A 'window to the past' discovered under Fargate
Plus, Sensoria returns on Thursday
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Some people really love trams. I found this out this week after I posted a photo of some old tram tracks that had been discovered on Fargate and the tweet quickly went viral. 131,000 views, 890 likes and 67 retweets later, I realised that I was being told something: that our readers wanted more tram content. Today, we look at how extensive the network used to be in Sheffield and whether the days when you could hop on a tram and go anywhere in the city might soon return.
In addition to that, we have a chalet with a swimming pool in Bolsterstone, a Molière masterpiece starts at The Crucible, and get ready for a mini-heatwave next weekend!
Catch up and coming up
For our weekend read Dan travelled to Southey Green to find out how a project to give residents free broadband internet is going (spoiler — not very well). You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 1,645 paying members. In the first Rachel Flynn visited two therapeutic gardening groups in Burngreave and Lowedges to find out about the healing power of horticulture. And in the second, Victoria witnessed a bee “die in” outside the Town Hall to investigate why some people think the weedkiller glyphosate should be banned — and why Amey disagrees. An extract from that first piece is below.
Last year, [the council’s private sector partner] Amey agreed to a year-long experiment in which no weedkiller was sprayed in the Brincliffe neighbourhood, to see what would happen, but a council report notes the trial was inconclusive. “It is believed,” the report states, that residents and business owners must have secretly muddled the results through vigilante weed-spraying, “given the immaculate aesthetic achieved outside some premises”.
This week we’ll send out two more including an interview with Sheffield Theatres’ new chief executive Tom Bird, and another piece which we can’t say too much about at this stage. To help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield based on subscriptions rather than clickbait and celebrity stories, please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs just £1.34 a week or 23p a day if you pay for 12 months up front (£70).
Editor’s note: Thanks to you, The Tribune had a great month in September, adding 94 new members and sailing past the 1,600 mark. Our growth was driven by two main stories: my piece about the internecine warfare gripping the Sheffield Labour Party and Victoria’s big investigation about the turmoil at The Leadmill. But these pieces take time and cost money. If you can support us financially, we’ll be able to do more of them in the future and you’ll be supporting the long-term survival of high-quality journalism in Sheffield. Thank you.
From today’s sponsor: Fancy doing some truly sustainable shopping that also supports some of the best independent makers and designers at the same time? Now in its 16th year, The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair is back this month (Thursday 19 to Sunday 22 October) and it’s well worth the trip over to the stunning Victoria Baths in Manchester. It will feature beautiful handmade pieces from the most talented ceramicists, jewellers, textile and glass artists, printmakers, sculptors, blacksmiths and silversmiths in the land, not to mention furniture and lighting designers. As well as browsing the craft on sale and meeting the makers, there are exhibitions, craft demos and free drop-in workshops. Tribune readers can get two tickets for the price of one by following this special link.
Want to sponsor an edition of The Trib in order to reach our 18,000+ readers and give a big boost to our journalism? Please get in touch.
The big picture: Sheffield in ruins 🏚️
Searching for photos of Sheffield on Instagram is one of my favourite things to do! There are so many brilliant (professional and amateur) photographers in the city that you’re always guaranteed to find something good. One of the best I’ve found is Ian Smith, who has been tricky to get hold of but has now kindly allowed us to use his shots. This photo, which was taken in an abandoned warehouse in Kelham Island (I’d love to know which one), is a great example of his work.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say a northwest-southeast split starts to develop with Sheffield stuck in the middle. A changeable but mild week beckons.
Monday 🌧 Bland, muggy and murky with calm winds and plenty of cloud. Rain or drizzle looks likely to turn more persistent later on and overnight. Highs of 17°C.
Tuesday 🌦 A windier day from the west but at least cloud should break to bright spells. Scattered showers commonplace later with highs of 16°C.
Wednesday 🌦 Showers/rain may hold off to the north, but the risk is there. Otherwise, more cloud than Tuesday with some occasional brightness. Highs of 17°C.
Thursday 🌦 High pressure across the south should kill off an advancing warm front, but some cloud and rain is possible. Mild with 18°C the high.
Friday ⛅ High pressure continues to meander east, with the rain risk likely to be kept further NW. A decent chance of a dry and bright day with highs of 18°C.
Outlook: High pressure centres to the SE, most influential there, with low pressure to the north and southwest enabling an anomalously warm airmass to advect northwards. Temperatures widely into the low to mid twenties...in October! 😮
To see the full forecast and keep up to date with any changes to the outlook, follow Steel City Skies on Facebook.
The big story: A 'window to the past' discovered under Fargate
Top line: Old tram tracks discovered last week as part of renovation work on Fargate have been called a “window to the past” by a city heritage expert. South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard is on record as saying an expanded tram system should be part of Sheffield and South Yorkshire’s future as well. But how likely is that?
Trams have been around in Sheffield since 1873 (although they were horse drawn back then). The first electric tram ran between Nether Edge and Tinsley in 1899, and by 1902 all the routes were electrified. In 1951, the city’s tram network covered a distance of 48 miles. Proving that hills are no obstacle, trams even went to Crookes, where there was a depot just off the high street (now a Catholic church).
However, the rise of cars and buses brought an end to the tram system. The last tram travelled from Leopold Street (where the old tracks were dug up last week) to Beauchief on 8 October, 1960.
In 1994, trams were brought back to Sheffield after a 34 year absence in the form of Supertram, although the network is now only 21.5 miles long, less half the length of the mid-century system we lost.
When South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard announced plans to take the tram into public ownership last year, he said expansion of the network was a key part of his vision. But exactly where we should expand it to is a more tricky question. In our recent piece on the tram system, our data guru Daniel Timms said expansion to Ecclesall Road, Abbeydale Road and Manchester Road would help the tram network become a truly citywide service.
Neither of the city’s hospitals are on the network either, and Sheffield MPs Louise Haigh and Olivia Blake have suggested the former Sheaf Valley stations be reopened including Heeley, Millhouses and Dore.
However, in an interview with BBC Radio Sheffield recently, Oliver Coppard said each extra line would cost about half a billion pounds, meaning any expansion would have to be funded by the government.
The chances of the current government giving South Yorkshire that kind of money seem slim, however. Recent comments by Rishi Sunak that Leeds would be “treated like London” in terms of transport funding has been interpreted as evidence our Yorkshire neighbours may soon get a new tram system (they are currently the largest city in Europe which doesn’t have a mass transit system), so the chances of us getting an extra line are not great. Mr Coppard also recently asked the government for £434m to improve buses but got precisely nothing.
When I posted a photo of the old tracks to Twitter last week, the response we got was huge. From the hundreds of comments we received, two main themes emerged. Firstly, commenters questioned whether Sheffield can really claim to have progressed that much in over 60 years if we got rid of such an asset for our city. And secondly, many people said that we should bring a proper city-wide tram network back.
Expanding our tram network won’t be easy, but it is how cities like Manchester and Nottingham have increased passenger numbers and therefore the financial viability of their systems. While we’re unlikely to see a fleet of trams trundling up Leopold Street again any time soon, the benefits of an expanded tram network in terms of air quality, decarbonisation, employment opportunities and wellbeing would be huge. It’s right that an expanded network is a major policy goal for our region. Where the money will come from is the multi-million dollar question.
To read Daniel Timms’ excellent recent piece on the future of Supertram, click here.
Our media picks 🎧
Rock-bottom United and Wednesday share the pain ⚽ It’s a grim time for both sets of football fans in Sheffield, with both teams yet to win this season. Guardian reporter Aaron Bower speaks to, among others, BBC Radio Sheffield commentator Rob Staton about how important football is in Sheffield and how, after two magnificent promotion seasons, both teams let it slip. “The people of Sheffield deserve better,” says Staton, not unreasonably.
Health and wellbeing proposals for shopping centre 🏬 Fascinating proposals in Barnsley to turn the Alhambra shopping centre into a health and wellbeing centre have been announced. The centre, which was opened in 1991, had “served Barnsley well” for over 30 years, the council said, but it was time to rethink its future. The £4.5m purchase of the leasehold and redevelopment work had been agreed with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.
Inner City Round Run 🏃 Long-time Tribune member Loz Harvey’s first post in our regular contributor’s David Bocking’s newsletter is a lovely piece about a round Sheffield walk — but not the one you think. The Inner City Round Walk was devised by Terry Howard as a way of linking up the “forgotten, haunted, industrial corners of our city”. Turned into a run by Loz, the journey is a psychogeographic exploration of the urban Sheffield that is on our doorsteps.
Home of the week 🏡
This two-bedroom chalet-style bungalow in Bolsterstone is in need of some modernisation, but as well as being situated in woodland grounds of just over half an acre on the upper side of the beautiful Ewden valley — it also has a swimming pool! It’s on the market for £375,000.
Editor’s note: This house was owned until recently by Rolf Heymann, who sadly died last year at the age of 92. Rolf was a German Jewish refugee who came to the UK on the Kindertransport in 1939. I visited Rolf at his home in 2020 to speak to him about his experiences and how he created a new life in Sheffield. You can read that piece here.
Tribune Tips: If you want to tell us about a story or give us some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity.
Things to do 📆
Theatre 🎭 On at The Crucible from now until 21 October is The Hypochondriac, Molière’s wry lampoon of health anxiety and the medical profession. Self-obsessed and fixated on his health, wealthy Argan spends his time and money on frequent visits to the family doctor. Liverpudlian poet Roger McGough’s witty and satirical adaptation of the French playwright’s masterpiece proves that laughter really is the best form of medicine. Tickets are £15-£33.
Festival 🎉 On Thursday, 5 October, the 16th edition of Sheffield’s film and music festival Sensoria kicks off with a packed programme of music, film and art. For me the highlight is My Brutal Life, an exhibition of art, film and music at Moore Street substation. The show, which includes work by, among others, Martin Dust, Mick Jones, Mandy Payne and Bill Stephenson, is previewed in Now Then along with five other unmissable events here.
Exhibition 🧙 On at Barnsley Museum from now until next April is The Magic of Middle-earth, a touring exhibition all about JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The free exhibition is a magical treasure trove of over 200 objects and artworks including a rare first edition copy of The Hobbit from 1937, dramatic models and dioramas including The Battle of Helm’s Deep, concept artwork, as well as theatre, music and movie-inspired memorabilia and replicas.