Students' interest in 'mysterious' gennels of Sheffield becomes a hit on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Sheffield has some fantastic words and phrases – such as the very descriptive roaring for crying and bein g overfaced when you’ve eaten too much.
The word gennel is also fascinating – it’s probably a corruption of the word channel. Other places favour ginnel as their word for narrow passageways.
Katie Brear likes a good gennel so much that she started recording them on her Gennels of Sheffield Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
She’s even bringing out a charity calendar of her favourites.
Katie, a city-born University of Sheffield English language and literature student who lives in Woodseats, said: “During Covid, as many people did, I started to walk locally.
“I was coming across gennels more on walks. There’s something mysterious about a gennel and exploring to go down it and see what’s at the other end and what it connects to.
“Me and my boyfriend decided to explore some, literally around the corner from where I live, that I’ve never been down or didn’t know they were there.
“Then I had the idea of putting pictures on Instagram and when I did eventually people really enjoyed it.”
Katie thinks our fascination with gennels stems from local pride: “Like Henderson’s Relish, we like to own our things and are proud of our things in Sheffield and our language."
Gennel or jennel?
Speaking of language, there's the question of spelling. Should it be gennel or jennel?
Katie said: “As a child growing up, you say it all the time but you don’t really know how to spell it. There are people who still spell it with a j but I don’t. It is interesting and also interesting what people call gennels in other parts of the country.
"The most interesting I heard was twittens.”
So which are the best ones? “My favourite is one we just found. I was out walking with my boyfriend and his dog. We saw this bush and said is that a gennel behind or is it leading to someone’s back garden?
“It was really overgrown and we had to wade through. It was quite long and half was cobbled and the other half was like mud. I have no idea why it was half and half. It’s near Brincliffe Edge woods.”
Another favourite is Sheaf Walk in Heeley. It starts as a passage down the side of the Sheaf View that goes beside and then over the river, before heading through a tunnel that ends near Queens Road.
Katie said: “I’m fond of the graffiti in there - it brings the gennel to life. I never thought that about graffiti before.”
She loves Frog Walk in Sharrow, which features ornate old lampposts that used to run on sewer gas and leads to the General Cemetery. Katie finds it eerie.
Other people share their pictures and stories of gennels on Katie’s social media accounts. Eventually she wants to find gennels in every city postcode.
Katie decided to go ahead with a Gennels of Sheffield calendar after asking her social media followers and it’s now in production. If she makes a profit, half will go to a charity, but hasn’t yet decided which one.
The calendars cost £10 and you can buy them from Katie direct or from The Social gallery, kitchen and bar on Snig Hill.