Rag weeks, city centre gems and Peak glories

My Favourite Places''Paul Hough, second-left, retired from Mark Jenkinson & Sons office at his favourite place Cafe 22A with former colleagues Simon Wortley, Charles Duncan and Mahroof (no surname)
My Favourite Places''Paul Hough, second-left, retired from Mark Jenkinson & Sons office at his favourite place Cafe 22A with former colleagues Simon Wortley, Charles Duncan and Mahroof (no surname)
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Paul Hough recently retired after 35 years as senior partner of Sheffield chartered surveyors and auctioneers Mark Jenkinson & Son.

Born and bred in the city, he is also chairman of Sheffield YMCA, a founder member of Whirlow Wheelers and known for playing baritone sax at the White Lion’s monthly jam sessions in London Road.

Paul, who describes himself as “now 65 and still baffled by his great good fortune”, admits to having a quirky view of life: “underlined by a conviction that people are separated into two basic types: those who like thin custard and those who can abide the thick stuff.”

A devoted thin custard man, he carried out his own social compatibility study “by marrying a girl who was not only a thick custard person but one who would cheerfully kill to gain control of the skin of the rice pudding – and even supports Sheffield Wednesday”.

Wife Jan is also a chartered surveyor and a managing partner of Mark Jenkinson & Son. Daughter Alexa works with the United Nations and lives in Vietnam with her husband and two sons.

Sheffield University Rag weeks

At risk of this reading like a Hovis advert, I have to say that Sheffield city centre was a rare excursion for the young lad from Handsworth.

The really exciting visit each year was to watch the Sheffield University Rag Day Parade – made easier because my sister Jean worked in an upstairs office on Church Street, so we got a grandstand view. Jean would let me play with her massive Imperial typewriter while we waited and it was usually followed by a visit to Joel’s toyshop on the ground floor.

We always bought a copy of Twicker rag mag, though I think Mum and Dad were relieved I didn’t understand some of the jokes.

I envied the students who camped in tents on the roundabout at the top of Church Street, or climbed The Moor over a period of days, roped as though it were Everest.

I thought the pinnacle of my envy, years later, was when some of them broke into the Concorde factory in France and wrote ‘Twickère’ down the new fuselage.

Rag week culminated with the famous ‘boat race’ on the heavily-polluted River Don.

Norfolk Row

I remember this as a mucky little street off Fargate: too narrow for two cars, it was always congested. Sheffield Photo Co had a shop there, together with Blacks Tailors. What I didn’t know then was that in the offices above the shops was a firm called Mark Jenkinson & Son.

Towards the end of 1975 I was a surveyor and auctioneer looking for a change of direction. Jan was becoming concerned: I’d even mentioned goat farming as a possibility!

One day I bumped into one of the MJS partners; they were looking to retire and the firm was available. Did I know anyone who might be interested? I took over in January 1976 and began what became a fascinating and most satisfying professional adventure.

Norfolk Row is now an attractive pedestrian area, dominated on one side by the Catholic Cathedral. Opposite that fine building is one of the Row’s great gems, 22a: a delightful café sometimes referred to as the Mark Jenkinson Canteen.

It was extended a few years ago into what was previously a church bookshop, now artfully named Chapter 2. Lynne, Vicki and staff cheerfully dispense superb home-cooked food and excellent coffee.

Tudor Square

Another gem. It was once a scruffy metered car park. I remember one winter’s day the rather waspish traffic warden shouted at me when yet again I’d forgotten to feed the meter.

“Mester Blunkett” (then leader of the council), he yelled, “is going to send thee a Christmas card”. He never did.

For years the Lyceum stood as a boarded-up eyesore until it was saved from destruction. Tudor Square is now an excellent setting for Sheffield’s two famous theatres where for years we held our monthly property auction sales.

The Royal Victoria Hotel

The last of the proper traditional Sheffield city centre hotels, owned and run by my friend and brilliant Sheffield ambassador Hermann Beck.

A new hotel will shortly be opened by Hermann on the enlarged site, offering even greater facilities for Sheffield and its visitors.

Hunters Bar

A favourite spot for me because I met and married a Hunters Bar girl. We were married at Endcliffe Methodist Church by our special friend Rev Albert Ball. He did the same job for our daughter 34 years later in the same church.

Albert is a great man, now 97, and a renowned water colourist. Hunters Bar is the epicentre of Sheffield’s Golden Mile – good shopping, eating and socialising, together with an excellent junior school, help to maintain local property values.

Sharrowvale Road

Just around the corner. I’ve often dreamed that if I could buy a whole road it would be that one. Slightly down-market compared with posh Eccy Road but none the worse for that.

It is a truly cosmopolitan street with sources of good food such as Café Ceres, The Mediterranean and the new and excellent Made By Jonty; and pubs like The Lescar where good live jazz can be heard weekly.

Bric-a-brac and pine furniture are available in Sharrowvale Road and where else can you find a newly-restored and extended hardware shop?

Whirlow Hall Farm

Jan and I have the great good fortune to live close to the farm. Not only does this give us the joy of waking up to the sound of lambs gambolling or turkeys gobbling but we also we have loads of walks for our two spaniels.

This lovely place is part working farm and part educational trust, with children arriving for residential stays to learn wonderful stuff which is much more meaningful when demonstrated at Whirlow.

The café and farm shop are both excellent.

Peak District

Over the Derbyshire border are many favourite places. I always think that if I were to find in any other country the delightful road which runs north from Ladybower Dam at the foot of the Snake Pass, I would bore people about it for ever – a haven for sheep, wildlife, walkers and cyclists.

Like much of the Peak District the views seem to change with each visit.

Sheffield is a massive, wonderful, favourite place which has been so good to me over so many years; rightly known as the biggest village in the world.

I love the view over the city from Burbage Moor as I ride my bike back over from Hathersage towards Ringinglow village.

I’m a Sheffield lad and always will be. I love the people and the place and while I enjoy travelling, I’m always glad to be home. I would not want to live anywhere else.