Look back at an idyllic Sheffield Park Hill childhood with photographer Mick

A new book of photographs form an intimate portrait of life on Park Hill in the 1960s from someone who grew up there.

Tuesday, 10th November 2020, 11:37 am

Mick Jones created View from the Hill from pictures he took while he was a teenage graphic design student at Sheffield College of Art in 1969 and 70.

Tutor Roger Taylor, now an emeritus professor at De Montfort University in Leicester who wrote the foreword to the book, got students taking photographs for a brief to record slum clearance.

Mick got used to carrying a camera with him when he was out and about so photographs show Park Hill, the city centre, slum clearance areas and student life.

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Lisa Andrews in her Whitsuntide best

He said he’d had the negatives for years and thought he’d never be able to get them developed until someone suggested a negative scanner.

“They came out amazing, like they’d just been developed. Most I’ve never, ever seen. I went on Facebook and put some on.

“People said they were amazing, you should write a book and do an exhibition. That never dawned on me.

“Apparently they are really, really unusual. There were not many photographers around in the 60s anyway and a lad from Park Hill, it’s from the inside looking out, not the outside looking in.”

Alan Jones, a little boy who lived on Park Hill

Eventually Mick took up an offer from local publisher Steven Kay of 1889 Books, He said he could have gone down the arty coffee table book route but wanted the pictures to be accessible.

He is also working on an exhibition of his photographs at new food and drink venue Steelyard Kelham but that’s had to be put on hold.

Mick said he hoped to get into S1 Artspace at Park Hill but they weren’t interested and Weston Park Museum were keen but have no exhibition space free until 2022.

He now lives in Grantham and is a retired financial services worker who did well for himself: “We were very poor in Park Hill but somebody smiled on me.”

Mums stopping for a chat on the Park Hill school run, late 1969

Mick has fond memories of Park Hill flats. “I can totally understand if people can’t understand the architecture and say they were a dump. They never lived on there.

“When we lived on there it was like winning the pools. I’d accept that by the 1990s they were dumps.

"It was an idyllic childhood on Park Hill. A lot of the people are still friends now. a Park Hill Flats Sheffield Facebook page has 600 members.”

Mick said: “I was born in Pitsmoor in 1951. The house was condemned as unfit for human habitation. We had a short stint on Shirecliffe in a prefab.”

Ready for a night out in Lyons Street, Burngreave

His brother Sean lives in Pitsmoor near where Mick was born and his sister Anita lives in France.

“I never went to school because I was really, really ill. At seven I was sent to an open-air school down in Woodford Green, Essex.

“In 1961 I came home to find we’d moved house. Fortunately my mum and dad told me that we’d moved on to Park Hill!

"When I went to Park Hill I was just amazed at the underfloor heating and the big windows. The floor was black tiles. Inside there was a separate toilet and you could put cans down the waste disposal in the sink!”

Mick remembers nobody had washers so they had to use a communal wash house where South Street Cafe is now. He said: “Everybody had a pram , which was to carry washing, not children.”

The entrance to the Hole in the Road from High Street

Mick added: “There were lots of play areas where we went and played. I’d got a Cockney accent by this time so everybody wanted to fight me!

“Everybody knew everybody and everybody were friends. The flats were built to mimic the outline of the back-to-back houses. You’d come out of your door and find people chatting.

“They never locked their doors except at night. People would knock on doors and neighbours would go in and out. You knew and trusted everybody.”

Mick remembers acres of grass to play on and lots of sand pits. They spent hours playing football but would get chased off the grass by the uniformed porters who looked after the estate and lived there.

“After five minutes they’d gone and we’d be back on again! It was just amazing and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

View from the Hill is on sale from 1889 Books for £15, also from Waterstones and Amazon. Website: www.1889books.co.uk.

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The bottom of Gleadless Road, Heeley, where most of the buildings have now gone