George Cunningham: Streets of Broomhall ~ Part 1
St Silas Church: Broomhall Street
Researched and written by Gemma Clarke
This section shows some of the streets of Broomhall which George Cunningham used to explore and have many an adventure!
On the right is a painting by George Cunningham of Broomhall Street which shows St Silas Church and Viners in the background. The second and third picture are from Picture Sheffield which were taken in 1967 and 1965 and then the picture below that was taken in the early 1970s. Below that is a picture that I took of St Silas Church in 2014 and all of these pictures show how the same scene has changed over the years, and how St Silas Church is still at the centre of the picture. A picture from the top of the Hanover Tower Block also shows the same scene but from a different direction which was also taken in 2014.
St Silas Parade
‘One Whit Monday morning we were to be part of a parade from St Silas Church up to Weston Park for the Whitsuntide Sing. Clad in our still uncomfortably stiff new suits, we gathered in the church for a short service, conducted by the vicar, Mr Haythornwaite. Pink-faced and benign, he led us in a rousing rendition of a hymn. The service over, we formed up in the cobbled streets outside the church. Banners were hoisted, billowing gently in the breeze, and, led by the Boys Brigade Band, off we marched.’
‘In Upper Hanover Street we were joined by reinforcements from St Andrew’s Church, who were led by their minister, Mr Nichol. Hounsfield Road was a bit of a pull, but we were encouraged by a tram which led our procession. The driver gave us a parting farewell clang on his bell as he was turned off by the pointsman near the Scala Picture Palace. On past the University and through the gates of Weston Park we sallied, under the watchful gaze of Ebenezer Elliott and the War Memorial to the York and Lancs.’
‘Albert Moxay, who wasn’t in church but had somehow managed to join the procession and fall in beside me, looked up at the statue of the solider and cried out, ‘Dat looks like mi fadder up theer, ‘e ‘ad a dint in ‘is tin ‘at when ‘e cum hooam from waar!’ Hundreds of children and grown-ups in their Sunday best were on the grass lawns surrounding the bandstand. Hymn sheets were handed out and we were led by a gentleman in a high winged collar playing a harmonium, the notes from which were wafted by the stiff breeze into a crescendo of sound, or sometimes a near silence.’
P. 28, Chapter 5, More George! (courtesy of The Hallamshire Press Limited).
Interview with George
George Cunningham was stood outside St Silas Church when being interviewed.
‘St Silas Church that was the church to the school which we went to and err usually we went probably twice a year or equally twice. It was Easter and Whitsun time and we all trouped from school, this was a cobbled street, a narrow cobbled street then, now its Hanover Way and as you can see it’s a dual carriageway and err we used to go over there and I think we had half a day off afterwards.’
George talking about St Silas Church, ‘I liked it err better sometimes I mean donkey’s years of character and grime and sweat, making buildings like that and sometimes they look a bit too fresh, there like an old girl painted up.’
George is now discussing his walk to work at Viner’s which explains what Broomhall Street was like:
‘St Silas, in front of it [Viner’s] and err this is the street that I used to come down, Broomhall Road off Broomhall Street. 30 odd years I walked down here every morning, I had to get in for half past 7. There would be a newspaper shop on that corner, and Viner’s stood there a big building, with Viner’s Limited across the front of it, but now its just an empty space. Now as you can see the church has been cleaned up, it looks quite attractive in this light I suppose. I always remember as much as anything, black and it snowing, they seemed to get more snow then than what we do now. And, on a winter’s morning you can see this stood up black against the snow and Viner’s lit up behind it like the Crystal Palace because Viner’s was nearly all glass built before its time. Built in the 1930s, and all glass and concrete and then little houses, terraced houses along Broomhall Street. Dozens of little pubs and shops round here, sandwich shops, you could nip out for a sandwich, if you nipped out now you’d end up in the Royal Hallamshire there’s that much traffic flowing round what used to be Clarence Street. [Sarcasm].’
‘Oh, I don’t know whether its the end of an era, might be the beginning of another but, err one thing about it, I suppose it is quieter round here but err so’s a grave yard [sarcasm].’
‘I still remember it even though its 50 odd years ago, err and when I see some of the streets and what they’ve done to them now, and like they used to be, it upset me a bit, but at least I’ve got the memories of them and I’m still young enough to be able to paint like this.’
Mr Roy Newman, George Cunningham’s Life, Paintings and Interests, Dinnington & District Historical Society, www.dinningtonhistory.co.uk/products, Reference copy available at Sheffield Local Studies Library.
Picture Sheffield images s13864 and s15222 courtesy of H.Ainscough