Favourite Things: Creativity, good food and a warm welcome in Sheffield
Sarah McLeod is heading up one of the most ambitious restoration projects in the region. She is helping mastermind the multi-million pound relaunch of Sir Richard Arkwright's Cromford Mills, near the Peak District.
The heritage attraction now boasts the new Gateway information hub which is the designated starting point for the whole Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site – the 15-mile stretch of historic mill complexes and industrial landscape that snakes through the Derbyshire countryside.
Visitors can also walk through Arkwright’s first mill and meet the man himself thanks to the wonders of CGI technology.
Sarah is a key advocate of building preservation. She became chair of the UK Association of Building Preservation Trusts in June 2014 and is a course contributor to the MSt (Master of Studies) in Building History course at Cambridge University.
Sarah lives in Matlock, but Sheffield has become her ‘second home’ over the years because of the number of her friends who have relocated here. She is divorced and has two grown-up children, Jay-Bird, aged 22, and Sylvester, 20. Sylvester is profoundly autistic – Sarah is active in the world of autism support.
I was blown away by a visit to this collection of arts, business and community spaces. In many ways it emulates what we’re trying to do in the Cromford Creative part of Cromford Mills. Sum Studios has breathed life into three beautiful Grade II listed Victorian School buildings in Heeley. They’ve been sympathetically restored and are home to a community of creatives.
Kelham Island Museum
Anything to do with industrial heritage is normally a winner in my book. I love this place as it really tells the story of Sheffield’s heavy industrial past and stands within one of the city’s oldest districts. Even the soil it stands on is iconic – it’s actually a man-made island dating right back to the 1180s. The factory system method of working was born at Cromford Mills and it’s interesting to see how it was adopted in Sheffield by learning about the mass industrialisation of the 19th century and the arrival of giant steelworks.
This is another rare glimpse into lives gone by. This time via this unique 18th century industrial works. It really is a breath-taking site taking in workers’ houses, waterwheels, workshops, tilt hammers, a grinding hull and the country’s last surviving complete crucible steel furnace.
The welcoming city
The transformation of the entrance to Sheffield as you come out of the Midland Station is truly breath-taking. It was once dour and unappealing but these days it’s a gateway worthy of England’s fourth largest city. The Sheffield Tap is well worth a visit.
Great cities rarely emerge immune from tragedy and Sheffield is no different. The Great Sheffield Flood of 1864 claimed the lives of at least 240 people and left more than 5,000 homes and businesses under water when the poorly constructed Dale Dyke Dam at Bradfield collapsed. The body of one victim was reportedly found 18 miles downstream of his home. A relief fund was set up to following the flood to help those affected and among the contributors was Queen Victoria, who sent a personal cheque for £200.
I am always surprised that there is so little to mark one of the biggest man-made disasters in UK history – something that brought about national headlines and a national appeal at the time.
A beautiful building with an equally beautiful interior. Its history stretches back to 1638 though the present building dates from 1832. The Cutlers’ Hall is another place you can truly savour the city’s industrial heritage. The annual Cutlers’ Feast started in 1648 and still happens to this day.
I think we’d all be happy to find the secret to a long and healthy life so a visit to the city’s first Sardinian restaurant seemed a given! Akentannos – which means ‘100-year life’ – offers the island’s famous pecorino cheese and Cannonau wine among its extensive menu. The restaurant is run by Sardinian-born Mario Masia and his wife Giovanna. It’s well worth a trip.
One area the city is finally taking the lead on is the plans to create a legacy around the German bombing raids of 1940. The Sheffield Blitz changed the face of the city and is the reason so much of the centre looks as it is. It’s brilliant that the Heritage Lottery Fund have backed plans to create a heritage walk.