WE ARE SHEFFIELD: ‘There is more to a great city than making it like Legoland’

Ron Clayton outside the Tap and Tankard on Cambridge Street (photo: Chris Etchells).
Ron Clayton outside the Tap and Tankard on Cambridge Street (photo: Chris Etchells).

Ron Clayton is surely a candidate for the title of ‘Mr Sheffield’.

The 66-year-old heritage expert has been keeping the city’s history accessible to new generations of Sheffielders for decades.

Well known to The Star readers as the man behind campaigns to save Loxley chapel and Carbrook Hall, he has also been a driving force in the archaeological exploration of Sheffield Castle.

But he has recently become concerned about some of the city’s less heralded buildings, which he feels are being lost in the relentless drive for regeneration.

A case in point he says are the latest plans for Sheffield city centre - the so called ‘Heart of the City II’ redevelopment.

As part of the ambitious plans, the historic Tap and Tankard pub on Cambridge Road – which was once the factory pub of next door Leah’s Yard – is to be turned into a ‘food hall’, and iconic buildings like the ‘Pepper Pot’ on Pinstone Street will soon be dwarfed by new development.

He said: “I think they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater - in favour of a theme which you can find in any city.”

“The ‘Pepper Pot’ was originally built to complement the Town Hall - and it is now going to be lost to this monolithic building.

“They seem to think that if they put up all these towers Sheffield will become a great city. But there is more to a great city than making it look like Legoland.”

Ron grew up in Wadsley in the 1950s, and first first fell in love with heritage when he saw the buildings of his youth being pulled down by the Council.

He has lived in S6 ever since, and learned ‘what little he knows’ at the the city’s local studies library, eschewing the formal education of academia for a more hands-on approach.

He says he has been ‘lucky’ in his life not to have the ‘entanglements’ of relationships or family, instead being able to just walk around the city and look at it.

“I love Sheffield with all my soul,” he says.

“Someone said if you cut me in two you would find Sheffield running through me.”

However, despite history being his overriding passion, Ron doesn’t dwell completely in the past, and feels more recent changes - such as the way the city is now attracting people from every corner of the globe - have made it a better place.

“We can’t look back too much - most of the industry has gone,” he says.

“But something has got to replace it and that has got to be heritage.

“People now come from all over the world to my city - and it has made it more outward-looking and cosmopolitan.”

Above all, his philosophy is one of civic pride, something he fears is lacking in many of the city’s current custodians.

“I am just trying to put something back into society,” he says.

“I wouldn’t call it an obsession - but I would like to leave a legacy.”

To find out more about Ron and his guided tours, visit https://sheffieldhistorytours.com.