Taking a view on Sheffield and its shocking history

Chris Hobbs.

Chris Hobbs.

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What Chris Hobbs started as a hobby 13 years ago to trace his ancestors became a website of Sheffield’s murky past with 30,000 page views a month. Now he has teamed up with Sheffield author Matthew Bell for a book, Sheffield’s Shocking Past, which records bizarre and disturbing episodes from Victorian times. You won’t find the Sheffield Flood of 1864 or the murderous deeds of Charlie Peace - “they’ve been done to death and I can’t add anything new”. Instead there are tales of multiple murders, strange and untimely deaths, hideous accidents and a factory explosion. Chris Hobbs lives in Crookes with his wife of 31 years and has two grown up children.

lSheffield’s Shocking History is published by ACM Retro and available from The Star Shop and local book shops at £12.95. Visit www.chrishobbs.com.

Central Library

A marvellous building where I’ve spent many hours over the years researching both my family tree and articles for the website. The Local Studies section on the first floor is a particular favourite. The staff are knowledgeable and are always helpful if you have a query. And after spending a few hours researching material, there is an excellent cafe on the third floor.

Cemeteries

In researching my family history, I have found that several cemeteries in the city are the last resting places of many of my ancestors. Naturally I have tried over the years to locate their graves and in quite a few cases I have been successful. The search can be both puzzling and time-consuming - many of the cemeteries seem to me at least to follow no logical plan or order. But it does add to a sense of achievement in locating a grave. On the whole, I find the cemeteries restful and peaceful places where you can get lost in your thoughts. Being a resident of Crookes, my particular favourite is Crookes Cemetery, which has tremendous views out towards Loxley, Rivelin and the surrounding moors. I am also a Friend of Walkley Cemetery, which is in a peaceful and tranquil setting above the Rivelin Valley. It relies heavily on the efforts of volunteers and supporters, but it is a fascinating place that reflects the district’s varied past. The Friends run tours throughout the summer, and I can thoroughly recommend them. Stout shoes are advisable, though!

Parks

When I was young, it was a real treat to go for a day out in Millhouses Park. I can still remember the open air swimming pool, which was replaced sometime in the mid-1960s by a modern lido. At the time, I never quite understood why they called it a lido. I’m now informed that lido is the Italian for beach. But Millhouses Beach just does not have the right ring to it somehow. Of course the whole area fell into a state of terrible disrepair and neglect in the 1980s, which was tragic. By that time I had a young family and it was difficult to explain to them that only a few years earlier that area of badly fenced off derelict wasteland was one of the best swimming pools in Sheffield. But at least the park is back on its feet now which is great to see, but it is sad that my children never experienced the joys of the Millhouses lido!

Just a few hundred yards further on towards Totley are Beauchief Gardens, which were donated to the city by the Graves Trust in 1935. Like Millhouses Park they were also allowed to decline in the 1980s but thanks mainly to the efforts of volunteers, they are now in a more healthy state and are an excellent place to eat a sandwich, and have a flask, especially in the summer.

Bramall Lane

It was 50 years ago when I first went to the Lane to see United play Burnley in the FA Cup. They lost 1 - 0. But over the years I have had some fantastic experiences watching the Blades, and also some downright miserable ones. With regard to the latter, the events of May 2 1981 (relegation to the old Division Four) are still vivid in the memory! But hope springs eternal, as they say.

Sheffield beer

I’m not averse to the odd pint or two with the proviso that it must taste like beer. Like many industries, brewing in Sheffield has undergone many changes and there have been some very dark times. But thankfully things seem to be on the up, and there are some really good local beers now available in all sorts of outlets. And by drinking them, you support local businesses rather than international conglomerates, which can’t be bad.

And the best ...

There is no doubt about it, my favourite thing about Sheffield are the views you get of the city from the surrounding hills. A few years ago I was treated to a helicopter flight over the dams at Ladybower and Howden. Whilst the perspective you get of the dams in awesome, the most surprising feature of the flight is the real beauty and variety within the boundaries of Sheffield. I saw it on a bright and clear summer’s day, but I feel it would still be jaw dropping on a cold winter’s day.

And it must not be forgotten that you can get some tremendous views from the hills within the city.