Maids of all work

British Railways D4167, otherwise 08 937, built 1962, in service on the Dartmoor Railway (2016).

British Railways D4167, otherwise 08 937, built 1962, in service on the Dartmoor Railway (2016).

The most ubiquitous locomotive still in use on Britain’s railways is a design that dates back to the late 1930s.  It still does its job, moving rolling stock around rail yards and sidings, which is why it remains a favourite with both commercial and heritage railways.

British Railways Class 08 diesel shunters are based on the specification of the great steam-locomotive engineer William A Stanier (1876-1965) and were built for the London Midland & Scottish Railway from 1935 onwards.

They were intended to make use of the advantages of diesel traction – quick starting, cleanliness, flexibility and economy.

They capitalised on the twin technical breakthroughs of newly developed smaller, more powerful diesel engines connected to electric transmission that was more robust than the mechanical clutch-operated gearbox that serves smaller road vehicles.

Yet to deliver adhesion while minimising wear on the track, the engines were mounted on a steam-locomotive frame and drove the wheels through a jackshaft, connecting rods and coupling rods.

In the post-war period, when British Railways owned thousands of steam shunting locomotives, the diesel-electric shunter proved equal to the required physical tasks without the need to keep the boiler fired up in slack periods, and they didn’t send the crew home filthy at the end of a shift.

None of the pre-war English-Electric built LMS shunters survived past the 1960s, but several of the post-war version, built from 1945 onwards, became British Railways Class 11 and are still maintained by heritage railways.   Other versions of this design, developed for the War Department during the Second World War, were exported to the Netherlands, Australia and Liberia.

They were followed by Class 08, of which nearly a thousand were built between 1952 and 1962.

Their reliability and efficiency stood out from the heterogeneous ragbag of inadequate shunters ordered, many of them off-plan, in response to the 1955 British Railways Modernisation Plan.

There were variants – a low-height version (Class 08/9) for the Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley Railway in South Wales, and a faster but less powerful variant with a maximum speed of 27½mph instead of 15mph (Class 09), another batch with different engines (Class 10) and a Southern Railway derivative (Class 12).  A small number were paired as master-and-slave units with one of the cabs removed (Class 13) to work over the humps at Tinsley Marshall Yard between Sheffield and Rotherham.

All these together amounted to nearly twelve hundred locomotives, and though many were scrapped or cannibalised for spares in the 1970s and 1980s, their adaptability meant that industrial users such as the National Coal Board snapped them up, and heritage lines found them extremely useful as well as historically interesting.

Many main-line freight and passenger operators still run Class 08 locomotives to marshal rolling stock, and over seventy are preserved.

Like the long-lived High Speed Train, the longevity of Class 08 proves that British railways had the expertise to design world-beating locomotives after the age of steam.

Railways round Dartmoor

Okehampton railway station, Devon

Okehampton railway station, Devon

The premier rail route to the South West has always been the Great Western main line, the first to open and the best-known.

It was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who visualised his line from London to Bristol should be extended to New York by means of steamships, the first of which was Great Western (1838), followed by the celebrated Great Britain (1845).

Beyond Bristol, a series of railway companies, either sponsored or taken over by the Great Western Railway, extended the line through Devon and Cornwall via Exeter (1844) and Plymouth (1849) to Penzance (1852).

Brunel chose to direct this route across difficult, spectacular country along the south coast:  that was the reason for his failed atmospheric experiment, his magnificent Royal Albert Bridge (1859) and his long-vanished timber viaducts.

The early rail route from London to Southampton grew into the London & South Western Railway, which reached Exeter in 1860 via a southerly route through Andover, Salisbury and Yeovil.

The only way the L&SWR could penetrate into Devon and Cornwall was by taking the opposite route to the GWR, round the northern fringes of Dartmoor via Okehampton and Tavistock, reaching Plymouth in 1876.

This line was severed in 1968, and regular services now run only from Plymouth to Bere Alston (for Gunnislake) and along the so-called Tarka Line from Exeter to Barnstaple.

Track remains along the former L&SWR main line to a quarry three miles beyond Okehampton for quarry traffic, and occasional Sunday services operate between Exeter and Okehampton.

Okehampton Station is maintained by the Dartmoor Railway, a volunteer-led group which runs trains up the line as far as Meldon Viaduct, and sometimes eastwards to Sampford Courtenay.

The track between Okehampton and Coleford Junction, where it joins the Tarka Line, is now operated by British American Railway Services, a subsidiary of the American railroad operator Iowa Pacific Holdings.

There is an as-yet-unfulfilled plan for the Dartmoor Railway services to extend to Yeoford, the station south of Coleford Junction, to provide passenger interchange with Exeter-Barnstable.

Increasing concern about the sustainability of the Great Western main line through Dawlish, particularly after a washout in 2014 which halted services completely for three months, has led to suggestions that the L&SWR line through Okehampton should be reinstated to Plymouth as an alternative route.

The plan to reinstate the line from Bere Alston to a new station at Tavistock West is at least a step in implementing this proposal.

So yet again one of Dr Beeching’s cuts may at great cost be rolled back.

Network Rail’s consideration of the options to safeguard the rail route into Devon and Cornwall can be found at https://www.networkrail.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/West-of-Exeter-Route-Resilience-Study.pdf

Okehampton Station is a destination on the Railways of Devon (June 12th-16th 2017) tour.  For further details, please click here.

Friargate Bridge

Friargate Bridge, Derby (1977)

Friargate Bridge, Derby (1977)

The magnificent cast-iron railway bridge across Friargate, north of Derby city-centre, made a grand statement proclaiming the arrival of the Great Northern Railway in the home town of its rival the Midland Railway in 1878.

The Midland’s monopoly of the East Midlands coal trade had been a grievance of local businesses and the new railway was welcomed, to the detriment of the local environment:  the bridge cuts across Derby’s grandest Georgian street, Friargate, authorised in 1768 as a speculation by the notoriously unscrupulous banker-brothers, John and Christopher Heath.

Many important personalities in late-eighteenth-century Derby had residences on Friargate, including the architect Joseph Pickford (1734-1782), whose house at 40-41 Friargate is now a museum.

Though it’s commonly referred to as Friargate Bridge, there are in fact two bridges side by side accommodating pairs of tracks fanning out to the station platforms immediately beyond. 

To mitigate – or perhaps to pay back – for the intrusion, the GNR engineer, Richard Johnson, provided a particularly dignified design with elaborate decorative spandrels cast by the Derby ironmasters Andrew Handyside & Co, featuring the buck within the palings of a park that appears in the coat of arms of the borough, now the city, of Derby.

The gesture did not go down well with some residents, one of whom described it as “meretricious decoration, which only emphasised the insult”.

Passenger services between Derby and Nottingham closed in 1964 and goods services finally ceased four years later.

Little remains of Friargate Station itself, which stood on a brick viaduct west of the bridge, except for the enormous goods station, now ruinous.

Bud Flanagan told a BBC interviewer that seeing homeless men sleeping under the railway viaduct at Friargate gave him the idea for the 1932 song ‘Underneath the Arches’, which he co-wrote with Reg Connelly) while Bud and Chesney Allen were playing at the nearby Hippodrome Theatre.

It’s ironic that the bridge, like the viaduct at Monsal Dale, has become a conservation issue.  Derby City Council, which bought it from British Railways for £1, has been vexed for years finding a practical solution to safeguard its future.

It was listed Grade II in 1974, oddly suggesting a lesser value than the other surviving structure on the line, Bennerley Viaduct (Grade II*).

At present a species of hairnet protects the cast ironwork from pigeons, and also creates difficulties for photographers.

Beside the line of the former railway viaduct on the north side of Friargate remains one of the oddest survivals of Derby’s transport history, the 4ft-guage rails and setts of the horse-tram depot of the Derby Tramways Co, which were in use from 1890 until the route was electrified in 1907.

Bennerley Viaduct

Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire (1973)

Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire (1973)

The River Erewash is not widely known (and often wrongly pronounced – three syllables, “Er-e-wash”).  Indeed, it’s an unremarkable river, meandering between its wide, low-lying valley sides, bordering Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.  It gives its name to the Erewash Canal and is the location for many of D H Lawrence’s stories, including much of the novel The Rainbow (1915).

Eastwood, the town of Lawrence’s birth, claims to be the “birthplace of the Midland Railway”, on the strength of a meeting at the Sun Inn, which led to the formation of the Midland Counties Railway in 1832.

In fact the railway didn’t reach the valley until the late 1840s, after which the local mine-owners deserted the canals to send their coal by rail to Leicestershire and London.

This was the heartland of the Midland Railway, until its rival the Great Northern Railway, egged on by local businessmen anxious to break the Midland’s monopoly, chose to compete by building a line west from Nottingham across the southern edge of the coalfield and on to Derby and beyond.

This Derbyshire & Staffordshire Extension, authorised by Parliament in 1872, spawned numerous branches to local collieries, and was intended also connect with the North Staffordshire Railway to take some of the Midland’s Burton beer traffic.

Little survives of the route, which closed in the 1960s, except for the remarkable Bennerley Viaduct, which strides across the Erewash flood-plain east of Ilkeston, opened in 1878.

The wrought-iron lattice construction, designed by the GNR engineer, Richard Johnson, was necessary because the floor of the Erewash valley was already riddled with coal workings.  A brick-arch viaduct would have been vulnerable to subsidence;  iron legs could be jacked up if necessary.

The structure survives because wrought iron cannot be cut by an oxy-acetylene torch, and dismantling it piece-by-piece proved unduly expensive.

It’s a unique survivor, now listed Grade II*:  two taller and more spectacular viaducts, at Crumlin on the Taff Vale Railway near Caerphilly (1857, 200 feet high) and Belah near Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria (1860, 196 feet high) were demolished in 1965 and 1962 respectively.

Belah Viaduct, designed by Thomas Bouch who went on to build the first Tay Bridge, had the same lattice construction as Bennerley;  Crumlin, like the surviving Meldon Viaduct near Okehampton, Devon, had distinctive Warren Trusses.

Bennerley Viaduct belongs to Sustrans, and may one day form part of the National Cycle Network.  For the present, it’s remarkably difficult to approach or see.  Indeed, the best view is from passing trains (on the left-hand side heading south) between Langley Mill and Nottingham.

Clad in complete steel

Former Don Cinema, West Bar, Sheffield (2015)

Former Don Cinema, West Bar, Sheffield (2015)

Former Don Cinema, West Bar, Sheffield (January 12th 2017)

Former Don Cinema, West Bar, Sheffield (January 12th 2017)

Steel cladding is an admirable and relatively inexpensive way of modernising the façade of a building.  It conceals the original usually without obliterating it.  I’d far rather see a historic frontage, such as the Capitol Cinema, Sheffield Lane Top, clad than stripped of its aesthetic value.

The Bijou Cinema, Derby, lost its elaborate faience façade when it became a furniture showroom in the early 1960s.  The interior, at balcony level at least, survived to become a particularly beautiful curry house, which would have been even more eye-catching if the original cinema frontage had remained intact.

There’s hardly anything left of the auditorium of the former Don Cinema, West Bar, Sheffield, which after it closed in 1958 also became a furniture showroom, and latterly a self-storage unit, yet the rich façade in brick and brown faience survives largely intact behind steel cladding that was installed as late as the 1980s.

Indeed, part of the façade became visible when a gale brought down the corner of the cladding on January 11th 2017.

Though at present barely recognisable , the Don has a particular place in the history of the city’s cinemas.

Sales people working at the furniture showroom were perturbed by manifestations that they couldn’t explain – whirring noises, voices and a figure in an overall wearing cycle clips.

The late Bernard Dore, who had managed the Don Cinema in the 1950s, pointed out that the chief operator, Mr Potter, invariably cycled to West Bar from his home in Ecclesall rather than take the tram, and stored his bike in the projection room.

Furthermore, he habitually wore plus-fours and a tweed jacket covered by an overall.

He had a habit of creeping up behind his junior colleagues and whispering their names to make them jump.

Dan, the manager of Armadillo Storage, showed me what’s left of the cinema structure – an intact staircase and the space that was once the projection room.  He and his colleagues say they haven’t experienced manifestations.

I hope that when the steel cladding has eventually to come down, the façade behind it will be retained.

After all, the Don Picture House is, as far as I know, Sheffield’s only documented haunted cinema.

We never closed

Former Capitol Cinema, Sheffield Lane Top, Sheffield (2016)

Former Capitol Cinema, Sheffield Lane Top, Sheffield (2016)

I passed the former Capitol Cinema, Sheffield Lane Top, twice a day for nearly thirty years on my way to work without ever taking much notice of it, from a time when it was still a cinema, through years as a bingo club, until eventually it became a carpet showroom.

I wrote a blog article about it and illustrated it with an image dated 1985, when the exterior was largely as designed by the London architect, George Coles.

A couple of years ago the carpet showroom advertised what became the longest-running closing-down sale I can remember.

I got to know the staff, who were unclear about when and indeed whether the closure would take place.

They’re still there, and in the autumn of 2016 the cinema marquee was dismantled and the entire façade covered with elegant steel cladding.

It’s reassuring to know that the owners are investing in the building, so it’s unlikely to be threatened in the near future, which is as well because it’s unlisted and unrecognised as a building of merit.

It was Sheffield’s last pre-war cinema, opening shortly after the start of the Second World War, on September 18th 1939.

George Coles was a highly regarded architect who built numerous cinemas for Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon circuit, such as the Odeons at Muswell Hill and Woolwich.

In Sheffield he was commissioned by the building contractor M J Gleeson to build the Forum, Southey (1938, demolished) and shortly afterwards began work on the Capitol.

Indeed, Coles’ plans for the proposed cinema show that Gleesons intended to name it another Forum, until they thought better of having two cinemas with the same name a little more than a mile apart.

The exterior is an impeccable, restrained version of the Art Deco manner that Odeon favoured, but the interior in contrast is elegant neo-Georgian, with alcoves and statuary and a 36-foot proscenium, much of which remains, apparently, behind immaculate white cladding.

The street-level foyer has been swept away to open up the showroom area, but the upstairs crush lobby (inaccessible to the public) remains as it was in the days of bingo, and the operating box and rewind room are intact though empty of equipment.

Although the building has a secure future for the moment, some day it will change hands, and its considerable architectural merit may not be recognised as a largely intact late-1930s moderne cinema by an architect with a national reputation.

Lacking the protection of listing, the long-term future of the Capitol depends on the vigilance of local observers and the support of national conservation organisations.

It would be all too easy to dismiss the building as worth less than the site, when in fact its historic integrity could be a selling point sometime in years to come.

Christmas in a T-shirt: Martinique

Cathedrale de Saint-Louis, Fort de France, Martinique

Cathedrale de Saint-Louis, Fort de France, Martinique

Cruises are a good way to explore the world superficially.  A few hours on dry land is only long enough to sniff the atmosphere.

When my friend Jenny and I took a Caribbean cruise in 2011 my priority at our first port of call, Fort de France on the French island of Martinique, was to buy a pair of jeans, having omitted to pack any informal trousers.

My French is limited.  I now know that you should ask for le jeanLes jeans is apparently permissible, but you may get more than you bargained for.

Once that mission was accomplished Jenny and I wandered around Fort de France and drank mojito at Le Foyaal (now apparently closed):  https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g147328-d1567683-Reviews-Le_Foyaal-Fort_de_France_Arrondissement_of_Fort_de_France_Martinique.html.

I intended to follow the cruise spirit and simply idle away my days in tropical luxury, but my history antennae twitched when we passed the Cathedrale de Saint-Louis (1895), which looked for all the world like a British Commissioners’ Church but in Roman-Byzantine style, tricked out in tan and brown decoration with a tower and spire 186 feet high.

The building was being renovated, so we couldn’t go inside.  I simply photographed the exterior and looked it up later.

In fact, it’s an interesting and significant building, the seventh on the site since 1657.  The sixth church was destroyed in the great fire of Fort de France on June 22nd 1890, and a temporary repair-job was swept away by a cyclone the following year.

After this latest in a succession of natural disasters, the Archdiocese resolved to build an iron-framed structure that would resist hurricanes, storms and earthquakes.

The design of St Louis’ Cathedral is by Pierre-Henri Picq (1833-1911), who had worked alongside the ubiquitous Gustav Eiffel (1832-1923) in France.  Picq built the Palais du Chili [Chile Pavilion] for the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle for which Eiffel’s great tower was the landmark.

Both men used their knowledge of iron construction to construct public buildings abroad.  Eiffel, for instance, is responsible for the General Post Office (1886-1891) in Saigon, Vietnam.

Judging by photographs, the interior of Picq’s St Louis’ Cathedral [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Louis_Cathedral,_Fort-de-France#/media/File:Cath%C3%A9drale_de_Fort_de_France_-_Int%C3%A9rieur.jpg], is glorious – light, colourful and unmistakably iron rather than masonry.

Despite its iron construction, an earthquake in 1953 destabilised the tower so that the spire had to be dismantled.  A replacement spire was installed in a restoration programme of 1976-9.

Since the cathedral was designated a historic monument in 1990, successive restoration programmes have taken place.

Picq also designed the Bibliothèque Schœlcher [Schœlcher Library] (1893), commemorating Victor Schœlcher (1804-1893), the French abolitionist writer and Martinique politician.  The Library is recognisably by the same hand, in an eclectic Byzantine style, making use of an iron frame, glass, tiles and mosaic.

Another of Picq’s buildings in Fort de France is the Magasin du Printemps (1901).

You don’t see much of a place when you arrive on a cruise ship.  The way to know anywhere is to stay there, and in most places there are interesting buildings to look out for.

If I ever find my way back to Martinique, I now know what else there is to see.

Bronte Cinema

Bronte Cinema, Haworth, West Yorkshire:  proscenium

Bronte Cinema, Haworth, West Yorkshire: proscenium

I came across the Bronte Cinema, Haworth, by accident on my way down the hill to the steam-railway station last summer.  It stands on the side of the Worth Valley that doesn’t celebrate the Brontë sisters and so doesn’t attract visitors.

A helpful local contact put me in touch with the owner, Mr Robert Snowden, who welcomed me and allowed me to photograph the remarkably intact interior.

There is very little information online about the building, and what little there is turns out to be inaccurate.

The exterior has a curved balustrade decorated with stone balls, built in the dour local stone.  The corner to the north of the entrance was a shop, for many years selling sweets, later Miss Betty Dawson’s hairdresser’s and then Mr Pickles’ shoe-repairer’s.

Because the site is steeply graded the proscenium is at the front of the building, and the operating box is located beneath the balcony.  Inside, the balcony and proscenium remain intact.

Eddie Kelly, an assiduous local historian, generously provided me with material from his research, and another historian, Steven Wood, pointed out that the original plans are preserved at Keighley Local Studies Library.

The Bronte Cinema opened on April 21st 1923 with a concert by the Bocking Male Voice Choir and the Haworth Public Prize Band in aid of local hospitals.

Neither the Bronte nor the rival Hippodrome cinema bothered much with press advertising so information about film performance is patchy, but the Bronte’s opening-week advertisement for Mr Wu with Matheson Lang (1919) describes the place as “the cinema of distinction – the finest appointed cinema in the West Riding”.

From the outset the Bronte served as a cultural centre for the town:  two hundred people were turned away from a concert by the amateur LEO Orchestra & Society because the 778-seat auditorium was full half an hour before the start-time.  For years it was the venue for six-day productions by the Haworth Operatic Society.

In later years the Bronte provided three different films each week, Monday-Tuesday, Wednesday-Thursday and Friday-Saturday.  My friend Marjorie remembers as a teenager clutching her mates’ hands on the balcony during a particularly horrific horror film, sometime towards the end of the War.

There’s no record of when the Bronte converted to sound movies, and the cinema historian Ken Roe has found no evidence that it was ever adapted to show wide-screen films.

It closed on July 28th 1956, with Danny Kaye’s On the Riviera, apparently because of competition from television and also “the bad condition of Victoria Road”.

In November 1957 the building and contents were put up for auction, but the building was withdrawn when the highest offer was £1,000.

Mr Snowden told me he bought it in 1961 for £3,000 and ever since has operated his non-ferrous scrap business there.

He has now wound down his business in preparation for his imminent retirement and the building is up for sale.

Mr Snowden is adamant that he doesn’t want to see it demolished:  he says it’s a substantial, weather-tight structure that has needed very little maintenance over the past fifty-odd years.

The most radical alteration has been the removal of the entrance steps to create vehicle access to the raked floor of the stalls.

Schemes to convert the Bronte Cinema to residential use date back to 1993, but Mr Snowden says he’d prefer to see it put to some kind of heritage purpose.  Understandably, he needs to find the best possible price for his asset.

It’s one of the unlisted, largely unaltered historic buildings that could easily disappear, yet the elaborate plasterwork and woodwork of the 1923 design survive beneath a patina of thirty years of nicotine and over fifty years of industrial dust.

While Friends groups work to revive such places as the Derby Hippodrome Theatre, where an unkind previous owner removed much of the roof, and the Doncaster Grand Theatre, where the owner and the borough council are alike unsympathetic to restoration efforts, a delightful but unkempt building like the Bronte Cinema deserves the chance of a future.

Kelham Island

Kelham Island Industrial Museum, Sheffield:  Bessemer Converter

Kelham Island Industrial Museum, Sheffield: Bessemer Converter

Kelham Island Industrial Museum, Sheffield:  River Don Engine

Kelham Island Industrial Museum, Sheffield: River Don Engine

On its course towards Lady’s Bridge in the centre of Sheffield, the River Don splits:  water is taken from the natural course and sent down a mill race, originally built for the town’s medieval corn mill, creating an artificial island that was later named after the town armourer, Kellam Homer, who worked here just before the Civil War.

It has always been an intensively industrial spot, its furnaces, forges and workshops initially powered by water, later by steam.

When Sheffield’s tramways were first electrified in 1899, the Corporation power station was located at Kelham Island, and its buildings now form the Kelham Island Industrial Museum, opened in 1972, telling the story of Sheffield’s industries through displays and exhibits, supplementing the historic sites at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and Shepherd Wheel.

The displays highlight the continuing variety of Sheffield manufactures, from cutlery to liquorice allsorts, exhibiting the fast-disappearing skills of the “little mesters”, and providing a home for England’s largest surviving Bessemer Converter, a working Crossley Gas Engine and the mighty 400-ton, 12,000hp River Don Engine, built by the Sheffield firm of Davy Brothers to roll armour-plate up to fifteen inches thick.

It’s also the home of the Ken Hawley Collection, the result of a lifetime’s assiduous acquisition of tools, archives and moving-image records that saved for posterity the vanishing crafts of the “little mesters” and the larger engineering firms that have disappeared since the Second World War.  Ken Hawley MBE (1927-2014) accumulated irreplaceable artefacts through his business connections in the tool trade, and by enlisting historians and engineering enthusiasts over six decades.

Kelham Island is now famous for its beer.  The Fat Cat public house, with its Kelham Island Brewery, is within sight of the museum, and around the corner is the Kelham Island Tavern, a similarly celebrated home of real ale.

The Kelham Island Industrial Museum is a destination in the itinerary of the Sheffield’s Heritage (October 2nd-6th 2017) tour.  For details, please click here.

Mr Shepherd’s Wheel

Shepherd Wheel, Whiteley Woods, Sheffield

Shepherd Wheel, Whiteley Woods, Sheffield

The valley of the River Porter, north-west of Sheffield city-centre, has a succession of water-powered industrial sites in varying degrees of preservation.

It’s easy to explore, because the valley forms part of the fourteen-mile Sheffield Round Walk, and there are bus routes running parallel from Fulwood to Hunters Bar.

A good place to start is Forge Dam, where on the site of a former forge and rolling mill there is a celebrated café which has changed little since at least the 1950s.

Further downstream is the water-powered Shepherd Wheel, a surviving grinding shop (known in Sheffield as a “hull”) for sharpening knife blades, named after the late-eighteenth century tenant.

Because the Sheffield craft trades were highly fragmented, many craftsmen worked for themselves, and were known as the “little mesters”.

The grinders would hire a grindstone on an hourly or daily basis, rather like hairdressers and tattooists rent their chairs nowadays.

They sat aside a saddle, called a “horsing”, bending over the millstone-grit grindstones that spun fast on the power that came from the water wheel.

When you step into either of the two hulls (set opposite each other to take power from the two sides of the waterwheel), it’s easy to sense the dark, cold, damp atmosphere.  Working in such places was not fun.

Indeed, it was frequently lethal.  Undetectable imperfections in the grindstones could at any moment cause an explosion throwing the stone and the grinder sitting astride it right across the building, into the roof or on to the unprotected cogwheels.

“Wet grinding”, where the stone sat in a bath of water so that the dust was converted to a viscous mud, called “swarf”, was less profitable than “dry grinding”, which created so much iron and sandstone dust that grinders rarely lived past their mid-thirties if they persisted in the trade, as many did for lack of choice.

The surrounding stretch of the valley became a public park in 1900, and when Shepherd Wheel closed in 1930 it was left almost entirely intact.

It took many years, however, for the place to be restored.  It first opened to the public in 1962.

It is now vested in the Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust, which also operates the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and the Kelham Island Industrial Museum.

It is open at weekends and bank holidays:  http://www.simt.co.uk/shepherd-wheel-workshop.

Shepherd Wheel is included in the itinerary of the Sheffield’s Heritage (October 2nd-6th 2017) tour.  For details, please click here.