Sheffield and Tinsley canal celebrates 200 years
Hundreds gathered to mark the bicentenary of the Sheffield and Tinsley canal yesterday.
The special celebration saw a flotilla of 20 boats embark from Don Valley to Victoria Quays, replicating the opening of the canal 200 years ago.
On February 22, 1819, the first flotilla of boats arrived into Victoria Quays to thunderous applause from 60,000 Sheffield residents who gathered to watch the arriving boats.
This special birthday, shared with the Endcliffe park flypast, saw people from across South Yorkshire gather to cheer on the boats as they made their way into the city centre.
Activities included book sessions, a light projection of archive images, live music, a fire dancer and a silent disco.
Eight-year-old Sebastian Harrison was chosen to open the bridge with the help of Canal and River Trust lock volunteer Brian Orwin.
The young man’s granddad, Phil, worked as the lead skipper on the Ethel Barge, which provides boating trips for disadvantaged young people.
Sebastian said: “It’s been a really fun day and the best bit was using the windlass. I’ve really enjoyed it”.
Brian is passionate about seeing more people visit the lock on a regular basis.
He said: “Even today people don’t realise there’s a canal in Sheffield. You drive past it and never see it, unless you’re coming into the city by tram.
“We have gatherings now and again but it’s normally with canal-based people who hear through the grapevine or through the canal publications.
“People seem to go straight past and don’t see it. There’s no parking and the development of the town seems to be moving towards the Moor.
“The market has gone and there’s fewer and fewer shops which means hardly anyone ever visits here. It’s a great shame.
“We’ve got to try to open the place up and make more people realise that it’s here.”
Kath Hadfield had visited the flypast with her husband before making her way down to welcome the flotilla.
Kath, from Hillsborough, said: “Today has been great. The canal is a beautiful place and it’s been a beautiful day for it.
“We’d definitely like to see more from the canal. It’s right in the city centre so anyone can get to it, and anything that brings people into Sheffield is a good thing.”
An interactive installation had been set up to focus on the next 200 years of the canal.
Organisers were encouraging visitors to share their fond memories of the area and what they’d like to see happen with it next.
WW2 reenactors Dean McDonald and John Greatorex alongside friend Ian Roome had visited the event for a drink in the sun following the morning of flypast events.
All three had fond recollections of cycling down the canal as children.
Ian said: “You can get all the way to Bristol and even the River Thames from here, it’s brilliant. If we could get so many more of these shops open and make the place more cosmopolitan it would be amazing for the city and make for such a vibrant area for people to visit.”
Workers from the Canal and River Trust were aplenty, with some brought in from other areas to help out, or soak in the day’s activities.
Alan Caudell, who is in charge of assett management of the Quays area, said: “It’s great to see people here enjoying the area.
“I see canals all the time, but it’s not until others actually visit and spend time around the water that they realise you can see some extraordinary things.”
Many children were out in force with parents to fly Canal Trust flags and enjoy the beautiful day with an ice cream.
Tour boat owner Paul Grange spoke of the buildings he owned for six years until 2016 under the bridge arches.
He said: “It was great having the flypast because we could have people there letting people know about the birthday and inviting people down after the morning activities.
“It’s good to have this promotion but we need people to visit the canal and speak of it more, so the promotion is just a helping hand.
“The buildings here were too expensive to rent for the amount of people who visit. If the rents were lowered, maybe more people would want to open up down here and get more visitors into the area.”
The activities lasted well into the evening with live music at the Dorothy Pax bar throughout the day and even a fire dancer later on, followed by a silent disco in the Giant Igloo at Victoria Quays. It is hoped celebrations will continue for years to come.
There are dreams to make the area into a bustling place of restaurants, bars and shops for families to enjoy for the next 200 years.
Volunteers hope that their work will bring people outside and into the fresh air.