Sheffield history: When work, school and play was all within walking distance

It is often said, by me and many others, that the world is ever shrinking – clearly not in size, but in terms of connectivity. The advent of the internet in the 90s created a multitude of services, making the world seem even smaller.

By Errol Edwards
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 12:35 pm

Social media has come a long way since Myspace and dial-up modems.

Numerous tasks we had to do face to face, or by letter, can now be done via a range of internet platforms.

We can order millions of different items, and carry out any number of tasks ‘online’.

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Petre Street, Sheffield, from the junction with Maxwell Street. Photo courtesy of Picture Sheffield

Many love the fact they can have perfect duvet days ordering any kind of food and drink from the comfort of their bed, and have it be delivered right to the door within an hour.

The days of walking up or down the road to a phone box, to make a phone call, doesn’t seem that long ago. My mom says in the sixties and seventies, when she wanted to communicate with family in Jamaica or Canada, she would have to write a letter which could take up to six weeks to reach its far away destination.

On the rare occasion there would be a phone call, but before that a telegram would be used.

Now my mom can talk to her brothers, sisters or her daughter in real time face to face, even though they live on the other side of the world.

The Methodist church on Petre Street in Sheffield, built in 1867 and demolished in 1980. Photo courtesy of Picture Sheffield

When I was a six year old living in Ellesmere, my world seemed pretty small too, inside the realms of where I was allowed to go.

When I think back, I did live in a small world, rarely leaving my invisible parameters. It was enough for me.

I lived on Petre Street. Everything I needed was well within walking distance. It was the same for everyone else, including work – the word commute was rarely used, most could easily walk or take a short bus ride to work.

There were nearly as many corner shops as there were corners.

I would run to my school, less than 100 metres away. No bus or car was required. Children merrily walked with brothers and sisters or on their own, nothing unusual in that.

When I moved on to middle school, again well within walking distance, multitudes of children would walk, skip and run to school without a car, bus or parent in sight.

Everything, it would seem, was within easy walking distance.

Even my first after-school club, the Cub Scouts, was a short walk on to Grimesthorpe Road.

Later I was given the chance to join the Boys Brigade. This was an even shorter walk to the methodist church on the junction of Petre Street and Sutherland Road, and as before there was no need for a bus ride or a lift from parents – which was lucky, as like so many we didn’t have a car!

At the same time I was able to join a marching band called Sheffield Corps of Drums, again this was on the doorstep. In fact, this was in my old school just around the corner.

Now in this modern shrunken world, everything has to be a lift or bus journey away. No wonder I thought going to Millhouses Park was akin to going to the seaside!