Alan Billings talks about 1970s St Silas parish

A "very very interesting" place

Alan Billings remembers his Broomhall parish of St Silas being a “very very interesting” place for his first job as a curate. In the 1970s the area was still a red-light district, had a high proportion of transient residents, and included the now-demolished Broomhall Flats and Viners cutlery factory. His congregation was a mix of traditional working class families, newly-arrived immigrant families, and a smattering of the middle classes who had settled in Broomhall due to cheap property prices.


This page was added by Jennie Beard on 20/03/2015.

Comments about this page

  • I can remember when Rev. Billings was the priest at St Silas. As he says, near to the church was the red light district. We lived on Cavendish Street but I had a schoolfriend who lived in William Street and whose house I visited quite a lot. Across the road from them, one of the houses was in use as a brothel – men would be going to and fro, even during the day. As Rev Billings also says, the area was cosmopolitan and had a large floating population. The poet and critic William Empson stayed in Broomhall while he was Professor of English Literature at the University from 1953 to 1971. He lived in Wharncliffe Road in one room of a tenement building which also housed Jamaican families and was often raided by the police (see his biography by John Haffenden).

    By Paul Kenny (21/03/2015)
  • The William Empson connection is fascinating – he certainly sounds like quite a character. It would be great to put together a page about him. Would you be interested in doing this?

    By Richard Freeston (26/03/2015)

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