Mystery of old photo album found abandoned in Sheffield beauty spot Birley Spa

Volunteers at Birley Spa in Sheffield have discovered some interesting pictures in an abandoned photo album.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 9:49 am

Fiona Milne from the Friends of Birley Spa said that volunteers were having a clear-up session when volunteer Richard Teasdale, who is also a member of Sheffield Litter Pickers, showed her the album he had just found. It was soaking wet and had obviously been outside for a while.

She took it home to see if she could salvage any of the pictures but most of the album disintegrated and had to be thrown away.

“I don’t know how long it’s been there but the cover was literally falling apart,” said Fiona. “There were about six pages, some with single shots on page, that I could save and the rest was thrown in the bin.”

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Children at what appears to be a coronation celebration party
Children at what appears to be a coronation celebration party

She added: “It just feels such a shame. How did it end up in the woods at Birley Spa?”

Fiona said the children at a party in one photograph are wearing hats with little crowns on and wonders if it was coronation celebration.

Another, showing children gathered in a concert hall or theatre, has a Telegraph and Star stamp on the back.

Others show a group of men in uniform and a man walking with a little boy.

This picture of a man and boy walking was found in an old photograph album in the grounds of Birley Spa

There are also mini postcards of London landmarks and some photographs of children that have been cut out and surrounded by photographs and decorative motifs.

Fiona said: “They just fascinated me. It’s such a shame I can’t link them with Birley Spa in any shape or form but none show this area.”

She said that the Friends group are still waiting for the council to decide on the future for the site. “We hope there’s been a shift and things are going to happen,” she said. “Until we have a proper meeting it’s guesswork.

This picture comes from a photo album found in Birley Spa woods and has a Telegraph and Star stamp on the back

“Coun Alison Teal has been down, who is the council cabinet member for Sustainable Neighbourhoods, Well-being, Parks and Leisure. She loves the site and totally understands our frustration that the grounds and building are split between two departments because they are a whole. What happens to the building affects the grounds.”

The group are meeting new city council chief executive Kate Josephs in August to talk about the future of the Victorian bathhouse, built as a spa hotel, and grounds.

They want to see its restoration and use as a community resource rather than have it sold to developers.

Fiona said: “Prior to the pandemic we found out about how Birley Spa could be so valuable for mental health and wellbeing and now people are saying it to us."

This picture of men in uniform is another from the abandoned Birley Spa photo album

They find more and more people enjoy being in the natural surroundings to help with their mental health during lockdown.

"It has potential to be a community hub. It was a community centre before. We want it to be a centre for the communioty. not a community centre. I do see them as different things,” said Fiona.

“There’s an area upstairs that could be used for a supportive business venutre such as a yoga studio.

“Failing that, there’s the potential for all sorts of well-being. The Workers Educational Association have expressed interest in using the building before.

“If the building is functioning with toilets and a cafe, the scope for it goes on and on.”