The book that explores A-Z of Sheffield – from ancient woodlands to industrial treasures

“There’s a spot in Wooley Woods where, if you visit in May, the bluebells form a sheet of blue flowing down the hillside. It’s like being in heaven,” says Melvyn Jones.

By Nik Farah
Monday, 18 March, 2019, 13:59
Part of the ornate ceiling in the entrance foyer of Sheffield City Hall

“I've spent 40 years researching the ancient woodlands of Sheffield – from Greno woods to Ecclesall woods – but for me, this spot is one of my very favourites.”

His wife, Joan, adds: “That's what’s special about Sheffield; it has such a wonderful mix of beauty, from the view of the valley and patchworks fields from Birley Stone at Grenoside, to the magnificence of the River Don Engine at Kelham Island, to the breathtaking painted ceiling in the entrance of City Hall.”

It's fair to say that local historians, Melvyn and Joan Jones, know Sheffield better than most. Joan grew up in Chapeltown, while Melvyn was raised nearby in Barnsley, and both spent their working lives in the city – Joan as a teacher, and Melvyn as a Sheffield Hallam professor.

And now the retired husband-and-wife writing team - who have previously written 23 books together, exploring every angle of the city's past and present – has created a full colour book, 'A-Z of Sheffield - places, people, history.’ The book explores the best of what the city has to offer, taking in to consideration its industrial past, architectural gems, and, of course, its impressive countryside. Taking the reader on a fascinating A–Z tour of the city’s history, exploring its lesser-known nooks and crannies - and along the way relating many a tale of the most interesting people and places – the book has been written to appeal to both residents and visitors.

“We hope this book will make Sheffielders proud, and visitors a little envious," Melvyn smiles.

“It’s written in the style of a guided tour of the city by a trusted friend, exploring what we consider to be many of Sheffield's highlights.”

Higger Tor in Peak District National Park

And the couple say putting the book together has been a privilege – taking them almost a year as they’ve revisited and refamiliarised themselves with their favourite parts of the city.

"We’ve had a great time, it's been a real pleasure to spend our time revisiting these wonderful spots together, and Joan has taken all the photos as we’ve gone. Hopefully it will reveal details and places that people previously didn't know of – like the fact that there are 29,000 acres of the Peak District in the city’s boundaries, and 80 ancient woods!

“Selecting the contents of this book has been very difficult. At least two or three books could be written on Sheffield in this format; and we say that having included two or three places for 12 of the letters of the alphabet in this volume.

“There was so much to go at and from almost every period: the Prehistoric, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, Tudor, Elizabethan, Georgian, Victorian and on to the late 20th century and beyond.

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The microbrewery at the Sheffield Tap

“There is the industrial heritage - including industrial museums - historic buildings from the medieval period to the early 20th century and, of course, stunning parks, gardens and the countryside.

“There are the rivers that flow down rural and semi-rural valleys from the moorland edge to the centre of the city; the Pennine moorlands and upland farming areas, the city’s own lake district, and ancient woodlands galore. Although the city is still a major centre of specialist steel production it is now not only known as Steel City but also as the greenest city in the country.

“And these places are strongly associated with notable people including Robin Hood, Mary Queen of Scots, the Earls of Shrewsbury, Dukes of Norfolk, Admiral Nelson’s chaplain and secret agent Alexander John Scott, the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey, the ‘Corn Law Rhymer’ Ebenezer Elliott and the inventor of stainless steel Harry Brearley.”

Of course assembling the book hasn't all been plain sailing.

Bessemer converter at Kelham Island Industrial Museum - courtesy of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust

"It’s not easy finding places for letters like Q and X and Z, you’ll have to wait and see how we managed that,” Joan laughs.

“But going through this alphabet guide really will open the doorway for people to the city's history and heritage.”

The book is priced at £14.99 and is available online as well as at most bookshops, plus local venues, including Millennium Gallery and Kelham Island.

Visit www.amberley-books.com to buy a copy.

A wonderful display of bluebells in Woolley Wood
The Old Queens Head public house