New heritage project examines how past 100 years have influenced the development of Sheffield suburbs

A new project is aiming to re-discover a lost heritage of military landscapes in the area, examining how these influenced the development of city suburbs in the past 100 years.

By Nik Farah
Thursday, 08 August, 2019, 10:51
From RFC Airfield to City Suburb – 100 Years of History

‘From RFC Airfield to City Suburb – 100 Years of History at Meadowhead and Norton’ launched in Sheffield this month, organised by the Landscape Heritage Research Foundation. The project is being overseen by Professor Ian Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, and is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The wide-ranging project will take in aspects of the military land use and the people connected with it from WW1 to the Cold War years, and will closely examine the impact this has had on the subsequent developmen of the city, from the local authority decision-making to the built environment we see today.

The workshops on offer as part of the project include introductory sessions, focusing on oral histories and techniques, sources of archival material, and the use of archives and fieldwork. From RFC Airfield to City Suburb – 100 Years of History at Meadowhead & Norton will not just concentrate on the physical remains and locations, emphasis will also be placed on the human and personal aspects of the area’s history.

Frank Donnelly and John Grayson look over old pictures of the airfield taken by John's father William

The new project was launched at the beginning of the month from the Sheffield Transport Social Club in Meadowhead. Staff, volunteers and experts were on hand to explain the project and the many elements involved which will help to uncover the fascinating history of Meadowhead and Norton from WW1 to the present day. There was a series of table-top and poster displays, covering a range of themes related to the project, including information from the previous Norton’s Flying Legacy project, Simon Craine of the Royal Observer Corps Association Heritage Team, Steve Miers, Dave Lockwood and John Hinton of Sheffield Amateur Radio Club, Caroline Dewar and Barbara Greatorex of the Finding Lost Norton Park project, Graham Colton’s on-going research into the airfield, and similar research from Andrew Bradbury. Similarly, Neil Carver and John Grayson shared their own research and memories.

Landscape Heritage Research Foundation and project director, Sheffield Hallam University's Professor Ian Rotherham, said: “Projects such as this rely very much on the input of volunteers and contributors of all ages making it truly inter-generational. Capturing memories and stories from the past is so important when tracing the history of an area but equally important are those experiences of today’s generation, recording their stories and experiences for the future, ensuring the story continues. This capturing of memories and memorabilia is so much more important in respect of WW1 and WW2 in particular.”

Project officer Christine Handley said: “It was really good to see so many people wanting to get involved and bringing their stories to share on the day.”

Chris Percy, of the Landscape Heritage Research Foundation, said: “We had an excellent turnout, giving us the opportunity to meet so many interesting people who all have a story or experience to share. Indeed, we already have a number of exciting new avenues of research for both volunteers and staff to explore. We’re all looking forward to it and discovering much more.”

Frank Donnelly and John Grayson look over old pictures of the airfield taken by John's father William

Simon Craine, of the Royal Observer Corps Association Heritage Team, said: “The opening event provided a real insight into the history of the Norton area, especially in respect to the former RAF sites. The Royal Observer Corps Association Heritage is proud to support the project which is felt to be so valuable in preserving the heritage and history of the area.”

Project volunteer Hilary Widdowson added: “It was really interesting to listen to individual stories. There is a rich source of local and social history out there. The project will enable us to follow up on the anecdotes to discover the true social history of the area and how that developed from the airfield being sited there. We need to capture these valuable oral histories before they are lost.”

The project will run for 15 months. Email christine@hallamec.plus.comor if you are interested in details about volunteering.

Simon Craine with a Ground Zero Indicator
Simon Craine explaining a Ground Zero Indicator to Christine Handley
Frank Donnelly and John Grayson look over old pictures of the airfield