Upperthorpe Perimeter Round Walk #4 (Eddy Dreadnought)

Section 4: Possible variations

Upperthorpe epicentre

From the west end of Albion Street walk downhill on Addy Street. Try not to look at the Scarborough Arms on the left as you pass, try not to look at the upstairs windows. Fix your gaze on the Upperthorpe Library building and the adjoining old swimming and slipper baths.

Plunge into the warmth of the Library, past the friendly-looking receptionists and use the toilet. Sit by the sparse local interest shelves and look at old photographs.

Listen to a nearby Lunch Club joking to each other, start to relax in the warm gravy atmosphere, and lose the dark chill that has settled on you.

Open a book and read ‘…people are losing the skill to deal with differences as material inequality isolates them, short-term labour makes their social contacts more superficial and activates anxiety about the Other. We are losing the skill of cooperation needed to make a complex society work’.

Go outside into the visible air of the street called Upperthorpe. It holds its breath and you’re watched. Go up the hill, where special constables are ranging like neon spaniels, twist left into the cul de sac of Blake Grove Road. Here, in a standoff with the maisonettes planted in its back garden, is the villa where poet and statue Ebenezer Elliott lived for a while.  A 19th-century radical with complicated views, he wrote poems obsessed with the Corn Laws, and his publicity helped in their repeal. He also wrote the haunting:

‘For all must go where no wind blows,

And none can go for him who goes;

None, none return whence no one knows.’

A vertical driving route

Be newly arrived in Sheffield to take up an academic post. Be house hunting in a car with your partner. Drive down Upperthorpe from the Howard Hill end. Try to keep on the left side of the road.

Ignore vague Amityville thoughts and pulsing soundtracks in your mind as you descend this shady inclination. Pass Alpine Road on your right.

‘Wow, will you take a look at the size of these houses! And so cheap’.

Keep your eyes on the cannibalistic student lets. Notice the signs of de-gentrification – illiterate graffiti, car window smithereens on the verges, overturned trashcans on the sidewalk, extensive ironwork defences, inside furniture out.

See the road getting steeper, beyond a maximum gradient, like a closing drawbridge. The neighbourhood is tilting as the drifting continents of Walkley and Netherthorpe subduct under its boundaries. Steel lines of flight take off from its molten edges. Go so fast that your tyres leave the road. Freefall over Philadelphia. Reach escape velocity over the Don. Rise airborne through the Upperthorpe skies like a Heinkel or a Junkers. Go into orbit as a Google Earth satellite.


Upperthorpe googling tour

Most of any research for this piece has been online, start just by googling ‘Upperthorpe Sheffield’, and taking it from there.

The websites I used were:

http://www.lasos.org.uk/ViewPage1.aspx?C=Resource&ResourceID=102 for the boundary of Upperthorpe neighbourhood.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/feb/06/child-neglect-adrian-levy-cathy-scott-clark describes in very upsetting detail the death of Tiffany Wright.

http://www.thewookie.co.uk/skyscrapers/index9.html describes the Upperthorpe flats.

http://www.tilthammer.com/bio/osb.html describes Samuel Osborn

google ‘Stones Brewery Sheffield’, then ‘images’ for photographs

http://www.sheffieldforum.co.uk/ is invaluable for local history, and I used it extensively for the Parkwood Springs Estate, and many other places

http://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/  also invaluable- for Neepsend fairy castle, Club Mill, Kelvin Flats etc

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neepsend wikipedia of course essential on this and many other locations and topics, especially ‘circumambulation’.

http://www.chrishobbs.com/orwellsheffield1936.htm gives information about George Orwell in Sheffield

http://zestcommunity.co.uk/ for information about the library and fitness centre

http://www.judandk.force9.co.uk/ellyPoe.htm for Ebenezer Elliott

References (on paper)


AZ Map of Sheffield, Geographers A-Z Map Company Ltd.

Joshua 6, verses 3 to 21. Bible, King James Version. (No I’m not religious)

Q&A interview with Richard Sennett. The Observer, 12.02.12

Price, David (2008) ‘Sheffield Troublemakers- Rebels and Radicals in Sheffield History’  Phillimore

Orwell, George (1937) ‘The Road to Wigan Pier) Penguin.

Sennett, Richard (2012) ‘Together: the Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation’ Allen Lane.


Eddy Dreadnought   2012

Upperthorpe Perimeter Round Walk #3 (Eddy Dreadnought)

Upperthorpe Perimeter Round Walk

Section 3   Club Mill to the Buddhist Centre

 Walk downhill on Parkwood Road, then round a wide corner. Here the boundary becomes anarchic and runs streetless straight downhill to the river Don and dives in. It wades downstream to drag itself out at the next bridge like an escaped prisoner, trying to conceal its tracks. The best you can do, confined as you are by high steel palisade security fencing on every side, is to continue down to Hoyland Road on the right, then right down Sandbed Road, past the vanished Hillfoot School, to join the surprisingly unenclosed riverside Club Mill Road.

This sedate descent is through more industrial estate land and business parkage, with occasional second hand car lots and sandwich bars. It all looks ersatz, insubstantial and nomadic, as though it could be packed away and removed in a day like a circus.

Walk left beside the river. There is a weir and a mill goit feeding the site of Club Mill, buried beneath a subsequent works, which is now itself being demolished. In 1795 various sick clubs and friendly societies clubbed together to build a watermill to provide wholesome and inexpensive flour. Before laying the first stone there was a parade through the town with banners and a band. Within a few years the scheme failed.

Towards the end of the road is a recycling plant, with conical heaps of debris. An overhead conveyor belt dribbles a few lumps into the Don. Joining Neepsend Lane once more, pass by the landmark Farfield Inn. To cars passing on Penistone Road it looks in business, sheltering under the gasometer, but it was closed after being flooded in 2007.

Walk across Hillfoot Bridge. We decide that this transpontine part of Upperthorpe we are just leaving is much more interesting than the frozen and populous left bank. Maybe we were intoxicated by gas fumes, but Neepsend is more engaging, a place in flux, deterritorialising and reterritorialising in a constant loop, a smooth space.

Cross Penistone Road, then climb up the steps to Wood Street. Here is a vast half-cylinder building, like a Soviet swimming pool, simply labeled ‘Mecca’.

A central part of a pilgrimage to Mecca is to pass round the granite cube of the Kaaba seven times anticlockwise. Circumambulation happens constantly, except during prayer times when birds and small angels are said to take over.

Over Infirmary Road is a boarded-up crater overflowing with buddleia plants. This is the only unhealed socket of the massive Kelvin flats, built in 1967, demolished in 1995 before the trams came back, and brutalist architecture became worth saving. It made a canyon of this thoroughfare, which now blinks in unaccustomed light.

Look up and glide along the streets in the sky- Edith Walk, Kelvin Walk, Portland Walk and Woolen Walk. Watch out for apports of diseased concrete which materialize and float down soft as polystyrene.

Go uphill on Whitehouse Lane for a moment, then left up Fox Road. On the left is Pennsylvania Green Space, a strip of reclaimed parkland with fruit trees, even mulberry bushes to go round on this cold and frosty morning.

Continue uphill, zigzag up Sherde Road, then straight up Daniel Hill Street. This begins the final long steep climb of this section, taking you onto Fulton Road through Birkendale, along its frontier with Walkley. It is a property ladder. At the bottom low rise social housing, further up Victorian artisan terraces with original features, then younger terraced houses with small front gardens, interesting pubs but triple locked cars, then larger semis, internal viewing recommended, then some detached properties painted in period colours, up and up to new Yorkshire stone clad executive-style homes and flats. Sheltered among these last in an old hilltop church is the Buddhist Centre.

To avoid pressure sores during prolonged meditation on Buddhist retreat it is common to have periods of the Zen-derived walking meditation or kinhin. Participants walk clockwise in a circle, alternating painfully slow steps with periods of loping round.

I could only giggle attempting this, a sign foretelling later problems:  Who wants to be enlightened?  Who believes in reincarnation?  Who can worship devotionally? Time to get off the Noble Path.

After the long ascent of Fulton Road, burst out into the crescent Matlock Road, then left onto the crest of Heavygate Road, which then falls downhill to Howard Road. Go across to Sydney Road, then coast downhill.  Imagine a time-lapse film of all the buzzing delivery vans, builders vans and skip lorries pollinating these houses.

The boundary seems to be tiring, and it starts to weave about. But suddenly it charges acrobatically through gardens and even houses like a chased action hero.  You have two choices- either to rush after it and risk prosecution, or like the more sensible detective in a buddy movie, circle round the back alleys to pick it up as it re-emerges.

But really there is no drama here, dogs bark in kitchens, pigeons doze on chimneys. The best advice would be to improvise the remaining few blocks of the walk using the looming Upperthorpe flats as your target.

You should now be back at the starting point of Albion Street, at the end of this virtuous and at times vicious circle.

 Eddy Dreadnought, 2012

Upperthorpe Perimeter Round Walk – Section 1

Albion Street to the Brain Injury Rehab

Running downhill in a line from the southeast end of Albion Street, like a financial bar chart, is a row of seven blocks of flats.  Thirteen storeys high, they seem well-loved, neatly re-clad in shades of chocolate, closed.

The boundary threads through them, so bypass Oxford (not in Upperthorpe), walk downhill just inside a broad grassy area, past Albion, Bond. Burlington and Martin (in Upperthorpe), then back along a dog path to Martin Street on the other side of Adelphi and Wentworth (not in Upperthorpe).

The grassy land is called the Ponderosa (largely not in Upperthorpe), from the name of the ranch in the 1960s TV western ‘Bonanza’. The opening credits were over a map of the Ponderosa carelessly catching fire. My companion remembered in 1963 when Kennedy was shot, a brief TV newsflash announced it, and then the scheduled Bonanza was shown in full as usual.

Go down Martin Street, then round the corner of the Philadelphia Working Men’s Club to enter Upperthorpe Road. Go left along the side of the elegant old Royal Infirmary (not in Upperthorpe).

These opening moves of the walk, by the flats, and the apron of low-rise maisonettes stretching across to the north boundary, seem to avert the eyes away from Upperthorpe. We focus centrifugally on the stuff outside.

And that seems alright, we do not want to stray inwards from the edge, to pierce its hermetic bubble, to breach the UPVC double glazing, to trespass along the security alarmed side streets. No more domiciliary visits, no more interrogation, no cases to re-open.

Richard Sennett said in a recent interview, ‘…what you get is indifference as a way of managing difference. People keep to their own turf.’

Inside the houses tiny fans of electric appliances lazily revolve. Reptiles protrude their forked tongues longing for the smell of their returning owners. Dog hairs drift round the ceiling lights, computers sleep. This area seems frozen and striated, it deserves a longer pause before its next reterritorialisation.

At the next junction Oxford Street crosses. Pause here to note two important sites. Just up its hill the next intersection is with Shipton Street, very close. That corner has some old gritstone gateposts, a short flight of shallow steps ending in a carpark. This should be the site of the Shipton Street Settlement, judging by old photographs which show streets in different places, and buildings that have totally disappeared.

Founded at the turn of the last century, Shipton Street Settlement was one of three established in the poorest areas of Sheffield by left wing, sometimes religious, philanthropists. As David Price has written in his book, from which this paragraph extensively draws, they aimed to provide encouragement, education and support to the disadvantaged. It had a hostel, which became a YMCA. Annie Besant, Conan Doyle and Edward Carpenter stayed there when visiting Sheffield, presumably not together, before it was sold off as a nurses’ home in 1924. It provided free legal advice and had a strong educational bias, with classes, study circles and conferences. It had a theatre, which eventually moved in the 1950s to the leafy west end of the city (the Merlin Theatre). For many years the warden was Arnold Freeman (Freeman College is named for him). The Settlement reflected the lost idea that ‘social improvement is not just about economics, but also about social interaction and relationships.’ It was demolished in the 1960s.

Back at the lower corner of Oxford Street and Upperthorpe Road is the Brain Injury Rehab Centre. Inside a computer shows a scan result. On the screen are sectional images of a brain, ranging from back to front, to and fro, like a magnetic tide. A patient stares at its flowing sepia inlets and black holes, not listening to the specialist. Retrograde amnesia seeps out into Upperthorpe.

Walk downhill on Albert Terrace Road to begin the next section of the walk.

Eddy Dreadnought   2012