Sheffield’s new heritage trail will honour Blitz legacy
A five-year project to create a legacy to the Sheffield Blitz has culminated in the upcoming launch of a heritage trail at a city landmark that was completely flattened in the Luftwaffe attacks.
Atkinsons, the department store razed to the ground on the evening of 12-13 December, 1940, is set to be unveiled as the gateway to the Sheffield Blitz Heritage Trail this December.
The store is one of 12 sites around the city centre which will have their unique World War II stories brought to life by a combination of interpretation signboards, mobile phone app and a book.
An 80-year old teddy bear will be making its first visit to the Sheffield store since the day it left – just hours before the German attacks that left nearly a tenth of the city’s population homeless and over 2,000 people dead or wounded.
The bear, nicknamed Mr Teddy Dodgson, was a Christmas present for Brenda Spencer after her dad rushed into Atkinsons just before it shut for the day.
It was the last item to be sold before the store was destroyed.
It was nearly a decade ago that local author Neil Anderson started the campaign to create a legacy to the attacks that changed the face of Sheffield.
In November 2015, the Sheffield Blitz Memorial Trust successfully secured £81,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help create this lasting legacy, and the project has received donations from Peter Stringfellow, Horrible Histories creator Terry Deary, The Moor, Atkinsons and scores of individuals.
“It is very fitting that Atkinsons is set to become the gateway to the Sheffield Blitz Heritage Trail,” says Neil Anderson. “They were one of its earliest supporters, and few institutions played a bigger part in the Blitz story.”
The heritage trail, which has been spearheaded by heritage interpreter Bill Bevan, will take walkers on a guided tour around some of the most important Blitz sites in and around the city centre area. They include Sheffield’s Central Library, which was the hub of the relief effort; Sheffield City Hall, which still bears shrapnel marks; Devonshire Green, the site of one of the biggest losses of life; and Bramall Lane which was badly damaged by the bombing.
The trail combines newly commissioned signs in selected locations with a mobile phone app which features the voice of Sheffield’s last surviving Blitz firefighter, Doug Lightning, who sadly passed away recently, along with other eyewitnesses to the raids.
Countdown to the Sheffield Blitz by Neil Anderson will go on sale at the event, while entertainment will be provided by Britain’s Got Talent finalists the D Day Darlings.
The success of the Sheffield Blitz project hit the headlines in 2017 with the unveiling of the city’s first permanent exhibition to the attacks. The visitor attraction, which has been installed inside the city’s National Emergency Services Museum on Shalesmoor, has doubled the venue’s number of visitors since it opened.
The trail also has the backing of Sheffield City Council, The Star, Sheffield College, the National Emergency Services Museum, Sheffield United Football Club, Sheffield 50 Plus, Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust and South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum.
The Sheffield Blitz launch event takes place at Atkinsons on The Moor on Tuesday, 10 December. The Sheffield Blitz Memorial Trail will be unveiled at noon and the D Day Darlings play their first set at 12pm.
To buy a copy of Countdown to the Sheffield Blitz by Neil Anderson, visit Atkinsons online.