... 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.

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.

Sunday 18 April 2021

Newhaven's new bridge

For nearly as long as I lived in Newhaven, there was talk of a new Port Access Road, that would (along with many other proposals, as reported by the Susses Express from time to time) bring prosperity as yet undreamt of to the town. Planning permission was first granted in 1996, and construction started, then stalled, in 2007; restarted in 2015, and got going seriously in 2019. The County Council's timeline though rather optimistically states that it was completed in 2020. It does not look quite complete yet.

However, what we do have is a really rather impressive new bridge, taking the new road across both the railway line and Mill Creek (the tidal creek that provided the head of water to operate the flour mill around which Tidemills village developed).

The bridge was constructed last summer, and the spans are  made from steel beams some of which are very long (the New Steel Construction website says 46.7m, but they also give this as the width of the central span, which is clearly made up of three sections bolted together - you can see them doing it in the video too. The outer spans are 37m and are also made up of more than one length. However, the central beams of the middle section are still clearly pretty damn long). These came in by road (I think from Birmingham) which necessitated the removal of road signs so that they could negotiate Denton roundabout. This was covered on the local BBC TV news but sadly I cannot find  the footage to link to. What I can offer is the contractors' video of the installation. Which is quite stirring. There are also some amazing high definition (if somewhat seasickness-inducing) panoramic photos of the project here.

Here you can see it in the distance from the footbridge over the railway line off Beach Road. And below, approaching it from the other direction:
It's very exciting having a new bridge, even if it doesn't have rivets. 

And here it is with a bonus 313:

Friday 16 April 2021

Easter Side

In the latter part of my Easter time off, I managed to get back to Newhaven for a proper seaside holiday, with lovely walks with the dogs in the sunshine; roads, railways and bridges (but no sandcastles or paddling, sorry). A big shift is taking place towards the industrial East Side of the town (that's east of the river; Newhaven being on the estuary of the Sussex Ouse) with lots of new housing going up, particularly on the site of the former Parker Pen factory

The factory in 2008 (photo; Our Newhaven)
which was still very much a going concern and a significant employer when I first lived in the town. It was gradually run down from the 2000s, and finally closed in 2011. Sebastian went to nursery school next door, in what was then called Grays Nursery, and is now a 'Forest School', but was originally Railway Road Nursery School.

Most of the walks from the house take us in an easterly direction along the coast, to Tidemills, so we get to traverse East Side, historically the poorer and more industrial part of town. And there on Beach Road, or Railway Road, or Clifton Road, someone had been up to some amazing guerilla crocheting, making an Easter scene for the top of a postbox.

As I photographed it from every side, the background also gives a taste of the area. Terraced houses on Beach Road in the background above and below.
Here the railway:
And finally the other side of the road and a disused garage.
But more importantly, just look at the work that's gone into this. I hope it's now safely back with its creator and that it gave many others as much pleasure as it did me.

Monday 12 April 2021

Won't be here forever

 A few final images from around Doncaster Street last weekend.

The light was lovely.

You might also have guessed by these recent rather longer and even slightly researched posts that I'm currently on holiday from work ...

Saturday 10 April 2021

Round the rear of Record Ridgway

I've tried previously to explain (not least to myself) my doomed love for the ephemerally derelict; the decayed and the destroyed. Through this blog (and dozens if not hundreds of other un-organised photographs) I can document a tiny snapshot of this. Sometimes buildings remain in a state of dereliction for decades, declining organically and imperceptibly, but can then disappear in a matter of days. (When this happens, it makes me feel very disconcerted.)

So on my weekend walk I circumnavigated the Record Ridgway works. The most part of the very large building is not architecturally distinguished or interesting. It's a massive shed in which hundreds of people worked making tools - chisels, planes and other things with blades and edges.

I poked the camera through one broken pane to get a very unimpressive picture. 

However, urban explorers have not only explored, but documented the building, here and here for example with some wonderful photos. 

Big empty buildings like this don't only attract explorers, kids with a deathwish (I once had a taxi driver who was telling me hair-raising stories of what him and his mates got up to in Kelham Island as boys in the eighties and nineties) and vandals; alongside the crude tags some serious graffiti artists have made the abandoned and all but hidden walls their canvas.

The photos from Oblivion State include this massive, very unnerving but beautifully executed work by the Welsh-born, Sheffield-based artist and muralist who goes by the name of Phlegm, and whose work can be seen all over the world, as well as in a number of places in Sheffield. The Record Ridgway example is particularly gruesome but I do like the surreal detail, often on such a large scale, of his work.

Thursday 8 April 2021


You might be forgiven, on the basis of my last post, for thinking that I object to all student accommodation developments.  Well, politically I might object to the large-scale provision of expensive accommodation for a largely captive market for private profit, and I might also wonder at who is going to fill it if predictions of a post-Covid, post-Brexit fall in international students, and of a trend towards students continuing to study closer to home or at home and online come to pass, but architecturally, here is one new development that I like. Unlike most that are going up around here, it's not a bland, hard-edged brick-faced box.
It's called Nurtur [sic] House (yep, stupid name) and it opened last year. It has actual architects - David Cox Architects of Preston, who have an annoyingly flashy website which shows that they have been responsible for a great deal of student accommodation, including their share of bland brick boxes.

Nurtur House has 288 rooms and covers a big site (again, I fear I have no idea what was there before, but a long derelict works would be a fair bet), making the most of an isosceles triangle footprint with two acute angles.

A local pub, the Three Tuns, which I have long admired from the outside but never quite plucked up the courage to enter, is similarly squeezed into a sharp little peninsula between two roads.
There were some nice little details, like these bats on terracotta covers for what I guess are drainage holes in the top of the wall in the photo above:
I have no idea why bats, but they're nice

Its curves echo those of the nearby Record Ridgway works, which ironically is slated for demolition (and has been for years)
And which I have long had a bit of a soft spot for, since I first viewed it from the now-defunct No. 31 bus.
I haven't been able to find a date for this building - most commentators assume it's 30s, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were a bit later. This bit is just the frontage for a massive works (of which more another time) where tools including Marples chisels were made.

Coming full circle (kind of) I particularly like this sun-bleached photo I took of it at the weekend which, I think, makes it look like one of those developers' artist's impressions, complete with arboreal garnish and solitary pedestrian - the ruined past presented as if it were the saleable future.

Tuesday 6 April 2021


The other landmark that I was easily able to identify on my walk was the cementation furnace. This is the only remaining intact example in the country; there were once over 200 in Sheffield alone. Cementation furnaces were an early means of converting iron to steel.  Pevsner describes the process of making steel by this method, which basically amounted to: pack in layers of Swedish iron bars and charcoal, seal it all up, light a big (coal) fire underneath it, keep it at 1100 degrees for about a week, let it cool, crack the crust of sealing material and slag off the top, and remove your steel, which would then be forged and worked. This method produced 'blister' steel which still contained a lot of impurities and was of limited use. In 1751 Benjamin Hunstman developed the crucible process which produced a purer and more versatile steel. It still needed blister steel to start with though, so cementation furnaces continued to be built as part of steelworks and this one dates from 1848.

The crust of hard-fired clay, grindings and slag was known as crozzle. Hard, impervious and sharp-edged, it was used for topping walls. I have a couple of bits of what I think are crozzle that I dug up in the garden:

The larger piece even appears to have mortar on it, suggesting that it could have come from a wall.
Crozzle has also entered the local vernacular vocabulary. If you like your bacon very well-done, you like it crozzled, and the bits of batter in the bottom of your fish and chip paper is likewise called crozzle, and (I believe) can be requested in the chippy just as in other parts of the country you would ask for 'bits'.

I was fortunate to be able to photograph that aspect of the cementation furnace as it currently stands on the corner of a very large demolition site.

I thought that the massive building that was on the site until a couple of years ago was some sort of industrial research centre (at least at some point in the past) but I can now find no record of that or info about it. The furnace latterly sat in what was a HSBC car park. The site was levelled and some foundations laid, but then nothing happened for a very long time, and I assumed that the developers had gone bust. A recent article in the Sheffield Star claims thatr the delay was pandemic related, and that 'work halted in February last year'  but I recall the site being abandoned for at least a year before that. In any case, they told the Star in January that construction would restart at the end of March. I can report that it hasn't.
Developer's 'artist's impression' taken from the Star.
The plan is for yet more student accommodation, as part of a development of '900 bedrooms' including 260 flats for private rental with an estimated 'value' of £90 million (although the article suggests that the developers still aren't quite sure how they're going to fund it).

Anwyay, if it gets built it will be absolutely massive, and the last remaining cementation furnace in the country will become a garden feature.

That'd better be a public space!