Sheffield artist who captured destruction of Blitz on canvas turns 100

A celebrated Sheffield artist who played a crucial role in the Second World War, sending messages to the codebreakers at Bletchley Park, has turned 100.

Monday, 28th June 2021, 8:32 am
Updated Monday, 28th June 2021, 5:12 pm

Joyce Spurr, whose works, many of which chronicle the city’s history, are part of the Museums Sheffield collection, celebrated reaching the milestone on Thursday, June 24.

Joyce, who is a lifelong Sheffielder, having spent most of her years living in Broomhall before moving to Fulwood, was deputy head of Sheffield’s libraries and later head of information services for a leading steelmaking group.

She was on duty at the library during the Sheffield Blitz and later painted a picture of a burning tram on The Moor, capturing the devastation wreaked by the bombing raids.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sheffield artist Joyce Spurr presenting her painting of Enid Hattersley to Museums Sheffield curator Clara Morgan

Her friend Rita Fletcher described her as a ‘true Sheffield woman of steel’.

Joyce served with the British Army in Egypt for four years during the Second World War, working as a wireless operator sending messages to Bletchley Park, where a secret team of codebreakers were working to decipher information sent by the Nazis.

She was deputy head of Sheffield City Libraries, Commerce, Science and Technology Department and in 1958 became head of information services at the United Steel Companies Research and Development Department.

Sheffield artist Joyce Spurr in the 1960s

Her most notable artworks include a number of industrial scenes from around the city and a portrait of the former Sheffield lord mayor Enid Hattersley, which she presented to Museums Sheffield in 2018.

When she gave up her home to move into supported accommodation, she gave permission for the collection of her own artwork, comprising almost 450 pieces, to be sold to raise money for art students to travel to exhibitions.

Sheffield Hallam University’s art department was delighted to established the Joyce Spurr Travel Bursary for its art students to enable them to travel to see art galleries in London, Glasgow and elsewhere that they would not otherwise have been able to visit.

Joyce Spurr's painting of a tram on fire during the Sheffield Blitz

The university art department used one of Joyce’s beautiful winter scene’s as their office Christmas card in 2019.

Rita told how Joyce had received many greetings on her birthday from friends and residents in her former community, work colleagues and the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Gail Smith – not forgetting from the Queen.

This winter scene, painted by Joyce Spurr, was used by Sheffield Hallam University's arts department as its Christmas card