Sheffield’s new heritage trail looks back to dark days of Blitz
I often wonder what my grandmother would think of her inadvertent legacy.
She wasn’t one to dwell on the past, so it came as quite a surprise, following her death in 2009, to unearth a memoir that remembered life in the city in World War Two.
It was those memories that set off an amazing chain of events that culminated in the unveiling of the Sheffield Blitz Trail.
It wasn’t until I started researching the bombings that I began to understand the true extent of the death and destruction of the Luftwaffe attacks that took place on December 12 and 15 1940: nearly a tenth of the city’s population made homeless, over two thousand killed or wounded, hardly a suburb left unscathed.
Everything I’d ever read about the attacks pointed to Hitler wanting to wipe out the city’s East End – hub of armaments production. But if that was the case, why on earth were suburbs like Dore, Totley, Millhouses and Gleadless being attacked?
When I was researching my ‘Sheffield’s Date With Hitler’ book, I found some German bombing maps of Sheffield. Though the factories were marked down as targets, they were marked as secondary targets. Was it more of a terror raid?
Interest in my book took me by surprise – with the BBC even turning it into a documentary: ‘Sheffield – The Forgotten Blitz.’ By that time I’d already decided there should be more to remember the attacks and started a campaign to change the situation.
I’m indebted to Richard Godley and Bill Bevan, who helped secure £81,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding and the fantastic backing of The Star and its readers.
We now have the first permanent exhibition to the Sheffield Blitz, a brand new book and the Sheffield Blitz Trail and more.
1) Atkinsons, The Moor.
The only independent department store left in Sheffield city centre that survived the Blitz. It’s original building was flattened – the present one was opened in 1960. Find out more information on the interpretation plaque that’s
sited on the first floor of the store.
2) Bramall Lane football ground.
The ground and stand suffered significant damage. Look for the interpretation plaque that’s sited outside the Legends of the Lane museum.
3) The Moor.
Scores of families were packed into the Central Picture House on the first night of the Sheffield Blitz watching Shirley Temple in Bluebird.
Kids remember sheltering under billiard table downstairs; they eventually had to leave because of the ferocity of the bombing. Many describe it as ‘the holocaust on Moor’. Redgates, Robert Brothers and many more retail
institutions were hit.
4) Devonshire Green.
A whole community was wiped out on the site where Devonshire Green stands today. A make-shift mortuary was erected – bodies from the Marples Hotel were brought here. Check out the interpretation plaque on the side
of the Forum for more information.
5) Weston Park Museum.
Most artefacts were stored in metal bins under the museum to keep them safe.
A fireball tore down one of the corridors and part of the Victorian art gallery was destroyed.
6) Central Fire Station, Division Street.
This building was at the heart of the firefighting mission to save the city and its people.
7) Sheffield City Hall.
One of the few places you can still see shrapnel damage across the front of the pillars. Read more on the interpretation plaque inside the building.
8) Central Library.
Hub of the relief effort. Thousands of people gathered here for info about rehoming, food, lost relatives, lost power and more.
9) High Street area.
Direct hit to C&A Modes and Walsh’s department stores. Iconic scene of burnt out trams became synonymous with the attacks.
10) Marples Hotel site, Fitzalan Square.
Scene of the single biggest loss of life. Bodies are still buried underneath.
An interpretation plaque will be unveiled in the adjacent former Head Post Office – now the Sheffield Hallam University Institute of the Arts - early in 2020.
11) The Old Town Hall
An essential and secret part of the city’s wartime role.
It survived – but only just. Take a few minutes to walk along the Wicker to the Wicker Arches – you can still see the damage under the left hand arch where a bomb came through.
12) Snig Hill
Firefighters fought tirelessly to contain fires that burnt amongst the old buildings of the area.
13) Sheffield Blitz Exhibition at the National Emergency Services Museum on nearby Shalesmoor.
Explore the artefacts, hear the stores and experience the sounds and smells of the Blitz.
Download the free Sheffield Blitz app on the AppStore or GooglePlay for loads more information.
More information on the new ‘Countdown To The Sheffield Blitz’ book available from Atkinsons or the National Emergency Services