Boxing Day Retro: Fascinating flashbacks

All change: Fitzalan Square back in the days when it looked nice.
All change: Fitzalan Square back in the days when it looked nice.
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SHEFFIELD Cathedral may be big - but it could have been twice the size, writes Colin Drury.

It could, in fact, have had two spires, a massive nave stretching to Church Street and a completely new north side.

That’s if World War Two hadn’t got in the way. The massively ambitious plans (seen below) were delayed during the conflict then scaled back in a post-war austerity age.

But these artist’s impressions, exhibited for the first time in July, show just how magnificent it could have been.

Still, it would have meant building on the forecourt - and where, then, would those Occupy clowns go?

* IT’S not only 21st century newspapers which court controversy

The Sheffield Iris was ruffling feathers as far back as the 18th century.

Indeed, editor James Montgomery perhaps ruffled them too much. He was jailed in 1796 for daring to criticise soldiers who killed two unarmed protesters during a workers march.

Montgomery’s opinion piece was popular with readers but not with magistrates who locked him up for six months.

Today, as a Local Studies Library talk pointed out in August, the editor has a statue in the grounds of Sheffield Cathedral. Those magistrates don’t.

* SHEFFIELD University professors made thousands of Molotov cocktails in case of invasion during World War Two

This and other nuggets were revealed in Sheffield At War, perhaps the most comprehensive work on the city’s experience of the conflict.

Other titbits include how Hallamshire Battalion soldiers nicknamed a French ridge Snig Hill and the fact the Sheffield Twist Drill and Steel Company was considered so strategically important by the Nazis it was marked as a high priority occupation target.

The 1948 book was placed online by amateur historian Ted Mullins in August.

“It’s important these things aren’t forgotten,” he said. Quite right.

* THERE was almost a monorail in Sheffield

And August would have been its 30th anniversary.

Its advocates - including the British Government - said it would be a transport system from the future, gliding noiselessly on five-metre stilts, whizzing 10,000 commuters an hour along a two mile stretch of electrified tracks.

Its critics said it would be a £10 million monstrosity. They won the day.

* FITZALAN Square was once nice. Perhaps even harder for younger people to believe than the idea that a monorail was ever seriously considered - but here’s the photographic proof, above.

This was just one of several stunning pictures of old Sheffield which made up Geoffrey Howse’s stunning Sheffield Then & Now book.

The tome, released in October, also showed a Steel City still home to old-school trams, a corn exchange and a Cole Brothers store at Cole’s Corner. Nostalgia at its best.

* ART imitated life a little too closely at Sheffield’s grandest 19th century theatre.

The Surrey, in West Bar, was the finest theatre outside of London - a towering monument to opulence complete with underground museum, upper ballroom and marble statues.

A shame, then, that in 1865, just 14 years after it opened, it burned to the ground.

The cause? A play which reproduced the Great Fire of London - complete with real on stage blaze - went wrong. After a performance on March 25, crews failed to damp the theatre down and the flames resparked.

Within two hours the largely wooden building was little more the smouldering embers. Where, Retro wondered in November, were the health and safety inspectors?

* SHEFFIELD United won the only FA Cup played during a world war.

Also known as the Khaki Cup Final, this match saw the Blades (pictured left) beat Chelsea 3-0 on April 24, 1915.

The victory was somewhat overshadowed, however, by events across the Channel - the same day thousands of British soldiers died during World War One’s first gas attack.

“The contrast was shocking,” said Blades historian Matthew Bell who released his book Red, White And Khaki this month.

That season remains the only one in which English professional football continued while the world war raged.