Heritage: Clear and present danger of igoring our city’s past glories

Manor Lodge in Sheffield
Manor Lodge in Sheffield
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Why history creates a strong sense of community pride and should be used to highlight the wealth of new ideas that have graced Sheffield’s innovators.

Over the last few years there has been attempts to rebrand Sheffield and to clear away many of the city’s old buildings.

Meersbrook Hall

Meersbrook Hall

To leave the past behind.

Without the mucky and dangerous occupations, there would be no universities, no stainless steel, and so many of the everyday items we use in our lives right across the planet.

Sheffield was, and still is, a place where new ideas happen, because new ideas have been encouraged.

Not by ignoring the past but by using the lessons of the past to inspire.

Winter sun in Gillfield Wood, Totley by reader David Capewell

Winter sun in Gillfield Wood, Totley by reader David Capewell

History creates a strong sense of community pride. If you look at what is happening in heritage across Sheffield you can see how important heritage is to communities.

Manor Lodge is an obvious place.

It has turned from neglected houses and ruins to an expanding museum.

Not only that they have formed a strong relationship with a special school and have put in facilities for them.

Portland Works, Sheffield  which was built in 1877, and offers affordable workspace for small manufacturing businesses as well as independent artists and craftsmen.Picture Scott Merrylees SM1002/78k

Portland Works, Sheffield which was built in 1877, and offers affordable workspace for small manufacturing businesses as well as independent artists and craftsmen.Picture Scott Merrylees SM1002/78k

There is now a WW2 themed farmhouse, craft studios and award winning caterers Rhubarb Shed and there are plans for more features.

Portland Works from rundown works has totally turned the works round with a waiting list for businesses and award winning restoration work.

Everywhere you look there are heritage groups running events.

Heritage Open Day last year had 89 places opening up their doors. We have moved to third position in the ten core cities when we were nowhere previously.

Picking rhubarb at the Green Estate, in Manor Ln, Sheffield, are The Rhubarb Shed Cafe chef Tony Dunn and cafe worker Debra Revill.

Picking rhubarb at the Green Estate, in Manor Ln, Sheffield, are The Rhubarb Shed Cafe chef Tony Dunn and cafe worker Debra Revill.

There are over 2,000 events and exhibitions you can go and see every year.

A lot of it is happening just through the sheer enthusiasm and work that volunteers put in.

Sheffield has more volunteers than any other city.

Sheffield Heritage and Conservation groups want more. They don’t want to have to spend time, effort and money defending the places and buildings from developers, when the same time effort and money could be spent making places like Manor Lodge, Wincobank, Herdings Heritage Centre in Gleadless, bigger better and self reliant.

It’s not just about some old guy in a pullover showing photos of buildings once gone. It’s about working together and saving the uniqueness of an area and fostering community pride.

For years heritage groups have watched with frustration the lack of understanding in Sheffield councils, no matter who was in charge. Finally after many discussions Sheffield Heritage has taken a groundbreaking approach, to build a citywide heritage organisation from the grassroots up. This not without its problems when looking for funding, as it has never been done before.

The Rhubarb Shed Cafe chef Tony Dunn pictured outside the eatery.

The Rhubarb Shed Cafe chef Tony Dunn pictured outside the eatery.

Last year was a great year for Sheffield’s heritage, the Joined up Heritage conference, and the two Roman digs that indicated Sheffield’s importance as a border town between Roman Britain and the rest. The opening of the Chapel at the Cemetery, the new improved locally relevant archaeology section in Weston Park, the great Arrivals exhibition in Weston Park, the huge time travelling event at Manor Lodge from Medieval to Waterloo. The sheer breadth of what was going on was amazing.

But possibly most exciting development was the takeover of Meersbrook Hall by the community.

Not a new idea elsewhere in the UK but new to Sheffield. Other communities who use council owned listed buildings in the parks are interested, but at present there is no real conversation on how we can use collaboration between social enterprise and Councils to take over the costs and running from the Council. It is not the funding cuts themselves, but the kind of response stemming from those, that could threaten Sheffield’s heritage. Unfettered development that makes no room for heritage within regeneration plans. If you can’t afford shoes for your child, chopping off his feet isn’t good solution.

Nor is selling your child to someone who will supply the shoes.

We are selling off our assets to outside developers and moving them out of local control and accountability.

What I think we may see in due course is a Northern Cultural Hub which will spread across the Northern cities and bring in more creative people from London as they are out-priced there. It’s already happening a little. The more bespoke manufacturing industry is expanding worldwide and Sheffield’s long history makes it an attractive place for this and is also where Sheffield is ahead of the competition.

That’s if we keep our Heritage and don’t sell it off or demolish it. The old works are perfect for the fashionable co-working that is popular in cities internationally.

What to look out for this year?

The new Tinsley project, run by Heeley Heritage, about travel, following on from all the great research re Tinsley Manor. The new partnership at Abbeydale Picture House.

Some great work going on at Wardsend Cemetery, possibly another musical event at Shepherd Wheel and some interesting research going on at Gillfield Woods in Totley. Heritage Open Days, which this year are hoping to twin with Rotherham. And Stocksbridge area has published some great walk guides online, possibly aimed at the visitors coming to watch Yorkshire Tour.

Stocksbridge - Walkers are welcome

Chris and Joy Bullivant from the TimeWalk project looking at a map in Meersbrook Park :

Chris and Joy Bullivant from the TimeWalk project looking at a map in Meersbrook Park :