While many people perceive Sheffield’s biggest council estate to be a hotbed of unemployment, teenage mothers and anti-social behaviour, to those who live and work there it’s a homely haven - as Rachael Clegg discovers.
LIANNE McNally is saving up to buy her dream home. It’s not in south west Sheffield. It’s not a new build or a Victorian villa.
It’s in the heart of the Manor, the estate which, over the past 30 years, has suffered bad publicity on a national scale.
But that doesn’t bother Lianne.
“I live on what they called the ‘Middle Manor’ – people split the Manor up into ‘Lower Manor’, ‘Upper Manor’ and ‘Manor Park’,” she says.
“And I love my house – it’s one of the old Manor Park houses, so it’s really big with three bedrooms and, though the inside isn’t too great, that doesn’t bother me because I can do that up.”
Lianne lives on the Manor with her two children - four year-old Kien and two-year-old Kyla - and works at the Manor Community Childcare Centre as a nursery nurse. Her street, Archdale Road, is a mixed bag of characters.
“There are some pensioners, a man who works with a white van, and people like me. Though I do keep myself to myself.”
Lianne’s mum also lives on the Manor. “It’s nice because the kids are near their family and it’s nice knowing she’s so near, she cares for them and sees them a lot.”
Throughout the 10 years she’s been on the estate, Lianne has received many derogatory comments about the area when she tells people where she lives.
“People have said things to me about it being rough but I always tell them it’s not as bad as they think. But I suppose it’s what you know and what you’re used to. I don’t think I’d ever move from the Manor.”
Dot Slingsby is another Manor devotee and something of a local star. Dot has lived in the same house on Manor Park since 1951.
In that house she has raised her three children, the eldest of whom is now 66, experienced the economic hardship of the 1980s and now, the gradual revival of her local area – much of which Dot can take credit for.
Today, though it’s an area very different to the Manor Park she knew as a young mother, Dot is still happy to live on the Manor.
And, though she’s now 91, Dot still helps with the local youth group, helps run luncheon clubs, part-runs the Manor Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, and sits in on the Manor Assembly meetings.
“As long as I keep my brain working I’ll be alright,” she says.
She’s still making a difference in the community and her work has been marked by a tree that’s been christened ‘Dot Slingsby’ in honour of her community spirit.
Several trees were planted by Pennine Housing, which now oversees the maintenance of the Manor Park and has built three parks in the area for residents to use. The fruit tree park, where ‘Dot Slingsby’ is growing, is one of them. One area where she’s had the most impact is young people.
“There was one lad, about 19, and the volunteers were trying to get him to get a job,” she says.
“He came chatting to me while I was making teas and coffees at the church once, and was asking me about life, so I told him you don’t get anywhere if you don’t work hard.” Her frank conversation did the job.
“Next thing I knew one of the ladies from the group came and said to me, ‘He’s got a job’.”
Before retiring from her paid work, Dot was a cleaner. “I did a lot of cleaning for people we’d call ‘jumped up nowts’ – people who had a bit of money and thought they were something special. But I also did a lot of work for a family in Ringinglow and they were lovely – they treated me so well.”
Dot’s children have gone on to become successful people with families and jobs – her son races cars and engineers for Mercedes.
And, despite her age, Dot doesn’t find the Manor an intimidating pace to live.
“My son says to me, ‘Be careful when you’re leaving these meetings when you’re on your own’, but I think you’re okay if you just walk past the gangs and if they are in the way you just say, ‘Excuse me, can I get past please?’. I start off softly-softly - but if trouble persists I’ll show ’em who can fight.”
The steely community spirit that defined the Manor of the 1920s and 1930s still exists today, though now it’s in the guise of community groups and neighbourhood organisations.
And there is a group for almost everything. There is the Man’r Men group for over 50s, the Community Cafe at Victoria Methodist Church, the Black Men’s Group, Boxercise and Kick Courses and the Signpost youth group, which is based at The Steel Inn and now attracts more than 120 young people.
There are community groups focusing on improving the area and the lives of its residents, the East Community Assembly which covers the Manor Castle area and Manor and meets every month to discuss areas requiring attention and development.
And then there’s the Manor Resource and Training Centre, which helps residents retrain to improve their employability.
The Manor also has a high proportion of elderly residents, for whom there are a range of societies, including luncheon clubs at William Temple Church, St Swithins and a luncheon club at the Trades and Labour Club.
Brian Spychala, 61, helps to run all the luncheon clubs on the Manor. He has lived on the estate all his life, as has his family.
“The Manor’s like anywhere - you have areas that are good and some that aren’t so good,” he says. “But as a kid I remember everybody knowing everybody.”
And it’s still like that today.
Brian’s mother died 18 months ago and since then he has been actively involved in supporting the various church groups.
“I started going to church groups, which is where I met my partner. I help with the luncheon clubs, bingo groups and drive the minibus – I’m a very busy man,” he laughs.