My Personal Memories of Broomhall

By Richard Bakewell

“I moved from Nether Edge to Broomhall in July 1980. My address here was 11 Havelock Square. It was a friend of mine who wanted to go and live in London who let me have his bed-sit with agreement of the landlord. The rent was only about £5.00 per week! I liked the location – of being near the city centre, while also close to parks, e.g. the Botanical Gardens and those out west from Hunters Bar. I got a job working for South Yorkshire County Council (as it was known at the time) surveying the `features` of the road network in Sheffield: such things as grass verges, pavements, flower beds, and street furniture. It was only a nine-month contract and when the job ended I had to think again.

It was around this time that I ventured to attend St Silas for their once-monthly Holy Communion service in the evenings. I can remember the congregation being very small – maybe 20 or so elderly people, the majority of whom were women. I met some members of the congregation, such as a couple who lived in the nearby old toll house. They said they were worried that the congregation was becoming too small for the cost of the upkeep of the church. I remember the vicar and his wife. The vicar was an ex-bus driver and a Franciscan and he drove a coach from St Matthew`s, Carver Street, (close to the city centre) to Walsingham for the annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. I remember going on these pilgrimages and enjoying meeting the people who went on pilgrimage and also the congregations of local churches there. The hope was that the Church of England and the Church of Rome would eventually unite (a distant hope now!) I also remember going to see the Pope, John Paul II, on a `Pope Special` train from Sheffield railway station to the racecourse in York and being impressed by his charisma. After some time I tried the church up the road in Broomhill – St Mark`s. They had a much more lively and mixed-age congregation and I volunteered to run a children`s art and craft group. There were many students from Sheffield University at the church and I decided to become confirmed into the Church of England – my home church previous to this being Plymouth Brethren (non-conformist). After my confirmation in spring 1983 I continued to run the art and craft group but became more involved with St Mark`s and stopped going to St Silas.

My interest in art led me to start working for Sheffield Mind as an art therapist (voluntary) and I began to attend art classes in the Mappin Art Gallery, Weston Park, and also art history lectures in the Graves Art Gallery, in town. I also became a member of the Untitled Gallery in Walkley, a photographers` gallery, and took part in workshops and exhibitions with them. I can remember exhibiting some of my photographs and drawings of local urban topographical scenes in the Broomhall Community Centre, as well as the Untitled Gallery, Mappin Art Gallery, and the Crucible theatre. Looking at so much art and photography and attending in-depth talks on artists, as well as my work for Sheffield Mind, gave me an interest in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.

Broomhall at this time had a bad reputation as the red light district of Sheffield, and while I was living there a scare developed around the Yorkshire Ripper; that he was going to take his next victim from here. The community of prostitutes who frequented the area felt a real fear of this, perhaps not too much without reason because on 2nd January 1981 Peter Sutcliffe (the `Ripper`) was caught by the police with a prostitute in his car in nearby Melbourne Avenue. I think Sheffield Council decided after this to do something about changing the area`s image, so they split Havelock Square (which was not actually a square) into two. Where Brunswick Street cuts the `square` in half, the lower half, where I lived, was renamed Holberry Close, and the upper half, which led on to some allotments, was renamed Holberry Gardens. At both ends where Brunswick Street cut across it was paved and bollards were erected to stop curb crawlers.

I discovered Broomhall CND and became an anti-nuclear activist, taking part in local events and going on large demonstrations. One such, in London, attracted 250,000 people protesting against cruise missiles and ended in Hyde Park with rallying speeches given by Tony Benn and Michael Foot among others. Another was to Barrow-in-Furness where the huge black tin sheds `cathedrals to heavy industry` could be seen inside of which the nuclear submarines were being constructed. I made a few friends from the church at St Mark`s, mainly students who I got into conversation with about art, politics, religion, and music, etc. I also met people from different ethnic backgrounds, eg. Jamaican, Indian, Pakistani, Arab, and I found myself taking an interest in their culture and religion.

Many of the things I did while living in Broomhall led on to further developments for me and I think that what caused this to be an interesting and eventful period of my life was the feeling of openness in the community, also within the student community at St Mark`s. I very much value the time I spent in Broomhall and I always feel sad when I see a church go out of use because they can be such a great stimulus to the community. As it happens, St Mark`s became more of this to me because of the student fraternity, but St Silas played an important role in starting me off in a smaller church before I dared to face a larger congregation.

My Broomhall experience came to an end in April 1983 when my landlord received a grant to improve his property. Instead of moving into one of his other properties while the work was being done, I decided to find another place to live which I did in Broomhill.”

Richard Bakewell


(Student with TILL at Sheffield University doing the Certificate in Archaeology)

Read Richard’s survey of the Stain Glass windows in St Silas Church here 

This page was added by Jennie Beard on 29/01/2015.

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