Ralph Dutton of Hinton Ampner

Hinton Ampner, Hampshire: entrance hall

Ralph Dutton – his first name always pronounced ‘Rafe’ – was born in 1898, in the right place at the right time.

His parents were wealthy – his father a descendant of the 2nd Baron Shelborne with an estate at Hinton Ampner in Hampshire, his mother a daughter of a Bristol banker.

Ralph progressed from West Downs School to Eton, leaving in 1917 without taking his School Certificate.  He was rejected for military service because of his eyesight and instead served as a clerk in the Foreign Office.  In 1919 he was admitted to Oxford University on the strength of a letter from his mother to the Dean of Christ Church, and left two years later without taking a degree.  During his second year at Oxford his father asked him how he was getting on at Cambridge.

This path through education gave him a priceless legacy of friends, young men who became luminaries in British life and culture – Anthony Eden, Henry ‘Chips’ Channon, Christopher Hussey, Beverley Nichols, Sacheverell Sitwell.

To the end of his life he gave no hint to anyone of his political views, his religious persuasion or his sexuality.

He knew that sooner or later he would inherit Hinton Ampner and, apart from taking a course at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, he spent his time and money on broadening his mind, travelling, and become adept at collecting fine art and furniture.

He acquired such treasures as a fireplace from Hamilton House near Motherwell, paintings by Jacob de Wit, Francesco Fontebasso and Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini and ceiling roundels by Angelica Kaufman.

He loathed his father’s house, a Victorian remodelling of a late-eighteenth century hunting lodge, and when eventually it became his in 1935 he lost no time in remodelling it in neo-Georgian style.  His architects were his friend Lord Gerald Wellesley (from 1943 7th Duke of Wellington) and Trenwith Wells.

At the same time he began to write about the aesthetic interests that gave him joy, beginning with The English Country House (1935) and The English Garden (1937), and after the War resumed producing books about architecture and fine art until the early 1960s.

He filled the house with the paintings, furniture and books that he’d accumulated, and when he took up residence in August 1939 he entertained only one guest, his friend Charlotte Bonham-Carter, before the property was requisitioned to accommodate the girls of Portsmouth High School at the start of World War II.

When peace returned Ralph gradually brought the house and garden to a state that satisfied him, so that he could entertain his wide circle of friends in comfort and luxury – the biographer James Pope-Hennessy, the art critic Raymond Mortimer, the diplomat and politician Harold Nicolson and the novelist L P Hartley.

A serious fire in 1960 destroyed part of the house and disfigured the rest.  Ralph Dutton’s immediate reaction was to call back Trenwith Wells (because Lord Wellesley was by this time fully occupied being Duke of Wellington) and his favourite decorator Ronald Fleming, and they not only restored the house but improved it, making good deficiencies that had only been recognised when it was lived in after the war.

He inherited the title 8th Baron Shelborne in 1982, three years before his death.  He had no direct heir, so the title died with him.

He had bequeathed the estate to the National Trust in the 1960s, soon after the house was rebuilt.  This caused some embarrassment to the Trust, who did not habitually take on properties before the paint was dry.  They were grateful for the gardens and grounds, but only agreed to open the house to the public after his death.

I’m glad they did, because it’s a beguiling place to visit.  The volunteer room-stewards are notably welcoming, and Ralph Dutton’s rooms are exquisite. 

It’s not an easy place to find, and really needs more signage in the surrounding area, but it’s worth putting aside a day to relax and savour some of the comforts its owner wanted guests to experience: Hinton Ampner | Hampshire | National Trust.

St Cecilia’s Apartments

St Cecilia’s Apartments, formerly St Cecilia’s Parish Church, Parson Cross, Sheffield (2024)

At long last, the attractive parish church of St Cecilia, Parson Cross, Sheffield is sure of a secure future after years of redundancy and the threat of demolition.

It was built at the same time as the surrounding council estate and consecrated in 1939, designed by a little-known architect called Kenneth Mackenzie. 

The church community thrived into the post-war period, led by clergy provided by the Anglo-Catholic Kelham Fathers, but in later decades the congregation shrank until they were forced to abandon the building for the smaller church of St Bernard, Southey Green.

The problem of disposing of St Cecilia’s after the church was closed in 2011 dragged on for several years, which I chronicled in a series of blog-articles:  St Cecilia’s – starting a new chapter | Mike Higginbottom Interesting Times.

Sheffield City Council insisted that the only possible reuse would be residential, and eventually a developer came forward with a practical scheme, completed in 2024.

St Cecilia’s still looks like a church, even to the carved crosses on the gables, though it’s been converted into seventeen modern apartments shoehorned into the space within:  2 bedroom apartment for rent in Flat 9 102 Chaucer Close, Sheffield, S5 (rightmove.co.uk).

I wish that the UPVC glazing had been black or dark grey instead of stark white, and it’s a shame that Kenneth Mackenzie’s Gothic tracery had to go, but I’m pleased that this charming building survives within its circle of surrounding houses in an area of north Sheffield which has lost some of the few landmark buildings that were built in the 1930s, such as St Hilda’s Parish Church, Shiregreen and the Ritz Cinema, Parson Cross.

Local people who knew and loved St Cecilia’s Church will be bewildered if they set foot inside now.  Necessarily, its spaciousness has been sacrificed by the insertion of a mezzanine floor and multiple internal partitions, and though the arches of the nave arcades provide decorative features in individual first-floor apartments, the need to preserve the external fenestration has required compromises in the height of the window apertures.

Demolishing St Cecilia’s didn’t bear thinking about, not only because it’s an attractive and substantial building, but the closeness of the adjacent houses meant that it would have had to be taken down expensively brick by brick, which would have been an extended nightmare for local residents.

As it is, the former church can earn its keep and repay the investment in redevelopment.  And the exterior looks immaculate.

It remains a quiet, unobtrusive presence in the midst of the Parson Cross estate, and it’s a witness to the energy of the Kelham Fathers and the optimism of the worshippers who arrived from dismal inner-city areas at the end of the Thirties, only to face the upheaval of war and the uncertainties of the decades that followed.

The spirit of harmless eccentricity

Chatsworth: the Moorish Summerhouse

When I was at university in the late 1960s, the first social landmark of the academic year was the Fresher’s Bazaar – a recruitment fair in which new students could enrol in societies and clubs as diversions from their studies.

Here was a panorama of extra-curricular talent – sports societies (naturally), various cultural groups (predictably), religious, political and hobby groups. 

The University newspaper, Torchlight, recruited reporters (one of whom would have been Chris Mullin, who rose to be its editor and later became an MP). 

There was a Winnie-the-Pooh Society which, I was later informed, under the pretence of activities with Pooh-sticks planned to overthrow the government. 

Best of all was the Apathy Society which left a single sheet of paper on a bare trestle table where innocents could disqualify themselves from membership by summoning the energy to sign their name.  The Apathy Soc were notorious for never clearing their pigeon-hole.

On this analogy, you might think a society called the Folly Fellowship would be the destination of fools, but it’s quite the opposite.

Its members are knowledgeable, enjoyable individuals who take an interest in a cornucopia of architectural genres:  What is a folly? – The Folly Fellowship (follies.org.uk).

I came across them when Jonathan Holt bought a back copy of my handbook for a 2009 Derbyshire-based tour, Taking the Waters:  the story of spas and hydros.

He made admirable use of it to include out-of-the-way wells and spas that are largely unknown, such as the Royal Well at Matlock Bath, Quarndon Spa and the Stoney Middleton Bath Houses in his article in the Foundation’s magazine Follies, No 118 (Summer 2024), pp 10-14.

He also gave me a generous shout-out at the end of his article and invited me to join the group on their Derbyshire tour.

Because I already had a commitment on the Saturday I arranged to meet the Folly Fellowship members at Chatsworth on Sunday lunchtime for a tour of the house and the freedom of the gardens. 

Chatsworth is full of garden features and buildings without a purpose other than to entertain guests, from the Tudor Queen Mary’s Bower to the grand Victorian engineering of the Emperor Fountain, the ingenious Willow Tree Fountain to Dame Elisabeth Frink’s War Horse.

I chose to go looking for the one item on Jonathan’s list that I couldn’t identify, the Moorish Summerhouse.  It’s not marked on any of the maps, and I had to ask a garden guide at the ticket-kiosk how to find it.

Six of us tramped up the slope, past the Case and the Kitchen Garden, and up a serpentine path until we came upon it.

The Moorish Summerhouse, otherwise called the Saracen’s Shelter, is a fine structure, sited on a level with Thomas Archer’s Cascade House, exquisitely designed in Moorish style.  It seats six and would make an impressive bus shelter.

We chatted idly and then people wandered off to look at other things.  There are far worse ways of spending a Sunday afternoon.

I can find nothing about the Summerhouse online or in Pevsner, but that doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the spirit of harmless eccentricity that it embodies.

There’s an invitation to join the Folly Fellowship at The Folly Fellowship (follies.org.uk).

Destination station

Schlesisches Tor U-bahn station, Berlin

The Schlesisches Tor station on Berlin’s U1 elevated railway is spectacular – much more than a place to catch a train.

It formed part of Berlin’s first overground electric rail service, built to the designs of the architects Hans Grisebach (1848-1904) and Georg Dinklage (1849-1926) by the construction company Siemens & Halske, pioneers of electric traction.  Heinrich Giesecke (1862-1937) was responsible for the architectural decoration which included elaborately carved stonework, wrought-ironwork and an onion-dome turret.

Its opulent historicist style gave it prestige, and the street-level facilities were generous – several shops, including a pastry shop, and a restaurant named Torkrug.

Named after a former entrance to the city, the Silesian Gate, it was opened in 1902.

It suffered a direct hit in an Allied air raid on March 11th-12th 1945, but services continued until the power supply failed, putting the entire network out of action on April 22nd.

For a time after the end of the War Schlesisches Tor became a terminus until the through service was restored in April 1947.  It was interrupted again, briefly during an uprising in 1953, and ultimately when the Berlin Wall divided the city in 1961.  The through service was eventually reopened in 1995.

Even before reunification the station was recognised as a historic monument.  The former restaurant was occupied by a retail store, the Kaufhaus am Tor (commonly shortened to Kato).  The name Kato was perpetuated by a club which took over the space after 1981.  From 2012 Kato was succeeded by a night-club, Bi Nuu.

The station was listed in 1980 and renovated for the International Building Exhibition in 1984 and the 750th anniversary of the city of Berlin in 1987.

A commemorative plaque honours Alfred Flatow (1869-1942), a Jewish gymnast who won three gold and one silver medals in the 1896 Olympic Games.  He and his colleagues were suspended by the national gymnastics governing body Deutsche Turnerschaft which regarded the Games as “unGerman”.  Alfred and his cousin Gustav (1875-1945), who himself won two gold medals in 1896, were among the founders of the Judische Turnerschaft in 1903.  Both perished in the Holocaust – Alfred at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp and Gustav in the Theresienstadt Ghetto.

Both cousins are commemorated in the naming of the Flatow-Sporthalle nearby, the renaming of the Reichssportsfeld Strasse [street of the National Sports Complex] as Flatowallee [Flatow Boulevard].  They are also illustrated on one of a set of four stamps issued by Deutsche Post to celebrate the centenary of the 1896 Olympic Games.

Appleton Water Tower

Appleton Water Tower, Sandringham, Norfolk (1980)

Accounts of the nineteenth-century “Sanitary Question” – the controversy over how to resolve the environmental problems of water-supply, sewerage and disposal of the dead – usually focus on the rapidly expanding, densely-populated towns and cities and their poor, unhealthy and undernourished populations of the time.

In fact, the crises of public health and limited medical knowledge cost the lives of individuals in all levels of society.

The best-known example of a prominent life cut short by avoidable disease in this period is Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819-1861).  He died, after several weeks’ illness, at Windsor on December 9th 1861, probably of typhoid, leaving a shocked nation and a bereft widow.

His accumulating personal woes would have undoubtedly lowered his spirits and sapped his physical strength – several years of discomfort from stomach cramps, a near-death experience in a carriage accident, the death of his mother-in-law, concern over his eldest son’s liaison with an Irish actress and the strain of being involved in a diplomatic skirmish, the Trent affair.

However, it was the fetid drains under Windsor Castle that almost certainly did for him.

He was not alone.  In the same few weeks of 1861, typhoid swept through the Portuguese royal family, who were Prince Albert’s young cousins,– the Infante Ferdinand (15) on November 6th, his brother King Pedro V (24) on November 11th and another brother, Infante João, Duke of Beja (19) on December 27th.

A decade later, by which time the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII (1841-1910), had married, raised a family and acquired the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, he himself contracted typhoid while staying with the Earl of Londesborough at Scarborough.  A fellow guest, the 7th Earl of Chesterfield, and the Prince of Wales’ groom died of the disease, but His Royal Highness recovered.

It seems that the drains at Londesborough Lodge were no better than those at Windsor Castle.

The Prince quickly enlisted the experienced civil engineer Robert Rawlinson (1810-1898) and a sanitary specialist James Mansergh (1834-1905) to ensure that the newly completed Sandringham House was safely supplied with water and properly drained.

The nearest supply, a chalk spring about a mile away, was twenty feet lower in altitude than the ground floor of the house, and the highest point on the estate was only five feet higher than the roof.

Not only did the supply require pumping, but a greater head of water was needed for fire-fighting.

The solution was to construct a sixty-foot-high water tower, surmounted by a 32,000-gallon tank, overlooking the surrounding landscape and visible for miles.

James Mansergh designed an elegant brick structure in a style he called “neo-Byzantine” in polychrome brick and local stone.

Its two lower storeys provided accommodation for a caretaker, and the second floor, accessible by a private staircase, was reserved for the occasional entertainment of royal house parties who could, if they wished, climb to the top of the tank to enjoy the view.

The chimney flues from the fireplaces ran through the centre of the tank to prevent the water freezing in heavy frosts.

The four foundation stones were laid on July 4th 1877 by Alexandra, Princess of Wales, her brother Prince Waldemar of Denmark, and the Wales’s two young sons, Princes Albert Victor and George (later King George V).

When the water-supply system was completed the following year, the hydrants surrounding Sandringham House were tested by a personal friend of the Prince of Wales, the celebrated Chief of the London Fire Brigade, Captain Sir Eyre Massey Shaw KCB (1830-1908), “to his entire satisfaction”.

The water-supply system was maintained first by the Sandringham estate and later by the local water authority until 1963.  Four years later the Tower was leased to the Landmark Trust which cleared away the surrounding outbuildings and converted the first three storeys into a memorable holiday let  [Holiday at Appleton Water Tower, Sandringham | The Landmark Trust], receiving its first visitors exactly a hundred years after the foundation stones were laid.

156 years of continuing prayer

St Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church, Attercliffe, Sheffield

When I run my annual Heritage Open Days Walk Round Attercliffe we visit one of only two remaining Christian places of worship in the Lower Don Valley. It’s also the only historic place of worship in the Valley that has been in continuous use since it was built.

The Roman Catholic Church of St Charles Borromeo was consecrated in 1868 to provide a home for a congregation that had been meeting since 1864.

This was the time when the flat rural meadows and gardens of the Lower Don Valley were being replaced by huge steelworks served by rail and canal. 

Housing for the workers, many of whom came from surrounding counties and as far away as Ireland, had to be within walking distance of the works because public transport was inadequate and expensive.

The church was the gift of Mr William Wake of Osgathorpe, and partly financed by gifts of £500 each from the Duke of Norfolk and from Mrs Wake and her family.  The eventual cost was £4,700. 

The dedication commemorates the Wakes’ son, Charles, who drowned while skating on the Serpentine in Regent’s Park in January 1867.

The building was designed by Charles John Innocent (1837-1901) and Thomas Brown (c1845-1881), who went on to design nineteen out of the twenty-two schools built by the Sheffield School Board from 1873 onwards.

Initially only the nave and the presbytery were constructed.  Charles Innocent returned in 1887 to oversee the lengthening of the nave and the construction of the baptistery and two porches to the west and the chancel, Lady Chapel and sacristy to the east.  These extensions, costing £2,400, were the gift of the Duke of Norfolk and Mr and Mrs Wade.

The interior is spacious and light, with a hammerbeam roof.  The screens, choir stalls and pulpit were designed by C J Innocent and carved by the sculptor Harry Hems of Exeter (1842-1916).  The organ is by the Norwich builder Norman & Beard, and dates from 1911.

The adjacent brick-built school was originally built in 1871 and rebuilt in 1929 in memory of the first rector of the parish, Father Joseph Hurst, who served from 1866 to 1905.  It was remodelled in 1964 by Hadfield, Cawkwell & Davidson, and closed because of falling rolls in 1981. 

After some years of use for Youth Training Scheme activities it became the Diocese of Hallam Pastoral Centre, opening on June 27th 1990.

Alongside the Centre, regular services continue in the church of St Charles, as they have done since 1868.

St Charles Borromeo Church is a destination on Mike Higginbottom’s Heritage Open Days A Walk Round Attercliffe which takes place on Friday September 6th 2024 from 10am to 12.30pm, starting and finishing at the Attercliffe tram stop.  

Call 07946-650672 or e-mail mike@mikehigginbottominterestingtimes.co.uk to book.

The little railway with the long name

Matlock Railway Station, Derbyshire (1977)
Matlock Railway Station, Derbyshire (2016)

Though I’ve driven from home in Sheffield to Matlock more times than I can number, on a whim I decided to travel by train when I needed to visit the Derbyshire Record Office recently.

I told myself it’s difficult to park in Matlock during the day, but actually I like riding on trains and if you’re a certain age you can get a Derbyshire Wayfarer ticket that lasts all day and costs only £7.70:  Derbyshire Wayfarer | National Rail.

It’s a very long time since I set off northwards out of Derby on a train that takes the left branch at Ambergate Junction and stops at the sad little platform which is all that’s left of the triangular Ambergate station.

While passengers climb aboard the driver unlocks the signalling for the line up to Matlock, which is a fascinating piece of transport history as well as an enjoyable piece of Derbyshire countryside.

There’s a point shortly before Whatstandwell station where the Derwent valley narrows so that the Cromford Canal, the railway, the A6 trunk road and the river are practically side by side.

Further north, canal, river and railway change places as the railway plunges through Leawood Tunnel (309 yards) while the canal follows the contour to cross the river at the Wigwell Aqueduct.

The next station, Cromford, is exceptionally pretty.  An expensive essay in French chateau style, it was designed by George Henry Stokes (1826-1876), who had married Emily, daughter of Sir Joseph Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire’s gardener, designer of the Crystal Palace and a director of the Ambergate-Rowsley railway.  The up waiting room is a self-catering holiday let:  The Waiting Room Holiday Cottage – Cromford – Railway Station Cottages.

At the north end of the Cromford platform the line enters Willersley Tunnel (765 yards) and emerges at the approach to the Swiss-style Matlock Bath station.

The stretch north of Matlock Bath was much more fun when diesel railcars allowed you to look forward over the driver’s shoulder.  There are two tunnels, High Tor No 1 (321 yards) and High Tor No 2 (379 yards), separated by a flash of daylight and a glimpse of the River Derwent.  If you blink you miss it.

You can, thanks to years of effort by volunteers, now cross platforms at Matlock and carry on to Rowsley when the Peakrail service is running.

Taking the train from Sheffield to Matlock via Derby is potentially quicker (under 1¼ hours) than the X17 bus service (just over 1½ hours) – and less effort than driving.

Triangular station

Ambergate Station, Derbyshire (1965)

I remember Ambergate station in the 1960s when it had six platforms, though not all of them were in use. Indeed, I photographed it by chance while on a bike ride when I was sixteen [Buyers’ remorse: British Railways Class 17 | Mike Higginbottom Interesting Times], and I went back a couple of years later when a sunset provided appropriate lighting for a station in rapid decline.

In 1972-73 I was coming to the end of my time teaching at Bilborough Grammar School in Nottingham and beginning a long career of part-time adult-education lecturing for the University of Nottingham.

Through that winter and spring I left school promptly, took a bus to Nottingham station and caught a diesel rail-set that trundled over some of the oldest railway lines in the north Midlands – the original Midland Counties Railway (1839) to Derby, then north over the North Midland Railway (1840) to Ambergate, and from there on the little railway with the long name, the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock & Midland Junction Railway (1849) to Matlock.

The ponderous title of the company indicates an intention to connect the East Midlands with Manchester, but it only reached Rowsley on the doorstep of two ducal estates before running out of cash in 1849. 

The title also indicates that the three railways which met at Derby had amalgamated in 1844 as the Midland Railway.

In the midst of the frantic competition between railway companies after the investment bubble known as the “Railway Mania”, the MBM&MJR became jointly leased by the Midland and its rival, the London & North Western Railway, which operated what we now call the West Coast Main Line from London to Scotland.

The L&NWR gave up its share of the lease after the Midland gained powers to build a competing line from its branch to Wirksworth.

Eventually, after the 6th Duke of Devonshire died and his successor didn’t want a railway running through his Chatsworth estate, the 8th Duke of Rutland was persuaded to allow a line tunnelling behind the back garden of Haddon Hall, and the railway was extended from Rowsley up the Wye Valley, first to New Mills and eventually on to Manchester.

The southern “Midland Junction” at Ambergate developed, in fits and starts, into a key connection for trains between Derby, Manchester and Sheffield. 

An informative Wikipedia map [Ambergate junction – Ambergate railway station – Wikipedia] shows how the 1849 junction was west-to-north, and the south/north-west link was opened later, in 1863.  A further south/north-east link, to allow expresses to overtake stopping trains, followed in 1876.

Another service began in 1875, providing passenger trains to Pye Bridge on the Erewash Valley line, part of which now operates as a heritage railway, Midland Railway (Butterley).  (The MBM&MJRroute north of Matlock to south of Rowsley is also a heritage line, Peakrail.)

In the course of the nineteenth-century operational changes the station buildings were shifted around, until the triangular junction was provided with six platforms on a high embankment.  The buildings were, of necessity, constructed of timber.

The station remained intact until all passenger services except the shuttle service to Matlock ended in 1968.  Then, in 1970, the redundant platforms and all the timber buildings were taken down, and Ambergate passengers wait on the former up platform with the benefit of a bus shelter.

Ambergate had, along with Queensbury (closed 1955) and Shipley in West Yorkshire and Earlestown in Lancashire, the distinction of being a triangular station with six platforms. 

Fragmentary remains

Site of former Brightside & Carbrook Staniforth Road store: pilaster base

When I’m stuck for information about an aspect of Sheffield’s architectural and social history, one of the people I call on is Robin Hughes, trustee of Hallamshire Historic Buildings and Joined Up Heritage Sheffield.  He almost always has a detailed, referenced answer.

In return, he occasionally asks me for answers to his queries.  Sometimes I know something;  other times I’m clueless, as I was when he asked if I’d noticed three stones on the west side of Staniforth Road in Attercliffe, immediately downhill from the Pinfold Bridge across the Sheffield Canal. 

The blunt answer was no:  I must have driven past them hundreds of times and never even glanced in their direction.

Robin was at a loss to explain them, though they had clearly been significant.  Two form a pair at the boundary of Spartan Works though too far apart to mark an entrance;  the other is smaller (or perhaps lower) and immediately adjacent to the canal-bridge parapet.

It would have been irresponsible for me to speculate:  any conjecture of mine would have been no more than a wild guess.  Robin’s initial hypothesis was that they were boundary markers, and he found an 1819 map on Picture Sheffield to support it.  But he added, “There may be another explanation, though.”

And there was.  Within a couple of hours he e-mailed again with the correct answer.

These stones are all that remains of the Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Society’s Staniforth Road store [Print details Picture Sheffield], which was built in 1894 when Staniforth Road was still Pinfold Lane, and completely destroyed in the Blitz in December 1940.  They are, in Robin’s words “the decorative bases of the shop front pilasters, and are not functional.”  The building was designed by the B&C’s preferred architect, Henry Webster.  In this Picture Sheffield image [Print details Picture Sheffield] of the ruins the single stone is visible next to the small child on the extreme left.

These almost invisible vestiges mark a place where Attercliffe people shopped for “value for money furniture”, jewellery, prams, pianos, cycles, carpets, rugs and mats, according to an advertisement in The Sheffield Co-operator (May 1924) that promises “Give us your co-operation, and we will give you Civility, Attention, and Free Delivery”:  Issue_021_May_1924.pdf (principle5.coop) [page 3].

It’s also a memento of a night of terror in December 1940 when bombs rained on Attercliffe obliterating familiar shops, pubs and churches, making many houses uninhabitable and killing at least 660 people across the city.

These three small pilaster bases would almost certainly have been forgotten without Robin’s detective work, and their history would have been lost.

In the imminent rejuvenation of Attercliffe I suggest it’s important to commemorate the lives and lifestyles that went before.

The Friends of Zion Graveyard have made it easy for visitors to visualise what was on their site until a few decades ago by raising funds to install professionally composed interpretation boards that are now accompanied by a £5 guide book.

The writer Neil Anderson has led a series of effective campaigns to ensure that the 1940 Sheffield Blitz is not forgotten.  His easy-to-use app [Sheffield Blitz 85th] enables anyone with a mobile phone in their hand to visit relevant locations in and around the city centre, accompanied by the voice of the late Doug Lightning, the last surviving firefighter to have been on duty in the midst of the raid.  Ian Castle has commemorated the World War I raid on the Lower Don Valley in 1916:  Sheffield author Neil Anderson relaunches book that led to proper tribute to city sacrifice in Blitz (thestar.co.uk).

Attercliffe has more than enough sites associated with the Blitz to make a walking trail that captures for younger generations the impact of two nights’ destruction in the dark days of the Second World War.  Alongside books, videos and apps, there’s a special immediacy to markers of the actual sites that casual pedestrians can stumble upon, like Gunter Demnig’s StolpersteineStolpersteine | Mike Higginbottom Interesting Times.

If “heritage” means anything, it’s about linking the experience of past generations to the imagination of those who follow.

Brightside & Carbrook

Former Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Society branch, 18/20/22 Page Hall Road, Sheffield

In the late nineteenth century Sheffield, like most places, was dotted with Co-op shops selling food and all kinds of household goods.

Many co-op branches were mundane buildings which, if they survive, are difficult to recognise, but on occasions a society would make an architectural statement in the grimy streets.

The Brightside and Carbrook branch at 18/20/22 Page Hall Road, on the former tram route to Firth Park via Attercliffe, remains a particularly spectacular landmark, faced with white faience and an elaborate composition of pilasters, aedicules and festoons. 

Its opulent interiors were photographed at the time of its opening in 1914, when smart assistants and the manager, Alf Sparkes, waited expectantly for the first customers

It served a moderately affluent community with clothing, drapery and haberdashery.  An early image shows that the fascia advertised “clothing & outfitting…boots & shoes…linoleum & carpets…drapery, millinery and costumes”.

A much later image of the frontage dated 1952, showing that the white faience had become distinctly grubby in Sheffield’s polluted atmosphere, advertises “baby linen, ribbons, laces, a millinery showroom, ladies’ & childrens’ underwear, furs, corsets, skirts [and] a mantle showroom”.

At the time it closed on June 12th 1965 the front windows advertised “Co-operative furnishing, footwear…outfitting [and] drapery”.

Since then the building has been used as Patnick’s Junk Shop (1972), Pope’s DIY superstore (1993), Khawaja & Sons Halal Supermarket and presently the Hamza Supermarket.

It was listed Grade II in 1995.

Across the road is a less regarded building, 25 Page Hall Road, which has an inscription ‘FIRTH PARK COLISEUM’ and the date 1906.  This has prompted overenthusiastic cinema enthusiasts sometimes to speculate that it was a cinema, but in fact it was a rival to the Co-op opposite.

It was owned by the outfitter Mr Samuel Alonzo Peel, who also ran the Emporium and Peel’s Stores in the nearby suburb of Brightside.

He was provoked in May 1915 to issue the following legal notice in the Sheffield newspapers:

It has come to my knowledge that statements have been made to the effect that the above businesses are not in a good financial condition and that I have therefore been compelled to work as a Turner at one of the large firms in Sheffield.  Such a statement is untrue.  When I heard of the shortage of men (although I have been out of the trade twelve years) I returned to this trade purely from a patriotic motive.  My businesses are financially sound and if I can ascertain who the originators of the above slander are I shall be prepared to take proceedings against them… [Searching Picture Sheffield].

May 1915 is the precise date of the Lusitania riots, which destroyed many German butchers’ businesses in Sheffield and other cities:  Libraries Sheffield: From the Archives: Sheffield and the Lusitania riots of 1915 (shefflibraries.blogspot.com).

According to the information in Picture Sheffield, Mr Peel died in 1925.  His Coliseum survives.  When I first knew it and puzzled over the inscription in the 1970s it was a launderette.  Since 2014 it has been SK Market – Mix Potraviny.  Mix Potraviny is Slovak for “mixed food”.