Friday, October 23, 2020

Rebellious Sheffield

Sheffield has always had a reputation for being a little bit rebellious.  In fact they've been causing trouble round these parts for a thousand years.  In our new season of events, blog posts, and podcasts, we’ll highlight some of the stories that make Sheffield what it is today.     

We’ve fostered one or two troublemakers in Sheffield over the years.  They include the activities of the radical Chartist, Samuel Holberry and his fight for voting reform, and the violence of the Sheffield Outages, where a series of murders were committed by militant Trade Unionists.  But they also include the more peaceful protests of the poet Ebenezer Elliot, also known as the Corn Law Rhymer, who led the fight to repeal the Corn Laws which caused such hardship and starvation among the poor in the North.   

Yes! We have many protesters, rebels, and activists within our city’s history. To remember these individuals and the political movements they championed, Sheffield Libraries will be producing a series of blog posts, podcasts, and online events in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This will run in parallel with the British Library’s ‘Unfinished Business’ programme, which through a series of digital events will examine the ongoing fight for women’s rights. From bodily autonomy and the right to education, to self-expression and protest, these events (and the London based exhibition) will explore how feminist activism in the UK has its roots in the complex history of women’s rights. 

But back to Sheffield!  We have produced our own timeline, looking at the key rebels, trailblazers and mischief makers associated with the city. It spans nearly a thousand years of history from 1075 to the 2010’s looking at a variety of activists, campaigns and protests. Our earliest featured rebel is Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland. He was the last Saxon lord of Hallamshire (which covered the parishes of Sheffield, Ecclesfield and Bradfield), and for taking part in the ‘Revolt of the Earls’ against William the Conqueror in 1075, was condemned for treason and ultimately executed. 

Sheffield Tree Protesters, 2018 Courtesy of the BBC

The timeline then goes on to explore some of the significant dates in Sheffield’s past, including the destruction of Sheffield Castle, due to the city’s role in the English Civil War. Via the jail break and riot of 1791 in opposition to the introduction of the Enclosure Act, and the infamous Flour Riots of 1812. Through to more modern history, including a look at why the Sheffield region became known during the 1980’s as ‘The Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire’, as well as the recent Sheffield Street Tree protests which garnered international attention in 2017/2018.                              

Reflecting the themes of the British Library exhibition we will also focus on some of the, perhaps, lesser know female activists from Sheffield’s history. These include abolitionist Mary Ann Lawson (who founded the Sheffield Ladies Anti-Slavery Society and fought on both a local and national level to bring about an end to slavery in the British Empire);Adela Pankhurst (sister of Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union) and the Sheffield Suffrage movement; Ann Eliza Longdon (Sheffield’s first female Lord Mayor), and Annie Bindon Carter (founder of Painted Fabrics, an arts charity that provided rehabilitation and employment for disabled ex-service men who had suffered catastrophic injuries in WWI, becoming a national champion for disabled workers rights). All four women broke new ground in society and championed causes that have affected the city to this day.

We will also look at some aspects of Sheffield’s women’s rights campaign, the role of women during the miners’ strike, the campaign for sexual equality and the history of the Sheffield Feminist Archive.

So please come and join us to find out more about Sheffield’s rebellious past and the significant role these Yorkshire Men and Women have played in the city’s history.

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