Thursday, July 28th 2016
Sheffield is one of the cities that we like to visit from time to time because it is a lively place where old and new rub shoulders amicably. Unfortunately, the weather was dull today and it rained much of the time. We didn’t explore as widely as we might otherwise have done but it was still enjoyable to renew our acquaintance with this historic city.
As we were going to St Pancras International Station to take the train to Sheffield, we also had breakfast there. We chose Carluccio’s on the upper level. On the way down on the escalator, Tigger took this photo, unbeknownst to me. My hair needs a trim but the hat came out quite well, I think!
The main entrance of Sheffield Railway Station is in Sheaf Square which these days is dominated by a huge water feature. An artificial river of water runs down several flights of steps to the fountain at the bottom but the first thing you notice is the shiny metal wall covered with a moving film of water. I’m not sure that I would describe it as beautiful but it is certainly impressive. Yes, even on a wet day, like today.
Five rivers run through Sheffield but the the main ones are the Don and the Sheaf. What was to become Sheffield was a settlement founded by the Celts at the point where the Sheaf and the Don meet. I don’t know what the Celts called the river but to the Anglo-Saxons it was the Sceaf. The settlement lay beside the river in a forest clearing, called a feld in Anglo-Saxon. In the Domesday book, the town is mentioned twice, once as Escafeld and later as Scafeld. The latter would have been pronounced ‘shaffeld’, which is not too dissimilar to the modern name. (The spelling with an initial ‘E’ is thought to have been an error by the Norman clerk.)
From Sheaf Square we usually walk up Howard Street which leads eventually to Sheffield Museums’ Millennium Gallery, which is worth visiting on its own account but also has a good cafe where we can have lunch.
On the back wall of the Howard Hotel we spotted this large portrait. It was painted by artist Faunagraphic aka Sarah Yates and is a reworking of a much published and copied photograph of the subject, Harry Brearley. (I have been unable to find out the origin of the photo which is easily found on the Web (e.g. see here).
Harry Brearley (1871-1948) was a metallurgist who is generally credited with the invention or discovery of the alloy known as stainless steel in 1913. The portrait was commissioned for the centenary of that event. You will find more on Harry Brearley here and a time-lapse film of the painting of the mural here.
One of the items on our to-do list was to have a look at Sheffield’s street art. The weather was a disincentive to roaming the streets but we did manage to find enough to suggest that street art is alive and well in Sheffield. Here are some examples of those I ‘collected’:
The first two are not street art in the usual sense but are murals commissioned for the Art House though they are colourful and complex and therefore worth showing. The third one is by a Sheffield artist known as Rocket01. The fourth work, tucked into a corner of two buildings, is immediately recognized as the style of Phlegm.
Continually dodging showers, and taking rain breaks in shops or cafes, we performed a tour of the streets and took a few photos of buildings that interested us. Above is the Lyceum Theatre, designed by theatre architect W.G.R. Sprague and built in 1897. This fine theatre has been given a prestigious Grade II* listing.
Another Grade II* listed building is the Sheffield City Hall. This Classical-looking structure with its massive Corinthian columns was built between 1928 and 1932 to act as a centre for culture and the arts. I remember as a student coming here for concerts by Acker Bilk, Chris Barber and, unforgettably, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
Beside the City Hall stands this bronze sculpture. It was unveiled in June this year and is by Martin Jennings who made the sculpture of John Betjeman that stands in St Pancras Station. During both World Wars, it was essential to maintain the production of steel despite the fact that male factory workers were being called up to join the armed forces. Women were recruited to take the place of the men. The work they did, carried out in dirty and dangerous conditions, earned the nation’s gratitude and it was high time that their contribution was recognized in a memorial. The contribution made by women in both wars has always received far less recognition than it deserved. Memorials such as this are welcome but a debt still remains to be paid.
Dated 1867, this sturdy but pleasing building designed in Classical Revival style was the offices and headquarters of the Sheffield Water Works Company. That company no longer exists and today the building still provides liquid refreshment but now as a pub. Repurposing at least allows such historical artefacts to survive and to continue in use. (Grade II listed.)
This must once have been an important link in the chain of the the district’s fire stations but I haven’t been able to find out much about its history apart from the fact that it bears a date of 1929. It’s size alone suggests it had a principal role. Its fire fighting days are gone, though, and it now serves other purposes.
This Classical style building, fronted by two Ionic columns, bears the inscription ‘Mount Zion’ and one cannot miss its serious religious purpose. Built in 1834 and now Grade II listed, it was once a Congregationalist chapel. Today, though, it is merely a façade and provides the sternly impressive entrance to offices.
As a student in Sheffield, I often patronized the city’s many pubs. I was little interested then in their form and history and now that I am, many have disappeared or been transformed beyond recognition. This is the Hallamshire Hotel, built in its present form in 1903, though records show a pub on the site from no later than 1862. Beside its name it bears that of the no longer existent Greaves & Co brewery company. Compact in design, it is soberly decorated on the ground floor with neat brown tiling, typical of the Edwardian period in which it was made. Like so many pubs, it has lost its original purpose and now serves as a pizza bar.
We took a break in a nearby tea shop where I discovered the delights of a strong brew called The Full Monty, and then it was time to raise our umbrellas and make for the railway station. If the rain had cramped our style somewhat, it had not dampened our love of Sheffield and we shall return again another day.