Sheffield 1: campus memories

Halifax Hall Hotel, Sheffield

I spent four happy years as a student at the University of Sheffield. I met John there. Why then, I ask myself, is it 25 years since I last visited the city? I have no answer. However, in February John had a Friday meeting at the University so I tagged along and we made a long weekend of it, staying four nights in Halifax Hall. In my day, Halifax was a student residence – now it’s a very comfortable hotel (with great breakfasts), although it still belongs to the university and alumni get a good discount. From here we sallied forth to re-explore the city. I warn you that the next few posts are going to be jam-packed with nostalgic reminiscing!

A redbrick university

Sheffield is one of a group of “redbrick” universities established in the large, industrial cities of England in the early 20th century. The appearance of Firth Court (1905) might give a clue as to where this name comes from! This is the university’s main administration building which also contains Firth Hall used, amongst other things, for postgraduate ceremonies. John and I have both graduated here.

On my first morning, while John was at his meeting, I met an old friend, Jacky, in Firth Court’s café. Jacky is one of only two people whom I knew during both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees: we studied History (1975-8) and Librarianship (1979-80) together. I left Sheffield, but Jacky stayed on working in the University Library through which I was able to contact her. Despite not having met since the early 1980s, the years rolled away and we spent a couple of hours chatting over coffee, catching up and sharing memories.

The Arts Tower

Many new buildings have appeared round campus since I was a student, but in my opinion the 78 metre tall Arts Tower (1966) is still the university’s greatest icon. Despite the name, all the Arts departments have long since outgrown it and moved out, but in my first two years History occupied Floor 9. Here’s the Tower by night and day.

The university is surrounded by parkland. Here’s the Tower again from Weston Park and Crookes Valley Park. One of the first things John and I ever did together was take a rowing boat out on Crookes Valley pond.

As well as stairs and two ordinary lifts, the Arts Tower has a paternoster lift – a chain of open compartments that move in a continuous loop up and down the building. Here’s John descending and looking a bit wary – he’s never used it before. Being an engineer, he had no reason to visit the Arts Tower.

If you’re only going a few floors the paternoster can be quicker than waiting for the standard lift. I used it a lot and, although I never consciously felt nervous, I must have had some underlying anxiety because I occasionally dreamt about it. Either the lift would speed up so that it was going too fast to jump out, or the gap between lift and floor would suddenly increase so that it was too wide to jump across. Needless to say, neither of these things ever happened!

In my final year, History moved out of the Arts Tower to a building now occupied by Nursing and Midwifery (left, below). The School of Librarianship was in a house on a street called Claremont Crescent. Although Librarianship is no longer there, several houses in the street are still owned by the University. I couldn’t identify the right one for sure: it could have been this one – or maybe not!

The Library

Next to the Arts Tower, and joined to it by a bridge between their mezzanine floors, is the Western Bank Library (1959) in which I spent many hours studying. These days, it houses the university’s research collections and undergraduate material has moved to the Information Commons (2007).

Western Bank’s Reading Room windows look out onto Weston Park, and I confess that some of that studying time might well have been spent watching the ducks on the pond.

The Students’ Union

Most students spend a lot of time in the Union with its range of cheap bars and cafés and space for gigs and the occasional ball. The red brick building, Graves, is the oldest part of Sheffield’s Union dating from the 1930s. In my first year, I lived in lodgings on the edge of the city so often ate in Graves Restaurant, or one of the refectories in the more modern part of the Union, before going home in the evening. The menu consisted mainly of pie and chips, sausage roll and chips, and – you get the picture. I put on quite a lot of weight that year, although I was still almost skeletal compared to my current size. The rest of the Union dates from the 1960s – a fancy new tower at the front and some coloured lighting can’t disguise the old place from me!

Other sights / sites around campus

In the gallery above:

  • Two street signs at the edge of the campus. How could I ever forget those names?
  • The University Drama Studio now, as then, housed in the former Glossop Road Baptist Church. I went to many a performance during both my degrees, and only one was so bad that we left in the interval.
  • A mural on the side of the old Henderson’s Relish factory (also shown). Henderson’s Relish is a spicy Yorkshire sauce.
  • Allen the Peregrine by Jason Heppenstall. Allen was originally made to celebrate the opening of IKEA Sheffield and is made entirely of – allen keys. Now he perches outside The Diamond, the university’s new engineering building. I met John there after his meeting and we spent the rest of the day with two other old friends, John and Jill.

So many memories, and more to come – next time, I’ll move off campus to look round the city.

51 thoughts on “Sheffield 1: campus memories

  1. BeckyB April 27, 2019 / 11:37

    Been to Sheffield many time, and driven past even more on my way to Leeds but never managed to visit the University. Clearly I have missed out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. anotherday2paradise April 26, 2019 / 20:55

    How lovely it must have been after all these years, to reconnect with Jacky and reminisce about the old days. Sheffield is a very picturesque university and I love the two photos of the Arts Tower, by day and by night.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lisa Dorenfest April 25, 2019 / 20:37

    Interestingly, it was 25 years between visits for me to my alma mater (although mine was nowhere near as stunning as Sheffield and I did not meet my hubby there ;-). Lovely that you and Jacky were able to pick up right where you left off (and I assume the same happened later with John and Jill).

    I just adore when your John shows up in the post. He always manages to make me smile or in this case laugh. I think that paternoster might have been the thing of my nightmares as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. the eternal traveller April 25, 2019 / 05:09

    It would have been fun to return after so many years and revisit all your old haunts. And how nice to spend a lovely morning with your friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. restlessjo April 24, 2019 / 15:45

    It’s not a place I’ve spent much time but it looks to have some quirky, interesting corners. I have a friend at The Porter in Sharrow Vale Road but I don’t suppose you got out that way? Nice that you could meet up with an old friend. I’d never heard of a paternoster lift, but Mr Knowledgeable had, of course 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. bob April 24, 2019 / 00:41

    Always good to revisit places like that after a long gap, especially cities as they change so much. Looking at 1970s photos of Park Hill, Hyde Park, and various other districts it looks a hilly city which is always a bonus for views and parks.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ann Coleman April 23, 2019 / 20:27

    How fun! My husband and I also met at university, and we had a great time several years ago visiting our old campus with our two children in tow. We haven’t attended any official reunions, but like you, just had fun wandering around and remembering. That’s great that your old dorm is now a hotel, so you can still stay there when you visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. TanGental April 23, 2019 / 18:15

    My first experience of a paternoster was at a german law offices in the 1990s. The hosts assumed we knew what it was and stepped back to let us, me go first. In the end i dud this hop skip and slammed against the back wall. As i disappear the german laughter followed me. They do love their slapstick

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter April 23, 2019 / 20:07

      It’s the only one I’ve ever come across. I’m sure every first year student did as Hazel and I did and rode a complete circle, despite stern notices warning you not to,

      Liked by 1 person

      • BeckyB April 27, 2019 / 11:38

        There’s one at Essex Uni, but I never tried it on my brief tour there . . . always wondered if you could do the full circle!


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