New technology bringing Sheffield suburb of old to life

Nicola Dempsey using the new history app around the streets of Walkley
Nicola Dempsey using the new history app around the streets of Walkley
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A new project celebrating the old is aiming to bring a Sheffield suburb’s history to life with photos, videos and online maps.

Local history project Walkley Ways, Walkley Wars has created an interactive digital memory map with historic pictures of the area and audio clips of interviews with residents, put together at Walkley Community Centre.

The group claim it is the first such clickable history map in Sheffield.

It lets users navigate the area, street by street, and view information and archive pictures tied geographically to each road. Users can walk around Walkley for real, using the map on a smartphone or tablet, to find out about the past in each place they pass.

Project manager Bill Bevan said: “The map is a Google map - you click on it and it brings up a map of Walkley.

“You can view photos or bring up an audio player with oral history, outlining the history of Walkley through photos and other information specific to each location.

“It has been compiled by people who lived and worked in Walkley, and from archive photos and pictures donated to the project and other research from volunteers on the project.

“You can access it on any computer anywhere – you can sit at home and experience Walkley’s history.

“Or you can access it from a smartphone or tablet while you’re in the area itself. You can walk around the area and find out something about the history of that location through the eyes and voices of Walkley people.

“We have about 40 interviews recorded and about 45 people donated photos, with about 25 volunteers on the project.

“It currently focuses on the later 20th century but we plan to extend it further back in time by adding more clickable locations over time.

“I think a lot of people have found out things about Walkley that they never could have otherwise.

“A lot of houses people live in now were designated slums and were going to be demolished, and a lot of people didn’t realise that Ruskin Park used to be a network of streets.

“I think it’s a great example of community involvement, with people being driven to do their own research and look into their own past.

“And it’s great that we can bring so much history to life.”

The map was developed in partnership with Sheffield University’s Department of Landscape.

Undergraduate student Win Phyo was involved in the creation of the map as part of a placement.

And Nicola Dempsey, aged 37, of Parsonage Crescent, Walkley, oversaw the project at the university.

She said: “Being able to hear about the area from people who have grown up or lived here is something that brings it to life.

“The photos are great, but sometimes the description can really help make it interesting.

“What I’m really interested in is everyday life. I interviewed a number of people for the project. One interview was with three people who grew up in the area.

“They told me about ‘back-nicking’, which is something they used to do as kids. They’d go into a gennel and then try to go in as many people’s gardens as possible - basically jumping over fences.

“There was a really great story where one of the kid’s friends was doing this back-nicking and fell into a coal shed and had to be stitched up by his mum.

“It’s those kind of real stories which are interesting.”