RETRO: Ancient township that became mini Steel City

View of Broughton Lane, Attercliffe - 24th February 1973
View of Broughton Lane, Attercliffe - 24th February 1973
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This week we start a Midweek Retro meander through the suburbs of 
Sheffield, with occasional wanderings into the rest of South Yorkshire.

This is a loosely alphabetical series which will present some of the photographs of old Sheffield that lurk in the photographic files of The Star’s library archives, ferreted out by my colleague Jane Salt.

We’re starting with Attercliffe, which was listed in the Domesday Book as Ateclive, when it was a township that grew around a manor.

It later became known as Attercliffe-cum-Darnall and for many years Attercliffe Hall was the home of the Spencer family, according to famous Sheffield antiquarian Joseph Hunter, after whom the city’s Hunter Archaeological Society is named.

His 1819 book, Hallamshire: The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield, records that 2,673 people lived in Attercliffe-cum-Darnall in 1811 .

Hunter wrote: “Some are employed in agriculture but many more in different departments of iron manufacture.

“A considerable work called the blast furnace, for smelting and casting iron, is on the the banks of the Don and in that part of the township which is nearest to Sheffield.

“The spacious chimney of the principal furnace emits a perpetual flame, affording light to the belated traveller on many of the roads around it.

“There has been much digging for coal on what was lately known as Attercliffe Common, between the villages of Attercliffe and Carbrook.”

In later years Attercliffe would of course become one of the important industrial centres of Sheffield.

The population expanded rapidly as the major steel and engineering works opened up.

Many of the city’s Kashmiri and Yemeni families settled in the area when men took jobs in the steelworks.

The area still has a diverse multicultural population today.

Former pub landlady Joan Lee has written a fascinating and entertaining book, 
Behind Bars, about her time living and working in the area.

Originally from Handsworth, she defied her 
teetotal, chapel-going family to marry into one involved in the pub trade.

She describes the area in the book: “Attercliffe is a town on its own (or was in the ’50s and 60s.)

“The shops were all there. You didn’t have to go into Sheffield. Woolworths, Littlewoods, Boots, Days & Kinds, Lipton’s, Timpson’s, you mention one they were all there.

“John Banners was the kingpin of shops. A walk around that store was as fulfilling as any department store anywhere.”

Joan, who ran the Dog and Partridge pub with her husband Fred from 1954, recalls putting on acts including singer Tony White, who used to ‘borrow’ his stage outfits from work at Burgess’s gents’ outfitters opposite the pub after the boss had gone home.

She also remembers visiting the Palace of Varieties in Attercliffe with her son Michael on her nights off to watch acts like a singer who sat in a tin bath surrounded by her band.

Most of the vibrant life of the area disappeared along with the steelworks and what is left now is a sad reminder of those days.

Attercliffe now has a reputation as a home for some of the seedier types of entertainment establishment – including the Dog and Partridge, which became Goodfellas ‘gentleman’s club’ about 10 years ago.

Joan’s self-published book is on sale online at £4.99 and can also be ordered from The Star shop on York Street.