Feature: Saving our library was the start of a new chapter

Judy Wallis and Jayne Drew at the Frecheville Library and Community Centre
Judy Wallis and Jayne Drew at the Frecheville Library and Community Centre
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Volunteers joined together when Frecheville library faced closure and now, thanks to their ongoing efforts, it’s a hub of community activity...

A Sheffield library which faced closure three years ago has a bright future, thanks to a dedicated group of passionate volunteers.

David Hirst, Linda Pidcock and Keith Hatcher are members of the Frecheville health walking group

David Hirst, Linda Pidcock and Keith Hatcher are members of the Frecheville health walking group

Frecheville Library faced a real risk of closing its doors for good in 2014, as Sheffield Council conducted public consultations on the futures of 16 libraries.

The Frecheville community stepped in to save it, with a group of nine people forming a committee to shore up the future of the facility.

Since then, the library has gone from strength to strength. The group has grown to include 34 volunteers who give up their time each week.

And their approach is working – the library is a hub of activity every day.

The Birley Pub is one of two in Frecheville

The Birley Pub is one of two in Frecheville

Knitting groups and yoga classes take place alongside the bookshelves. Seniors meet to get to grips with computers and children build things with Lego.

“You only have to look on the noticeboard to see that there is something on every day,” volunteer Judy Wallis said.

The self-funded library relies on community donations and four annual fundraisers to keep it going – the recent Spring Fair raised £500.

Concerned residents donate books for the shelves and some are sold from a makeshift shop in the library office.

James and Jessica Thompson, six, and William Adams are visitors at the library

James and Jessica Thompson, six, and William Adams are visitors at the library

“We get a lot of donations from the public,” Mrs Wallis said.

Committee chairman Terry Hunt puts the library’s success down to those behind the scenes.

“It’s doing fantastically well because of the volunteers and the environment we’ve created,” he said.

Mr Hunt got involved when he heard it was in danger of closure. He remembered visiting the library as a youngster.

The knitting group which meets at the library

The knitting group which meets at the library

“I was brought here as a child, and I brought my kids here,” he said.

“When I heard it was closing, I jumped on board. It’s too much of an asset to lose.”

That multi-generational aspect is a feature of the suburb too, library volunteer Jayne Drew said.

The Thornbridge Drive resident said many of the relatives of people who moved on to the brand new estate in the 1940s were still there.

Their children and grandchildren are still in the area.

“A lot of people have stayed in Frecheville,” Mrs Drew said.

It makes for a community atmosphere which is often lacking in modern living.

“Everybody knows everybody else,” Mrs Drew said. “And they’re all connected in some way.”

The suburb also has a sense of anonymity as people from outside the area often don’t know where it is.

“When you say you live in Frecheville, people don’t know where you live,” Mrs Drew said.

The library is often a converging point for the area’s postmen and women, because it has one of the few toilets available on their routes.

If there’s time, they’ll stick around.

“You’ll often have four postmen in for a cup of tea and a chat in the kitchen,” Mrs Drew said.

A couple of pubs and a host of shops means travelling to Sheffield isn’t even necessary for supplies.

Jane Shirtcliffe, who lives on Wingfield Crescent, praised the suburb’s transport links.

She said the almost six-mile journey to Sheffield was made easier by the public transport.

“There are good bus routes,” Mrs Shirtcliffe said.

Another location in the suburb which is a hive of activity is Frecheville pond.

It’s there, or not too far away, where you’ll find members of the Frecheville Walking for Health Group pounding the pavements in the name of friendship.

One of a handful of groups across Sheffield, the Frecheville contingent meets every Thursday at the Community Centre on Churchdale Road.

The walk is followed by a cup of a tea.

Those involved say the walking is a tremendous social activity.

Keith Hatcher enjoys catching up with the group every week. He lost his wife Lilian 11 years ago.

“I do it for the exercise and the social side,” he said.

Darren Bailey has lived in the suburb for 46 years and wouldn’t consider moving anywhere else in Sheffield.

“I have lived here since I was four and it has always been the same,” he said.

The 50-year-old said Frecheville wasn’t as well-known as it should be.

Good schools and ‘very little trouble’ make Frecheville an ideal suburb, Mr Bailey said.

He is often found walking his mother’s dog, Bella, around the pond.

“It’s like a communal get-together here,” he said.

Rachael Adams agreed. “When you go to the pond, everyone says hello,” the Silkstone Drive resident said.