After I had written my post about the Adelphi Theatre in Attercliffe, new kid on the blogger Deb left me a comment saying that her family had lived in Attercliffe and her Aunt had written a book about the people that had lived and worked there before it was flattened in the regeneration program. It sounded interesting, and so I trawled Amazon, found it, sent for it and it arrived on Saturday morning. I couldn't put it down. Its a fascinating book featuring many mainly family photographs that tell of how life was living, working, playing and shopping in Sheffield's very industrialised heartland.
Some of the things that Ann writes made my spine tingle. Her intro into the book starts " I always thought that my childhood was a figment of my imagination because there is nothing left of the homes and streets I grew up in."
She goes on to say "There was a culture of full employment and youngsters had lots to do after school. The facilities we had were second to none: Play centres, youth clubs, churches, chapels and all the clubs attached to them. We had cinemas, pubs, sports clubs, a library, a swimming pool, dance halls, snooker halls, and the money to go to them."
The photographs show that houses that we would consider to be slums these day were actually spotlessly clean homes in spotless streets that had no grafitti or litter. Extended supportive families and a strong community that worked together and played together are so evident in the photographs and the writing.
"A bang with the rake on the fire-back would bring the next-door neighbour in for a cup of tea."
Ann asks the question "What went wrong?" Why was poor housing seen as enough reason to destroy a community that was on the whole law abiding and not afraid of hard work" and it got me wondering too. Why, when things should have got better for society, when people were given better housing with indoor bathrooms, central heating etc, did things go downhill so badly?
Looking back, its easy to wear rose tinted glasses and see only the good things, but the good things then were so very good. Life must have been difficult in Attercliffe. The steelworks worked both day and night and the very loud noises must have been difficult to sleep through for a start!
Thank you Deb for mentioning the book to me (tell your Aunt you want commission!!). Its one of the best reads ever.
There is a really good display in Weston park Museum, Sheffield about Attercliffe and it inhabitants too which always fascinates me. Human stories about everyday life, struggles and joys are the best stories ever.