While I remember, let me recall Tuesday of this week. It was a very nice day but the next day promised to be even better so I planned my main walk of the week for Wednesday. On Tuesday, I stayed within the city and tramped over to Weston Park Museum before heading back to Ecclesall Road via The Botanical Gardens.
Weston Park Museum tells Sheffield's story very well. In addition to the permanent exhibits there are occasional temporary exhibitions and currently the museum is hosting a couple of photographic shows. To be frank I found them a little disappointing in their predictability. It's nice to be enthralled and surprised and I didn't get that. However, here's two of the best pictures I spotted.
The first one reminds onlookers of Sheffield's proud steel making heritage and the second one reminds visitors of how the city centre was rebuilt after the devastation of World War II. Officially called Castle Square but informally known as "The Hole in the Road", the roundabout's lid concealed an underground world of shops and subways. benches, flower beds and an aquarium. It was the true heart of the city. Sadly it is no more. I once wrote a song about its passing:-
Look what they've done to The Hole in the Road
Look what they've done to this town
We used to meet on one of those seats
Down in The Hole in the Road
A few hundred yards from The Botanical Gardens I met a thin man of Pakistani origin. He was around my age and though he had lived in Sheffield for quarter of a century he had never been to The Botanical Gardens before. He was hoping to bring his family there.
I guided him along Clarkehouse Road and led him into the gardens. He was a pleasant, gentle man and he told me something of his early life - growing up in the city of Lahore in a Christian family. He told me that as the years passed he and his family had faced growing intolerance from Islamic fundamentalists till they made the agonising decision to leave and make their way to England. He said he had always felt safe here.
We saw two of "The Bears of Sheffield" modelled on a steel bear that stands in the park's Victorian bear pit. These bears are all over the city just now - brightening urban locations as well as raising money for The Children's Hospital. The Pakistani man said that the park reminded him of The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. We shook hands when we parted on Ecclesall Road and I advised him which bus to catch.
The same bear as the one at the top
It sounds like a very pleasant encounter. I like random chats with strangers which have happened rarely during the pandemic.ReplyDelete
It is a privilege to brush up against other humas and have a passing sense of their being. We should all be friends for we are all earthlings together.Delete
The first photo is so alive. The bear is cool and curiously highly glazed.ReplyDelete
I don't think much of the flying saucer with roads built around the perimeter of where it landed.
I loved the flying saucer and protested about its planned demolition. Now there's nothing left but some photos and memories.Delete
I just wrote a comment but something happened and I'm not sure it posted. I basically just said what a nice encounter you had, and that I like the bears. xxReplyDelete
I hate it when comments disappear. It is easily done in error.Delete
How funny! Our town had a 'bear' theme. Local organizations decorated the bears, who were posed much the same as your Sheffield bear. Someone cut the arms and one foot off, did some artful reattachment work, and put a tutu on the bear. With his arms raised and one foot lifted behind him, he looked like an ursine ballerina.ReplyDelete
This kind of thing seems to have become quite common in western cities. I am not sure how I feel about the use of precious resources to make them.Delete
Castle Square, the Hole in the Road, is a spectre of postwar architectural brutalism.ReplyDelete
What did the good people of Sheffield do to be punished with this monstrosity?
The descriptive title was the final insult.
A castle makes one think of breezy Edinburgh, spectacular Stirling, breezy Lindisfarne, Shakespearian Warwick.
The tiny human figures, trapped inside that diabolical concrete ring, with the cars going round and round, are like slaves in a concrete prison.
This is what Stalin might have planned for the Baltic States.
That is not how I saw it at the time. It was called Castle Square because it was built quite close to the site of Sheffield Castle of which, sadly, very little remains. The Hole in the Road kept pedestrians and traffic away from each other which can't have been a bad thing.Delete
If it had not been demolished, Castle Square would be dumped on by urban seagulls; and lovers of concrete modernism, the kind mocked by Auberon Waugh, would be campaigning to save it.Delete
See an online text and photo (Sheffield University) which shows how much was destroyed by city planners in collusion with greedy property developers.
*Sheffield's long-lost castle reveals the city's deep roots in the Middle Ages.*
I had to look up the Bears of Sheffield, a fundraiser but I also had to look up bear pit. OMG what we humans do, or have done, to animals. It's horrendous.ReplyDelete
Imagine laughing at the antics of a bear being taunted with pointy sticks? Bears are still abused in some parts of Turkey for example.Delete
That Hole in the Road must have been a 'style' of the era, I have visited other towns that had a smaller version of under ground market/shopping plaza below the carpark level with an oval or round opening to the sky. Most were derelict by the time I got to see them in the late 90's or early 2000's. That bear is fabulous. And best for last - the part of your post about the chance meeting was just the best part of the day for me. Chance meetings like that enrich both lives.ReplyDelete
I could see he was a little wary of me as I led him to the gardens - as if he was perhaps being entrapped. It was nice to demonstrate what he already knew - that most people would rather help you than rob you or otherwise misuse you.Delete
I drove round that roundabout many times on Saturdays in the 1970s on my way to the Peak District, never knowing another world was below. Good song topic but 3rd line could be more imaginative.ReplyDelete
A bit of mundanity can anchor a song to reality.Delete
I have always got on well with the Indian/Pakistani/Sikh community. They are hard working and gentle folk, and invariably very pleasant.ReplyDelete
They often get a bad press and how terribly ironic that in the west Muslims are often put in the same bag as Sikhs and Hindus and indeed Christians from the sub-continent.Delete
That "hole in the road" is quite a striking feature. A shame that it's gone! So much mid-century architecture gets no respect.ReplyDelete
If you were a Boy Scout you could count helping the Pakistani man as your Good Deed Of The Day.ReplyDelete
I have never heard of "Oyle in t' Road" but from seeing the various pictures and YouTube videos of it, I think it was just way ahead of its time. I read in an old article that it may now be accessed by virtual reality at a museum. It just wouldn't be the same.ReplyDelete
Last summer we had fibreglass Penguins all around Christchurch. Small ones decorated by schools and large Emperor penguins decorated by some very creative artists. At the end of the summer they were all gathered to an exhibition and the large ones were auctioned to raise funds for children's charities. They were very beautiful and a joy for children to find and mark off on their Penguin map.Previously we had Giraffes. It's always a shame when they disappear from the landscape .ReplyDelete
Cheers from the busy southern Grannie.
What pleasant company you had, and so interesting to hear about his life, I'm glad he and his family found a safe haven..ReplyDelete
Love the bear - he looks so sprightly - as though he's just had a shower and buff-up! Didn't Sheffield host an Elephant extravaganza some years ago?
Brutalist or not, Castle Square was very typical of immediate post war architecture. Similar developments are probably still in place in Britain, and parts of Europe. Of it's type, it wasn't a bad example - some "modernist" designs were truly hideous and totally ineffective.