Monday 14 May 2012

Taking a view on Sheffield and its shocking history

 Well they say that there is a first time for everything but I never thought I would appear in the "lifestyle" section of a newspaper!. The article was a means of promoting the new book that was published last month

I must admit I enjoyed writing the article - my remit was to write about 800 words and not mention the Winter Gardens or the Millenium Gallery - there was no danger of that as I'm not that impressed with either. 

Anyway here are a few of my favourite things!  

Published on Friday 11 May 2012 09:00
What Chris Hobbs started as a hobby 13 years ago to trace his ancestors became a website of Sheffield’s murky past with 30,000 page views a month. Now he has teamed up with Sheffield author Matthew Bell for a book, Sheffield’s Shocking Past, which records bizarre and disturbing episodes from Victorian times. You won’t find the Sheffield Flood of 1864 or the murderous deeds of Charlie Peace - “they’ve been done to death and I can’t add anything new”. Instead there are tales of multiple murders, strange and untimely deaths, hideous accidents and a factory explosion. Chris Hobbs lives in Crookes with his wife of 31 years and has two grown up children.
lSheffield’s Shocking History is published by ACM Retro and available from The Star Shop and local book shops at £12.95. Visit
Central Library
A marvellous building where I’ve spent many hours over the years researching both my family tree and articles for the website. The Local Studies section on the first floor is a particular favourite. The staff are knowledgeable and are always helpful if you have a query. And after spending a few hours researching material, there is an excellent cafe on the third floor.
In researching my family history, I have found that several cemeteries in the city are the last resting places of many of my ancestors. Naturally I have tried over the years to locate their graves and in quite a few cases I have been successful. The search can be both puzzling and time-consuming - many of the cemeteries seem to me at least to follow no logical plan or order. But it does add to a sense of achievement in locating a grave. On the whole, I find the cemeteries restful and peaceful places where you can get lost in your thoughts. Being a resident of Crookes, my particular favourite is Crookes Cemetery, which has tremendous views out towards Loxley, Rivelin and the surrounding moors. I am also a Friend of Walkley Cemetery, which is in a peaceful and tranquil setting above the Rivelin Valley. It relies heavily on the efforts of volunteers and supporters, but it is a fascinating place that reflects the district’s varied past. The Friends run tours throughout the summer, and I can thoroughly recommend them. Stout shoes are advisable, though!
When I was young, it was a real treat to go for a day out in Millhouses Park. I can still remember the open air swimming pool, which was replaced sometime in the mid-1960s by a modern lido. At the time, I never quite understood why they called it a lido. I’m now informed that lido is the Italian for beach. But Millhouses Beach just does not have the right ring to it somehow. Of course the whole area fell into a state of terrible disrepair and neglect in the 1980s, which was tragic. By that time I had a young family and it was difficult to explain to them that only a few years earlier that area of badly fenced off derelict wasteland was one of the best swimming pools in Sheffield. But at least the park is back on its feet now which is great to see, but it is sad that my children never experienced the joys of the Millhouses lido!
Just a few hundred yards further on towards Totley are Beauchief Gardens, which were donated to the city by the Graves Trust in 1935. Like Millhouses Park they were also allowed to decline in the 1980s but thanks mainly to the efforts of volunteers, they are now in a more healthy state and are an excellent place to eat a sandwich, and have a flask, especially in the summer.
Bramall Lane
It was 50 years ago when I first went to the Lane to see United play Burnley in the FA Cup. They lost 1 - 0. But over the years I have had some fantastic experiences watching the Blades, and also some downright miserable ones. With regard to the latter, the events of May 2 1981 (relegation to the old Division Four) are still vivid in the memory! But hope springs eternal, as they say.
Sheffield beer
I’m not averse to the odd pint or two with the proviso that it must taste like beer. Like many industries, brewing in Sheffield has undergone many changes and there have been some very dark times. But thankfully things seem to be on the up, and there are some really good local beers now available in all sorts of outlets. And by drinking them, you support local businesses rather than international conglomerates, which can’t be bad.
And the best ...
There is no doubt about it, my favourite thing about Sheffield are the views you get of the city from the surrounding hills. A few years ago I was treated to a helicopter flight over the dams at Ladybower and Howden. Whilst the perspective you get of the dams in awesome, the most surprising feature of the flight is the real beauty and variety within the boundaries of Sheffield. I saw it on a bright and clear summer’s day, but I feel it would still be jaw dropping on a cold winter’s day.
And it must not be forgotten that you can get some tremendous views from the hills within the city.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Local Elections - May 2011

At 20.40pm last night I was sat watching the "match of the season" between the two Manchester sides at home. The scores were level when there was a knock on the front door. I got up and was greeted by the local Green Party candidate in the forthcoming election. As this was the first candidate from ANY party to knock on the door since the early 1980's I took the opportunity to "bend his ear" on a number of local matters that were and still are vexing me.

I did of course caution him about the dangers of "coalition politics" and he gave me his assurances that if elected the Green Party would pursue an independent course, and not "cosy" up to any particular party.

The fact that he took the trouble to knock on my door has impressed me. What was less impressive is that I missed seeing Sir Alex's face when the City scored. My wife used the phrase "taciturn". And so as the choruses of "Blue Moon" echoed around the Etihad Stadium, the song seemed to reflect the chances of the Green Party achieving electoral success in Sheffield.

But you never know!

Update - He lost to New Labour by about 200 votes but he ran into a fine second, and secured a lot more votes than the Liberal Democrats whose vote collapsed. I wonder why?. The Conservative party put up there normal lamentable show 

Morgan Stanley and the Great Britons of 2007

I just came across this from The Daily Telegraph - October 2007. Needless to say a wry smile crossed my face
"Britishness and the state of the union dominate the political agenda. But which Britons make our country truly great? Here Telegraph writers choose their favourites from this year across seven categories as the search begins for the Morgan Stanley Great Britons of 2007
Our candidates in the business category have successfully flown the flag for Britain in the global economy, from banking to retailing and engineering to telecoms.
Sir Fred Goodwin is the leading British banker of his generation, having transformed Royal Bank of Scotland from a mid-sized provincial player into the world's fifth largest bank.
Seven years ago, he steered the bank through a successful £21billion hostile takeover of NatWest, a bank three times its size.
This year he surpassed that as Royal Bank led a consortium of Belgium's Fortis and Spain's Santander, beating competition from Barclays to buy Dutch bank ABN Amro for £49billion in the largest takeover in banking history."

It is just a shame that Lehman Brothers weren't hosting the award 

And four years later

How the feckless have fallen!