One of the best things about commuting on your bike is the freedom it gives you. Freed from the aggy gridlock of the car, and jammed-in cough and splutter of the bus, I can indulge my curious side and dander off route to find new sights and sounds.
Nearing the end of the usual lower Don valley 5 weirs pedal, I decided to take a detour around the baffling Tinsley Roundabout subways in search of the spliced and diced roads formerly part of Tinsley village, now stranded and surrounded by busy truck-addled roads.
First, I twisted and turned to find American Golf, where a tanned man in smart casual sports wear lugs bags out of a BMW boot. Natch. Next, I cruise past the Trans Cafe, sniffing out a bacon butty. But no one is home. Mentioned in my previous post on Tinsley, this is all that remains of Plumpers Road, which once joined up to Bawtry Road and gave it’s name to the school which sat there before the M1, Seimens close, and the new/old school. Confused? Me too, so when I get to the studio I get to work.
A quick search on ‘Picture Sheffield’ the city council’s wonderful collection of digitised Sheffield images, brings up some great stories of smithies with a sideline in grocery (or is it the other way around?)…
This image shows a view from the old Infant’s school (older than the old one I sit in now) during the demolition of the street to make way for the M1 and it’s vast Tinsley roundabout.
The bend in the road helps line up the old with the new. Looking at maps of the area the small spit of Plumpers Road that remains on the ‘Sheffield side’ of the M1 is at an angle with Seimens Close. The row of fine terraces on the left of the picture are soon to go. Here’s the view now from a similar position, I think:
I carry on exploring, in search of another residential street around this edgeland, which seems to have suffered the same fate…
Greasebro road must surely be the loneliest street in Sheffield. As I sit on my top tube with frostbitten toes, taking snaps of the fine-looking stone dressed well-kept terraces, I struggle to think of another street I’ve seen in such a cut-off position. The M1 looms overhead to the east end of the road, Shepcote Lane to the west, Tinsley Roundabout and it’s terrifying pedestrian tunnels to the north, and a vast razor-wired brownfield site is the view from the southern terrace yardens.
When you look at a google satelite view of the derelict land here, its patchwork remnants look like an abstract painting, all pastel blocks and soft geometries.
This beautiful arial image, taken looking north to south, shows a clutch of streets soon to be buried beneath the Tinsley roundabout/M1 scheme and huge swathes of dark empty land. Tinsley Locks meander off artfully to the diagonal, and in the bottom right, the edge of gargantuan East Hecla Works (Hadfield’s, famous for making projectiles and other nasty things).
I go to the National Library of Scotlands sexy online map archive (I have a thing for old maps, ok!?) to find out more. The latest maps I find (1949) list the buildings in the area as Imperial Steel Works – where Edgar Allen and Co probably made bulk steel using the Tropenas method.
It looks and sounds suspiciously like Bessemer steel, but I’m sure the dapper Monsieur Tropenas would never admit it. Kudos to his Movember effort.
There’s a 1939 film in the Yorkshire Film Archive demonstrating tool steel manufacture. The residents in the area at one time would, like many others in Sheffield, hear the thud of the forge hammer, the hiss of the quench.
I clip back in and set off for Tinsley Village when suddenly and in slow motion my front wheel slips from underneath me and I tumble off my bike. Cracking the back of my head on the floor my little life flashes before my beard. If I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I cam imagine I would’ve been knocked out such was the whiplash-inducing whack I took.
As I pick up and hobble off, I daydream about Ballard’s ‘Concrete Island’, and imagine myself prone on the textured concrete pathway of the Tinsley subway, wasting away on a man-made island surrounded by fast flowing roads. Bleak, for sure, but always interesting.