Grandparents ‘At Home’
and Memories of Visiting
My Grandparents house was part of a terrace in Harrison Road, at Malin Bridge, Sheffield. Almost at the bottom of Dykes Lane, which is possibly one of the steepest streets in Sheffield.
I always considered that my Grandparents house was perfectly placed. Located at Malin Bridge, the ‘gateway’ to the Bradfield Moors and dramatic High Peak area of the Peak District, yet just a bus ride (or today, tram ride) to the centre of a bustling city.
I would suggest this also applies to Sheffield as a whole. Being slightly north of the centre of the country, it has good road links to all areas.
The house was one of a pair, one smaller than the other, another house built on to the left.
It was built in 1886, part of the rapidly expanding city of Sheffield, to address the housing needs of the ever increasing population. It is incredible to imagine the area had, before this, been open countryside.
At this time, the country was in the grip of an agricultural depression, bringing people from far and wide into the cities, in search of work and expecting a better way of life. Industry on the other hand was booming, also attracting people in.
Sheffield became renowned for its squalid housing stock, and insanitary living conditions, as people packed into the existing, poorly built accommodation, amongst the industrial grime.
However on a green hill, on the very edge of the city, new houses were being built for the population. One of which was 52 Harrison Road. It is hard to know whether this was a house built to look to the future and better living conditions for the inhabitants of the city, or whether its position and builder, made it a slightly better class of house than the ordinary brick terraces and back to back housing. It was given a stone front. Was this to raise its importance, or to match in with the stone built cottages further into the countryside.
Whether it benefitted from modern utilities being introduced into housing at this time (piped water, gas and electricity), we do not know. It was lucky enough to have its own outside privy, and shared the wash house, with just one other household. (It’s neighbour in the yard).
The house build was attributed to JF, presumed to be John Flanagan, known generally as ‘Joe’. He was an Irish immigrant, who made it good in Sheffield, he was born in Ireland around 1827, and appears to have arrived during the 1840’s, when conditions in Ireland were at their worst. He married a local girl, Elizabeth (Armitage?), and their family, mainly seemed to be involved with the various aspects of house building. He died in 1883, and so would not have built it personally. His sons Thomas 1860, John and James, may have done the work.
Most likely to have been Thomas Armitage Flanagan, who in 1911, was described as a Property repairer, bricklayer and slater.
It would be interesting to discover if this family built other houses in the area, and whether they personally purchased the land for the build, in which case they certainly benefitted from the family move from Ireland, having endured harsh conditions as they settled into a new life as Irish immigrants. Or perhaps they were just responsible for the building work, and it was financed by others.
By 1939, Thomas’ son Horace was living at 46 Harrison Road.
“When I was young, I used to play with Jean Flanagan, who lived at 46 Harrison Rd. She was a couple of years or so older than me and it was her grandad or great grandad who built the houses……
I assume they were Irish catholics and my mother was never very keen on them as I remember. Our house was called Coolross Terrace and there is a village called Coolross in Eire….. “
(Even as recently as the 1940’s Irish immigrants, were suffering low level intolerance. Ironically, Grandma too, was descended from Irish immigrants, although she was unaware of this!)
“I’m pretty sure that Joe Flanagan was referred to in our family, but it may have been his nickname. It’s possible that the planning permissions for Harrison Rd in the 1880’s are available at the records office in Sheffield. (The Flanagans almost certainly built 52,50,48,46 and 44 Harrison Rd. and possibly others).
Regarding utilities laid on at he time of construction, I would have thought gas (we had gas lamps in the street, although they could have been installed later), and water as we had outside toilets with water laid on, all supplied in lead pipes! I think electricity would come later, probably in 1920/30’s.” (David Sanderson).
Date plate on front wall.
‘Credo in unum Deum’,
J 1886 F
The translation of the Latin inscription, ‘I believe in one God’, may have been lost on some of the residents, as Grandad always gave the impression of being a staunch atheist, although in later life, he acknowledged he was an agnostic.
Coolross, is in County Tipperary, close to Limerick, (towards the West of Ireland). The Flanagan family were builders and joiners, arriving in Sheffield during the first part of c19th.
Previous occupants :
- 1891 Census
Joseph Smith, 31 a Steel Rod Roller, and wife Florence 27, they had two children, Gertrude 6 and Joseph 2.
Perhaps these were the first occupants of the five year old house. Could Joseph Jr. have been the first baby born here?
By 1901, Joseph Smith sr. was a Grocer at Petre Street, and by 1911 he had done well for himself, as a Mineral Water manufacturer (employer).
- 1901 Census
George W Barker, aged 36, a File Cutting Machine Minder, wife Eliza 38 and four daughters, aged between 7 months and 14 years.
By 1911, the family had moved to Loxley Road.
Frederick Hobson aged 55 and born in Bradfield, was a road repairer, with wife Sarah aged 41, born Ecclesfield. Also three daughters, Annie (20, an assistant in a wallpaper merchant), Mary (18, a shorthand typist for a steel manufacturer), and Eliza (16). All three girls born in Bradfield. Frederick and Sarah had been married for 21 years, and had also lost two children.
- 1939 National Registration
In 1939, the house was inhabited by Robert and Irene Gibson. Robert was an Assistant Pork Butcher. Next door at number 50 lived Albert and Minnie Kitcheman.
While we were children, Dad was in the RAF. This meant moving home every two or three years, and often, more frequently. We never had a childhood home for our ‘Roots’.
Maternal ‘Nana’ left mum’s childhood home in Heston near Hounslow around 1966, and other maternal relatives had also moved away from that area.
And so, 52 Harrison Road, became the place we called ‘home’.
Bill and Esme Sanderson, with Dad, moved into number 52, in 1950, having lived in the house next door (number 50), for the previous ten years, and since my grandparents were married. The landlord decided he would like to use the bigger house, and as our family had no use for a large house, agreed to move next door, for a lower rent, suiting all concerned!
For just about the whole of my time visiting, and apparently well before, this piece of ground, (Yew Tree ‘car park’), was little more than waste land, with weeds, overgrown grass, old vehicles and rubbish. One summer (about 1975), we were invited to play ‘cricket’ on here by the local children, which was good fun.
At this time, the retaining wall opposite got damaged, and a hole grew bigger and bigger, I believe this is how we wormed our way into their game, by climbing through the hole and over the stone rubble. Although she didn’t say so, I got the impression that Grandma didn’t really approve of us playing there!
Eventually during the 1990’s, the pub was done up, the car park landscaped and turned into a pleasant beer garden. It appears that the trees may now be obscuring the view from the lounge window though.
I see the pub has more recently been completely updated, and has changed its name.
Although convenient to the house, we were not a ‘pub’ family. I have never been inside, and never knew my parents or grandparents to go inside either.
My father attended Malin Bridge Primary school, as did his father, and paternal aunts and uncle. It wasn’t until I started family history research, that I discovered this though. The walk to school each day, must have been a great hike, especially for Grandad and his siblings, from Stannington Road.
The house had a stone front facing, and brick built back. It is built on a steep hill, and the built up front, houses the cellar. A door and grating at the front, was for access and coal delivery.
The front door was accessed by about 8 deep stone steps, whereas the back door led straight out to ground level.
Outside the front door, was the raised paved area about 8′ above street level. The ‘safety’ barrier was just a short metal railing, so we kept well away from the edge.
Inside the front door, the steep stairs were straight ahead, and the lounge door immediately to the left. Through the lounge (known as ‘The Room’), to the cellar head, and kitchen.
Upstairs the bathroom was at the top of the stairs, and had been installed in 1962, by splitting the back bedroom (Dad’s). The main bedroom was at the front (Grandparent’s). Between the two bedrooms, was another set of stairs, with swing door, which led up to the attic.
The front bedroom had a built in cupboard under the attic stairs. It was used for storage, for such as the vacuum cleaner. At first an old fashioned and noisy upright hoover, later replaced by a more modern one.
Grandma was house proud, the house was always clean and tidy, but not to the extent we were made to feel uncomfortable. It surprised me that the hoover was kept in this cupboard as it must have been an effort to carry it up and down stairs, and I rarely saw it used, however downstairs on the cellar steps, Grandma also kept a carpet sweeper, which was used almost every day, to tidy up after us!
Also in this cupboard was kept my father’s old toys – including, a garage made by Grandad, with dinky toy cars, a trainset, a small working steam engine, home made kaleidoscope and a book which had belonged to Grandma’s older sister, Nora Gillott, who had died as a young child.
We always hoped these would be bought out for us to play with, but rarely were.
Later, a box of old family photos were bought out too, I was fascinated by these, but again although I hoped, only ever appeared once more. However, they are now in my safe keeping.
Interesting features not to be forgotten!
Every home has its own aroma, created by cleaning products, toiletries, cooking smells, and general way of life.
Our grandparents house, had a very individual smell, which we loved, difficult to describe, and description cannot do it justice. It has recently come to light that my sister would sniff the stair carpet for greater effect!
We also used the steep stairway, for sliding down on our bottoms when we got bored, like a ski run, no sledge required, until instructed to stop!
As an older house, without central heating, it didn’t feel damp or cold, but had an underlying damp stone smell. The main aroma was TCP, which Grandad gargled with every morning. This mingled with the smell of gas, from the gas fire and oven. Grandma enjoyed traditional cooking, so there might also be the smell of a casserole, boiled potatoes, cakes and not forgetting fried bacon in the morning.
We were always intrigued by the ‘soft’ water in the house, as we always lived in ‘hard’ water areas. It would take us ages to rinse our hands, as we tried to get rid of the soapy feeling and we had to remember not to use so much washing up liquid.
Cellar. This was the only house I knew with a cellar, and it was of great interest. There was a 3 foot square, ‘inner hallway’ between the lounge and kitchen, which grandma called the cellar head, with 3 doors. One for the lounge, one the kitchen and one for the cellar. All the ceilings in the house were very high, and around the walls of the cellar head were shelves, where grandma kept her food mixer attachments. Immediately behind the cellar door, were the stone steps down into the cellar, the walls were bare stone, with the lovely damp stone smell. At the top were shelves for jars and tinned food, with vegetables stored on the top steps. I rarely went any further, as it was a bit spooky. Although there was a pull cord light, I was always afraid, someone might switch it off whilst I was in the cellar. The cellar was used for storing unused items such as odd furniture and tools. There was an original stone slab table installed in both 52 and 50.
During and immediately after the war, everyone was encouraged to do their bit for food production. Grandad kept two pigs in a barn where he worked and dad remembers going to see them on Sunday afternoons. All food scraps and leftovers from meals were kept and mixed with bran and hot water in a metal bucket to make pig swill. When it had cooled it was covered with a large cloth and transported between my dad’s knees as he sat in the sidecar of his dad’s motorcycle combination, clutching the bucket very tightly and hoping that there was no sharp braking during the 4 mile journey between home and the barn at Grenoside.
The pigs were always delighted to see them and so were the rats that ran around the barn, but they made good target practice for dad with his air rifle. Any that fell into the pig pen were swiftly despatched by the pigs. There was a very small back garden belonging to No.50 which was used to grow potatoes and greens. After the pigs were slaughtered, a friendly butcher cut up and salted (cured) the meat on the stone slab in the cellar and this provided hams and bacon for months afterwards.
There was the old tin bath hanging on the wall which was used at the weekends for the family scrub up before the bathroom was installed and my dad’s old sledge which saw good service during the cold winters of the 1940’s. There was a door into the coal store and a grating in the outer wall, through which the coal was delivered.
On the back of the cellar door, Grandad hung his motorbike leathers. They had always been hung there from my first visits and were still there for a while after he sold his motor bike. The smell of leather and motor oil remained for years.
Attic. The attic was another fascinating feature I never knew anywhere else. There was a basic wooden stairway, which curled round at the top, into the room. At the bottom of the stairs, was a wooden swing door, with no handle, and a latch on the inside, which had to be operated ‘blind’ from the outside. To prevent the door swinging open, it had to be kept latched. This gave the attic an air of secrecy, and we never went up there unless asked. The ceiling was very high, with a skylight, and hanging from the ceiling a pull cord lightswitch, which hung down past the bannister, to the bottom of the stairs, allowing operation from the top and bottom.
The bannister was solid, so we would creep into the room, usually on hands as knees as the stairs were steep.
The room had a slightly musty smell, rather like a library, and with no central heating, was cold. My grandparents had married in 1940, and with little money, bought a few pieces of secondhand furniture. These had been added to over the years. Serviceable but unneeded furniture ended up in the attic, along with Grandad’s tools and DIY equipment, and Grandma’s dressmaking equipment and knitting machine. The attic was her workroom, but also had a spare double bed, for visitors.
Grandad, was a trained mechanical engineer and could turn his hand to all sorts of practical jobs, electrics, plumbing and carpentry. Over the years, he had added lots of little home improvements to the property.
Doors During the 50’s or 60’s, it was fashionable to cover wooden panelled doors with smooth plywood. This was something Grandad had done. All the doors were smooth and glossed, but with unmatched handles. They weren’t the push down operating ones, but a handle that you held and pushed open, or pulled closed. Each door had a kind of ball bearing in the side which located into a hole in the frame, and caused a click when operated. At first I couldn’t reach most of these handles, but could judge my rate of growth on which ones I could reach.
I don’t know why I took so much notice of the doors, but they all had their own characters. The door into the lounge, was slightly too long so had to be pushed hard across the carpet to open it, making a swooshing sound. On the other hand, the door from the lounge to the cellar head was slightly too short, and always swung open. In the back bedroom, Grandma hung her ‘fur’ coat on the back of the door. Thanks to the fairytale of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, I was convinced there was a wolf behind it!
Along with the unusual door handles, the house had unusual light switches. Probably almost original, they were round, brown and cup shaped (perhaps bakerlite), with a switch in the centre, the switches needed a reasonable amount of force to operate, but made a very good click, that seemed to reverberate through to the rest of the house electrics.
In the 1970’s the lounge and kitchen lights were replaced with fluorescent ceiling lights, which gave a bright welcoming feel, when we arrived from a dark journey at night.
One day in the early 1970’s we arrived, to a different house. The stonework had been cleaned, to remove years of industrial dirt and soot. Gradually over the years more and more houses got the same treatment and today, there are very few properties with the traditional black soot clinging to their walls. All thanks to Sheffield’s smokeless zone policy, which banned the use of open fires in homes.
As a result of this, the main heating in the lounge was a gas fire. Where the fireplace had been, Grandad built a wooden fire surround. The kitchen had an electric bar heater, as did the bathroom. The only heating in the bedrooms was either hot water bottle or electric blanket, the open fireplaces had been bricked up, leaving awkward chimney breasts, which were inconvenient for furniture placement.
On the first visit I remember, which would have been February 1970, Paul and I shared a bed, toe to toe in the back bedroom. It was Dad’s old bed. A steel frame, with the springs part of the bedframe, and a stuffed mattress on top. Surprisingly it was wider than modern beds, but the old mattress had a big dip in the middle, making it very cosy on winter nights, when all we had was a hot waterbottle and a selection of eiderdowns and blankets, to keep us warm.
The next time we visited, there was another single bed in the room, I don’t know how they got them both in, but they had to be arranged across the room, and we had to clamber over one bed to get to the other, leaving no floor space.
Then my parents bought a set of bunk beds for home, but it must have been decided to do a swap (unless this was the original plan)! We took the bunks up to Grandparents, and we had the two single beds. Paul and I had to take it in turns to sleep on the top bunk. When Elizabeth was old enough, she joined us on a lilo in the corner, then we had to do a three way bed rotation.
Once we had grown up, more bed swapping was done. The bunks went back to my parents (for their grandchildren to stay in), then on to me, and then to a friend. They may still be about now. A modern single bed was put into the back bedroom, making it easier for Grandma’s sister, Auntie Rita and her disabled son to stay over from time to time.
Grandad had over the years made marquetry pictures, and these hung on the walls, along with some ‘painting by numbers’ pictures done by dad, and various embroidery or cross stitch ones that Grandma had made. Although they both had artistic hobbies, the house was never cluttered.
I think Grandma would really have liked to move to a modern house, but Grandad preferred to stay put. They kept the house regularly decorated, changing carpets and updating the lounge suites.
Whenever I think of the lounge, it has a dark green carpet, with an indented swirl pattern. I know this carpet replaced a mustard yellow carpet with flowers on it, which in its turn, graced the stairs for many years. I also remember, this had replaced a previous lounge carpet, which I can’t recall. The green carpet was also eventually replaced, and I believe the final carpet was a plain pink/mink colour.
In the lounge, my grandparents had a green ‘soda stream’, which was popular at the time. A bedtime treat for us, was a glass of blackcurrant CORDIAL, with fizz from the soda stream.
The whole house had wallpaper, which was overpainted at regular intervals, (we were only used to painted walls at home). When the lounge carpet was replaced, the old carpet went up to the bedroom. Grandad also built cupboards and shelves over the years, in keeping with the fashions of the day.
In 1962, an indoor bathroom was installed, partly funded by grants and the landlord. Prior to that, the house was serviced by a toilet in the yard, tin bath in front of the fire and stone sink in the kitchen. The water tank was installed in the gap on one side of the chimney breast in the back bedroom. Whenever anyone used the water, there were strange noise in the tank for ages afterwards, refilling, dripping, and gurgling sounds.
The new bathroom consisted of enamel bath, with black panel, toilet with black high level cistern and flush chain, and porcelain sink. This bathroom suite lasted until early 1980’s, when Grandparents replaced it themselves, with a pink suite, acrylic bath and panel, matching wc, low level cistern, and wash basin. Apparently this was almost a job too far, when they tried to remove the old enamel cast iron bath themselves. It was extremely heavy, and took a great deal of manoeuvring, out of the bathroom, down the steep stairs, and through the front door. It required lowering down the stairs on a rope, by Grandad, with just enough width for the bath.
In 1993, the old toilet and wash basin, having been stored in the cellar, found a new home in my self built home in Norfolk, where it remains.
The kitchen, was gradually updated over the years. A Yorkshire range was installed when the house was first built, which remained in place throughout, but covered over by a grey formica fascia and electric fire, all fitted by grandad in the late 1950’s.
On either side of the chimney breast, were tall cupboards with wooden folding doors. A step ladder would be required to reach the top shelves. In the right side cupboard, Grandma kept her childhood tea set. I was intrigued, but rarely saw it.
I remember a gas oven, which even to me in 1970 seemed old fashioned, it was cream coloured, with a grill and plate rack at eye level. As we used electric at home, gas was something of a novelty. The fridge at this time was also cream coloured. Within a couple of years both of these were replaced by more modern appliances.
I have probably inherited my love of tea from my Grandparents, although they liked theirs very strong, and I don’t. On the side of the chimney breast was a plastic tea caddy, which I think must have been fashionableat the time, as Nana had one too, it would dispense tea, by the portion, with a push in button. I was intrigued by this, but didn’t use it, and eventually it went, probably with the introduction of tea bags. My Grandparents also had a teasmade in their bedroom, so Grandma could wake to a morning ‘cuppa’. They would always take a flask of tea, on their travels.
The sink I remember was a stainless steel single drainer over a free standing cupboard with sliding doors. Before this there was a Belfast sink, which I am told, I was bathed in when visiting. There was a twin tub washing machine, which I was used to, as we had one at home.
The back door was patterned glass. This meant you could see that someone was outside, but couldn’t make out who they were. The main letterbox was also in this door, so postman, paperboy and deliverers of junk mail, had to come into the ‘yard’ to use the letterbox.
There was a formica topped gate leg table, and we were able to seat all seven of us around it, when fully extended.
My dad tells me that grandad never got on well with the landlord next door and whilst always civil to each other there was always an ‘atmosphere’ between them. Grandad was determined that any improvements he made in the house were kept to the absolute minimum so as not to give any financial gain to the landlord. In 1986, the landlord decided to sell the property and as my grandparents were sitting tenants of many years the price was well below the open market value. Here was an opportunity not to be missed and my dad bought it and let his parents live there rent free. Grandad could not wait to get started on improvements he had been holding back for years.
Starting with the kitchen, the Yorkshire range and chimney breast were removed to give more floor space, floor boarding was replaced and a fitted kitchen was installed. This was much more practical and roomy, but I preferred the old kitchen! Then the whole house was rewired to bring it up to modern legal requirements and any lead plumbing still in place was removed. Central heating was considered but proved to be too expensive.
Outside the back, was ‘the yard’ where we were sent to play if we got bored indoors. It was shared with the house next door, and was tarmacced, with flower beds to the sides. The flower bed behind Grandmas house had been used to accommodate the Anderson shelter during the war.
At the back of the flower bed was a pile of stone where a lorry had crashed into the wall. It had been repaired, but the pile of rubble was left. In 1980s, Grandma tidied the flower bed up as it had never amounted to much, and created a proper raised garden. Next door had a larger area for a garden and behind that, the old outdoor toilets in the corner (one for each of the houses). There was also a covered bin area, and steps up to a back gate (which the bin men had to negotiate to get the bins out). Onto the road at the back was a garage, with a workshop underneath, and this had an entrance into the yard. Both of these belonged to the house next door. My dad tells me that originally this had been the wash house for both properties. Monday was wash day and early in the morning a fire would be lit beneath the built in copper boiler. This process was taken in turn between the two households so as not to waste fuel and heat. When the first house had finished, the dirty water was replaced, the area cleaned up and the process would be repeated. All the dirties were thrown in and left to simmer for an hour or two, with occasional thumpings from a copper posher. This created the movement of water through the clothes and helped to clean them, just like the blades in a twin tub.
Between Number ’50’ and the house next to that, was a passageway with a gate onto the front street.
At first, in number 50, there was a girl about my age, who I would play with when visiting. She had a very broad Sheffield accent, and I would amuse my family, by asking ‘where’s mee oota’. (Where is my hooter? (bicycle hooter)).
She invited me into their house once, and I was surprised how much bigger the house was, with a dining room, 3 or 4 bedrooms and two attic rooms. At this time the landlord, whose wife had died some years earlier, lived in the house with his mother, son and daughter in law and their two children.
One summer we were visiting and heard children playing in the garden on the other side (of the wall). We peered over, and were invited in to play. There were three girls, and we had fun playing with them. I was amazed to be told by their ‘Grandma’ who lived there, that my Grandad, and their Grandad were cousins. My grandparents were never ones to give much information away, but I just couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been told this before. I remember they also took us swimming to Stocksbridge ‘Baths’.
My Grandparents loved to travel and visit, something they had been doing since they first met according to the family photo album. In their early days, by motorcycle, then with the arrival of Dad, with the addition of a side car. They never owned a car, so in later years, they travelled by public transport, National Express or organised coach trips. Whenever we visited, we would go out just about every day, even if it was just a walk to the local shops in Hillsborough.
We enjoyed going to the park in Hillsborough, with swings and duck pond. We would often go there to wait for Grandma to finish work on the bakery counter in the coop.
Grandma had previously worked in a post office in Hillsborough, which I think she considered her main occupation, I often heard stories of this but was never sure where it was. We may have popped our heads in once or twice whilst she was at work. As far as I can remember it was more or less opposite the gates of Hillsborough park.
Occasionally we would also accompany grandparents to the library in old Hillsborough Hall, in the park. Grandad was a great reader. The first time we went, I didn’t realise it was a public building, and felt rather awkward that we were entering someone’s grand private residence.
In 1977, we were visiting when the Queen came through Hillsborough Park, as part of her Silver Jubilee tour.
As I was not used to it, I found city life fascinating, first it was down the hill of Harrison Road, then onto the flat streets of brick built houses. Closely packed together, with their front windows onto the street. Some windows had net curtains, so we couldn’t be nosy, but there was one house, which had little glass ornaments on the window sill. Some houses well kept, others not. Almost all of the houses, had had their front railings removed, which I was told was done for ‘the war effort’. On the way back, we would often walk along Holme Lane, which was mainly residential, but had quite a number of shops scattered along its length too. Particularly interesting for us was the stone polishers shop. He displayed polished stones, and a polishing machine in the window. The old tram shed was pointed out (where Great Grandad, George Gillott, had worked as a tram driver). I believe that now, it is a medical centre. Further along, Haden Street where Grandma was born.
Other times we would be taken to Rivelin Park, which was also in walking distance, and in those days, virtually a walk into the countryside.
Paul began his fishing career here. At first we fished for tiddlers with nets, but later Paul inherited Dads old cane fishing rod which had been stored in the cellar, and the rest is history! He often went to Rivelin pond by himself, on one occasion returning soaking wet, having fallen in.
The main Rivelin Valley Road, took us past the fire station, with the excitement of a call out, the firemen preparing their equipment or training.
In the autumn, we would enjoy, kicking our way through the piles of leaves on the edge of the pavement.
Visiting parks further afield, such as Endcliffe or Fulwood, or travelling into the city, involved catching a bus at the bottom of the hill. My grandparents would watch out of the window, to see it coming down Stannington Road, then we would rush out to catch it. This was obviously a regular event for my grandparents and they had their timings just right, but I was always concerned we would miss it. We never did.
Visiting Millhouses Park, involved a car ride, so wasn’t done so often. As a child, the grass ‘car park’ seemed enormous, as we ran across it to paddle in the stream at the back, but on recent drives past, it appears much smaller.
A selection of poor quality family cine film taken in 1977 of Fulwood and Millhouses Parks. (date stamp on the film 2006, is when it was digitised)
A trip into the city
Our visits coincided with the removal of the tram system (1960 – 1994/5).
This meant public transport was the cream coloured Sheffield buses (usually double decker). Although we had experience of public transport, or of school buses, it was nothing like the bus system operating in Sheffield. They seemed to be everywhere, and at pretty much anytime, and at a ridiculously low price ( during the 1970’s I believe something like 2p per child, and 7p or 11p for an adult).
As soon as they retired, our Grandparents applied for bus passes, which entitled them to either free or reduced travel rates. However, they were always insensed by price rises, especially politically motivated ones.
Neither of my parents particularly enjoyed shopping, so visiting the local town or city for essentials was more of a chore than a treat.
Grandma however loved a trip into Sheffield for a ‘look around’. Often stocking up on crafting materials, or checking out the latest electrical gadgets.
At the end of August we usually went into Sheffield as a family to get new school shoes, coats or uniform.
We would catch the bus at Malin Bridge, hoping for a seat upstairs. The conductor would come round for payment, (I often wondered how he remembered who had paid and who hadn’t, as passengers were always getting on and off). The bus jerked along, wobbling from side to side as we turned corners.
I remember travelling along Holme Lane, round Hillsborough Corner, into Langsett Road, but then my memory is blurred until we got off at Snig Hill,(always a name to amuse us). We would look forward to walking down the underpasses, to the ‘Hole in the Road’, and a look at the goldfish in their tanks.
Then it was a day of shopping, at C&A, Debenhams, Marks & Spencers, Woolworths, and shoe shops. If lucky we might also visit ‘John Menzies’ and ‘WH Smiths’. By the end of the day, we were all tired and fed up, but proud of our new purchases. The final treat was a visit to ‘Redgates’ toyshop. An emporium of delight for children. Little did we know that in the future, the family were to own their own Toyshops!
In 1996, Grandad became ill, and my Grandparents needed to live with my parents as they couldn’t manage by themselves at home, so far away from support. Sadly Grandad died in June 1996 in Norfolk.
After a couple of weeks, Grandma decided she would like to return back to Sheffield to live, as she had all her familiar surroundings. She stayed in the house until 1999, when she felt unable to live alone any longer. This was the end of an era, and Dad decided the only thing now, was to put the house on the market, and it was sold.
Travelling to 52 Harrison Road. 1970-1999
The final leg of the trip always gave us a sense of excitement but the time of day was important.
If we arrived in the evening which was more usual, the first sight we had as we approached Sheffield would be all the street lights shining across the hills. Anybody who has ever approached Sheffield from M1 at night will know what I mean, and those lights always made me feel warm and cosy, in fact whenever I see a mass of street lights shining at night, it still does. The end of the journey was in sight. As Grandma and Grandad lived at Malin Bridge, we had a drive across the city, which involved twists and turns through the red brick streets, past houses with their lights shining and if the occupants hadn’t closed their curtains I would have a peek in, past launderettes, corner shops and take-aways (though not as many as today). Living in country areas this was all alien to me and of great interest, and as the years went by, each time we travelled along these streets again I was reminded of travelling down them before.
Dad always seemed to know his way around and never had to refer to a map, alas that has all changed – the Sheffield street systems have completely changed and many of those streets no longer exist, and Dad can no longer navigate the backstreets as he could.
At last we would get our bearings as we approached the house from the back – a quick look at the lights would tell us Grandad was in the bathroom! And so we turned into Dykes Lane (always a worry for me being of a nervous disposition – that the car would run away with us before we managed to turn into Harrison Road – it never did! And so we had arrived, safe and sound.
As I said earlier, this was our evening arrival, if we arrived during daylight, the sights were different, but no less interesting to me. The M1 that passes through Sheffield (otherwise known as the Tinsley Viaduct) was something else to cause me a worry, I would always be relieved when we left the motorway in one piece as I was rather concerned that the upper level might collapse on us.
Whilst we were dicing with death though, I did have other things to consider… the two enormous cooling towers.
I had long wondered exactly what they were, but when I was told they were factories the plot thickened, how did the workers get in? There were no doors (unless they were around the back), and wasn’t it rather a waste of brickwork being so high? – unless there were lots of floors inside, but then there were no windows I must admit I spent quite a while trying to work out the possible layouts of the building and I never came up with a suitable design. I did eventually discover that they were just chimneys but even so whenever I saw them, their design was the first thing I thought of. Sadly they were demolished in 2008, along with many of Sheffield’s industrial buildings.
So that was our route from the south. When we moved west, our route changed, it meant a trip through Staffordshire and the Black country towns of Hanley, Newcastle Under Lyme and Stoke on Trent and then over the Staffordshire Moors which would make our ears pop. They were bleak and desolate especially in winter, with just the sheep for company, the temperature would usually drop too, and then on into the Peak District.
By this time I began to suffer from travel sickness, but this worked to my advantage as I got to sit in the front seat. Being high up I had a good view, and got to recognise the route. I could recognise the villages and would probably have been able to navigate myself from Bradwell and Tideswell from the age of ten.
We would pass Ladybower Reservoir (famous as the place ‘The Dambusters’ did their training), often hearing how the village and valley had been flooded to create the reservoir, and that when the water is very low the top of the church can still be seen, infact we did see it in 1976 which was a very hot summer and drought.
Then we would turn right onto the A57, with its beautiful scenery, especially in autumn as the leaves were changing colour, and on down into The Rivelin Valley. As Malin Bridge is right at the bottom of the valley, all we had to do was turn a couple more corners and again make an attempt on the ascent of Dykes lane, (even more nerve wracking for me going up than down, as we had to stop, to get into Harrison Road, perhaps the car might not make it, and run back down the hill, it never did.
And so we had arrived again, yet from a completely different direction. From the south we travel along the major route of Britain the M1 and through an industrial heartland, and from the west we travel more minor roads through some of the most beautiful and spectacular scenery in Britain, to end our journey, at Grandmas. Many happy memories and where we would make the most of both of these aspects of Sheffield. As it is also my ancestral homeland, Sheffield is a special place.
When we moved to the East we again found ourselves approaching from the M1 and being that much older I viewed things differently, the landscape too was beginning to change, some roads had gone or had been incorporated into one way systems making navigation by memory more difficult, but it was good to see the old landmarks which even then made me think back to earlier days, and started me considering how times and places change and perhaps even then hankering after the ‘old days’. The twinkling lights on the hillside were still there though and still are. Paul tells me that is one of the memories he will always have of approaching Sheffield.
Angela Weatherill / additions and corrections David Sanderson 2021.