here's an undated photo from the Sheffield History Forum of both buildings in better days:

And further on down the road, the 1854 'Nicholson Building' is clearly being gutted, extended and destined to be gritty post-industrial apartments. Is there a term for eviscerating a building and rebuilding behind its original facade?
Of course it's good that a fine facade like this is retained. This is clearly an area in transition, as Kelham Island's gentrification edges outwards, with a fascinating mix of working businesses, derelict sites and swish new builds and conversions, often next door to one another.

Ogley Bros, for example, manufacturers and distributors of metal products including 'steam trapping equipment' don't look at first glance to be prospering - but a second glance reveals a brand new lorry, suggesting business is alive and well.

Anyway, back to the Bower Spring furnaces. Given how overgrown they are this must be the absolute worst time of year to try to view them - although it wouldn't be easy at any time.
As usual, I snuck around the back as well:
The Sheffield History Forum has an earlier photograph - possibly dating from the time the furnaces were excavated - from a now defunct website.
Which shows what's beneath this:
I did this walk on Tuesday August 3rd 2021, and with a bit of meandering made it a round trip of 2.85 miles.