Days of the Egg Box and Hole in the Road

Beauty and the beast: Sheffield Town Hall and the now-demolished Egg Box building

Beauty and the beast: Sheffield Town Hall and the now-demolished Egg Box building

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DO you recall the Hole in the Road, the Wedding Cake and the Egg Box?

They were part of the civic landscape in Sheffield in the 1980s – a time when clubbers flocked to The Limit and The Leadmill, possibly getting to the city centre on the cheapest buses in the country.

HOLEBB, Hole in road

HOLEBB, Hole in road

Yet the economic backdrop was depressingly familiar, with widespread unemployment and protests over government policy.

Memories of Sheffield in the 1980s are being sought by the University of Sheffield’s Department of History for a project designed to ensure they can be vividly preserved for future generations.

“There’s a proverb that says ‘When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground’,” said Dr Charles West. “History isn’t just books in the library, it’s also people’s lives and experiences, at home and at work. That’s the starting point of the Witness project.

“Preserving the voices of Sheffield’s citizens, helping train a new generation of historians and creating a historical resource for the future – Witness aims to achieve all these things by bringing together students, staff and Sheffield’s wider community.”

The initiative is led by students alongside Dr West and Dr Andrew Heath. Each year, a group of students trained by the Oral History Society will research a particular aspect of the city’s past. A sample of interviews, together with an accompanying historical report, will then be posted online for free public access.

Dr West added: “The 1980s seemed suitable as a starting point, partly because it gives us a very wide pool of memories to draw upon and partly because there may be some parallels with the Sheffield of today – job cuts, recession, tension between local government and national government.”

David Holland, aged 47, a mature undergraduate history student, said: “I’m coming to higher education quite late and, as I’m in my forties, I can remember Sheffield in the 1980s very well.

“Anyone who lived in Sheffield in the 1980s will remember the huge changes to the city’s industry and economy wrought by both recession and government policy and the massive impact on life they had with the closure of much of the steel industry, the miners’ strike, mass unemployment and the shadow of the Cold War.

“There were also the other fascinating insights into people’s lives in the Sheffield of the 1980s. Obviously, the music scene was world renowned and clubs such as the Leadmill and the Limit were booming. The buses were incredibly cheap and frequent too.

“Long-gone bits of civic architecture such as the Hole in the Road, the Wedding Cake and the Egg Box made up an important part of Sheffield’s skyline, as did the massive housing developments of Park Hill and Hyde Park.

“For me, it is people’s experience of such events and buildings that help give a three-dimensional picture of them. I think our role is to help add this human dimension to what has often been reduced to a dry list of ‘historic’ events, where the people who actually experienced them and felt their effects have been written out of the story.”

Lily Golding, aged 20, a secondyear undergraduate history student, said of the period: “It’s a good time for people to be able to remember. It wasn’t too long ago that stories have been lost or forgotten, but equally it’s long enough ago for people to be able to talk about their stories with the benefit of hindsight and how the events of the 80s have impacted today’s society.”

Findings will be showcased in an exhibition next October.

Email witness@sheffield.ac.uk or call the Department of History on 222 2555.

lJust in case – the Hole in the Road was Castle Square subway, the Wedding Cake was the register office and the Egg Box was the town hall extension.