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Park Hill and Flats – What Really Goes On In Sid’s Head?

January 18, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

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My final post as guest curator. As previously alluded to earlier this week, I’ll be making reference in this post to Park Hill and high rise living. Anybody familiar with me will know I’m a bit fanatical and passionate about this sort of stuff and Park Hill does feature quite heavily in my work (like the image above!).

Possibly Sheffield’s most famous building – certainly the one that causes the most controversy and arguments in pubs! I’ll try and condense what its all about, alongside my own thoughts and feelings about the old girl. I’m aware I can go on about this if left to ramble!

Park Hill 1960

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An enormous complex of just under 1000 flats, spread over a relatively small area of hillside behind Sheffield’s Midland Station, Park Hill was designed by radical young architects Jack Smith and Ivor Lynn in the post war years to provide high density social housing close to the city centre. Completely innovative for its time in its concept of ‘deck access’.

Park Hill Pub

At that time other towerblock schemes had been built, but it was becoming increasingly recognised that these were quite isolating places to live in, with little interaction with neighbours, other community members etc. Taking inspiration from  Alison and Peter Smithson’s Golden Lane estate in London, Smith and Lynn designed what was to become a much discussed and loved example of Brutalist Architecture. Among planners and fans of modern architecture, Park Hill is an icon of post war optimism, socialist chic and cool. Its historic importance is reflected in the fact that it gained listed building status of 2 in 1998.

Constructed between 1957 and 1961, Park Hill was built using a concrete frame with the walls made of bricks. The bricks were one of the great assets to the structure – they make the building of much higher quality than many of the substandard tower blocks from the same era, which were constructed using just large concrete blocks bolted together. These suffered from damp and poor insulation.

The brickwork of the original frame (red, yellow, cream and brown) also provided a splash of colour and identity to the estate. The names of four slum-cleared terraced streets that were lost to provide the land on which to build the flats are remembered in the names of each deck. The decks (or streets) provide access into properties at every third level,  entering either at deck level, straight upstairs or straight downstairs .This is known as scissor and in its time was incredibly forward thinking.

The change in coloured bricks every third level reinforces the different identity of each street, which is given its own corresponding colour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This original design feature – clearly marking different streets at every third level – has been replicated by Urban splash in their renovation.You can clearly see a change of colour every three levels:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The four separate curving blocks ( N-north, S-south, E-east and W-west ) are connected by bridges at three points in the estate, to continue each “street” into the adjacent block: Norwich Row(the highest); Long Henry Row; Hague Row; and Gilbert Row (the lowest).  Below Gilbert Row, at ground level, a row of shop units make a further row: ‘The Pavement’.The top two ‘streets’, Long Henry Row and Norwich Row, cover the whole of the complex, Hague Row covers two thirds and Gilbert Row appears only in the bottom of the northerly tallest block. Further to that, the Northern block, at 14 stories, is so high that the bottom story forms an additional street  - ‘The Pavement’. Essentially, you could start at flat number 1 of your ‘street’ and walk to the furthest point on your ‘street’ via the interconnecting bridges between the four main blocks, passing every property on your level – hence the term ‘streets in the sky’.

A Map of Park Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The roof height of the whole structure is maintained at the same height (above sea level) but the amount of floors decreases as it goes further up the hill. Famously, the landings were wide enough for a milk float to drive along each ‘street’ leaving fresh produce at each resident’s door (see below).  As the flats get less tall further up the hill, each ‘street’ meets the ground, and the milk float was able to exit the complex via an exit ramp.With the exception of Norwich Row, being able to enter the vast majority of Park Hill from  street level made the estate a radically accessible building for mothers with prams and wheelchair users. This design was forward thinking, modern and quite futuristic.

A milkfloat serves one of Park Hill’s ‘streets’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flats contained four integral pubs, a parade of shops and two schools. It was truly designed as a complete community. I’ve always been a bit geeky and Park Hill still fulfills my childhood science fiction dreams of cities in the sky, clean brutal lines, raised walkways, utopian socialism for all etc. Even the Daleks could access Park Hill if need be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was born into an age when these planning ideas were still seen as exciting, radical and the way forward. Admittedly things did start to go a bit wrong for tower blocks in the 70s and 80s. They were an easy scapegoat and a convenient peg to hang all the country’s troubles on. Consequently, as I grew older, the inner-city and its tower blocks became the classic post-apocalyptic punk backdrop. Either way…sci fi-utopia or punk rock dystopia…it was good enough for me!

A View From The Inside

An Alternative View From The Inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The listing of Park Hill is often a matter of incredulity for its quite vociferous critics, who see the estate as an eyesore and a huge representation of society’s many failings. With vocal nay-sayers demanding its immediate demolition, and many others, like my good self, wanting the building to be restored and continued for use as accessible urban housing. Park Hill divides opinion.

My argument to such miserable drizzlers and their catastrophising one liners is that they have an extremely discriminatory and misinformed view against such places and the people that (heaven forbid!) choose to reside there.

Possibly they believe that all sorts of misdoings and criminal, anti-social activities occur only in towerblocks and nowhere else. Almost as if you can’t trust people to live together in high density because they won’t be able to stop themselves misbehaving. The usual remark from a Park Hill critic doesn’t really go beyond two short sentences, with extreme remarks such as ‘full of druggies, prostitutes, low lives, dole scum’ and ‘should just knock it down’.

I always feel quite angry for the past and present residents at Park Hill, and indeed other areas with high density social housing, many of whom lived there quite happily for many years. I have met and worked alongside many people who have lived in Park Hill, whose comments about life there were pretty unanimous… “its a great place and community to live in.”

As a public servant in Sheffield during the past fifteen years, I’ve seen and continue to see far more grief and social problems in the larger 1930s estates than I’ve ever seen in Park Hill. I’m sure Park Hill’s detractors aren’t proposing that such huge estates get razed too…no, because there’re houses with gardens! Surely that’s a prerequiste for acceptable behaviour! I’ve counted the number of times a client from Park Hill has been referred to me in fifteen years: four times. Yes, thats not a typo.

The vast majority of Park Hill is presently derelict, with all entrances into unoccupied wings blocked up with steel doors. However, there are still council tennants in the west wing of the estate that borders Talbot Street at the top of the hill. The tallest blocks of the estate (North Block) are currently undergoing refurbishment by the Manchester based company Urban Splash (click here for a detailed account of their approach to Park Hill). New tenants have started to move into the new blocks and rather than the new flats being sold solely to private tenants there is to be a mix of tenure:  Private, Social and Responsible Landlord (Housing Association).

This is a biggie of a Park Hill argument… Shouldn’t the flats be all given to social housing? Yep, I’d be up for that, but realistically, has this council got the cash to be able to do this, as we face crippling cuts for the third year on the trot? Park Hill is now over 50 years old and needs work doing to it, and unfortunately this building is somewhat of a big one to renovate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another argument is, “I’m not paying £90K to live next door to dole/ASBO scum from the council.” Try having a neighbour with anti- social tendencies who OWNS their home, believe me, pal, you really are powerless then. I’ve lived in flats and owned my home and there’s a lot more accountability and power over such things when the council is involved.

I make no bones that lessons have been learned about high rise living since its inception after WW2, but that doesn’t mean to say that we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater and eradicate such places as if they’re an embarrassing reminder of an optimistic past.

I do, however, have opinions about how such schemes like Park Hill could be managed better. Firstly, I go with the notion that people who don’t want to live in a tower block shouldn’t be made to (personally, my vision of hell would be stuck five miles out of town in an amenity-free housing estate!) However, this obviously has implications for homeless persons, who get given one offer of accommodation.

Secondly, the addition of a concierge helps to curb the access of unwanted vistors that may have less than honorable intentions. It’s an understandably British thing that we recoil from living in ‘gated communities’, but if you look towards other countries, particularly European, it is perfectly normal and acceptable to live in flats and apartments that have an element of security. Don’t think ‘gated community’…think Berlin/Barcelona apartment!

I’m glad that Urban Splash are taking the plunge (get the pun!) with Park Hill. New tenants are starting to move in and business space is being rented in the ground floors. It’ll take time, but new life will gradually breathe into this part of town. It’s time to put the old girl back to use!

The new look Park Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contrary to popular belief, Park Hill isn’t necessarily my favourite building, but its probably one of the only ones that’s still standing. Being as though its a mile from my house, it gets photographed a lot and I would recommend you get up close while you can. It’s a shining example of  the post-war dream.The sleek glass and steel renovations by Urban Splash are breathtaking and the derelict parts are somewhat ambient and awe inspiring. Most of its cousins and extended family members are now hardcore – Park Hill is lucky to survive.

Before my week on ‘A Wondrous Place’ ends, there’s just time to leave a question for next week’s guest curator, Chrissy Brand, creator of the excellent Mancunian Wave blog:

Hi Chrissy… You’ve experienced living both in London and now Manchester… What sells Manchester to you over the capital?

Thanks to Chris at Northern Spirit and to everyone who has followed my exploits this week. Hope to see you again soon.

Sid.

 

Avatar of Sid Fletcher

Sid Fletcher

Sid Fletcher is a Sheffield based artist whose work specialises in the depiction of the modern urban environment. Brutalist architecture and high density social housing form the main focus of his creations – their repeating, monotonous facades and threatening scale have always inspired Sid. Although he has more recently started to incorporate different materials such as Perspex, Metal and MDF into his digitally manipulated art, Sid would tend to describe the process of organising and creating equally as important as the end result. Like the radical town planners that mapped out the urban landscape of post war Britain - Sid’s work is somewhat like Marmite - You either like it or you don’t! Sid describes himself of redbrick extraction (although he does also describe himself as somewhat of a bit of a “kitchen sink” drama queen).

The Moor – A Short Story In A Blackened and Apocalyptic Style

January 17, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

New-The-Moor-1

Alighting from the urine marinated ringroad subway, I deny the street hustler his request for spare change. I too am penniless. What does he expect? Its January: everyone here is more skint than normal.

My executive decision on engaging the short stairs up to street level, rather than walking around the long access ramp, brings a quick flare of warmth, temporarily curbing the worst excesses of the Northern cold. It is at this point I start to worry about older people. I make a mental note to reply to mum’s earlier text, where she was ‘wittling on’ about her winter boots which she can’t find.

Looking up to the sky at the huge Ziggarat-like layers of a government building, I’ve always been intrigued as to where the entrance is. My destination of The Moor is clearly visible through the arcade-like tunnel at ground level, but I am denied access to this thoroughfare by a 20 foot metal portcullis of a gate. Multiple no access/no right of way signs, and CCTV cameras on masts, reinforce this in case I was unsure.

Like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory, Its been chained off for as long as I can remember and almost the stuff of legend. Originally it was meant to be the terminus for the city Monorail, but apparently the closure of the thoroughfare was associated with the IRA homeland campaign of the 1970s.  Hadn’t all that been sorted out now? Do the powers that be still not want this building to be at all vulnerable? What’s so important about it that it has to be a man-made barricade blocking the organic flow of human traffic from The Moor to London Road? Surely it would make a nice arcade of kiosks?

Contemplating the various criticisms of redtape, bureaucracies and other things beyond my control, I like everyone else am forced into circumnavigating around the obstruction. I enter into a pavement-wide bottleneck of mass human ambulation. With a sheer unrelenting wall of grills and concrete to one side and a main road on the other, this section of pavement becomes a metaphorical mountain pass. The pass is punctuated by several discarded cans of Tenants StuporBrew and a thoughtfully placed bus stop with resultant queue. I look towards the dizzy heights of the barricade for any sign of human activity that may make this inconvenience acceptable. I see no humans – only many pigeons, perched on the windowsills. I wonder if the pigeons can see any Oompah Lompahs inside the building making chocolate and other confectionary? I wish I could fly! As my eyes and thoughts are elsewhere I bump into a fellow man of similar age and size. He looks like his life has dealt him more blows than mine.

“Sorry mate, my fault!” I quickly inform him, as for a split-second too long he makes bloodshot eye contact in a surly manner. Saying  nothing, he continues on his travels.

I am positive that my intrigue in the building has now been captured by its many electronic eyes. I resign myself to this inevitable fact, and the certainty my attention to it has been recorded in someone else’s interests for a future date.

There’s a throbbing at the top of my thigh… Shit. Its a blood clot! No, you idiot…you’ve left your phone on silent…its mum again…  “Where’s my boots?”  Mental note…sort that out…its annoying now rather than worrying. Right, now I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

In more senses than one. Walking onto The Moor, I’m hit head on by the pungently, heady stench of Anglo streetfood. Its almost as if decades of constant deep frying have embedded an essence into all the concrete – the sheen is complimented by an acidic combination of cheap ketchup and fried onions. Coupled with the feeling of now being enveloped by the government building on two of my sides, and the concrete precinct style shops on a third, I find myself yet again looking up to the gargantuan structure as if it’s commanding me to do so. Or am I just unable to stop myself?

Despite the skin exfoliating wind, a Union Jack seems to hang impotent and lifeless from a flagpole on its roof, as if any pride has long since been sapped from it. In front of the building a large Modernist public art sculpture, very much of its time, now looks outdated and obsolete.

Next to it is an untended flower bed. The sort that should serve as an occasional street bench, but is now festooned with used nappies and white cider bottles. From this bed rises a solitary lifeless tree. A grimy plastic bag snagged onto its branches champions over the Union Jack by flapping irritatingly in the wind.

This repetitive beat is interrupted by a young man, clad in grey sportswear, which has long since lost any former lustre. Demonstrating the art of multitasking, he simultaneously walks anticlockwise in a circular fashion, whilst holding his genitals and talks dutifully loudly to a seemingly interested party down a mobile phone.

“Just got it today, get keys tomorrow.”

-pause-

“Gonna get mesen 2 Akitas an 3 Rotties. Stick ‘em in the garden.”

The observation that he looks barely able to feed himself, let alone five powerdogs, amalgamated with the fact that he is blissfully holding his sexual organs in public, brings me to the conclusion that this must be some  kind of masturbatory fantasy of his.

There’s far too much going on here, plus my daily hangover has started to kick in!

I think I’ve worked out where the entrance to the building is. I make another mental note to try and get access one day. It’s the point where all the leaves, litter and general detritus get blown into and collect within this man-made cave. I see workers coming and going from the building, hence dispelling my Oompah Lompah theory. Like children walking to school in Autumn, they kick their way through the piles of aforementioned leaves and rubbish, but without the same joy and innocence that children have. People here look and dress older than they should. It’s as if they’ve resigned themselves to something less than they’d originally bargained for. Although not a fan, I’m bizarrely reminded of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video.

There are a couple of Parisian cafe style tables and chairs outside a shuttered shop. Why? Were they were put there for civic reasons, as most people don’t want to sit in a wind vortex of grit and leaves next to used nappies and Trampagne empties?

I look round, as I’m bemused as to which shop they belong to. With the possible exception of the body building shop, and its promises of increased testosterone,sexual prowess and aggression, none of them seem to sell any kind of foodstuff. I abstractly ponder whether the table and chairs were placed there by people who’d just come to this place with bread to mop up the previously mentioned grease from the sides of the buildings. Almost like some post-apocalyptic picnic.

The shop, with complimentary table and chairs, is next to public conveniences, a sign outside of which warns in no uncertain terms against any criminal activity taking place within there. The shop has a large  ‘To Let’ sign abutting from it. I mischeviously imagine placing a large ‘I’ inbetween the two words, thus producing a huge ‘TOILET’ sign. Maybe this would increase the public’s awareness of the conveniences and prevent said criminal activity taking place. Maybe it’d invite more criminal activity there? Maybe I’m just being somewhat puerile… I giggle about  my personal joke whilst staring at empty tables and chairs outside a public toilet well known for illicit activities.  A few people are starting to stare at me in a concerned manner. Keen to avoid psychiatric disposal, I make a scathing comment about the municipal mural on the wall between the ladies and gents and move swiftly on, acknowledging the trader who has eternally sold DVDs from a canopyless stall, without ageing or changing facial expression. She still looks the same.

Besides…I’m on a mission. The whole reason for travelling to The Moor is out of basic human necessity. Food. I need a maintenance dose of carbohydrates, fat and protein to quell the angry storm within my toxin laden guts. By far the easiest way of securing this would be via the medium of a pasty or two: better pastry/filling ratio than a pie, usually less messy.  A king of Northern food.

Scaling up and down The Moor, I consider my options. Times are hard. I need to be careful with the little monies I have. Most of the businesses on The Moor reflect this, and give me some solace that it’s not just my problem. Pound Shops, Cash Converters, promises and allure of instant cash for anyone…only 3000% APR. We’ll buy your mobile phone from you because you’re desperate – pawnbrokers of the digital age. I feel angry.

I’d instinctively lied to the hustler before. He’s probably got more cash than me. Bet Xmas didn’t cripple him with his free soup kitchen dinner.

I once read a book ‘Pies and Prejudice’ by Stuart Maconie*. He proposes an academic hypothesis. That every decent size town in the North must contain a workman in Hi Vis clothing and a branch of Greggs.  I wonder if The Moor would pass such a test on its own merits?

For a pedestrianised area, there’s a lot of vehicles and machinery going on here. Workmen clad in tabbards and helmets swagger around authoritatively,like boisterous boys who’ve bought the place with their own pocket-money. Continually shouting to each other about their most minor and trivial matters, as if all should take an interest in their daily and nightly conquests. I too am taken back to this metaphorical playground and remember the age old maxim about sexual activity – that the ones that talk about it; aren’t getting it.

I bet they’ve not read ‘Pies and Prejudice’. I wonder if their cultural capital is gained via DVDs as opposed to books. Anyhow, criteria number 1 is met.

They’re tearing up the pavement, leaving two telephone kiosks alone, lost and forlorn in a sea of rubble and muck. Its as if they’re hugging each other in comfort and hope, like the last people alive following the apocalypse. Inaccessible portals of communication to another world that doesn’t give a fuck about this one. Defiant and proud they stand. I need to stop this philosophical musing and prioritise the more basic instincts of human survival otherwise I’ll never get past dinnertime (that’s lunchtime for some folk).

I’m spoilt for choice here, with two branches of Greggs and leading competitor The Pound Bakery to choose from. Deciding that two vegetarian sausage rolls for a pound will be better value for money than a Greggs Cheese pasty for 95p, the Pound Bakery wins. The sales assistant asks if I want a drink with that and duly runs through several continental choices. Expresso, Cappucino, Latte… Maybe it was the Pound Bakery that put the table and chairs there? I also wonder if, for the majority of customers on The Moor, Latte has to be translated to ‘A Milkie’.

Opting for my usual morning tipple of Triple Espresso, I park myself onto a nearby bench to consume my acquired feast. They taste like stuffing wrapped in pastry, but they function well and serve their purpose. More quantity than quality compared with Greggs. Maybe I need to seek a new vocation as a food critic? I consider going back for two more, but wait a moment for things to take effect.

The street hustler shoots me a glare as he passes me, noting my discarded food bag and polystyrene cup. I smile back. Mum has just sent me another text,  glady informing me that she’s found her boots. The pasties make quick work, extinguishing the raging storm in my stomach and I feel the simultaneous benefits of blood sugar increasing and high potency caffeine hitting my brain. I feel alive again. I’m also sure I can feel high levels of saturated fat entering my blood vessels. I’ll be paying this back with interest in years to come. The Moor does fulfill both aspects of Maconie’s theory. It is truly Northern in its own right!

Temporarily at one with the world. My attention is drawn to the activity of the Hi Vismen. I’m acutely aware that a futuristic honeycomb lattice structure appears to be taking shape in front of my eyes…..

- – - – -

There’s no doubt that ‘The Moor’, at the southern end of Sheffield’s pedestrianised zone, has somewhat gone to seed over the past few years.

However, here are links to new development proposals for The Moor:

Architectural Designs

The City Council’s Regeneration Plans

The Regeneration Project’s Design Team

The Proposed ‘New Moor Market’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new Market Hall that is expected to open in late 2013 will sadly relocate the 700 year tradition of market traders from the Castle Market area to a brand new market hall and street market close to the proposed retail quarter. The intention, though, is to make the market somewhat of a foodie destination, allocating at least 50% of its stalls for foods. Given its proximity to London Road, and also foodie temple Waitrose, this could get pulled off.

*With self depreciating humour, ‘Pies and Prejudice’ is an authorative text and, when twinned with George Orwell’s ‘Road to Wigan Pier’, becomes a Northern masterclass. They’re possibly the only books to have any real meaning to me in a sociological sense.

 

Avatar of Sid Fletcher

Sid Fletcher

Sid Fletcher is a Sheffield based artist whose work specialises in the depiction of the modern urban environment. Brutalist architecture and high density social housing form the main focus of his creations – their repeating, monotonous facades and threatening scale have always inspired Sid. Although he has more recently started to incorporate different materials such as Perspex, Metal and MDF into his digitally manipulated art, Sid would tend to describe the process of organising and creating equally as important as the end result. Like the radical town planners that mapped out the urban landscape of post war Britain - Sid’s work is somewhat like Marmite - You either like it or you don’t! Sid describes himself of redbrick extraction (although he does also describe himself as somewhat of a bit of a “kitchen sink” drama queen).

Meersbrook, Antiques Quarter and London Road – My Walk Into Town

January 16, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Albert Road, Meersbrook

Many thanks for my question from last week’s guest curator Greg Thorpe:

“Hi Sid, tell us about some of the most thrilling, awe inspiring or mysterious locations in your home town or city.”

Hopefully throughout my posts this week, and in somewhat of a usual Sid Fletcher digressing roundabout fashion, i’ll be answering this.

For an awe inspiring location you simply have to climb one of Sheffield’s seven hills for a city vista unlike any other – the city has several landmark buildings such as the Hallamshire Hospital, University Arts Tower, Moore St Substation (which is now illuminated at night!) St Paul’s Tower with adjoining  ‘Cheese Grater’ car park and Sheffield Cathedral. A small amount of cardio-vascular exercise can get you to a lunchtime spot like no other – weather permitting of course. I would have to say this view is equally as stunning at night when all the lights are on and you can see the city glow.

In juxtaposition to all this – get up close to any of the post war Brutalist stuff like Park Hill- a trip in the new external glass elevator is well worth taking should you get the chance – it does take your breath away somewhat.

I’ll be airing my thoughts about PH in much greater detail towards the end of the week – no surprises there, eh?!

Incidentally…and in a bumbling Stephen Fry academic kind of fashion…a lot of thought was given to Sheffield’s cityscape in its replanning  after the war. Great care was taken by the city architects to attempt to have a bold yet considered vision across the city. Tower blocks and other significant schemes were carefully placed to act as landmarks – a quote from the 18th century landscape gardener Capability Brown was applied as standard – “Flood the valleys , plant the tops.” Furthermore, and in order to provide some identity, the city architects were keen not to duplicate these schemes. In turn they applied different concepts and designs to ones that overlooked each other e.g. the tower blocks at Netherthorpe would have looked north east towards the deck accessed Woodside/ Pye Bank estate which hugged the contours of the bank, which in turn looked easterly towards the huge and domineering castle keep of Hyde Park/Park Hill, which in turn looked towards the towerblocks at Norfolk Park and Claywood Drive.

Yes, yes…that’s very interesting! Anyhow…back to the task in question…

Today I’m going to be telling you about the area in Sheffield where I’ve lived for the past 16+ years. Naturally it’s the bit of Sheffield I know probably the best.

Meersbrook is a smallish area, approx 1 and half miles south south west out of Sheffield, just off Chesterfield Road. Sometimes I jokingly refer to it as ‘The Brook’. It’s always been a popular choice for first time buyers and families.

Meersbrook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a map of Meersbrook, illustrating the whereabouts of each point of interest that I’ll be sharing within this post. Just click on the map to enlarge it.

Pubs

2 Broadfield

8 White Lion

9 Sheaf View

16 Cross Scythes

18 Byron House

 

Cafes

11 Rude Shipyard

12 Bragazzis

14 Les Amis

15 Honey Pie Tearoom

5,7 and 17 also have cafes within them.

 

Antiques, Vintage/ Retro and Arts

1 The Old Sweet Shop (TOSS)

3 The Vault

4 The Pod / Time Warp

5 Sheffield Antiques Centre

6 Chapel Antiques

7 Sheffield Antiques Emporium

10 Heeley Bank Antiques / Corner Gallery

17 Hagglers Corner

 

Other points of interest

A Old Express Dairy, Art Deco building

B Metal sculpture to commemorate Tyzacks works

C Circle of Hands, community sculpture within a 21st century stone circle

D Snow gates next to River Sheaf, Saxon Road

 

Meersbrook has always had a bit of a more laid back, bohemian stereotype about it, compared with other sought after Sheffield areas such as Hunters Bar, Greystones and Broomhill. While circus jugglers, leftie activists and vegans discuss how best to overthrow Capitalism, nurses, social workers, teachers and artists happily co-exist alongside builders and other tradesmen…sorry… tradespersons! Don’t bother nipping to the newsagents for a copy of the Guardian after 11am – it’s usually sold out.

Free dietary advice from Meersbrook residents society!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The name comes from the stream Meers Brook, a tributary of the River Sheaf. Its literal meaning is ‘boundary brook’. In ancient times this formed the boundary between the  Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia. It remained as the boundary between  Yorkshire and Derbyshire into the 20th century. In 1873 the land adjacent to the Meers Brook was divided between future roads and allotments with the formation of the Meersbrook Land Society. The rules for building were strict, including rules concerning the size of the allotment, the quantity of stone and all houses had to front towards the roads. The rules also forbid corner shops and pubs on the south side of what was then known as the border. Hence giving a quick explanation to the local question as to why are there no pubs in Meersbrook. I originally heard it was because the area had something to do with the Quakers, who didn’t drink.Other similar explanations have been related to the Methodists. However, despite this lack of ‘essential amenitites’, Meersbrook is a relatively small area with several good hostelries along its edges, in which one can partake in a thoroughly good imbibing session. Basically you’re never that far from a good pub.

I’ll digress again .. because we’re talking about one of my favourite subjects…beer. Here’s my take on the pubs that most people from ‘The Brook’ drink in:

The Broadfield (AKA The Broadie) AbbeydaleDale Road

Technically in adjoining Nether Edge, but very quickly accessible from Meersbrook. It reopened in late 2011 after it had proverbially gone to the dogs for some time. An extremely popular, hip place to be, great beers, fantastic food, including huge veggie pies! All reasonably priced. Apparently makes more money than its equally hip sister establishments ‘The Forum’ in the city centre and ‘The York’ in Broomhill combined. It’s usually rammed, with standing-room-only late on.

The White Lion, London Road, Heeley Bottom

As much as I really love the newly revamped Broadie, this pub is probably my all time fave over my 22 Sheffield years. It is the official TowerBlockMetal ‘local’. For me it has perennially stood the test of time, wethered the economic storms, trends  and various rocks (not physically) thrown at it. Its a normal pub, welcoming to both regulars and strangers alike, and has with no pretences as to being anything else – always a good atmosphere. Has live bands a couple of times a month and Slayer on the jukebox! Note the stained glass frontage with the N sloping in the wrong direction. Across the road, former Gentlemen’s conveniences have been adapted for use as an occasional artspace/pop-up gallery. A sign of Meersbrook’s creatives at work.

Sheaf View, Gleadless Road

Fiefdom on Sheffield’s growing Real Ale circuit, acting as a beacon calling to those who will always prefer a pint of  Scrottocks Old Origible, and its resultant halitosis, to anything satanic like Carlsberg or Tetleys. A lot of folk swear by this pub and wouldn’t contemplate the notion of going anywhere else, let alone somewhere ‘trendy’ like The Broadfield, 5 minutes away. Bit of a Marmite pub really, you either like it or you don’t. Personally I have to be the mood for it and only really go if I’m meeting mates who insist we must drink there, because they won’t drink anywhere else.

CrossScythes, Derbyshire Lane

Is it in Meersbrook or is it in Norton? Don’t care really! Another pub that was struggling until a recent takeover by Thornbridge brewery. It’s quite roomy, serves food and is nice – its a bit of a pint-earning trek up a big hill, though, so once you’re there, that’ll be where you stay for the night. Most people tend to use the other three pubs, as they’re all within 5 minutes walk of each other.

So that’s the important bits covered… what else has Meersbrook got to offer…?

 

Meersbrook Park

A large part of the area is taken up by the popular Meersbrook Park. It is a typical municipal park, well known for commanding views over the city, which in my view are definitely worth checking out (see the above map). Within the park are two historic buildings: Bishops’ House (c1500), one of the oldest buildings in Sheffield, and Meersbrook House, built in 1780, which is now council offices.  In close proximity to this, and originally part of the house, is the Walled Garden, which is almost like a set from ‘Midsomer murders’. It really is a beautiful place.

At the bottom edge of the park there’s also the Pavilion, which was originally built as a nursery to enable women to work in factories during WW2. Nowadays its used by several community groups and can be hired for a very low fee. James Green local printer has created a fantastic screenprint of the the Pavilion:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albert Road

This is one of the main thoroughfares through ‘The Brook’, and if you’re post war housing inclined, like my good self, a convenient  way to get through to the Gleadless Valley estate via the woods at Cat Lane. Albert Road is a favourite walk of mine, due to the hotch potch of different houses that seem to have been built on bombsites.

There are some redeveloped former tram sheds behind the Crown Inn at the Junction with Chesterfield Road. This is also the start (or the end, depending on what way you’re looking at it!) of Heeley Millenium park - a green corridor  taking you past the White Horse of Heeley to Heeley City Farm. Underneath the railway bridge on the other side of the Chesterfield road is the River Sheaf and the Antiques Quarter.

After writing this paragraph, I realised that it classically demonstrates what is taken for granted living here – woods, rivers, City Farm, green corridors… You’re never far from some sort of green space or urban oasis in Sheffield.

Meersbrook continues to a very community minded, convenient and lively place to be. Over the past 18 months it has flourished more and more, with the long overdue opening of two cafes on Chesterfield Road:  Des Amis and Honey Pie Tearoom. Both are well worth a visit.

There is also an ever increasing creative scene in Sheffield, with Meersbrook strongly contributing to this. Local artists and creatives  regulary run very accessible workshops/ courses in printmaking, writing, stained glass, pottery and dressmaking. There’s a real ‘we can get on and do this’ approach about all this within Meersbrook, and none of the usual snobbery that usually makes these sort of things feel exclusive and distant. As this is my space for the week I’m going to plug these guys…you should check them out…

Scott Stephen – writer

Billigoat – Stained Glass

DayGlo Photography

James Green – printer extraordinaire

Postcard Cafe- photography/blog Sheffield street art

Cornergallery

TowerBlockMetal (who?)

 

Antiques Quarter

Stradling the border of Meersbrook, inbetween Chesterfield Road and Abbeydale Road, is a part  of town which, for a long time, has been somewhat of a Brownfield site. However, over the past few years this area has been increasingly populated with antiques emporiums, reclaimation yards and vintage/retro type shops. It is now officially being developed and plugged as Sheffield Antiques Quarter.

Here’s a map of Antiques Quarter

The Quarter represents no more than a square mile, and runs from the end of the Queens Rd, along part of London Rd, onto Broadfield Rd, to the junction with Abbeydale Rd, and back towards town to Wolseley Road. Within this area are:

The Chapel on Broadfield Road

Langtons on London Road

The Heeley Bank Centre

The Vault

Dronfield Antiques

The Pad

Timewarp

Not Just Military

…all within a minute of one another on The Abbeydale Road. There’s also…

Haggler’s Corner (local arts centre on Queens Rd)

The RudeShip Yard (cafe and books)

and The Okey Cafe (60′s Mod Cafe), among others.

This is a nice place for a bit of an urban mooch and a great way of getting from Meersbrook into town, or just a good place to while away for a bit. One immediate selling point for me is that the River Sheaf flows through it. I always love the allure of an urban river:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a few more interesting bits to note…

The Three Snow Gates next to River Sheaf on Saxon Road make an artistic addition to a previously industrialised area:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheafscape

Equilibrium

River of Life

There are many other works of public art dotted around: Tyzacks monument at the Bridge Crossing from Broadfield Park onto Broadfield Road…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A somewhat abstract, community-based Circle of Hands, the centrepoint of a Neo Modern/Brutal Stone Circle in Broadfield Way:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, there’s the Art Deco Express Dairy on Broadfield Road:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the Antiques Quarter anywhere on Abbeydale Road, you are now on the great thoroughfare from Southern Sheffield into town –  London Road.

My oh my…how this place has changed over the past 20 years! And definitely for the better in my book. Due to its close proximity to Bramall Lane, Sheffield United’s ground, and the relatively large number of pubs it hosts, London Road has historically been the territorial domain of the hardcore football fan and its associated jingoistic subculture. Not the sort of place you’d really want to be looking out of place by virtue of coloured hair, peace slogans or asking for vegetarian food. Its always been gritty and rough, and I fully admit in the past I have actively avoided it on a Friday/Saturday night.

London Road Tower Block

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nowadays, London Road’s main business is world food. Its a massive melting pot…sorry…crucible(get the local connection) of multi culturalism. In my view, London Road hosts the best concentration and choice of ethnic restaurants in the North.

The majority of these are Oriental in origin, but there’s a bewildering choice within 500 yards – this is what I counted on the way in today:

At least 6 Chinese restaurants, varying regions, specialities, price range.

Chinese cake shop/ bakery

2 Vietnamese restaurants

2 Turkish

3 Thai

1 African

1 Mexican

1 Falafel bar

4 Kebab houses

1 Italian

Traditional Fish and Chips (Assault n Battered – love it!)

Furthermore, if you turn round and head out of town onto adjoining Abbeydale Road, within a couple of minutes you hit a couple of South Indian restaurants, Bragazzis Italian and Tapas bars. Heading back into town again, at the end of London Road is the most Northern outpost of the foodie bastion, Waitrose.

I think the main reason for the cultural shift around London Road is the fact that there’s acres of students flats and accommodation  within its immediate vicinity. That could also be said about the ever trendy Eccleshall Road  But, London Road is much closer to city centre and consequently has much more of a transient ‘urban edge’ vibe to it – similar to Oxford Road in Manchester, albeit on a much smaller scale. Naturally, like Oxford Road, London Road has its fair share of (ahem) ‘street gentlemen’.

The pubs haven’t gone either, although a few are derelict or converted into flats.The Cremorne is a popular choice, with live music, The Barrel seems decent and unpretentious enough, Barry’s bar always comes across as…er…’lively’ and Delaneys behind Waitrose is worth checking out.

Could easily spend all my food allowance on London Road!

That should keep you going for today…gotta dash…picking kid up from school!

 

Featured Image: A mural on Albert Road, Meersbrook.

 

Avatar of Sid Fletcher

Sid Fletcher

Sid Fletcher is a Sheffield based artist whose work specialises in the depiction of the modern urban environment. Brutalist architecture and high density social housing form the main focus of his creations – their repeating, monotonous facades and threatening scale have always inspired Sid. Although he has more recently started to incorporate different materials such as Perspex, Metal and MDF into his digitally manipulated art, Sid would tend to describe the process of organising and creating equally as important as the end result. Like the radical town planners that mapped out the urban landscape of post war Britain - Sid’s work is somewhat like Marmite - You either like it or you don’t! Sid describes himself of redbrick extraction (although he does also describe himself as somewhat of a bit of a “kitchen sink” drama queen).

Just What Is It About Sheffield?

January 15, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Post-2-Image-1
I have lived in Sheffield now since 1991 – a familiar story…came as a student and stayed. Personally I think Sheffield is one of Britain’s best kept secrets, but sssh, don’t tell everyone!  It’s a great place for a whole plethora of reasons, but I’ll be frank with you and admit I can’t really sum it up any better than this little ditty I’ve cut n pasted from the University website:

 

A pulsating grassroots creative arts community, a harmonious multicultural population, more parks and woodland than any other UK city, striking Victorian and modern architecture, big shopping at Meadowhall, small shopping at niche independent stores, the best pubs in Britain, dazzling public art, stylish restaurants, champion sport facilities, a legendary music scene, great cafes and coffee shops, secret parties, urban farms, Supertrams, seven hills, five rivers and two and a half million trees

 

Apart from the Meadowhall bit, I’d concur with all that – even the 2 and half million trees - I’ve counted them! – only joking.

More points to add is that Sheffield is a very SAFE city, welcoming and warm. One of the first things that struck me about it that people just get on and accept each other with no one-upmanship. Unlike most other University towns and cities, Sheffield has never particularly ‘ghettoised’ the student community and they mingle and live alongside locals and the ever increasing number of graduates that choose to remain here.

 

Its very central to several other cities – only an hour from Manchester, Nottingham or Leeds – 2 hours from London – you can even get the train all the way to Europe from Sheffield with just one platform change at St Pancras. If all this city life is too much and you’re missing the countryside, the peak district is minutes away – Sheffield still remains a proverbial Mecca for a lot of climbers.  Despite some steep and stubborn hills, Sheffield is a very accessible place to be – everything in the city centre is within walking distance. I personally can quite easily walk to work, decent pubs, city centre gigs, and all the bits that I like photographing, all from my house.

 

As alluded to before, and probably the reason most people are interested in my work, is that Sheffield has a massive and extensively eclectic range of architectural styles and buildings, particularly from the post-war period, that celebrate its industrial heritage. Sheffield was extensively bombed during WW2 and this is reflected in the hotch- potch of building styles you may see even in the suburban areas.  Indeed, a considerable amount of the Eastern side of the city centre was bombed – apparently it was a miscalculation: the German bombers were meant to be aiming for steel works in the east and so the city had to be rebuilt in a brave new pioneering fashion that reflected the optimism of winning a global conflict.

 

Of course there were many other urban centres and cities around the UK that suffered incredible damage during the war, but what is it that makes Sheffield so different and alluring, and why is there this sudden interest in Brutalist buildings, modernism and industrial legacy?

 

Primarily, the range of styles and how they nestle almost incongruously against each other - like the variety of chairs stacked around the table at a large family Xmas dinner – makes the urban landscape of Sheffield quite random, quirky and eclectic; you only have to stand outside the station and look around 360degrees to immediately be taken in by several styles.

 

Secondly, and extensively referenced, Sheffield is built on seven hills like Rome. Historically, up until the Industrial Revolution the topography of the city had always prevented it from being little other than several interlinked smaller towns and villages – possibly explaining the much deserved reputation Sheffield has as a city which is the biggest village in the world! Post-war housing schemes such as Park Hill and Gleadless Valley, and also municipal/civic amenities Castle Market and the Epic development, were specifically built with a mind to exploit the contours of the landscape, leading to accessibility from many levels.  At the time of their conception these ideas had really only been talked about in an academic sense, and indeed were always considered space age, futuristic and exciting. Sheffield boldly embraced these radical new initiatives, maybe out of necessity, maybe as a pledge to providing a city truly accessible for all, or maybe they just got a lot of concrete on the cheap!

 

Thirdly, in many respects Sheffield paved the way as a social housing trail blazer, replacing its slums with high density public housing schemes and estates.  The book ’10 Years of Housing in Sheffield’, which documents the huge housing developments 1952-1962 under the leadership of JL Womersley, was published in several languages including Russian, a testament of Sheffield’s alignment to Socialist ideals (and if anyone’s got a spare copy…?). It is abundantly clear that in this post-war period there was an optimism and allegiance to the newer Sheffield, its residents and its much more left-leaning politics. “By ‘eck, you’ve never had it quite so good,” springs to mind.  Nothing exemplifies this more than the classic film clip ‘Sheffield: City On The Move’ AKA  the introduction to ‘The Full Monty’.

 

Go on…you’ve twisted my arm…here’s the full version of ‘Sheffield: City on the Move’:

 

 

It feels that many older Sheffielders still retain this incredible sense of civic pride about the place and an almost nostalgic yearning to return to such days. Quite frankly…that’s not a bad thing!

 

Finally, due to Sheffield’s smaller size, there’s somewhat of a familiarity about it, and because of the hills and several landmark buildings, its quite easy to orientate yourself once you’re there. The explosion of work from new artists,  photographers and other creatives usually means that you’re likely to recognise and place any newer more urban style work that comes out of Sheffield.

 

Naturally, if you either live in Sheffield now or have lived here in the past, all of this is old news to you and you are more than aware of it.  Be that as it may, one final thing to prove that I’m not a complete Sheffield Sycophant….the roads are terrible…with more potholes than the moon with a bad case of acne. My father in law the right honourable Tom Cooper’s motto is, “Never buy a second hand car from Sheffield!”

Avatar of Sid Fletcher

Sid Fletcher

Sid Fletcher is a Sheffield based artist whose work specialises in the depiction of the modern urban environment. Brutalist architecture and high density social housing form the main focus of his creations – their repeating, monotonous facades and threatening scale have always inspired Sid. Although he has more recently started to incorporate different materials such as Perspex, Metal and MDF into his digitally manipulated art, Sid would tend to describe the process of organising and creating equally as important as the end result. Like the radical town planners that mapped out the urban landscape of post war Britain - Sid’s work is somewhat like Marmite - You either like it or you don’t! Sid describes himself of redbrick extraction (although he does also describe himself as somewhat of a bit of a “kitchen sink” drama queen).

Prologue: First Impressions of Sheffield

January 14, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Final University

1984. Of course this was the year that Nostradamus predicted the world was going to end in some sort of cataclysmic apocalypse or that we were headed for the totalitarianism suggested by George Orwell’s book.  Indeed for a young more alternatively minded bloke, living in a Pennine textile town during Thatcher’s 1980s Britain, it certainly felt that way inclined – it felt like we were all doomed!

 

At that point in my life, my UK geography certainly wasn’t a strong point! Hailing from Rochdale I knew whereabouts Manchester and London where in relation to the town – I also knew three facts pertinent to Sheffield: that it was somewhere in Yorkshire, that it made steel and lots of cutlery, also lots of my sixth form chums were starting to talk about it as a university option- apparently it had a lot going for it!  Anyhow, my ignorance of Steel city aside, my first encounter with Sheffield was on a Sunday afternoon in 1984 when we had been booked to provide the PA system at a punk gig.

 

It was quite common for us to set off from Rochdale in the back of a transit on one of these forays – squashed in like sardines amongst speakers cabs and miles of cables, for 1, 2, or 3+  hours, then emerge at some God forsaken venue anywhere in the North of England in order to make the music happen (of our fashion of course – the majority of our punters were Punk/ Metal groups). This day didn’t seem to be any different from any of the others.

 

The journey was approx 1 and half  hours and I do remember the bends on Snake Pass being pretty tight and hairpin like. The lucky guys who were in the front were naturally telling us quite excessively how beautiful the countryside was. Of course, stuck in the back, we couldn’t see anything let alone take in the dramatic scenery. We  compensated for this lack of stimulation with the other unfortunates in the back by smoking loads of fags and inevitably the usual teasing and running down of each other that close friends do when they’re bored, restless and have little occupational outlet. When we arrived in Sheffield it was the usual scenario of getting rapidly lost in an alien traffic system, taking wrong exits, getting stuck in one way systems etc – the sort of thing that doesn’t particularly bother me now, but you’re when a lot younger rapidly dissipates your threshold for frustration. Of course, the solution for this is to ask directions from the locals! Although I never saw any faces from the depths of the Transit I do remember the accent being somewhat different and like nothing I’d ever heard before – ‘alreeet lad’ instead of ‘allraaht lad’ – as I was more accustomed to on the Western Side of the Pennines. Naturally as (ahem) younger men do whenever they hear a new accent for the first time, we all mimicked and grossly exaggerated the stereotype the minute we drove off.

 

Anyhow, we finally made it to the venue – it was the George 4th pub on Infirmary road. The band line up for the night was a masterclass in second generation DIY Anarcho punk: the Icons of Filth, Anti-System and System Annexe. I think it was about £2 entrance fee.

 

Extricating ourselves from the wreckage of  the gear in the back of the van, and as we were beginning to stretch and massage our aching limbs, I was acutely aware that although it was mid-afternoon it felt dark, almost cold, as if something huge was looming over us eclipsing the sun’s rays. My mate Ross pointed over the road and said,

 

“F***ing hell, Sid! Check that out!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craning my stiff neck I looked across the road to see what Ross was going on about. I was instantly struck at the size of the sun blocking culprit…a block of flats – but this wasn’t any old block of flats…. no sir…..this block of flats  was an unrelenting, half mile long,  14 storey, huge brutalist concrete citadel-like complex – endless lines of fenestration, angular cornered lift shafts, high-level illuminated walkways and external industrial like stairwells - I was staring straight at the now demolished Kelvin flats.

 

I’d never seen anything like it or as big as that before and I will never forget it – it was at that point that I think i fell in love with Sheffield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello ….I’m Sid Fletcher some of you may know me already as that bloke behind TowerBlockMetal and all the post war housing influenced paraphernalia and apparel that I bang out from there. Some of you may know me already personally … for some of you this will be our first encounter – hopefully not the last! You’re going to be flying with me as guest curator for this week on ‘A Wondrous Place’.  I’m going to be telling you about my favourite bits of living in the sunny capital of the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire – the great steel city itself – Sheffield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do hope you continue to follow my week on ‘A Wondrous Place’.

 

Avatar of Sid Fletcher

Sid Fletcher

Sid Fletcher is a Sheffield based artist whose work specialises in the depiction of the modern urban environment. Brutalist architecture and high density social housing form the main focus of his creations – their repeating, monotonous facades and threatening scale have always inspired Sid. Although he has more recently started to incorporate different materials such as Perspex, Metal and MDF into his digitally manipulated art, Sid would tend to describe the process of organising and creating equally as important as the end result. Like the radical town planners that mapped out the urban landscape of post war Britain - Sid’s work is somewhat like Marmite - You either like it or you don’t! Sid describes himself of redbrick extraction (although he does also describe himself as somewhat of a bit of a “kitchen sink” drama queen).