• Odd Photos From History 2.

    I see odd historic photos all the time.

    Since my last post of these types of photos I’ve encountered more.

    I did limit these type of post to just 10 photos, simply because I could easily add 50+ photos at any one time.

    Please enjoy these photos that I have gathered from the very depths of the world wide web.

    Miss Baker, the first monkey to survive in space, taken in 1959. By the time of her death in 1984, Miss Baker, had been to space twice, received Naval wedding with honours to fellow space monkey Big George and held the record for the longest living Spider Monkey (Miss Baker was 27, the average lifespan of a Spider Monkey is around 15 years).
    Workers building Tower Bridge in London in 1888. In these days of health and safety and PPE this kind of looks like utter madness.
    A horse wears a gas mask as a precaution against gas attacks, on March 27, 1940. It was developed by “Our Dumb Friends League,” a humane society in London, England.
    In the 1950 an odd fad took America – Phone Booth Stuffing! How many people could you cram into a phone booth? On March 20, 1959, students at the Durban, South Africa YMCA set a world record when 25 of them were able to squeeze at least the greater portions of their bodies inside one.
    Comedy actor Reg Varney, famous for his role in TV’s On The Buses, makes the very first cash withdrawal from an automated cash machine. This was the first cash machine in the UK and was located in Enfield Town. It’s still there ,obviously a newer model, but now it is gold!
    The founding team of Microsoft, pictured here in 1978. Bill Gates is at the bottom left.
    The first Virgin Records shop in Notting Hill Gate opened in 1969 and pictured here in 1973.
     Second World War pilots (from left) Frances Green, Margaret Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn leave their B-17, called Pistol Packin’ Mama, during ferry training at Lockbourne Army Air Force base in Ohio. They’re carrying their parachutes.
    Throughout the Second World War, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his Poodle Rufus were inseparable.
    The workshop of Gustave Eiffel (famous for the Paris tower named after him) in 1883. The workmen are shaping copper for a rather large monument that will be a gift to America. You might recognise her arm holding a book in the background. It’s the Statue of Liberty.

    Some of these photos may have spent many years unseen by anyone, in these enlightened times of easy photo sharing across the internet they can now be rediscovered.

    Hopefully I’ll bring you some more soon.

    There is plenty to be discovered.

  • The Cementation Furnace. Sheffield.

    This odd structure sits just off the main road where I live on a road called Doncaster street. Named, not after the nearby city, but after the steel factory which once stood here.

    It’s even more of an oddment now as it stands in the middle of derelict land which is awaiting development.

    There were once several of these furnaces in this area. This one was built in 1848 to produce steel by the cementation process by the local steel firm of Daniel Doncaster and Sons, a firm which was established in Sheffield in 1778.

    In 1860 there were 250 cementation furnaces of this kind in Sheffield capable of producing 80,000 tons of blister steel and these large conical structures were very much a characteristic feature of the city‘s industrial landscape.

    This Cementation furnace is the only remaining example which is completely undamaged. There are two other sites in Sheffield which have examples similar which are only partially intact, these are in nearby Bower Spring and Millsands.

    The furnace was last used in 1951.

    After standing unused for more than 40 years the furnace was restored in 1992/93 with financial assistance from the HSBC Bank (at the time they were still The Midland) Bank.

    The furnace is surrounded by low fencing and a locked gate, the key is available from the curator at the nearby Kelham Island Museum.

    This furnace operated right through World War 2 and had a blackout screen fitted to it so it would be concealed from approaching bombing raids.

    Today it stands forlorn and forgotten in the middle of an empty space.

    The land it stands on was, for many years, the area offices of HSBC bank, which is why they paid for the restoration.

    The HSBC building before demolition.

    The building was demolished in 2018 to make way a multi million pound apartment complex.

    This never happened and the land has been left since.

    It’s starting to get a little overgrown at the cementation furnace so I hope that something gets done about it soon.

    The Cementation Furnace is a wonderful example of something in Sheffield that was once common place and could be found all over.

    It is the last surviving intact example of its kind in the UK.

    I did read recently that there are still plans to create an apartment block on the land here and every plan I’ve seen does include the furnace.

    Hopefully then, the Cementation furnace will be there for generations to come as an example of how steel used to be made.

  • Wordless Wednesday

  • Sheffield Botanical Gardens.

    If I feel like I need a bit more of a walk to work some mornings I will always take the back streets until I reach The Sheffield Botanical Gardens.

    I’ve previously written about the bear pit here but I wanted to write a bit more about the gardens themselves as they are quite beautiful.

    The gardens first opened in 1836 and were a very popular destination for Victorian Sheffielders.

    This wonderful statue is called Pan: Spirit of the Wood and it was a gift in 1934 from Sir Charles Clifford, owner of the Sheffield Telegraph and Star, to the city. The sculptor is not known unfortunately.

    There are a lot of squirrels in the gardens. People regularly come and feed them Peanuts in their shells which they seem to enjoy.

    Because of this they don’t seem to have much fear of people and will take things directly from your hand.

    I’ve done this several times. I normally like to offer the squirrels a variety of nuts so they can choose their favorites. From experience they enjoy unsalted peanuts, Almonds and Brazil nuts.

    The stump above originally grew around 300 million years ago.

    It was a Giant Club Moss or Lycopod, and grew to be huge in size, much of the time the trunk was just a straight pole with leaves attached.

    When in maturity though, it produced a crown of branches with cones.

    When it died, it was covered by other dead plants and eventually a layer of sediment when the sea level rose again.

    For hundreds of millions of years the tree lay undisturbed until builders uncovered it while excavating for the foundations of Sheffield Station in the 1860s.

    It was displayed in a park in Darnall for a while before being brought to the Botanical Gardens and exhibited as part of the gardens opening.

    This four tiered fountain was placed here in 2003. The site previously house a memorial to the Crimean war.

    During the summer months, the glass house is open until 7pm. It was around 6.30 when I realised this and took the opportunity to have a look inside.

    Inside the huge Glasshouse are various types of plants that require a hot temperature to survive.

    The Aspadistra, popular in the Victorian era and still to be found in homes and offices across the UK to this day.

    A Tea Tree. It’s oil can be found in a lot of shampoo and soaps.

    A fountain inside the Glass House.

    Cactii? Cacty? Cactusses? Some pointy plants!

    The Sheffield Botanical Gardens are a wonderful place to visit throughout the year but, in summer, when everything is in full bloom is definitely the most ideal time of all.

    The gardens are free to enter and cover over a mile and half and there are over 5000 different types of plant and trees to see here.

  • Wordless Wednesday

  • Wordless Wednesday.

  • Wordless Wednesday

  • The Bear of Sheffield.

    I love the little oddments that survive in every town. Those strange places that once had a use and a reason for being there but seem just odd to us these days.

    Those bizarre things from a bygone age that serve no purpose but to remind us of what an strange place the past was.

    Sheffield is no exception.

    Tucked away in the Botanical Gardens in Sheffield is this remarkably intact bear pit.

    It is the most intact bear pit in England and, as such, has obtained a listed status with the National Trust.

    The Botanical gardens opened in 1836 and, at present, contains over 5000 species of plant.

    You can see them as you walk around the gardens, they all have a little plaque in front of them to let you know what plant you are looking at.

    In the Victorian era, bear pits were popular forms of entertainment.

    These days that kind of entertainment seems barbaric.

    Bear baiting was made illegal in 1836, the same year the gardens opened.

    The keeping of bears was not banned for quite a while after this and crowds would still flock to see a bear.

    This pit was designed and built with displaying a bear in mind.

    Sheffield’s bear pit was built for opening of the gardens in 1836 and housed a bear called Bruin, a black bear whose only entertainment was a tree placed in the middle of the pit for him to climb.

    Crowds would gather at the top of the pit to look at the bear, some people would throw food to it, shout or laugh at it.

    Sadly for poor Bruin, he didn’t much like climbing and because of this he wasn’t very popular.

    The Sheffield Mercury called him a “disappointment,” adding that he was “exceedingly loath to climb, and in what effort he did make, people thought him indolent, unapt, and unwieldy.”

    By 1839, newspaper reports were complaining of the “filth” and “stench” of the bear pit as it was rarely cleaned.

    I can’t find what happened to Bruin when the pit was closed. I’m hoping they let him retire to a reserve for bears somewhere but that’s highly unlikely and I don’t want to think about what fate awaited him because, going by what happened to other bears previously kept in pits in England, it would not have been good.

    There is a bear in the pit still as a way of showing visitors what the pit was originally meant for.

    This bear is named Robert the bear. You’ll see people photographing themselves, their children, their friends and their dogs here every single day.

    When Robert was first installed he was a pale silver grey color, but the metal was meant to rust naturally which created a realistic grizzly-brown color.

    Robert the bear is a Sheffield icon and you can find him on all sorts of products.

    In 2021 there was a trail of 60 bears, each one different.

    The Bears of Sheffield were 2.1m tall sculptures which were sponsored by organisations and families and decorated by acclaimed artists to raise money for the Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

    Artists that had decorated the bears included Tom J Newell, George Greaves, Laura Aldridge and Pete McKee.

    There were also 100 smaller Bears which were fundraised for and decorated by schools, nurseries and colleges.

    The bears awaiting distribution throughout the city of Sheffield.

    I spent a lot of my spare time that summer trying to collect them all as if they were some kind of huge Pokemon.

    I think there was just one or two I actually missed at the time but I have located them after.

    The bears were auctioned off to raise money for The Childrens’s Hospital Charity and bought by Sheffield businesses and some private owners. I know that two shops along Ecclesall Road bought one each as they now proudly display these in their shop windows.

    If those bears that took over Sheffield a couple of years ago look familiar to you then you would be right.

    They are all based on the statue of Robert the bear in the bear pit in the Botanical Gardens.

    The Victorians had some really odd pastimes.

    This was possibly because there was nothing on the TV in those days and the TV would not even be invented until 1934.

    The preservation of the pit is not due to any sort of need to keep the memory alive of what once was here.

    The pit is in such a good condition because it was used as a huge compost pit for decades.

    I don’t know when it was dug out and restored to how it is now but I do know that Robert the Bear was placed here in 2005.

    The bear that lives in the pit these days won’t harm you in any way. He doesn’t growl, need feeding or leave piles of smelly mess.

    Stop by and visit him one day.

  • Wordless Wednesday

  • Museums of The World: Weston Park Museum.

    Weston Park museum is just a short walk from home for me so this is a kind of regular haunt of mine.

    In the middle of Weston Park the museum was once a mansion house that housed the art collection of John Newton Mappin, a Rotherham buisnessman.

    Thusly the name above the original entrance of MAPPIN ART GALLERY.

    The grounds of the mansion would go on to become the park that we see today.

    Weston Hall was demolished in the 1930s and a purpose-built structure, adjoining the Mappin Art Gallery would go on to become the museum we see today.

    In December 1940 the Mappin Art Gallery had a bomb hit it directly during the Blitz which destroyed a significant part of the building and damaged much of the rest.

    During the 1950s and 1960s the museum remained open to the public, whilst the Mappin Art Gallery was left in a partially demolished state after the structure had been made safe.

    For much of the life of the building there were two separate buildings here, The Sheffield City Museum and the Mappin Art Gallery.

    In 2003 both buildings were closed for a massive renovation which bought the two together as the Weston Park Museum.

    The museum opened again in 2006 after the restoration which cost the city of Sheffield around £17 million.

    Ten years later, in 2016, the museum closed again for another renovation.

    The first time I ever visited the museum was before this in 2013 when it was very different.

    On my first visit the museum was made of taxidermy animals and some of the original paintings that belonged to the Mappin Art Gallery.

    After the 2016 renovation the museum was wholly different place to visit.

    Spike the Mammoth has been part of the museum since 2005 and was created by sculptor Richard Ison.

    Several galleries had been created, there were mock ups of shops and buildings and so much more to see.

    The first gallery that you come to on entering is a constantly changing display. A couple of years ago I went to see an amazing exhibition about the history of the circus featuring some decades old costumes.

    Today the main gallery has an exhibition about hair. There are displays of different types of combs and brushes, things made from hair and a huge display of wigs and their different uses.

    One of the oddest things on display in the museum are these underpants that were donated by Monty Python’s Flying Circus founder Michael Palin. Palin, of course, was born and raised in Sheffield.
    A whole rack of platform shoes from the 70’s. Not going to lie but I would happily wear any of them.
    Regular reader will know my obsession with a band that broke up three years before I was even born. You’ll understand how exciting this ticket to Sheffield City Hall was the first time I saw it. Also, the second. And third.
    In the magazine at the top right is an interview with Mike from the band Flintlock. Pointless fact: I went to the same Dagenham school as Flintlock, about 10 years after they did. Also a couple of members of 80’s pop band 5 Star. My music teacher would constantly talk about each band.
    This recreation of a 1970’s room makes me feel strangely at home. It also makes me feel like it’s Sunday afternoon.
    You know you’re getting old when a museum features toys that you used play with as a child.
    A recent addition is the wonderful Egyptian room.
    People of Sheffield still talk fondly of the department store Cole Brothers which once stood in the city centre. It became part of the John Lewis group before closing down a couple of years ago. This is the original signage.
    It wouldn’t be a Sheffield museum without any mention of the mining strikes of the 1980’s. Coming from Essex and never being affected by them, it is an education of what happened.
    These Punch and Judy dolls belonged to Professor De Lyle who performed with them in Sheffield parks and for parties in the first half of the 20th Century.
    This is a mock up of how the kitchens would have looked when new in the Park Hill flats which were constructed in the 1960’s.
    Here and next image: these automatons that are beautifully wood carved move on the press of a button. Annoyingly I couldn’t upload a video but these are always a highlight of visiting the museum for me.
    This dress made of human hair was created by artist Jenni Dutton using hair collected from her friends hair salon.
    As a cat owner I know just how hair gets everywhere. This model has been made of a cat using the hair recovered from a sofa.
    A useful book for any dog owner, especially if they have long fur.
    This is a mock up of a butchers shop that once stood in Sheffied. Inside there is a screen showing a looped video of the owners of the shop when they retired and sold the building.
    Not real meat.

    Any visit to Sheffield wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Weston Park Museum.

    Weston Park museum is free to enter and you could do worse than taking a walk in Weston Park itself which is beautifully landscaped and has some of the friendliest ducks you’ll ever meet.

    I visit quite regularly, to visit the ever changing exhibitions but also because it’s just a short walk from home for me.

    Inform: There’s a lot of information here about Sheffield life and even if you have visited before there will always be something new to learn.

    Educate: Absolutely. Not growing up in South Yorkshire I have used the museum to educate me in the city that I have adopted as home.

    Entertain: It’s easy to while away an hour here. There are interactive displays and plenty of videos that you’ll need to watch at least on one visit.