The blitz monument

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I wish your campaign for a “Sheffield Blitz Trail” every success and look forward to its completion.

Of course, we already have a monument to the courage of Sheffield people in rebuilding after the disaster of war: The Moor itself.

This street suffered some of the greatest damage from enemy action, but it was totally rebuilt, wider and with grand new Portland stone buildings. At the time, their wide internal spaces, huge plate-glass windows and colourful shop-fronts contrasting with the bright, white stone would have been symbols of hope and rebirth, and an antidote to rationing and austerity.

The best of these was Rockingham House, home to the Roberts Brothers department store. Founded in 1896 by two sons of John Roberts (of T & J Roberts, another department store at Moorhead), it had only traded a few years on the site when the building collapsed during alterations. They rebuilt and expanded, with a new store completed in 1936, only to be blitzed in 1940. Like many Sheffield businesses, they soon bounced back, using their family rivals’ premises at Moorhead. They began reconstruction, but to add insult to injury, they were fined in 1941 for exceeding the wartime construction limit of £500! Building their new store was hampered when old coal workings were uncovered (the workmen were allowed to take the coal home), but in 1955 it opened with a 14-day “Festival of Shopping”. With its floating canopy, suspended staircase, barless glazing, pegboard displays, and fluorescent lighting (the better to show off such styles as “cocktail dresses in the new untarnishable metallic material, and angora sequin-trimmed berets”) it must have seemed the last word in “modern”.

Now it is all gone. The new owners of The Moor are no respecters of heritage, but they should have the datestone “1896 RB 1954” in storage, as a planning condition requires it to be displayed on the new building.

I hope that one of your plaques is reserved for this site, with its inspiring story of determination against the odds.

J Robin Hughes

Towngate Road, Worrall, Sheffield, S35 0AR