diamond geezer

 Friday, October 19, 2018


One of Britain's largest cities, Sheffield is famously hilly and impressively green, as befits its location close to the foot of the Pennines. Formerly in Hallamshire, Sheffield is now the mainstay of South Yorkshire, a county which I acknowledge I've seriously underblogged thus far. So I grabbed a cheap rail ticket and spent the day in The Outdoor City to see how many of its sights I could get around.
[Visit Sheffield] [map]

Sheffield Cathedral
Like Birmingham and Manchester, Sheffield's Anglican cathedral is much smaller than might be expected given the city's population. Like Birmingham and Manchester that's because the Industrial Revolution brought the city to prominence, hence the parish church got promoted to cathedral status, but at least it's impressive, if not entirely awe-inspiring. The red-cloaked gent on the door was effusive and cheery, as well as deeply apologetic that the cafe had already closed by the time I arrived. The cathedral's interior looked somewhat smaller than I remembered, but I was last here aged 10, which may explain the dimensional shift. The most impressive addition since that visit is the abstract design in the lantern tower resembling a colourful symmetrical flower.

Sheffield Winter Garden/Millennium Galleries
What to do when redeveloping your city centre, obviously, is to build a huge temperate glasshouse as a meeting point and thoroughfare. Today spiky trees soar beneath larch arches, suitably sheltered, with benches and a nice cafe tucked in on either side. It's all very genteel, although a slight whiff down the far side made me suspect several gentleman might be enjoying temporary residential status until turfed out in the evening. Adjoining are the Millennium Galleries, a bit like a shopping mall but for culture, with two permanent galleries and two moveable feasts. The main attraction is a celebration of Sheffield metalwork, the city having earned its wealth through knives and forks and spoons and steel and silver. There's some fabulous creations in here, from all kinds of cutlery to teapots and toastracks, right up to exquisite modern day commissions. Another unit focuses on the collections of John Ruskin, including geology and volumes of animal illustrations, and the rest of the place was "between exhibitions", which is sometimes how it goes.

City Centre
Ooh, that's the Crucible where the snooker happens. Ooh, that's the green police box in Surrey Street which got a mention in the opening episode of Jodie Whittaker's first Doctor Who episode, famously set in Sheffield. A bit less ooh are the Peace Gardens, although a nice place to sit and watch the fountains with your lunchbox open. Nextdoor is the Victorian Town Hall, and then up the road City Hall, which is a generation younger but trying to look much older. If you fancy a thorough amble with a focus on 32 of Sheffield's most interesting buildings, old and particularly new, this two hour circuit from the Institution of Civil Engineers might be right up your street.

National Centre for Popular Music
It seemed like a good idea to establish the UK's first pop-focused tourist attraction in Sheffield, as a city which has always punched above its musical weight. A landmark building was created near the station, comprising four interlinked steel drums with rotating blowhole tops. But this millennial project was woefully undervisited, and went into administration after only seven months, because Heaven 17 soundscapes and hands-on composition zones lacked appeal. The museum limped on until the following spring, then gave up and became a live music venue, then gave up completely and was sold off to Sheffield Hallam University. They now use it as their Students Union, a place for advice-giving, socialising and making photocopies... and this year's freshers weren't even born during its initial incarnation.

Turner Museum of Glass
This took some finding, because the museum is housed on the campus of the University of Sheffield on the second floor of the Materials Science building. This meant walking through a throng of students despite not looking anything like one, climbing a somewhat functional staircase and nervously opening a swing door into what looked like a common room. And a common room it proved to be, albeit also home to a collection of display cases containing some exquisite examples of 20th century art glass. I tried to admire these while students at tables alongside pored over laptops and stuffed themselves with hot-packaged lunches. A little awkward, but gorgeous.

Weston Park Museum
The city's chief museum of Sheffieldness can be found in Weston Park, which is not entirely central. A long neoclassical building, much extended to the rear, it contains galleries on diverse topics from local archaeology to Arctic lands. In a city of half a million people, the populace needs somewhere to go to learn about Anglo-Saxons, sporting triumphs and woodland ecosystems. The gallery of Sheffield-related landscapes is particularly fine, as befits the watercolour potential of such a scenically-located city, and I also enjoyed sitting down in a reconstructed 60s kitchen to watch a series of videos about Park Hill. As for Weston Park, it's one of a trio which includes Crookes Valley Park, formerly a reservoir, and a long scrubby tumble called The Ponderosa. Amazingly this is named after the ranch in the TV series Bonanza, which was very popular in the 1960s when the park was created.

Kelham Island Museum
Hello target audience, this is the museum for you. The Sheffield Industrial Trust's flagship repository is housed in a former transport depot on the site of an ironworks in the city's riverside manufacturing heart. At £6 it's the only attraction on today's list which I paid to enter, although you can see the country's last surviving Bessemer Converter out front for free - it's much too large to come inside. As well as tools for metalwork and tales of everyday craftsmanship, the museum contains a considerable amount of machinery from the old days, much of it in working order. The most imposing is the River Don Engine, Britain's most powerful surviving steam engine, once used to press the thermal shields for Calder Hall nuclear power station. It fires up twice a day, and you'll find it (honest) in the Hugh Wentworth Ping Room.

Explore all the nooks and crannies to find Sheffield's last crucible shop, a small-traders alleyway, a recreated Zeppelin raid and the world's largest collection of 'tools'. You have not lived until you have seen a 2000-bladed Stanley knife, an A-Z of planes, a giant trowel and a room full of nothing but different types of hand-saw. Hopefully your visit won't be plagued by a school party running amok trying to find all the items on their worksheet, and studiously ignoring absolutely everything else. And when you're done inside the museum you should find refreshment outside amongst the CAMRA-friendly microbreweries of Kelham Island. This mini-district's gently gentrifying, but hasn't yet lost its steely edge.

Five Weirs Walk
Several rivers meet in Sheffield, chief of these the Don which flows onwards towards Rotherham and the obvious -caster. The section of the Don between central Sheffield and the Meadowhall Shopping Centre has been made accessible vis the Five Weirs Walk, a regenerative project completed over 20 years, meandering five miles along the riverside. I only had time to walk a tiny fraction, from the start at Lady's Bridge round the first couple of bends. It was surreal looking down into the Don to see a man stood fishing in midstream, just below a multi-storey car park. But rather more amazing was the Cobweb Bridge, a footbridge suspended through a deep arch in the Wicker Viaduct while giant metal spiders hang above in dampened gloom - as if every day were Hallowe'en. Sorry, that was all I managed.

National Emergency Services Museum
Yes, honestly. Includes a row of police cells and over fifty 999 vehicles. But closed on Mondays and Tuesday, so you'll have to tell me.

That other Sheffield thing
No I didn't, there wasn't time.

My Sheffield gallery
There are 40 photos altogether [slideshow]

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards