Retro: Sheffield’s mini Park Hill flats

Aerial view of Kelvin Flats, Sheffield - 3rd August 1994
Aerial view of Kelvin Flats, Sheffield - 3rd August 1994
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Some of Sheffield’s famous ‘streets in the sky’ are the subject of this Retro A to Z of Sheffield and surrounding areas.

Kelvin Flats were built in 1967 to replace back-to-back terraced houses in the area that were being demolished as part of slum clearance.

One former resident of the area who had family and friends that moved into Kelvin told an oral history project what he remembered the old houses were like.

He said: “The state of the houses weren’t good, to be honest.

“They took a severe bashing from the gales in ’61, for one instance and there was quite a few back-to-back houses which really, for a family, they weren’t suitable.

“Obviously, there were all outside toilets and there were some that even had to share an outside toilet.

“ The back-to-backs were only one-up, one-down.”

Walkley Action Group was created to call for the houses to be redeveloped and saved wherever possible, rather than replacement by flats.

Families were concerned that entire streets that had lived together for generations would be split up.

Kelvin Flats were designed to be like a mini Park Hill, that had opened in 1961.

They had the same ‘deck access’ feature – open corridors in front of the flats dubbed ‘streets in the sky’.

Musician Peter Jones wrote a colourful memoir about living on Kelvin from 1989 to 1992 (http://www.freewebs.com/lifeonkelvinflats/KELVIN%20PDF.pdf).

Peter talked of knowing you could buy a single teabag for 2p or a cigarette for 12p from Betty’s shop, not paying rent and the council not getting too worried and getting free EEC butter and meat.

Stories of free trips abroad in the national press added to the notoriety of the estate.

Peter wrote that regeneration money funded all sorts of activities: “It was as if everyone outside Kelvin was singing, in the words of Band Aid, “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of yoooo,” and pouring the contents of their purses and wallets into a collection tray marked ‘new colour TV for the tenants of Kelvin flats’.”

He turned his bedroom into a recording studio, courtesy of a £250 grant from the Prince’s Trust.

The last post on a trumpet heralded the end of Kelvin Flats in March 1995.

Musician Marian Day was among dozens of local residents who watched the demolition start. She said: “I will be glad when they are gone – they were nothing but a waste of money.”