The history behind bygone Sheffield scene

'The Sheffield history course I joined is not just about steel and knives and forks,' said Sue Evans, as a new heritage programme gets under way in the city.

Thursday, 22nd September 2016, 8:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:05 pm
My painting by George Bedford seems to be about 1920s. The Crofts slums are around St Vincents tower. Smoke and steam rise from the River Don valley below. The view from Rock Street (lower Pitsmoor) shows factories and dense housing around Mowbray St and Kelham Island. The railway to Woodhead and Manchester runs in a cutting below the fence in the foreground. On a different walk about stainless steel, we found this was Harry Brearleys childhood playground. Sue Evans

“I joined to understand more about the town where I grew up, from the Tudors to the present day. When the weather allowed, we walked around town using ancient maps, picturing what it was like 200 or more years ago. We had some superb behind-the-scenes visits. In my case it opened my eyes to things I had often seen but not looked at.

“We learned about the people who have made Sheffield what it is today – not to mention finding fantastic views I had never seen in 60 years.”

Sue has been a member of a Workers’ Educational Association course called Sheffield Past and Present, which started afresh this week.

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She said her classes reminded her of a picture inherited from a family member.

“After Aunt Lily died there was a cluttered stillness in her front room amid the possessions she and her husband had collected over a lifetime, now for my sister and I to share. A few paintings hung on the walls, dreary behind coal fire-dirtied glass.

“But this one drew my eye. Once out of the old frame, the Hovis-like scene of two figures struggling up a hill, painted years before the 1970s TV ad came to life. It had a vaguely recognisable Sheffield skyline confirmed by the title View from Rock Street. I was able to work out that the big church was St George’s and the redbrick university behind. On the back a label “£5.5.0 G.E.Bedford”. I knew I liked it, liked the link with my family and my home city and hung on to the history.”

She said ‘much more came to life’ through the course.

“We trudged through the Crofts, a venture into unchartered territory for me. I saw much of the skyline in my aunt’s painting, now cleaner, from the artist’s view and could sense that feeling of being down in the smoky slums of Victorian Sheffield. With what is left of this area, plus some knowledge and old photographs, it’s easy to imagine life as it was in the painting – the smells and the poverty, only a generation before me.”

The course runs on Tuesdays from 6pm to 8pm at The Circle on Rockingham Lane in the city centre, and on Thursdays from 10.15am to 12.15pm, at St Johns Church Hall, Abbeydale Road South.

Call 0114 242 3609.