Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Poems by the Porter with Helen Mort

Last week, we were joined in Endcliffe Park, one of Sheffield’s many green spaces by a lovely group of Sheffielders as well as the award winning poet and novelist, Helen Mort.  What a pleasure it was to be out with a crowd of people sharing ideas, memories, and inspiration.

Helen led us on a walk through the woods, and beside the Porter Brook, and along the way read pieces from her various published works.  We enjoyed it so much, we thought it would be nice to share the experience more widely, so Helen very kindly offered to record a condensed version of the walk for you to enjoy at home.

We've placed the recording on our podcast which you can listen to for free through our Anchor webpage or your favourite podcast platform.

If you want to learn more about Helen and her work, you can visit her website, all good bookshops, or of course your local library.

Finally, Helen closed the session by giving us a writing prompt to think about at home.  Here it is,

Write a piece in the voice of Endcliffe Park. What does it think about? What does the park see, hear, taste and feel? It could be a poem, a short story or just a series of notes. Let your imagination take over.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Introducing our Writer in Residence, Désirée Reynolds

Faced with endless rows of boxes, the contents of which span 800 years, most researchers visit us with a mixture of trepidation and excitement.  The archive is often seen as a place where ‘old things’ come to rest - rows of boxes on shelves imbued with a sense of mystery and possibility. The researcher’s natural impulse is to delve in and find the hidden lives and actions documented in the archive - which is exactly what writer, Désirée Reynolds is doing every Tuesday on her weekly visits to Sheffield City Archives.

Désirée recently joined us as our Writer in Residence. She was brought up in Clapham, London to Jamaican parents. She told her Mum, at about eight years old, that she was going to write a book and has been writing ever since. She moved to Sheffield in the late 1990s and writes about female identities, ideas of belonging, home/not home, rootlessness and invisibility. This links directly with her work in the archives… 

“I still find that so much of our lives is untold and the silence around our stories makes me want to fill those voids with thought and emotion and the very ordinariness of living.”

Désirée is exploring a myriad of different sources, from 300-year old parish registers to case books documenting the plight of young girls in Victorian Sheffield, in a quest to uncover Black and Brown voices and the hidden lives of other marginalised peoples - those living on the periphery of society.

What has Désirée found so far?  She has already published some tantalising pictures and thoughts on her Twitter and Instagram feeds…

(Pictured): A haunting still from the short film of employees leaving John Brown’s Atlas Works in Sheffield made by Mitchell and Kenyon in 1901. Look closely among the cheering throng and you will see a little Black girl aged around five or six years old.

‘Who is this little Black girl at the factory gates in 1901? Why is she there? What is her story? Such a sad little face. She is very much alone amidst the glee.’

(Pictured): A diary kept by Thomas Staniforth (born at Darnall in 1735, but later a member of Liverpool’s prosperous commercial society and prominent slave trader) he visited Yorkshire for one month every year to check on his agricultural and coal mining interests near Darnall. This diary dates from 1799 and documents one of his trips over to Sheffield from Liverpool (Sheffield City Archives X755/1).

‘Looking at the 1799 diary of Thomas Staniforth. His name is listed against 79 definite voyages in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade database - most likely more. The diary itself is innocuous, about his investments in a colliery, going out to dinner, visiting his son.

“I had a few drops of ruin (gin).”

So casual, so nothing to see here and yet this man caused the suffering and death of thousands upon thousands and that legacy must run into millions.

“Weather fine.”

I do sometimes run out of words…’

As Archivists, we often find that researchers come with ideas of what they hope to find but it is seemingly not there. There is an expectation - or hope - that the archive is complete, all-encompassing, and inclusive. In reality, archives are characterised by gaps. Over the next few months, we will be working with Désirée to address some of these gaps, to give voice and emotion to some of the untold stories, and stories only hinted at, in the archives. The end result will bring together creative work by Désirée along Otis Mensah and Jenson Grant in a pop-up ‘archive shop’ in the city centre. 

For project updates see:

Sheffield City Archives (Twitter) @SheffArchives
Desiree Reynolds (Twitter) @desreereynolds
Desiree Reynolds (Instagram) @desiree_reynoldsu2

Watch the full film by Mitchell and Kenyon of employees leaving Brown's Atlas Works, Sheffield, 1901 (the little Black girl can be seen around 2:10 in the bottom right corner): 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Love Sheffield, Luv - Writing Competition

We're here again. After a year and a ton of entries we are delighted to announce the winners of the three categories of our Love Sheffield, Luv competition. A huge thanks to everyone who entered - and for your patience while we navigated our way through lockdowns and not being able to access entries!

Whittling down to one winner in each category was exceptionally difficult - there were just so many amazing stories and poems celebrating, based in, or inspired by our city. 

- Nik Perring (Sheffield Year of Reading Writer in Residence)

The winners are...


CHILDREN - Lockdown is Breaking Me Up Inside by Eva Simms

Nik Perring – "I love how much this feels like so many people have been feeling over lockdown. It’s beautiful and sad and reminds us of all the things there are to love about our city."

Lockdown is breaking me up inside, piece by piece, slowly but surely. Stuck inside all day; the outside world so tempting. So close, yet so far away. Not being with the people I hold dearest in the places I love dearest is … very frustrating. I tell myself I can do this but I cannot.  I am forever on the sofa thinking about what life would be like right now if we weren't in lockdown. Maybe I’d be strolling through Endcliffe Park throwing bread to the ducks or walking through those ancient trees. Or maybe I’d have a day out at CineWorld, watch the latest superhero movie with my friends then go bowling followed by pizza. What could be better?

My mouth breaks into a huge smile as my eyes see not my living room with its matching sofas and off-white walls but the sparking waters of Ladybower Reservoir. I am running along the bank next to the shimmering water, my shoes kicking up mud and grass, then my view shifts and I'm seated on a soft leather seat with the aroma of chicken all around me. I'm in Nandos being served heaps of fries and a massive roasted platter of food. I laugh gently to myself, never wanting this magical dream reality to ever end. 

I suddenly find myself in the lush green grass of the Botanical Gardens looking at the plants, the trees and the people. Turning my face to the sun, I feel its warm hands envelop my face and the light fills my eyes I am standing in town facing the Town Hall listening to all the pigeons take flight with the shopping bags of my recent spree cutting into my wrists and in the blink of an eye I feel weightless. I'm bouncing high, high, higher, surely I could touch the sky if I wanted to – I am in Jumping! 

As I am bouncing I begin to feel heavier and heavier until I am back to the reality of unwashed dishes and rooms in serious need of a tidy. I am sitting as before on one of the matching sofas staring at the off white wall. The realisation my visions have evaporated makes me feel hollow inside like a chocolate egg without the toy surprise. They were my anchor in the murky sea of Covid 19.

I am strong. Imagination is never silly.


TEENS - Hive New Writers' Prize - Wizened by Sharmin

Nik Perring - "A piece with delightful maturity. A beautifully poignant look at life and with a warming feeling of hope. This story felt real. Most importantly, it made me feel."

Wizened by hope, the old man sits in the waiting room. His mind dives from the cliffs of cancer. It twirls through fear, spins at the thought of nothing; of nothing waiting beyond the dark, of emptiness, and summersaults towards hope, spread before him like a sunlit lake. Perhaps they have caught him in time.

He chuckles optimistically to himself, fingers curled in a ball upon his walking stick, his back stooped by the blows of time, the blasts of age, rounded, like a ball. He thinks, “I ought to be easy to catch!”

To his right, his daughter’s turmoil of thoughts strafe at her worried mind- the thought of never seeing her dad again were a salvo to her asphyxiated heart. Silently, she sat as still as a cement, her mind hardening with the reality of final goodbyes, of last of times, of end of lives…

“I’ll be alright, don’t worry,” he stated. The more he reassures her -or himself- the more the daughter realises his optimism and her pessimism were like repelling magnets: same awareness of the ending, but one magnet tries to paint it, the other one accept it.

Her father’s vision has been blanketed by dreams, like a paradox of a pair of glasses. Tempting him into hallucinating of chances. Blurring the line between the possible and the unlikely with its lenses. Increasing the resolution of its trickery to make sure he does not go back to his reasonable self. To make sure he gives himself false hopes. To make sure he kills himself with disappointment before something else kills him... She begs silently that this doesn’t happen.

But nothing changes.

Suddenly, the silent shriek of a door catapults her back to the not-so-distant reality. The catapult thrusts her face-first to the situation that was about to occur: they were about to know whether there was a chance of living or not. Though, she does not believe in hope. The chance of survival was like the chance of a little seed reaching the outside world, whilst growing through dry, hard mud.

Briefly, she glances at the doctor’s medical badge. She knew what was going to happen all along, but she never prepared for this situation. It’s like a pair of glasses, reminding her of actual reality. Distinguishing between a dreamy life and inevitable death. Increasing the resolution of the desperate scenery to make sure she sees it, to make sure she wants to close her eyes, to make sure she wants to quickly run back to the catapult, so it can propel her away from what was about to occur. She wants to

But nothing happens.

She helps her father get up with struggle and they trudge to the doctor’s office.

And he tells them the news.

He will live.

At that very moment did the daughter realise that pessimism was an ocean in which she has drowned in. Her vision melted with the obscure layers of the sea; diminishing her ability to see any hope. Her hearing melted with the muffled, dark echoes of the ocean; diminishing her ability to hear any possibilities. Yet, a fine line of light swam down through the surface of the sea, to her. It was like a vulnerable little plant: slowly growing through dry, hard mud- until finally reaching the vast outside world. With trembling hands, she reaches out for the light; deciding she was going to swim. She could not let herself drown anymore.

Their minds dived from the cliffs of happiness, twirling through robustness, and summersaulting towards hope, spread before them like a sunlit lake. Of course, life isn’t eternal. But both of them learned a lesson: live in the present. If you enjoy the present, it will seem like an eternal dream.


ADULT CATEGORY - The Low Wall Beat of Love and Loss by Ellen Uttley

Nik Perring - "This is a story that makes all of me smile because it reminds me that stories are everywhere. Beautifully written and a great idea so well realised. Congratulations!"

I stood outside the university building at Arundel, the creative swirling of the writing class I’d just left already settling in my mind. The ideas, so clear just minutes before, now fragmented and brushed to the dust of faint memories and half formed ideas of thoughts unwritten.

The beat of their voices reached me before their words did; the rhythmic tick of the t’s and the hisses of s’s reaching above their words to find me in my procrastination. Rain misted my face as I walked through the grey air towards them, two men, rapping at the edge of my hearing.

They stood beside a speaker that was rested on the short wall that made the entrance of the university building into a squat kind of courtyard. Leaning in over it, they seemed to be aware only of each other, as if they thought the sound of their voices and the beat of the speaker wouldn’t move past the bubble of space and concentration that they had created. They rapped for each other, at each other, and no one else.

I reached them at the same moment that their words reached clarity. The one to the left, a squat man of strong build and sharp shirt, moving with shoulders and knee to the flow of his counterpart. His eyes rapt; competitive and entertained, he took in the words of the longer man. The right man, in his baggy stained shirt and his tight jeans, chin wagging to the beat of his story.

“..she was maybe eighteen, yeah

her collar pristine.

Her daddy was furious that she wasn’t Miss Thing.

She spoke with her gumption, yeah

and she spoke from her heart.

Her mummy would have train her

but there was nowhere to start.

She was her own to the core, yeah

her dreams made her soar, yeah

Her sisters screamed and cried and scratched

and yeah they called her a whore, whore...”

Rapt, I took in the words as he threw them. About a girl thrown out into the world with nothing but her wits and her dreams. How he had scooped her up and placed her down in a place of security and serenity. He tapered off as she reached him through the computer screens that had connected them to the real world of the life that they had pledged to build together. Two beats later, the squat man pulled down first one starched cuff and then the other and took up the beat.

“...yeah, I hear what you’re saying, man

my own love was tight.

I kept her warm and loved her and she

treated me right.

But she died from the train tracks, man

she died in her sleep.

She died from her mind

and mother

calling her weak, weak.

I know what you’re saying, man

how love can change everything.

But she died and worse

she died on the day that I bought a ring...”

He wove his grief in the air between them like silk, thread of his own recovery and the redemption and hope and the cleansing fire that he found in a loss so certain and so destroying that he had nothing left of himself but a handful of dust.

Lost in the words of his counterpart, the tall man swayed, and as the sharp shirted rapper lifted a hand to wipe his eye, he grabbed the beat from the air and continued his story.

“...It was perfect for a time, man

the woman was sweet.

She hoped and cooked

and wrote and sang

and we just went click.

But things start to slip, yeah

then it just went quick, yeah.

She has been gone and month now

and my minds like a crypt, yeah...”

The arms of both of them, swaying in time, reached over to form a bridge. Hand to shoulder they rocked with the music that swirled around them. Suit jacket stretched taught and rocking softly to the beat of his soft sobs. His counterpart looked down at him into the safe space created by the loop of their arms.

“...Yeah man, this life will throw stuff at you

and grief will go hard.

But your life is your own, man

and you hold the cards.

We have to pick up the tatters, man

we have to tie up the shreds.

We have to pick up our feet

we have to pick up our heads.

We have to pick up our hope

we have to find what we can

we have to stitch this together

as we clutch at the sand.

We might lose some moments, man

we might lose some years.

we might lose some parts of us and

we might lose some tears.

But after it all

when we come out of the dust

we will still be there waiting

we’ll be whole

we’ll be us...”

Their heads raised up to face each other, and they lowered their hands. The shorter one reached out and clicked off the speaker with a numbing silence. I turned before they could notice me standing there, and moved off down the hill, towards the train station.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who submitted amazing writing to the competition. Watch this space for more Sheffield Year of Reading creativity …

Please leave your comments (subject to moderation).

Thursday, July 8, 2021

What's New in Queer Kidlit? More LGBTQ+ Book Recommendations for Children and Young People

Following on from our previous list of LGBTQ+ book recommendations for children and young people, Zoey Dixon of Lambeth Libraries (@Zoey_Dixon) and our own Liz Chapman (@lgbtlibrarian) are back with some of the best new queer kidlit for your reading enjoyment!

We're still very much in need of more UK-published books, especially for younger children, but we have managed to find you a range of fantastic titles for all ages, from board books to novels for older teens (or adults!)

In our LGBTQ+ Reading Recommendations PDF, you will find all of the books discussed in our Pride Month webinar and podcast, plus a few bonus titles that we couldn't squeeze in!

If you've enjoyed one of our recommendations, or have a favourite queer read that you'd like to share with us, please leave us a comment, or follow @SheffLibraries and @lamlibs and join the conversation on Twitter!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Discovery of Arthur Slinn's journal sheds new light on Sheffield during World War Two

Shortly before lockdown in March 2020, a diary covering the middle years of the Second World War was donated to Sheffield City Archives. It had been found among the possessions of the late Herbert Parker who worked as a crane driver at Firth Brown in Sheffield during the Second World War. Herbert had not written the diary himself and his family had little idea why it was among his personal effects...

The diary writer gives a first-hand insight into wartime civilian life, including a vivid description of the Sheffield Blitz. Unusually, it is written as half letter, half diary for his six-year-old daughter to read ten years later when sixteen. Later entries are also addressed to his second daughter, born in 1942. Other than the names of his two daughters, the diary is anonymous. However, references to family events gave archives’ staff sufficient clues to identify the author. Researching cemetery registers, birth, marriage and death indexes and the 1939 Register, revealed the author to be Arthur Frederick Slinn (1906-1983) who, in 1939, lived at 116 Verdon Street and worked as a casting crane driver in a steel melting department at an unknown firm. As both men were crane drivers, perhaps Arthur also worked at Firth Brown and was friends with Herbert Parker?

Beginning the diary on 16th September 1941, Arthur contemplates the risk that he might not survive the war to see his daughter grow up. This seems to be the motive for committing to paper his wartime experiences, observations and aspirations. His hopes and optimism for post-war society shine from the pages, a life with social security, poverty a thing of the past, no unemployment and adequate old age pensions. He is completely confident in victory over the Nazis and foresees the war ending in 1943. He writes that from the chaos of war philosophers will emerge “to build a world that befits a Civilised Age”.

Air-raids and their precautions are a recurring theme. Arthur describes frequent air raid warnings, antiaircraft guns firing at overflying aircraft and life in general under the threat of air attack, all interspersed with the touching sentiments of a father taking to his daughter. There are also comic moments, such as when on a dark night in the blackout he tripped over a sandbag and bumped into something. After hurriedly apologising, he realised that he had collided with a lamppost.

He also talks about the prohibition of things we take for granted in peace time such as newspaper weather forecasts, which could have provided enemy airmen with useful information.

Around 25 retrospectively written pages, describe the two Sheffield Blitz raids in December 1940 and their aftermath. Arthur’s family were mainly affected by the first night, Thursday 12th December 1940, when he sheltered in the cellar with his wife and daughter. He feared an incendiary bomb might land on the house and start a fire trapping them in the cellar. So, in between blasts from high explosive bombs, he repeatedly left the relative safety of the cellar to check the upstairs floors and make sure the house was not on fire. At one point, a loud thud announced the arrival of an incendiary bomb which burnt fiercely on the rear doorstep, lighting the whole garden. With some difficulty, he extinguished it with shovelled earth. 

Arthur describes the whistle of falling bombs, some of which failed to explode and expresses admiration for bomb disposal crews who would later have to deal with them. In 1985 an unexploded 1000kg bomb dropped the same night was unearthed during drainage work at Lancing Road and is now displayed at Kelham Island Museum.  

Just before the war, Arthur joined his works AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service); for this critical role he received only one hour’s training! Later he also enrolled in the Supplementary Fire Brigade, organised by the Chief Constable of Sheffield, but he complains it was poorly organised and lacked equipment.

As the war progressed, Arthur received more specialised fire training some of which he describes in detail. Although Arthur’s daughters may have had little interest in operating a Light Trailer Pump or the design of building sprinkler systems, his technical descriptions provide a unique insight into the wartime volunteer firefighter’s role.

On 26th February 1943, Arthur comments that, “life today is fairly tolerable”. Although plain, food was nutritionally balanced and by no means in short supply. For children, a points system was used to ensure a fair share of chocolates and sweets.

As the war progressed and the threat of air raids diminished, Arthur missed the thrills of the air raids even commenting that, “Some-how it ain't the same war without them.” He clearly wished for a more active part in the war and during 1943 had volunteered for the RAF but was rejected owing to poor eyesight.

The last entry is dated 27th September 1943, as the allies advanced through Italy, but with D-Day still eight months away. By this time, a second daughter had arrived, and she too features in entries. Perhaps by this time Arthur felt more confident of survival and no longer needed to record his thoughts and experiences.  

Whether either of Arthur’s daughters read the diary or even knew of its existence is a mystery. Had he given the diary to Herbert Parker for safe keeping and, for whatever reason, never retrieved it? In later life, Arthur and his wife moved to Kent where he died in 1983.

Sheffield City Archives would like to hear from anyone with information about the Slinn family or the diary.

To discover more about Sheffield during the war please see our Sheffield Blitz Research Guide and themed collection of Picture Sheffield blitz images, maps and documents. Or visit Sheffield City Archives web pages to search our online catalogues for more material.

Picture captions: 
Arthur Frederick Slinn’s Diary (Sheffield City Archives X915/1)

Firth Brown's Electric Steel Melting Plant - note the overhead cranes (Picture Sheffield y04493)

Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal Experts diffusing Hermann 1,000kg Bomb, Lancing Road which was dropped 12-13th December 1940. Discovered during excavation work for drain laying in 1985 (Picture Sheffield t05185)

Use of a Light Trailer Pump (Sheffield City Archives X915/1)

Building Sprinkler System (Sheffield City Archives X915/1)

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Titanic Chief Officer’s Links to Loxley Chapel (Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library "Monthly Marvels" Blog)


15th April marks the anniversary of the RMS Titanic disaster - when over 1,500 passengers and crew members tragically lost their lives after the British passenger liner struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean just a few days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York back in 1912. One of the most senior crew members who lost his life on this date 109 years ago was the Titanic’s Chief Officer Lieutenant Henry Tingle Wilde (1872-1912) who had close links to the old Loxley Independent Chapel (which later became Loxley Congregational Chapel and eventually Loxley United Reformed Church) on the north-western outskirts of Sheffield. In our latest Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library ‘Monthly Marvels’ blog, we highlight the Wilde family’s longstanding association with the Loxley Chapel over multiple generations as revealed through a recent cataloguing project we have carried out centred on the chapel’s historic records.

Henry Tingle Wilde was born on 21st September 1872 in Liverpool (where his father Henry Wilde senior had relocated from Loxley) but baby Henry was taken to Loxley just a month after his birth to be baptised at the Loxley Chapel - an indication of the importance of the chapel to the Wilde family who had worshipped there for generations. It's apparent that young Henry and his family continued to make regular trips back to Loxley from Liverpool and the old chapel there continued to occupy a special place in their hearts.

The newly catalogued collection of Loxley Chapel records at Sheffield City Archives (collection reference: NR2324) includes a range of historic church minutes and account books, as well as registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, dating back to when the chapel was first built in 1787, which illustrate the Wilde family’s prominent role in supporting the chapel and the local community in the village of Loxley over successive generations.

The records include various documents, for instance, concerning Henry Tingle Wilde’s architect uncle George Arnold Wilde (1841-1914), who served as a deacon at the chapel, and who notably carried out significant restorations to the Loxley Congregational Chapel (as it was then known) in 1890, and later drew up plans for the extension of the graveyard there in the early 1900s.

One of the more unusual items in the Loxley Chapel collection which has been unearthed through our cataloguing project is a 19th-century account/memoranda book (which also includes brief diary entries) evidently kept by Thomas Wilde (c.1795-1866), who worked as a 'saw grinder' and 'farmer' in Loxley. Thomas Wilde was Henry Tingle Wilde’s grandfather and George Arnold Wilde’s father. Thomas Wilde’s account/memoranda book, which dates from c.1819 onwards, sheds intriguing light on the lives and preoccupations of members of the rural community of Loxley back in the 19th-century. The small volume also helps to chart how Thomas’ grandson made the unlikely journey from a landlocked farming family in the village of Loxley to the beginnings of a successful maritime career, before ultimately ending in tragedy and his death on board the Titanic. 

There are lots of fascinating references to be found in Thomas Wilde’s account/memoranda book. On 25 August 1839, for instance, Thomas Wilde notes how the Rev. Sutton “preached to the chartists”. The following year, he records his duties as an 'Overseer of the Poor' for the wider parish of Ecclesfield in 1840. A year later, he includes notes on the census in his capacity as one of the census enumerators for the locality in 1841. In August 1853, there is an intriguing reference to payments for a Dr Thompson for "assisting a Hungarian refugee”.

Thomas Wilde’s account/memoranda book also includes a range of interesting medical and food recipes. Some of the recipes are reflective of the Wilde family’s farming duties, including recipes “for the scouring of young calves”, “for pleuro pneumonia among cattle” and even one “for a cow that gives bad butter” (this latter recipe comprising "2 ounces of ground ginger" and "3 pints of old wine"!)

There are also medicinal recipes designed to help with ailments such as sore throats, coughs, toothache, consumption, one recipe “to prevent infectious fever” and even recipes for “cholera prevention and cholera cure” These latter recipes are indicative of how cholera was a major concern for people at the time with Sheffield facing a major cholera epidemic in 1832 which led to a number of fatalities (and further outbreaks occurring in 1849, 1854 and 1866).

Other (more pleasant-sounding sounding) recipes in the volume include those for “raspberry vinegar”, “blackberry wine”, “making buns”, “gingerbread cakes”, “sage puddings” and “mock madeira”.

As noted in his account/memoranda book, Thomas Wilde and his wife Ann had 10 children born between the years 1819 and 1841. The volume also includes some loose papers and notes relating to Thomas' second-youngest son Henry Wilde senior (born 1838) and shows how Henry relocated from Loxley to Liverpool where he obtained the post of ‘Chief Clerk and Cashier to the Liverpool and London Insurance Companies' and later became a 'Surveyor of Risks and Assessor of Losses' in Liverpool. Henry Wilde senior's move to Liverpool sparked the chain of events which would see his son Henry Tingle Wilde grow up in the Walton district of the maritime port city and embark on a seafaring career, becoming a Royal Navy Reserve officer and rising up the ranks with the White Star Line shipping company, culminating in his appointment as Chief Officer on the RMS Titanic's first and last voyage.     

After the sinking of the Titanic, Sheffield newspapers (as they did all over the country) feverishly reported on the tragedy. Initially, as in the extract below from an article from The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, Henry Tingle Wilde was reported as missing before his death was finally confirmed. This particular article draws attention to the Titanic’s Chief Officer’s Sheffield connections, mentioning how it was Wilde’s practice during his maritime career "to spend much of his time ashore in Sheffield".  

Wilde's final moments on board the sinking ship are disputed. One surviving witness at the subsequent inquest suggested Wilde shot himself on the bridge once the hopelessness of the situation became apparent. However other witnesses recalled seeing Wilde, "a big, powerful man", tirelessly working to the last to save the lives of others, loading as many people as he could into the available life boats before going down valiantly with the vessel, alongside Captain Edward Smith (1850-1912), the two men standing on the bridge, "with their arms extended to each other's shoulders".  

Newspaper reports from the time revealed that Wilde had lost his wife just a year before the tragedy, meaning his death on board the Titanic resulted in his four young children being orphaned.  

Henry Tingle Wilde wasn’t the first person associated with the Loxley Chapel to suffer the tragic fate of drowning. The Loxley Chapel graveyard notably includes a number of graves of victims of the Great Sheffield Flood of 1864 (following the bursting of the Dale Dyke Reservoir dam at Bradfield) and some of the headstones for the victims can still be seen in the graveyard to this day. Sadly the main chapel building itself does not remain intact.

In 1989, the Loxley Reformed Church (as the old chapel became known) was damaged by heavy storms which forced it to close temporarily but it reopened in November 1990 thanks to repair work funded largely by English Heritage. It closed however as a place of worship shortly afterwards in 1992 and fell into disuse and disrepair. In direct contrast to Henry Tingle Wilde and the Great Sheffield Flood victims, who perished at the hands of water, it seems the old Loxley Chapel may have met its final end by fire. Having stood for well over two centuries, the chapel was devastated by a fire in August 2016 and now lies in ruins. 

Although the future fate of the remains of the chapel seem uncertain, the fascinating stories of families like the Wilde family, who once worshipped there, are preserved and can be explored in the collection of Loxley Chapel records we hold at Sheffield City Archives.   

For more information on our sources at Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library, please contact us (email:, website:  

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

A year in archives: collection highlights from 2020

Last year was a strange time, pandemic and all, but despite the obvious obstacles Sheffield City Archives continued to run a service and collect new archive material.  In fact, Covid meant that many of you found the time to clear out and donate items to the archives, while others deposited their own responses to the pandemic in the form of diaries and photographs.  Here’s a brief look at some of the collection highlights from 2020…

What was life like in Sheffield in 2020?  This is a question that will be asked time and time again in the future.  But how much will we remember of these strange times?  It was (and still is) very real with rolling news coverage, lockdown restrictions and a profound change in everyone’s way of life.  However, restrictions will hopefully soon be lifted and 2020 will become a distant memory; we will soon forget the everyday experiences (good and bad, exceptional and mundane) that make this period in history so unique.  In March last year, we put a call out for people to record their own experiences of lockdown so that we could add them to the archives.  You responded immediately and as a result, we have amassed an incredible archive of material.  Pictured is one of the famous ‘Frontline Warrior’ images produced by Pete McKee. The series depicting different key workers with the strapline: 'Be Kind To The Frontline'. During the pandemic, artwork from this series popped up on billboards in Manchester and Sheffield. Following an enthusiastic response on social media, copies of selected prints were sold to raise money for NHS Charities Together. A full set of 'Frontline Warriors' was kindly printed and donated to Sheffield City Archives by Pete McKee in Aug 2020.

Not everything we received last year dated from modern times.  We were very pleased to receive a Parish Register from St Mary’s Church, Handsworth dating back to 1558.  The volume is called a ‘Composite Register’ as it records all baptisms, marriages and burials at Handsworth Parish Church from 1558-1667.  It had been kept quite safely at the church until now. At some point in the 1970s it went for re-binding at the Public Record Office in Kew, London.  When the original binding was removed it was found to be much older than the actual volume - possibly dating from the 1300s-1400s.  It is illuminated and contains notes for the intonation of words; a passage from John’s Gospel is also discernible.  Both bindings will be carefully retained, but our Conservator will re-bind the volume to ensure it is encased in a stable, future-proof cover.

In December 2020, while sorting out some old papers, a bundle of vacancy slips for July-August 1975 were spotted by an eagle-eyed depositor.  Instead of putting them in the bin, he offered them to the archives as a snapshot of the job market for school-leavers in Sheffield in the 1970s.  The adverts have a section for qualifications, experience and special qualities required of applicants which, by today’s standards, are somewhat eyebrow-raising!  Sheffield District Council wanted a trainee plan printer, preferably someone ‘not too ambitious but reasonably intelligent with an interest in photography’.  John Wenninger’s, the butchers on Abbeydale Road, were looking for sales assistants, ‘local girls preferred, neat, tidy, clean and well-spoken’.  Steeples, the chemist on White Lane, wanted someone ‘bright and of good appearance’ but most importantly ‘with clean fingernails’.  G.T. News on Brooklands Avenue simply wanted someone ‘sensible’ while Ernest Burgess was in search of a Junior Sales Assistant, preferably ‘smart and quick’ but above all ‘a nice lad’.  Jobs were also going at Proctors, the furniture store on Haymarket - ‘academic qualifications are not required’ stated the ad, but ‘common sense is a must’.  School leavers could also try their hand at becoming ‘Whippers’ (fastening runners onto fishing rods with thread) with Truflex on Cadman Street - qualifications: ‘conscientious and good with fingers’.  And finally, a General Labourer was sought for sought for a property repair business on Parson Cross Road - the young man had to be ‘tall and strong’ and ‘live locally, S5 or S6’.  There was certainly an interesting array of trades school-leavers could enter into, although whether candidates fitted the bill was another matter!

Finally, we had an unusual and rather special donation from Sheffield-based artist and lecturer, Yuen Fong Ling who has been working on a project called 'Towards Memorial' which explores the re-making of bespoke sandals originally designed and made by socialist, writer, poet and activist Edward Carpenter.  The project began at Sheffield City Archives on discovering examples of sandals Carpenter collected as reference, alongside a small newspaper advert, original photographs of Carpenter wearing the sandals, and paper foot patterns from his customers, one which was inscribed with 'Self 1892', pertaining to Carpenter himself. This led to a visit to The Garden City Collection in Letchworth to see an example made by his artist, friend and collaborator George E. Adams. Re-making the sandal was a way of interpreting the archive material and translating these sources into a contemporary design using modern materials, with ethical shoemakers Noble & Wylie (formerly Guat Shoes, established Sheffield in 1978). Each pair of sandals are handmade and stamped on each inner sole with 'Self 1892', as well as '1844' and '1929' to commemorate Carpenter’s year of birth and death.  The sandals have been initially gifted to members of The Friends of Edward Carpenter, a group of enthusiasts (and activists in their own right) who aim to commission a permanent public memorial to Carpenter in Sheffield city centre.  A number of short films were made by Picture Story Productions, Sheffield to document the production, gifting and wearing of the Carpenter sandals.  The films can be seen here: A pair of sandals were also gifted to the archives; these sit alongside Edward Carpenter’s original sandals.

We also took in public records from Sheffield Magistrates' Court, HM Coroner and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.  Records were also deposited by the Diocese of Sheffield, Sheffield City Council and a number of local businesses and private individuals.

A full list of our new accessions will soon be published on The National Archives’ website:

You can also search Sheffield City Archives' online catalogue here:

Picture captions (from top): 

Frontline Warriors by Pete McKee (X906); 

The original binding from the St Mary's Handsworth parish register (illuminated text visible, dating from the 1300s-1400s); page from the St Mary's Handsworth parish register - note the shape and curve of the parchment which is made from animal skin (PR158); 

Vacancy slip for Thomas Meldrum's, tool manufacturers on John Street, 1975 - main requirement of school leaver was 'common sense' (X920); 

Sandals deposited by Yuen Fong Ling - as worn by Magid Magid, Somali-British activist and politician who served as Lord Mayor of Sheffield from May  2018 to May 2019, Mike Jackson, co-founder of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) and the Friends of Edward Carpenter (FOEC), 2019; Yuen Fong Ling's sandals pictured next to Edward Carpenter's sandals in the archives, 2020 (X903).