Sheffield collection of a lifetime

Peter Harvey Collection
Peter Harvey Collection

ALL of Sheffield life was in Peter Harvey’s wry columns – more than half a century of the city’s oddities, quirks and what he described as ‘amiable nonsense’.

But, unbeknown to the loyal Telegraph and Star readers who avidly followed his musings, Peter also built up a huge and eclectic collection of trinkets and oddments from Sheffield’s junk shops, jumble sales and antiques fairs.

The hoard includes hundreds of penknives, more than 1,000 postcards mainly depicting Sheffield and over 2,000 paperback books.

Up until recently the collection was stored in boxes at Peter’s home – but, following the journalist’s death four years ago, the whole amount is set to go under the hammer at auction tomorrow.

A precise valuation has been difficult to put on the items but auctioneers say the lots could be worth up to £10,000.

Peter’s son Simon, aged 48, wants his father’s possessions to go to a collector with an interest in local memorabilia.

“There was small room in the house that he used to call his office that was wall to ceiling with shelves and boxes where he had most of his stuff, though it did overspill into the garage,” he said.

“My mum dutifully put up with it for all their lives together, and she had her own collection of theatre programmes.

“The worst thing that could happen would be for it all to end up in a skip somewhere. By taking it to auction it means that whoever gets it will really want it.”

Simon, who has followed in his father’s footsteps as a freelance journalist, said he is planning to attend the sale at the Sheffield Auction Gallery in Heeley.

“I will go but it has been quite an emotional time for my mum. Dad died just over four years ago now and she has just got round to looking at his old stuff. She decided it would be best if a collector kept it together.

“I remember walking into town with my dad along Abbeydale Road when we were young and he would stop at every junk and antique shop along the way and end up going through shoeboxes of postcards or penknives.

“He would always find an excuse to stop the car and walk if ever he saw something interesting in a shop window.”

Peter joined the old Sheffield Morning Telegraph in 1951 as a 17-year-old trainee reporter, straight from Woodhouse Grammar School.

He became municipal correspondent and, later, features editor in a career broken only by National Service in Malaya.

Peter moved to The Star when the Morning Telegraph ceased publication in 1986. He retired in 1995 but continued to write his popular columns until shortly before his death in 2008.

He also penned several books on Sheffield history and was awarded the MBE in 2002 for services to journalism.

The lots also include traditional items, such as furniture and jewellery, as well as bric-a-brac such as teddy bears, maps, lighters, slide rules and binoculars.

Peter’s penknife collection features blades of every vintage. Knives by J Howard and WM Weedon are present, along with solid gold blades, corn knives, quill-sharpeners and a knife made in Sheffield in 1842.

Meanwhile the postcards depict speedway stars, test pilots, bygone football teams, girl guides and city scenes such as shops, factories and schools.

Auctioneer John Morgan said the cards were ‘extraordinary’. “They trace a history of Sheffield over 100 years. There are over 1,000 cards, some of which have not been to market before and probably never will again, likewise with the penknife collection.

“The common theme is the passion of the collector. It can be seen as obsessive but it is always driven by a huge interest in sometimes the most obscure objects. It is very exciting. Any collection has value if someone else wants it.”

Some items won’t be sold off due to their usefulness for reference purposes.

“There are a lot of Sheffield Directories that we want to give to the Sheffield Local Studies Library,” said Simon, who lives in West Bridgford, Nottingham.

“Dad spent such a lot of time in there researching and reading up on local history.”

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