If you ask me where I come from, I will say Halifax: even though I was not born in the town. For the first five years of my life, I lived far away in Bradford, and we only moved across the border when I was five. Even though I wasn’t born in the town, and I have not lived there most of my adult life, Halifax is where I spent my formative years, and therefore my home. My son was born in Sheffield, and even though I managed to get him back to the Halifax area by the time he was five – and keep him here for those self-same formative years – by the age of eighteen he had gravitated back to the steel city. If I ask him where he comes from, he will probably wave his Wednesday scarf in the air and say Sheffield. I will often show him my old photographs and ask him to identify the location. If they are of Halifax, he will shrug his shoulders with the kind of indifference that only a non-native of the town can muster, and ask for pictures of that southern city he calls home. So, today’s calendar picture is for Alexander – where is this? It is somewhere in the city (or it was when I took it forty years ago), but where? I have removed the street signs so as not to give it away. (Note to Sheffield Council: when I say removed, I mean removed via Photoshop rather than a bolt-cutter and crow-bar).
Category Archives: South Yorkshire
My calendar today shows a scene I am very familiar with as it was taken from the front window of the house I lived in forty years ago. Some of the Photoshopping may be new, but the photograph, the moodiness, the compelling shapeliness of the scene, all date back to my time living in Oxford Street, Sheffield. The magnificent building is the Grade II listed University of Sheffield Arts Tower (1965) which used to dominate the view from the small terraced house where we lived. Some times the sun would reflect off its glass panels, sometimes it would fade into the Sheffield mist; always it was there. I sometimes imagined the great Gods of the Arts, residing in the upper floors, like some twentieth century equivalent of Mount Olympus. My life has moved on over the last forty years, but the Arts Tower remains. The inevitable little aches and pains that are such a part of one’s seventies, serve only to remind me of the carved aphorism on the wall of the Medical School which was just behind the Arts Tower, “Ars longa, vita brevis“
Another foggy, snow-covered day in Sheffield in the early 1980s (did I only ever venture out with my camera when there was Snow on the ground?). Even I don’t need help with the location of this particular photograph: whilst there have been so many changes to this part of the city, the buildings shown on both sides of Trippet Lane still exist today (although their functions have inevitably changed). I am not sure why people seem to be wandering around all over the place: maybe it is the ice on the roads, maybe it was one of the things we did back in the 80s.
Colour photographs used to be a luxury. Colour film was much more expensive than black and white film, and home processing was not a cheap option. Family pressure meant that I would have to load my camera with a colour film for holidays, but for when I was wandering around the streets of Halifax, Sheffield or Stoke, cheap monochrome film was the norm. Occasionally, however, I would return from holiday and there might have been a colour film, half-used, in the camera. So, equally occasionally, I would walk around whichever town or city I was living in, capturing it in colour. This photograph shows Infirmary Road and Penistone Road in Sheffield, taken, I think, from the vantage point of the Kelvin flats. The date must have been around the mid 1980s.
I must have take this photograph of the iconic Hyde Park and Park Hill flats in Sheffield when I was living in the city in the 1980s. Some fifteen years earlier – as a young man, I should point out – I remember being part of a delegation visiting the development when it was still comparatively new. It was still being held up as a blueprint for the future, a city in the sky. By the time I moved to Sheffield, it had become old and tired. Since I left the city, a considerable part of the development has been demolished and the parts that remain have been renewed and revitalised
The kids these days have it easy: pick up their smartphones, click the button, and applecadabra they have a photograph which is automatically dated and geolocated to within a metre of where they are standing. When I was a young lad – alright, when I was pushing middle age – you had to be inventive if, in your dotage, you wanted to remember where you took a photograph. You had to find a convenient building with a name on and incorporate that into the photograph. What better than a timeless, solid, signal box. The only problem was, within a few years someone had come along and demolished your geotag, it had vanished like a puff of steam.
More photographs of Sheffield from the 1980s. Looking back at these old photographs of mine, I can’t help but try to identify what has changed, not so much in terms of buildings, but in terms of the feel and the atmosphere. These grainy black and white images are responsible for a lot of the perceived change: just as our real memories fade, our photographic memories loose colour and definition. Although there are plenty of people on the streets – despite the weather – there is also an element of emptiness – the scenes have been drained of objects, leaving only the dirty snow drifts, the misty lines of buildings and the unmistakeable shape of 1980s cars. We can also pick up detailed clues to change: shops that have long gone, services for machines that no longer exist. The photographs are full of steel city snow mixed with a generous helping of grainy nostalgia.
Here is another of my photographs of Sheffield taken back in the 1980s. The common feature of so many of these seems to be that they were taken on rainy days and Mondays, but there were still shops on the streets, cars on the roads and shoppers going about their business. This is Surrey Street, with the Town Hall on the left.
Another set of photographs from the early 1980s in Sheffield. Perhaps it was always snowing in winter in Sheffield forty years ago, but more likely these photographs were taken on the same night as the ones I featured a couple of weeks ago. The weather may have been bad, but it didn’t stop people going out and about, getting their Christmas shopping done.
This was a world before on-line shopping, a world when familiar high-street names seemed as solid as the concrete boxes they inhabited. It was a world of crowded buses and glaring lightbulbs – a world long before LED’s and lockdown distancing.