Ron Clayton is a Wadsley-raised Sheffield historian, and city tour guide. He considers himself a ‘professional Sheffielder’ and is a stalwart champion of the Friends of Sheffield Castle. He has an Honours Degree in History from the University Of Sheffield, a ready wit, a penchant for speaking his mind and six decades of Sheffield life running through him.
“It’s a few years since I last reflected on the ever-changing kaleidoscope that is Sheffield,” says Ron.
“So – as Julie Andrews would says – here are a few of my favourite things. No apologies for the heritage or S6 bias. I would have liked to include the site of Sheffield Castle, but that’s one for the future. Here we go...”
Wadsley Parish Church
One of the smallest and most overlooked churches in the city, but one that has a special place in my heart. Walk past it on the Worrall Road and look up the leafy canopy of the drive that leads to the former vicarage. Timeless, yet with its heart still beating strongly in today’s community and which – together with the former village pubs – keeps the identity of Wadsley alive.
For too long, another disregarded piece of Sheffield heritage. With the help of Morrisons, and others, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to put some history back into this impressive Victorian military complex. I’m organising some walks around the site later this year, so check out my Sheffield History Tours website (if it ever gets overhauled).
The land of the two rivers, Rivelin and Loxley, is like my face – lived in.
Look over its bridges at its fast-flowing waters, its undershot water wheel, packhorse bridge and Mousehole forge echo its past. I sit outside Champs Bar with a spot of tiffin and watch the world go by, ingesting traffic fumes and engaging with its friendly young staff, as they ensure I haven’t started dribbling yet. It’s a place to go and hold court with commuters, neighbours and our own ‘Vicar of Dibley’, Rev Gina Kalsi of St Polycarps, Malin Bridge and her hubby, Kinder.
A visual delight with a wet fish display to wax lyrical about. A veritable cornucopia of gastronomic delights and real ales. A refreshing alternative to the all-too-often unremarkable central campus of the city centre. Sit on the City Hall steps and munch on one of their pies or pasties. A gateway to the buzzing Devonshire Quarter and one of the independent traders that give the city a distinctive alternative.
Reaching out to a wider community via its friends group, and some fantastic research being carried out by the backyard boffins. An example to embryonic groups, such as the Friends of Loxley Old Church.
The place to acknowledge a debt that can never be repaid, and freedoms that, all too often, are being sadly abused in today’s world. To me, a place to confirm or reaffirm English/British identity. On an autumnal Sunday morning, when the construction workers remove their hard-hats, many of them as young and from the same stock as Liam Riley, some not so young – and cease work, and the guys on scooters ride away at the close. Aye. Damn you Dr Johnson, patriotism is not the last refuge of a scoundrel.
Sheffield local studies
It’s got other uses these days other than seeking after lost Sheffield, but again another overlooked treasure trove. Have Coun Jack Scott and co realised the implications of the disruption that will occur with local studies, while the Central Library is being transformed into a hotel?
The benefits they have both brought to this city are incalculable, not just in terms of the city’s economy, and its art and literary scene. Thanks to them, Sheffield is less inward-looking and more sophisticated. The pride and joy I get taking students around my favourite place of all – Sheffield – and trying to explain conkers to a lass from Beijing, sampling the first of the last of the summer wine, and engaging groups in sampling mushy peas and Hendos!