Shepherd Wheel

Dam Weirs, and Mills

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Oughtibridge

The Floods of 2007 were horrendous. It was a miserable time  no one wants a return to that. I was pretty excited by the news that Sheffield was going to get major funding, but then I started reading the Sheffield Flood consultation, and found a lot of questions arising and no answers to be had. Like the clergyman’s wife in the Simpsons who shouts “What about the Children?” I find myself shouting “What about the heritage?”

I’ve been ploughing through flood reports and strategies and know a lot more now about river ecology, hydro morphology and a whole lot of long words I need the spellchecker for. The conclusion I have reached is that flood defense it is a very complex issue, that the Council hasn’t even tried to explain.

It is no accident that one the oldest artifacts we have is a dugout canoe. How significant Sheffield’s waterways were in those days it is difficult to say as exploration of our early history has been undervalued for centuries and is still so in many quarters.

The Sheaf, Shire Brook and the Meersbrook have been the boundary rivers for centuries if not longer. Sheffield was a border town for a great amount of its history and in Roman times was the northern extent  of the Roman Empire for about 30 years.  In Saxon times the Sheaf  and the Meersbrook became significant as the boundary between Mercia and Northumbria, and latter between Derbyshire and Yorkshire.

With the Norman conquest new technology was introduced and Sheffield’s rivers took on a new significance. The monasteries introduced water mills and new metalworking methods. The first known wheels date from the 12th century. In the 16th century the development of water powered bellows created huge changes in the production of iron and steel. Evidence of this can be found in the wills of the Norton scythemakers who went into mass production soon after its introduction on by the Earl of Shrewsbury on the nearby Sheaf in 1560,  as the new innovation changed production from 20 tons to 200 tons of processed iron per year.

Grinding wheels dominated the rivers Loxley and Rivelin. These two rivers flowed from the north-west of Sheffield and were accessible to the cutlers of Bradfield parish, especially Stannington, and the cutlers of Nether Hallam in the hamlets of Walkley, Crookes and Malin Bridge.  The river Sheaf had the most varied sites, almost equally divided between corn grinding, metalworking (especially lead) and blade grinding.  The river Sheaf had the most varied sites, almost equally divided between corn grinding, metalworking (especially lead) and blade grinding. The Blackburn brook provided power for a number of mills along its course  Industry started on the Shire Brook at Carr Forge in the mid 16th century and by the 19th century there were five wheels operating sharpening scythes and sickles.  The Don is the largest river in Sheffield, collecting the water from the other rivers and flowing from the north before turning northeast at its confluence with the Sheaf near the centre of Sheffield. Like the Sheaf it had more metalworking sites, but unlike the Sheaf they were all concerned with ferrous metals.

Shepherd Wheel

Shepherd Wheel

 

No one knows exactly how many wheels dams and weirs there were and it is quite difficult to know how many survive. Many dams were built over when the Railways were built. Others later on when they were no longer needed. Some like the Mayfield Dams are silted and grown over. Some have become water features in parks and gardens.  Often when the dams are long gone the weirs still remain as no one saw a reason to remove them. In some cases the weirs have been culveted such as where the Sheaf joins the Don, and rumours speak of at least one dam now underground, though this may be an urban myth.  And some Dams and Weirs were lost under the reservoirs. Possibly around 160-200 mills were working off the water wheels in Sheffield. Many wheels shared the weirs.

So what, you may say. Sheffield is now littered with bits of mills, lots of weirs and dams. Times have changed.  Many naturalists don’t like the weirs and feel they should be all scrapped and moan that a handful are actually listed. Others feel they are an obstruction on the rivers and if scrapped would stop the flooding. Lastly the owners of the weirs can’t be found so all maintenance has to be tax payers money.

Brightside Weir.JPG

Brightside weir

As many weirs are between 200 and 900 years old, if removed the whole riverside would change. The Bio-diversity would change and we have no way of knowing what we could lose due to the changes. Fish ladders have been put into many of the weirs now, but it is unrealistic to think that we can return the rivers to 900 years ago.  The bigger blockages problems are trees growing too close to the riversides, culverts and poorly maintained drains that block easily, bridges that are low but made worse by silted rivers, and stupid people who dump an incredible amount of rubbish into the rivers and riversides. As for the maintenance argument no one argues that Venice should be left to sink or Stonehenge to fall down. The history and heritage of Sheffield’s rivers are unique.

Historic England recommends

In areas where there are groups of strongly connected heritage assets which are considered to cumulatively have a particularly high value, then designation as a Conservation Area should be considered similar to those often formed for canals. A Conservation Area is an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which is desirable to preserve or enhance (Section 69 of the 1990 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Area) Act). The main attributes that define the special character of an area are its physical appearance and history, i.e. the form and features of buildings and the spaces between them, their former uses and historical development.

There is considered to be a particularly strong case for this in Sheffield, where designation as a Conservation Area where the survival of a high density of weirs and associated infrastructure are illustrative of the internationally important metal trade that developed there. Such designation would also be of assistance in ensuring a consistent approach to design of fish passes and river channel improvements.”

To qualify as a World Heritage Site the Rivers need only meet one of these criteria.

to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.

to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;

to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design

to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.

Our dams and weirs have created places of beauty in Sheffield. There is nowhere more beautiful than the Rivelin Valley, or lovelier than the dams and woodlands of the Sheaf and Porter Valleys. But more than that nowhere in the world is there anywhere like Sheffield with the huge number of mills on the rivers and streams. Like much of our heritage in Sheffield it has been ignored and undervalued. So much has been left to rot or survives only because of tenacious groups that refused to let them all turn to rubble. They lost some battles but thankfully some gems last such as Shepherd’s Wheel, Matlock Wheel, Forge Dam, Mousehole Forge, Abbeydale Hamlet, Stanniforth

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Sharrow Snuff Mill

Works, Mallin Bridge, Mill houses Mill, and Sharrow Snuff Mill. But so much has never been researched properly. Many have yet to be looked at from an  archaeological point of view. We don’t know how old many of the weirs and dams are. We don’t have a complete list.

Historic England has voiced concerns that the changes made due to flood defences and fish passages have not taken into account the heritage of the waterways, and feels there is a need for better consultation and better training of the department of environment.

Within South Yorkshire the catchment partnerships are hosted by the Don Catchment Rivers Trust and The Environment Agency (Don and Rother), and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (Thorne). The core partners within each partnership include wildlife and environmental organisations, water companies, Local Authorities, Government Agencies, landowners, angling clubs, farming groups, academia and local businesses. Amongst the partners, built heritage interests are poorly represented

References

South Yorkshire’s Historic Water Management Assets March 2016 by
Historic England

CULTURE, ECONOMY & SUSTAINABILITY SCRUTINY & POLICY
DEVELOPMENT BOARD – CONDITION OF THE CITY’S DAMS  2007

900 years of the Don fishery: Domesday to the dawn of the new millenium‘ by Chris Firth MBE

The Heritage Statement of the Weirs on the River Loxley by The Brigantia Archaeological Service.

Position statement on the Upper Don and Sheaf Catchment Flood Alleviation schemes.  http://www.dcrt.org.uk/archives/2431

http://www.floodprotectionsheffield.com/  Sheffield Flood Protection

http://www.wildsheffield.com/news/2016/11/1/have-your-say-flood-prevention-options-sheffield

http://www.rivelinvalley.org.uk/

Sheffield Floods

In a few days the public questionnaire and workshops re the new flood protection project will be over. Many groups associated with the waterways and the heritage around them, both man made and natural, have voiced concern at the lack of detail on offer.Sheffield is fortunate in that there are some well supported organisations who care for our waterways. Many prepared to wade out in rivers and pull out rubbish, and tackle the invasive Japanese Knotweed, neither being pleasant work. Groups such as Friends of Porter Valley, Rivelin Valley Conservation Trust and Blue Loop. For the most part these people are volunteers. My thanks to Helen Hornby for talking about what the Riverside Steward Company/Friends of Blue Loop have been doing recently.

               River Stewardship as a means of flood risk management

By Helen Hornby

corporate-team-building-day                                           Some corporate volunteers

Three years down the line and the Lower Don Valley Flood Defence Scheme is making great progress on its objectives.  As part of this large scale project, The River Stewardship Company (RSC), a local social enterprise, delivers the channel maintenance programme which includes invasive species control and minor tree works and also facilitates wider community engagement through the provision of volunteer days along the River Don.

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From a practical point of view there are many things that can be done to reduce flood risk as a long term management plan for a major watercourse.  The RSC empowers local people to help look after their river.  Its volunteers are out on the River Don every Tuesday removing large items of litter and debris from the river – items that would block bridges and culverts, creating a dam and potentially causing flooding to nearby properties.  Everything from industrial wheelie bins, to commercial freezers, sofas and warehouse doors have been removed from the water.

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Volunteers also help by removing Himalayan balsam whilst trained staff treat Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed with a specific herbicide tailored to use by water.  These plants spread like wildfires, out-competing our native plants and reducing biodiversity but they also contribute to increased flood risk. In winter banks are destabilised due to a lack of native perennials holding the soil in place, and therefore should a flood occur these banks can be eroded away leaving property and other structures at risk.

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Larger willow trees and vegetation growing out of flood walls have been removed, and where possible replanted with smaller trees and shrubs that do not easily crack and cause blockages. It is a difficult business balancing the needs of riparian landowners and that of recreational users and the River’s resurgent wildlife but one that can be achieved if all sectors work together.20160830_113447

Historic Floods

By Joyce  Bullivant

The lay of the land in Sheffield  means that there is always a chance of a major flooding incident. Sheffield has several rivers and tributaries that come down the hills to feed the principle rivers of the Rivelin, Loxley, Porter, Don and the Sheaf. Contrary to popular opinion Sheffield does not have only 5 rivers, there are considerably more, some are hidden in the city drainage system but others are easy to find if you know where to look.

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Sheffield’s Lost Rivers

The huge flood that happened recently in  2007 was not a common event for Sheffield in that the previous big flood happened in 1973  when 119 mm fell in just one day (and which incidentally led to severe flooding despite much less development on the flood plain. Present improvements in flood protection will give the city a one-in-200 years level of protection, meaning the measures will theoretically defend the city against all floods except the kind of freak floods which have a 0.5 per cent chance of happening in any given year.

That of course doesn’t mean flooding events will only happen once in 200 years. Also with the change in climate the previous measures and assessments may be insufficient, as along with climate change is the increase in severe weather conditions. New flood protection has been suggested which hopefully will mitigate any future extreme weather events that could endanger the city. Organisations such as Blue Loop can help cut down flooding from smaller events, but additional measures are needed for the more extreme events. These extreme events are beyond city drainage, or dredging measures. Previous flood reports, when there were fewer houses and more fields to soak up the water, did not prevent these 200 year floods.

In 1729 such a flood was reported in the Papers.

On Tuesday morning between 5 and 6 it began to Thunder, Lighten,  and Rain at the Town of Sheffield in Yorkshire, and continued with such Violence ’till 2 in the Afternoon , that the River Dun in a most dreadful Manner overflowed its banks, and by the torrents of water vast trees were borne down, bridges broke in pieces, part of the Duke of Norfolk’s hospital destroyed and all its furniture washed away, as was that belonging of the chapel, which was 2 yards deep in water, and the pulpit filled with Mud and sand; Tis computed that the waters must have risen near the Hospital (where the River Sheaf, and Sheffield Brook , empty themselves into the River Dun), 4 yard perpendicular in half an hour’s time; a team and 4 horses were carried down by the stream many people had much ado to escape with their lives, however only one man and one woman were drowned and some children were washed away in their cradles.

Throughout the 19th century many floods were reported especially in the area where the Sheaf joins the Don and in Brightside. The floods caused major disruption to the Railway at Bridgehouse and to the forges and wheels along the Don. The worst flood however would seem to have been in 1875 some 11 years after the infamous flood caused by the breach of the Dale Dyke reservoir. The flood in 1875 covered the whole of Sheffield city.

In the vale of the Porter a great amount of damage was done by the flooding of the low-lying lands. This stream has a large gathering ground on the moors above Ringinglowe, and the incessant rain of 48 hours duration could not do less than cause a great volume of water to descend the stream. The first effect of the inundation were felt at Whiteley Wood, where at an early hour yesterday morning the stream was swollen to a considerable extent, and swept through the dams and over the weirs in an increasing volume. Gathering force as it entered Endcliffe Wood the river now increased to a torrent, and in spite of the use of shuttles filled the dams to the bank edge and overflowed so as to cause them considerable damage  to the earthworks and apprehensions in the minds of those who were in charge of the grinding wheels. The fields on the borders of Endcliffe wood were completely flooded at an early hour yesterday morning and as the water kept rising considerable damage was, especially in the fields where Autumn wheats had been sown. At the grinding wheels the men were prevented from working owing to the accumulation of back waters, and the result was a large loss in the matter of wages alone. At one time it was feared that some of the embankments of  the Endcliffe dams would give way, as the water was overflowing them and it was currently reported  in the district yesterday that such had been the case. On an enquiry at a late hour last night we found that such a casualty  had not taken place  although there were apprehensions of such a disaster of that description owing to vast amount of water that was coming down the river. In the lower portion of Endcliffe Wood the water assumed the proportions of a torrent, and at Hunter’s Bar, where the stream divides itself the roadway was more like a large brook than a thoroughfare. About this particular district there were many cottage gardens and the occupiers must have sustained much damage on account on the weight of the water which was passing. The produce of these gardens intended for winter gatherings was swept away for the most part and last night when our reporter left the stream had in no way diminished, it was rather increasing. The water was diverted by means of shuttles from entering the dam-in an undue quantity belonging to the Hardy Patent Pick and Engineering Company, Limited. but the force of the current was so great that it forced itself through these barriers in more than the usual quantities, and it was feared that the embankment supporting the lower snuff mill would be endangered. Several Homes near Hunters Bar had the cellars flooded to the depth of a yard or more. Last evening the pathway both in Ecclesall Road and that leading from the Cemetery-road to the bar were almost impassable, the water draining down and running across the highway to such a depth to render it almost impassable. Passing from Hunters Bar towards Sheffield Ecclesall Road became a deeper in water and at the bottom of Broomgrove a singular sight presented itself. The water here draws itself from Broomhill and the upper part of Glossop- Road into Ecclesall Road, where it accumulated in a field which we believe had been rented by a butcher. This field is surrounded by a wall, which served the purpose of stemming the water, and made a temporary reservoir. The water poured through these walls and bursting through the interstices in a series of jets, completely covered Ecclesall- Road. At the lower entrance to the Cemetery the waters appeared to have gathered in an extraordinary degree, accumulating throughout the day to a depth of over a foot and a half. From this point, down Ecclesall road, the highway bore more the appearance of a canal than anything else. The ordinary channels which convey the water were completely choked up, and the stream washed down both sides of the street in a current of almost a foot and a half deep.  In the centre

The flood filled many of the rivers and spread throughout the city putting out forges and steam mills, but miraculously no one seems to have been hurt.

As is corroborated by most of the people who have lived for many years past in the the locality, we can have no hesitation to saying that the flood is the most formidable one which has been seen in Sheffield for the last few ten years; and the scene as viewed from one of these cellar windows of the Tower Wheel, with the lamplights from the Blonk Street Bridge and from the Station road, high up above, casting their vague shadows upon the black stream, had in it something of the picturesque.”

Shepherds Wheel 1

Shepherd Wheel

The wheels on the rivers have left Sheffield with a number of Dams on the River, made to control the flow of the water into the wheels. Rivers were harnessed from an early date, possibly introduced by the monks who came with the Normans and brought with them new technologies. Early wheels were used for corn milling and treating woolen cloth. In the 16th century water power was used for powering the furnaces and hammering the iron and steel, as well as powering the grinding wheels. It has been estimated by 1637 there were around fifty water powered industrial sites. By the 18th century there were an estimated to be 130 such sites. Wheels can be seen still in Sheffield, at Abbeydale  Hamlet, Shepherd Wheel and Mallin Bridge. Many old mills and remnants exist throughout the city. Some has been left untouched for years and are overgrown and already are cause for concern as potential important archaeology may be lost.

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Rivelin Valley

Along with the obvious industrial remnants along the rivers are the ancient woodlands, managed since medieval times to supply charcoal and wood for the metalworking industries and house building. Many have been found to have traces of earlier times and indeed within Ecclesall woods lies stones with neolithic cup and ring markings. Because the woodland was necessary for Sheffield’s industry the city has a large area of ancient woodland though some pieces are quite small and divided by later roads nevertheless Sheffield’s ancient woodlands are unique and of international value.

Many of our rivers pass through our woodlands. This was a great advantage to those who ran smithies and forges as the raw material was to hand. Early steel and iron workers needed charcoal as coal has too much sulphur to produce good steel. Later coal was processed to become coke. Also in woods like Ecclesall woods clay called Gannister was mined to make the crucible pots.  So our woodlands have indications of mining and charcoal making  along with the earlier signs of human activity.

Lastly because of the age of the woods and the now cleaner waterways and visible rock forms from quarrying and the power of the rivers there is within the rivers and river areas many rare plants and wildlife that are rare or unique. Flood control therefore is a complex matter.

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Nature Reserves in Sheffield Area

The ideal of flood control is to slow the water coming into the city and speed it leaving the built up areas. It is about controlling the flow of water. The Flood protection scheme has suggested containing flood water in some areas, but it cannot be purely letting certain lands flood. Even though it could be 100 years before the flood protection actually came into use, it could also be next year or even next week. We do also have to live with those measures, and protect the sensitive areas from damage.There will have to be all these factors taken into consideration,  preserving precious ecology and heritage and leisure facilities , but keeping our city safe. There is no simple answer to this.

http://www.floodprotectionsheffield.com/pages/consultation

The Blue Loop

http://timewalk.btck.co.uk/Mappage

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph October 21st 1875 courtesy of British Newspaper Archives

Newcastle Courant 21st June 1729   courtesy of British Newspaper Archives.

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Scheduled Monuments in Sheffield Area

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All our Yesterdays

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William Bullivant born 1814 in Lincolnshire, died 1893 in Sheffield

On the 19th of October Joined up Heritage had a 2nd Smaller conference. In it we looked out how we could make Sheffield’s heritage all inclusive, and relevant.

Many years ago when researching my husband’s family tree , despite his family having been in Sheffield for generations I had to tell him that his family had its origins in Lincolnshire.  His family had hit hard times in rural Lincolnshire and like many others had gravitated to the big cities in the 1850s in search of better paid work. Sheffield like many industrial cities expanded rapidly with the rise in new technologies. One new technology that was developed a century before was crucible steel developed by Benjamin Huntsman son of German immigrant parents.  Henry Bessemer’s father made his fortune working in France and Germany.  Stanley Tools an American company in origin.

Sheffield’s history is like many cities, a story of people coming in and settling, right from the Bronze Age, but it is a story that has many gaps, so how fitting that Joined up Heritage is looking at how to join up the different threads.  It is looking  at the answer to the question that is  “What made Sheffield the Sheffield it is now?” Not just the rivers, the geology, the buildings, the innovations, but the people, whether they come for a short time as a student, have lived here for generations, or just moved here. Or whether they came centuries ago as Roman conquerors.  They all make Sheffield.

I’m not from Sheffield. I have lived in Sheffield for 17 years and I find Sheffield’s history fascinating. It links me to a whole host of fellow history enthusiasts and also links me to the people who have lived in Sheffield all their lives, and others like me who have just come. I don’t know anyone who has my background, born in Lancashire, brought up in Newcastle and Glasgow. Sometimes I feel distant because it’s hard to explain what life as an English child in a Scottish school was like, and the fact that I don’t really understand the Church of England, and had to learn a lot of early English history, because it wasn’t taught in my Scottish school.  It may not be as drastic change as moving from Africa or Pakistan to Sheffield but it is still a story of migration and disassociation.

Inclusivity is not about doing a piece on Pakistani Steel workers and then forgetting it. It’s about collecting the stories about Sheffield, and some of those stories will be about steelworkers who weren’t born here.  It’s looking at the history of the people who made, and are making Sheffield, with no historical apartheid. DNA collected from ancient bones in Cresswell crags has proved migration from outside the British Isles goes back a long way. We know Romans settled in Stannington to farm there, though we don’t as yet know where the particular centurions came from.  In Weston Park museum there are flints that certainly didn’t come from local stone. Where did they come from? How did the local people acquire them in an age before metal working? What did they have to trade?

A Museum curator said that British history tends to be harking back to some so called golden age and misses out some of the hard realities. Maybe that’s why it has been so difficult to get the history of Northern cities told and the archaeology of the area preserved. Commentators described Sheffield time and time again as a city without culture or Art, but the culture was and is there. As for Art you only have to look at the silver smithing and Sheffield plate to see that Sheffield had and has plenty of artists. John Ruskin recognised it and wanted to help them expand their minds even further. Sheffield’s history isn’t grand stately homes and thatched cottages, though there are some grand  homes such as Endcliffe Hall, and pretty little Tudor houses such as Bishops House, it’s about hard work, survival and ingenuity. Its dirty and sometimes ugly but it is real and relevant. Without Sheffield there would be no stainless steel. So many tools invented and refined in Sheffield from scalpels to saws. Sheffield helped make the world and is still doing so, and it  was the Sheffield people that made it happen. All of them.

Brigantes

Sheffield, Yorkshire’s most important city.

 

Whirlow Farm dig has confirmed what has been known to a wide variety of historians and archaeologists for a long time that the area of Sheffield was historically the most important area in the history of Yorkshire and England. From before Roman times. Much of the concentration on the narrow period of 18th and 19th century has ignored Sheffield’s strategic importance.

It is no accident that the area has hillforts & many signs of Ironage settlement or before that of even earlier settlements. Sheffield was important place even before the discovery of metalworking, but the discovery of metalworking made the land around worth defending and fighting for. Sheffield became the heavily contested border between Roman and Brigantes, Mercia and Northumberland, Derbyshire and Yrokshire. England was born at the treaty made in Dore. William the Conqueror put his righthand man William de Busli in Charge. Time and time again Royalty placed their best men in Sheffield and nearby. Its no accident that a small place in Norton produced two Bishops. One chaplain to Henry V11 and the other defending Henry V111’s  interests in the Welsh Marches. No accident that Mary Queen of Scots was sent to Sheffield or that one of England’s biggest castles was built here. The land was important and only the Royals best loyal supporters had lands here.

Sheffield Castle

Sheffield Castle

Sheffield was never a backwater. The Talbots as earlier had strong connections with the Royal Court. The Fifth Earl was in charge of Henry V111’s household, the sixth in charge of Mary Queen of Scots. Sheffield was always well informed at what was going on in the seats of power. Money from the nearby Lead mining  funded much of the Elisabethan explorations.  IT was only with the shift in the Talbot’s power and influence in the civil war that changed the Royal links.

That does not mean Sheffield lost its importance to English History more that it became the place for innovation both in manufacturing and in radical and religious thought, which to some extent still exists with Sheffield.

So why aren’t we celebrating Sheffield’s long history? Why are we looking at a short time in history where Sheffield developed its mass production of cutlery as if that was the heyday of Sheffield and that is all there is and ever was of Sheffield? Beats Me.

 

Civil War Sheffield

http://www.thestar.co.uk/whats-on/out-and-about/from-forts-to-forges-taking-pride-in-sheffield-s-history-1-7942380

https://bishopshouse.wordpress.com/category/history-of-the-blythes/

https://sheffieldtimewalk.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/mary-queen-of-scots-in-sheffield-1570-84/

http://wincobankhill.btck.co.uk/

http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/forgotten-frontier-of-roman-empire-unearthed-in-sheffield-1-7991388

Napoleanic Wars Sheffield

 

Muddy Waters

DSCF4199Today I went to a workshop at Sheffield University. The title of the workshop was “What do urban rivers mean in the 21st century. We heard of a rivers in India and Portugal and throughout Europe. We then went on to explore what our urban rivers mean to us.

Quite possibly the most interesting conversations was with River management and local voluntary groups. The complaints may start from a different angle from those who are looking to preserve old buildings or woodlands or parks but the complaints are the same.

There were aspects I hadn’t thought of, I admit. The Don, Porter Brook, and the Rother are DSCF5312

all names for muddy brown waters. Not because of pollution but because of the peaty moorland they come from. One River manager said that the breaking up of weirs and other modern river management had cut down the variety of fish and amphibians that preferred the darker water. For rivers to be clean it doesn’t mean they have to be transparent. It brought into focus that not only had we to look at the uniqueness of our buildings and our Green Spaces how important it is also that we talk with those who know about what is needed to preserve the ecology of our waterways.

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If the planners allow high buildings by the river they could cut the light to the water as well as make the area busier and nosier.  Too much activity in some areas will scare away the wildlife. We need areas of calm the River manager said.

What we want, they all said is for a discussion with all interested groups, heritage, developers, ecologists,  communities, and the Council. “Have you spoke to any councillors?” I asked . “We’ve tried.” they said but no one’s prepared to listen.” And there is where we all share the same problem. There is no debate, or discussion with the Council. No consultation.

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Whatever decision the Council makes re development matters to the city as a whole. Yet decisions are made without considering all aspects. As the River manager said you can’t just divert a river because its looks better for the houses by the waterside, there will be a knock on effect elsewhere.

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Likewise if you build a new shiny shopping centre it is more than likely you will drain the shopping areas nearby as Meadowhall has done in the past. If more people come from Tinsley Stocksbridge Dore Tortley whatever to shop in the city centre that means more traffic and more pollution. If we shift people into housing in the city the pollution will go down as fewer people will need to use cars or busses. We could build new inner city communities who would need shops and would also work locally. We would have a lively vibrant centre that would not shut down at 6pm.

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But our Council is determined to sell our city centre to a National developer to make a city centre like every other city ripping out our heritage and throwing it on the rubbish heap, and at the end of it the outside developer will keep all the profits and control our city centre. If any of the backers pull out we will be left with a big hole in the middle of the city that we have no control over and gaps in the nearby Fargate and the Moor as shops either move there or close down. How will that improve our city? We need to talk and yet no one is really listening.

Shepherd Wheel

Shepherd Wheel

Suggested Reading

How can we save our town centres?

The Blue Loop

https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/doncatchment/work/projects/weirs

http://www.thecitytalking.com/rupert-wood-laycock-house-sheffield/

http://newstartmag.co.uk/features/retail-wont-regenerate-town-centres/

The Role of Historic Buildings in Urban regeneration. Eleventh report of Session 2003-2004 Volume 1 report. House of Commons ODPM: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Region’s Committee.

http://hc.historicengland.org.uk/National-Report/       Heritage Counts 2014

Heritage Lottery Funding – strategic framework 2013-2018 A lasting difference for Heritage and people.

Lose or Reuse. Managing Heritage sustainability.  by Lydia Wilson published 2007 Ulster Architectural Heritage Society 66 Donegal Pass, Belfast B17 1BU

New Ideas need Old Buildings Heritage Lottery Fund. April 2013.

 

 

 

My thoughts on Heritage and recent Election Hustings

Castle House

Castle House

Last week I went to an election hustings to ask candidates what their policy was on heritage not because I was expecting instant answers but because not one manifesto I had read really seemed to consider heritage at all. Given the Council policy on heritage is a mere two paragraphs that wasn’t really a surprise. Nor is this a recent thing in Sheffield or dependent on what party controls the council. Likewise the idea of tourism for anything other than festivals or the great outdoors doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s agenda.

Albyn Works

Albyn Works

After hearing 5 minutes of each of the six candidates talking about their hopes and dreams for Sheffield it was obvious that none of them had heritage on their mind either as a matter for neighbourhood pride, green policies or economic regeneration. In the end there were 3 of us asking questions about heritage, myself about how with the new planning laws coming in we can protect our heritage against fast track planning decisions and speculative developers. A second questioner asking how we preserve our parks and keep them as a community asset , and a third questioner asking how we can keep our old buildings and develop an improved retail centre which fits in with Sheffield’s unique character and keeps finance within the city and not going to outside developers.

Ecclesall Woods

All six candidates stated they felt Sheffield’s heritage was important to them and spoke quite stirringly in favour. However I was left with the thought that whereas every candidate thought it was the right thing to say, they didn’t really understand the reasons why they should.  There was mention of Castlegate and the Old Town Hall and how they saw this as a place for re-development but the idea would seem to be bring in developers and that would generate knock on funding for the Old Town Hall and the other old buildings round about. To me they had it the wrong way round. A beautifully restored Old Town Hall and a Castle Park are what would regenerate the area and bring in useful investment.  We have around 10 hotels within walking distance of Castlegate. Are they going to come to tall office blocks and student accommodation blocks or to see the ruins of a medieval castle, and a historic building central to Sheffield’s growth as a city?

Old Town Hall Waingate

Old Town Hall Waingate

How would a concentration on office blocks and student rooms help link the other parts of Sheffield’s history together such as the Victoria Quays which is fast approaching its bi-centenary, the unique fire and police station of Westbar, Kelham Island Museum, Cholera Monument and Manor Lodge.  Linked together we present a package like no other package in any other city.

Butchers Works once cutlery works now apartments , gallery and workshops

Butchers Works once cutlery works now apartments , gallery and workshops

We had a candidate talking about saving  buildings as a charitable exercise or a rare flash of grassroots involvement. Indeed there was a lot of talking about grassroots involvement but not connected to our heritage. A lot of talking of bringing in new jobs and investment too but not a mention of tourism.  There is money in our heritage and passion from the “grassroots” which is just as marked in Sheffield as it is in the rest of the country but has yet to be part of any local politician’s ideas for a “vibrant city” People like old buildings and feel passionate about it to sign petitions in the thousands. The majority of small to medium businesses are in historic buildings. Many rely on the historic character to attract customers, others starting new businesses gravitate to the old buildings because of cost, proximity to similar businesses  they have is a unique building that stands out from the rest, and easier to fit into the local community. The vast majority of startup businesses start within listed building.

We three didn’t get any real answers to our questions. I didn’t expect any. What I got from the experience is that we have a long way to go to any local politician seeing our heritage as an economic asset or anything we should be worrying about when money is in short supply. It is seen more as a vanity project when there is money coming in rather than something that can generate money. That needs to change.

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Hallam University Owen Building

Why Now?

Today history was made. To some it would seem merely a conference on Heritage but to others like me this was a significant day. Our theme was Making History for a Successful City. Cohesion and Community Pride.

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Manor Lodge

Today was both inspirational and daunting. Seems that the keynote speakers were quite blown away with the huge numbers at the conference. I was thinking not that many, considering how many I know there could have been there. I suppose after years of being told people weren’t interested in Sheffield’s culture part of me believes it. But the truth is that Sheffield have been always interested in their culture but they haven’t shouted as one voice before about it. Now they have.

The people and organisations were wonderfully diverse. From a couple from Rivelin Valley desperate to find ways of preserving their local heritage to National Trust North. All have their own view of what Heritage is, and everybody’s view equally valid. There are many different views but not at odds with each other. Despite their particular interests whether it be brutalist architecture or digging an Ironage site, or running a business, they are all in agreement Sheffield Heritage matters.

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Bishops House Museum

There was in amongst this massive Heritage army a dissenting voice, not from a Heritage organisation, saying “the pot of cash is smaller now. You will all have to fight for it.” As if we were roaming packs of historians tearing each other apart for HLF funding.  No one in any case was there to talk about money. They know about money and no one involved in heritage expects instant pots of money. Some of the most successful organisations have taken between 10 and 20 years to get to this point. You need an incredible thick skin and dogged determination to be involved in preserving local heritage.

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That doesn’t mean we couldn’t do with money but in Sheffield the pot has always been small and we have learnt to use what we have with great care. Sheffield has the most volunteers of any city. Our heritage economy is kept going by the blood sweat and tears of the volunteers. Travel round during Heritage Open Day and talk with the people and their stories are of hard work and struggle, and often against the local authority. Our city has many great historic buildings that were planned for demolition and now lauded as a part of what is good about Sheffield. It is true they are monuments to what is good about Sheffield but it wasn’t done with a ready pot of cash and pretty often despite the local Council.

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So why Now? Why were we all together? Because our heritage is under threat and has been for some time. It is not the lack of money that worries us. We are used to that. It is that in the race to encourage investors and build more housing we are worried that the very things that are part of what brings and could bring more investment to the city are the most likely to be lost. No good 5 years after you have torn out the historic area of a city coming to the conclusion that you should have kept it. No good building huge housing estates without a distinctive neighbourhood that gladdens your heart as you approach your home after some time away.  We all need a sense of collective identity. That is what heritage gives us whether it is a Carnegie library, an iron age hillfort or the local pub.

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Walkley Carnegie Library

 

If you have ever been in the habit of using a budget hotel you know there is the initial confusion, when you wake up as to where you are, as the hotels are all fitted out the same. It is only when you get up and look out the window that you know where you are. The landscape gives you your bearings. Ask directions to somewhere and it will not just be turn right and turn left. They will point out historic buildings and features in the landscape. Likewise our heritage gives us a sense of place and to incoming people a connectivity.

Ecclesall Woods

Sheffield is branded as the Outdoor City as if that was all there is on offer. It is a great green city with ancient woodlands and amazing public parks and part of the National Park is within Sheffield’s city boundaries. But people that like the great outdoors can go to Derbyshire and get much of that without ever crossing the city’s boundaries. There’s the Sport from Football to athletics, from cycling to climbing. Sport is a big part of the city’s economy and Sheffield is the birthplace of Soccer, ice skating, Yorkshire Cricket and so much more. You can’t talk about anything in Sheffield without ending up talking about the history behind everything.

Wincobank Hill view

Our nightclubs and pubs and high class eating establishments are in heritage buildings. Our theatres, all nine of them are all in listed buildings. Many of our hotels are. Our heritage is not disengaged from our day to day life, not our work or our leisure.

The dissident voice speaks of great shopping centre bringing in new retailers and having to sell the city to make them come, so that we do not lose the richer shoppers to another city but won’t we lose the shoppers we have who will find the city centre no longer theirs? And will we be able to bring in the shoppers from that other city when our centre is just a clone of all the other cities. Shouldn’t we be marketing what is distinct and unique about our city instead of hiding our identity under a glossy new shopping centre  as if we are ashamed of who we are, and the history of our city that has both formed and  still influences our day to day lives?

City Hall Barkers Pool

Is that important? Research would say so but even more convincing is the 100 plus at the conference spending their Saturday in a University lecture theatre, and seminar rooms. Can we change things? Can we bring together all aspects of Sheffield and market it as the Sheffield experience? The pubs, clubs, theatres, music venues and the creative industries, the manufacturing, the high tech and the low tech, the Universities, the parks, the woodlands, the waterways, the ethnic diversity, the radical history, the farms, the innovators, the buildings from medieval to brutalist, the ancient hillforts and Saxon crosses. Why not?

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Cornish Works