8 November 2010


Burngreave leads to Pye Bank on the northern fringe of Sheffield's city centre. I was rambling there on Saturday afternoon with camera in hand. Locals in this tight, deprived neighbourhood - many of whom hail from distant lands - Somalia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq - may have seen me and wondered who this foreigner was in their midst and why was he snapping pictures? Probably a snooper from the Department of Work and Pensions hunting for work-shy benefit claimants.

Cities require energy. The architecture of energy production or transfer is all around us. We will often pass it without noticing. We notice, often with warm delight, churches and town halls, shopping malls, museums and universities but it's as if we wish that all evidence of energy production and transfer would simply disappear into its own functional ugliness.

Up there on the lofty promontory of Burngreave, I looked to the east and saw the state-of-the-art Sheffield Incinerator which each day converts several tons of household waste into electricity and also into hot water for heating nearby council estates. Visually it has a striking, modernistic appearance. In 2010, energy production does not have to be about choking smoke emissions, grime and sooty, functional constructions. Some critics protest that in spite of its clean appearance and claims to the contrary, the incinerator is responsible for up to 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
I looked to the west where the River Don flows down from Hillsborough to the gas holder at Neepsend. Sometimes called gasometers, gas holders are mainly designed to regulate the pressure of stored gas. I thought this industrial monstrosity looked comfortable amidst russet autumnal foliage. It has risen and fallen in the same location since Victorian times.
It's funny isn't it? We want energy, we need it but usually within urban environments we despise or at the very least choose to ignore the structures that allow us to access it.


  1. I never knew what that building was! and must have passed it a thousand times! thanks for the lesson teach!

  2. the previous comment was from me....
    I forgot I was logged into my sisters blog ( I was editing something at her request)


  3. Janet or JOHN, Arthur or Martha...Didn't your mum tell you never to play with your sister's things?
    Since I left my job I have noticed many things about Sheffield and its surrounds that I couldn't see before...probably because my head was filled with other stuff, important stuff that no longer seems important at all.

  4. Elizabeth9:50 am

    I love that second photograph, YP. The gas holder has become almost one with its surroundings over the years,especially with the autumnal colours.In an odd sort of way it reminds me of the 'golf balls' that used to be so much a part of the North York Moors landscape until they were replaced.x

  5. On a cold night like tonight, I grateful for those 'monstrosities' although personally I find many of these structures visually impressive.

  6. JOHN GRAY Did you and your sister hav a dog called Darky?

  7. One of my favourite buildings in Shropshire (where I used to live) is the power station in the Ironbridge Gorge. There's nothing wrong with a little industrial landscape.

  8. Here on Maui, most of the power is created at an ugly little plant with smokestacks, but it doesn't seem to matter because the constant breezes clear out the smoke immediately. Almost 10 percent of the power is now produced by wind, there are about 20 windmills along one of the ridges. It's an ideal place for them. There are very few birds here, and the wind machines are out on a dry section where you see none at all, so the only question is whether they are visually appealing or not. I rather like them. When they aren't working they look like peace signs. Aloha


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