Sheffield history: Memories of evenings spent in bustling Flat Street, Pond Street and the Hole in the Road

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Standing in a cold field watching a large bonfire at the Norfolk Arms really enforced the feeling that winter is coming. It reminded me of my winter months in the 70s as a teenager – short days, long nights and cold weather curtailed a lot of outdoor activities for me, such as football, cricket and delavio.

For a princely sum of two pence we could travel the length and breadth of our city, this was great in the summer when we could see out the windows, not so much in the winter evenings when visibility was poor - what to do, during those cold dark nights?

I always considered myself lucky to have grown up in an era where there were ample youth clubs to socialise, make friends, laugh and keep out of trouble.

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My default youth club was Ellesmere situated in the Pitsmoor area of Sheffield where we played numerous games from chess to football, plus many more.

Pond Street by night in October 1979Pond Street by night in October 1979
Pond Street by night in October 1979

There were organised trips to places like Skegness and Blackpool and we even stayed over at Thornbridge Hall.

But away from youth clubs what did we do in the winter months?

In the 70s when Sheffield had a public transport system to be proud of – a system we could really get about for minimal cost – we'd jump on a bus and go into the city centre. An obvious destination was Castle Square roundabout – the Hole in the Road.

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Although remembered as a popular meeting place for many, during cold winter months it wasn’t always such a busy, vibrant place.

The Friery fish and chip shop,Flat Street,attack storyRobre
The Friery fish and chip shop,Flat Street,attack story
Robre The Friery fish and chip shop,Flat Street,attack story

We went into town around 6pm. All the large department stores would be closed by then and there would be a lull between these closing and the night time economy starting, with only a couple of tobacconist newsagents open.

It was quite quiet. After a quick visit to the fish tank we would quickly become bored with the Hole in the Road.

We would head down Flat Street which was also a busy part of town, and Pond Street – a busy terminus for city centre buses.

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This would also be a hive of activity with many comings and goings, with pubs, a cinema, a chippy, and the Showboat amusement arcade.

A short walk from the Hole in the road, we would amble down there, maybe buy some chips if we were lucky to have enough money. Walking across the pedestrian bridge towards Sheaf Valley baths we’d peer at the people splashing about and enjoying themselves.

A favourite place for me to spend cold and miserable evenings would be the Central Library. This introduced me to the use, and usefulness of libraries beyond just books.

This place even had the gallery on the top floor with exhibitions on a regular basis. It was a wonderful place to spend time, and learn numerous things in a clean warm environment.

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The Local Studies section was a particular favourite of mine with knowledgeable staff, happy to help a kid who’d just wandered in off the street.

Finding out about Sheffield past and present, it was a place to view wonderful pictures of Sheffield well before the internet was ever dreamed of.

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