A bus ride through Attercliffe's rich history

As an industrial suburb in the northeast of Sheffield, Attercliffe has long been something of a thoroughfare – an area most people navigate by car without, perhaps, taking much notice.

Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 10:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 17:26 pm
Take a tour of Attercliffe with local historian Mike Higginbottom

But thanks to historian Mike Higginbottom, visitors young and old have started to appreciate its rich heritage.

It all began when the former English teacher conducted his popular Walks Round Attercliffe as part of the annual Heritage Open Days festival, after which he decided to find a more appealing way of leading tours to show people more of the valley's rich history.

This time around Mike, who grew up in the suburb, is hosting bus rides round Attercliffe which are in big demand.

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The first two trips this Spring both sold out, he said, and he is now taking bookings for a follow-up on September 29, which is already almost full.

And the star of the event is a 1954 Sheffield Corporation Leyland Titan double-decker bus that is immaculately restored and part of the South Yorkshire Transport Museum fleet.

Explaining the overwhelming interest, Mike said: "There is a whole generation of Sheffield people, aged 60 and above, who grew up in Attercliffe when it was still a thriving working-class community based on the huge steelworks.

"Their children and grandchildren are often fascinated by how different the area was up to 1970s."

He said the most important way of preserving the history of the Lower Don Valley is footfall, as it brings in more people to appreciate how important Attercliffe is to Sheffield's social and industrial heritage.

"The local community is beginning to capitalise on the surviving historic buildings. A particularly good example is the Attercliffe Library, now a restaurant with a growing reputation for events as well as good food.”

Many have also taken extra steps to preserve the rich history. The Friends of Zion Graveyard have transformed the cemetery – where abolitionist Mary Anne Rawson is buried – a neglected wilderness into a wildlife reserve.

And these are some of the examples the bus rides aim to show the people as they explore the sites in Attercliffe, Brightside, Carbrook and Darnall dating from the 17th century to the 21st.

"The top-deck view with a commentary shows how much has changed and helps people to understand what has gone," he said.

The half-day tour, which costs £18 per person, will depart from the Penny Black pub on Pond Hill next to Sheffield Interchange at 2pm and will return at 5pm.

Visit www.mikehigginbottominterestingtimes.co.uk for booking details – alternatively call 01142420951 or 07946650672.

ALL ABOUT ATTERCLIFFE: FACTS AND LANDMARKS

An entry in the Domesday Book – Ateclive, meaning 'at the cliffe', an escarpment beside the River Don – is the earliest reference to Attercliffe, where makers of knives and tools based themselves at the dawn of the 19th century.

The Lower Don Valley was the powerhouse of Sheffield's heavy steel trade and Attercliffe was where its workers lived.

The arrival of the canal made industry, and the city, easier to develop. The railway, which arrived a mile away in 1839, is where all the heavy steel and armaments came from.

On the gable of the closed Britannia pub the date 1772 is written in black letters; legend has it the numbers were cast by steelmaker Benjamin Huntsman, whose forge was next door.

The old Wesleyan Reform Church, a once-derelict building, is now the Jamiyat Tableegh ul Islam Mosque. Foundation stones in the wall dating from 1890 feature the names of Sir Frederick Mappin, the Master Cutler, mayor and MP, and Jethro and Samson Chambers who owned the Effingham Mills – these were top industrialists whose endeavours helped the area to thrive.

After the war Attercliffe still had the air of a town centre – it was able to support two Burtons' tailors, a Littlewoods, a Woolworths, four cinemas and a theatre, now all gone.

The former Banner's department store stands on Shortridge Street, with an impressively ornate Selfridges-type facade. Now used as a business centre, the building had the distinction of harbouring the first escalators in Sheffield, an arcade and lifts which survive.

The Don Valley Stadium site, where the Brown Bayley factory once produced steel and became a target for Nazi bombs during the Blitz, is becoming the Olympic Legacy Park and the Oasis Academy school is up and running.

The last route of the old-style Sheffield Tramway ended in Attercliffe in 1960.

The Attercliffe Liberal Club, founded in 1882 and opened by Liberal MP A.J. Mundella, is still in business.

The Adelphi – disused since 2006 and one of Sheffield's two Grade II listed cinemas along with the Abbeydale Picture House – is tucked away on Vicarage Road.

Under 1960s planning policy, the whole of Sheffield's east end was designated for industry rather than housing, an idea that backfired when steel went into decline.