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.
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.
8 White Lion
9 Sheaf View
16 Cross Scythes
18 Byron House
11 Rude Shipyard
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…?
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:
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
James Green – printer extraordinaire
Postcard Cafe- photography/blog Sheffield street art
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
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:
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
1 Falafel bar
4 Kebab houses
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.
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).