Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sheffield Blitz: lost eyewitness account from Marples Hotel survivor comes to light in archives



Marples Hotel ruins after Blitz, 13 Dec 1940
(Picture Sheffield: s02100)
An exciting discovery has recently been made at Sheffield City Archives - a lost eyewitness account from a Sheffield Blitz survivor of the bombing of the Marples Hotel in Fitzalan Square.  At 11.44pm on the night of 12th December 1940, the Marples Hotel suffered a direct hit from a 500 lb Luftwaffe bomb which sent all seven stories of the building crashing down, killing an estimated 70+ people who were seeking refuge from the air raid attack in the cellars below. It was the single biggest loss of life sustained in the Sheffield Blitz.

The eyewitness account is that of Lionel George Ball, a 27 year-old lorry driver, who lived at 180 Badminton Road in Bristol, one of just seven people recorded as having been pulled out alive from the hotel ruins. The account was found in a Sheffield City Coroner’s inquest case file into a presumption of death from enemy action.


Part of Lionel Ball's statement, July 1941
(Sheffield City Archives: CC1/5/2)
The inquest in question was held specifically into the ‘alleged death’ of Frank Dalton of 20 Popple Street, Sheffield, who was believed to have been killed in the Marples but his body (like so many of those sheltering in the cellars of the hotel when the bomb struck) was never recovered and identified. The inquest was not held until August 1941 (eight months after the fatal Luftwaffe attack). Dalton was serving as a sergeant in the Royal Air Force at the time but was thought to have been back in Sheffield on leave on the night of 12th December 1940 where he is understood to have gone to the Marples.

Just seven Sheffield City Coroner’s inquest case files into ‘alleged deaths’ of individuals thought to have been killed in the Marples Hotel have survived in the Sheffield City Coroner’s collection at Sheffield City Archives where they are stored in bundles respectively dated 1940 and 1941 (ref. CC1/5/1-2). The newly discovered inquest case file had evidently been misfiled many decades previous, in a bundle from a different year. The file has now been reunited with other inquests from 1941. Unlike the other coroner’s inquest case files, this new file includes a clear and compelling witness statement from someone who took shelter in the cellars of the Marples on the night of 12th December 1940 but was one of the fortunate few to surface the next day from the rubble alive. The inquest confirms how on the morning of 13th December, seven men were rescued from the cellars and statements were obtained from five of them, one of whom was Lionel George Ball.
Marples Hotel as it stood in 1905 (Picture Sheffield: s03284)

In his statement (dated 29 July 1941) submitted to the Sheffield Police and passed to the inquest, Ball relates how he had arrived in Sheffield from Bristol on the night of 12th December 1940 and had gone for a drink at the Marples Hotel with a fellow lorry driver William Wallace King who was also employed by the same Bristol-based firm (King is listed as another of the seven survivors from the Marples).

Ball recalls how the air raid that night started around 7.10pm but became so intense that it was felt unsafe to leave the hotel and so he and King took refuge in the cellar bar (known as the ‘Tudor Lounge’) where he estimates there were between 60 and 80 other people. He recalls an earlier bomb blast in the vicinity of the hotel which injured several people in the cellar bar. This would have been a bomb known to have been dropped at 10.50pm which hit C&A Modes Department Store (standing opposite the Marples Hotel), the flying debris from which struck the hotel. Ball tells of how he and King helped to take some of the injured into the ‘Bottle Stores’ adjoining the cellar bar where they remained with five other men. An eighth man joined them moments before the hotel received a “direct hit”. This was the fatal bomb which fell at 11.44pm. After the bomb hit, in Ball’s words:

Public-house entertainment at the Marples Hotel,
Fitzalan Square, 30 March 1940 (Picture Sheffield: s02038)
“the place seemed to collapse, but the roof of the part of the cellar where we were held. A fire started and it was like a furnace all round us. The exits were blocked by debris...”

Ball goes on to tell how one of the eight men in the Bottle Stores later died from his wounds and the seven remaining survivors were “cut off” in the cellar until 10am the following morning. Ball says: “We were digging ourselves out all night by using our hands and pipes which we wrenched off the barrels”.

When shown a photograph by the Sheffield Police of the missing man at the centre of the particular inquest, Frank Dalton, Ball was able to confirm how he was the same man (wearing an RAF sergeant’s uniform) he had spoken to earlier on that fateful night in the Tudor Lounge cellar bar, thus confirming that Dalton was in the Marples shortly before the hotel was struck. Ball recalled how Dalton had told him how he had flown several missions over Germany in the course of the war. Another witness for the inquest, Alfred Pickett, a 28 year-old plumber, who lived at 133 White Lane, Gleadless (and who had a lucky escape after he left the Marples Hotel just minutes before it was bombed) told of seeing an “RAF air gunner” he believed to have been Frank Dalton coming down the stairs to the Tudor Lounge who had been cut by “flying glass” from the earlier blast which struck C&A Modes. He heard Dalton say: “Fancy me having been over Germany so many times and having to put up with this”. When Pickett left the Marples around 11.30pm, he noticed the man he identified as Dalton sitting in the Tudor Lounge. 15 minutes later Dalton and the some 70+ people with him were dead.

Marples Hotel – ruins with survivor on stretcher,
13 Dec 1940 (Picture Sheffield: s02104)
There were no survivors recovered from the Tudor Lounge cellar bar. The Bristolians Ball and King evidently owe their chance survival to the fact that they had helped to take those injured in the earlier blast into the adjoining Bottle Stores, the roof of which somehow held whilst the main cellar roof collapsed, killing all those sheltering underneath. 

The Sheffield Blitz Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SheffieldBlitz75th
Blitz exhibition at the National Emergency Services Museum, Sheffield: http://www.emergencymuseum.org.uk/

 








Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: The edge of physics by Anil Ananthaswamy

This book is part-travelogue, part-popular-science investigation, and a fascinating journey around the world of physics. As the title suggests, Ananthaswamy investigates topics on the fringes of our knowledge, often in remote or inaccessible places. 

Ananthaswamy's main focus is the physics, but his book also records the experiences and stories of the people he meets, giving a human angle to an abstract topic. The complex ideas are broken up by asides and anecdotes, which provide a lighthearted touch to a serious subject. This makes for an interesting and compelling account where I learnt a lot while visiting all the interesting and different locations along with him. 

His descriptions allowed me to imagine where he was and what the conditions were like for the people working there. Many of the places are locations few people will get to see, so I felt privileged and pleased to get the chance, even if it was by proxy.

Originally published in 2010, this still contains many relevant details today in 2017.

If you like the sound of this, you might also like:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Exploring the archives: the early history of film and cinema in Sheffield

Students in the School of English at the University of Sheffield are provided with the opportunity of taking a work placement as part of their degree programme.  This year we’ve been lucky enough to have two students working with us at Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library.  Amy Guest has been researching the history of film and cinema in Sheffield using the wealth of fascinating sources stored deep in the basement of the Central Library.  Her work links in with similar research being conducted at the University of Sheffield, giving us a clear picture of the breadth of material the city has as a whole.  In this blog, Amy gives a brief overview of film and cinema history in Sheffield and showcases a few of the early photographs and advertisements that have survived…

Sheffield Picture Palace, Union Street, 1915
(Picture Sheffield: y05044)
The history of cinemas in Sheffield is an interesting one, dating to the advent of cinematic work in the late nineteenth century.  Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library has a range of material, secondary and primary, on the history of Sheffield Cinema with a source guide providing aid to those interested in researching this topic.  This blog provides a short overview of the early history of cinema in the city using these sources.

Cinematographer, Jasper Redfern, opened Central Hall Norfolk Street on 10th July 1905, which hosted films and animated pictures along with variety acts. 
The first purpose-built cinema in Sheffield was the Picture Palace in Union Street created in 1910. This followed a trend of purpose built cinemas being built in the 1910s onwards because of the Cinematograph Act passed in 1909, regulating standards for condition of premises and in the interest of public health and safety.  As early film was made from cellulose-nitrate it was highly flammable and so this Act included the regulation of fire precautions such as the provision of separate, fire resisting projection boxes and fire-fighting equipment.  This made small travelling shows and the haphazard use of buildings untenable.
'What's on in Sheffield', 1915 (Picture
Sheffield: y05044)

The Picture Palace was built by Benton and Robertson, Architects with a 1,000-seat capacity, opening on 1st August 1910.  It remained open until 1964 but was later demolished like so many other buildings of this era.  Thankfully, a comprehensive photographic record of these by-gone buildings can be found on Picture Sheffield (www.picturesheffield.com).

Many more ‘picture palaces’ were built from the 1910s onwards such as: the Electra Palace opened 1911; Wincobank Picture Palace opened 1914; and Lansdowne Picture Palace opened 1914. To satisfy public hunger for film entertainment, according to the late Clifford Shaw, a total of thirty cinemas had been built or were in the process prior to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.

Electra Palace interior showing seating and balcony
(Picture Sheffield: s08055)
The architecture of the first purpose-built cinemas shared their aesthetic with theatres and opera houses as can be seen from the interior images of the Picture Palace and Electra with their balconies and interior design similar (right). This is probably because cinema was in its infancy and so building with such styles set cinemas in the same category as familiar entertainment venues, before they developed their distinct character and style with the evolution of cinema across the twentieth century.
Electra Palace advert, 1914
(Picture Sheffield: y05049)
Electra Palace interior; opened 1911 (Picture
Sheffield: s02694)
 
Union Street Picture Palace; opened 1910
(Picture Sheffield: s08069)
Prior to the building of purpose-built cinemas, cinematograph showings in the 1890s and first decade of the twentieth century, were largely performed in already existing theatres, auditoriums, music halls, such as the Sheffield Empire and Albert Hall. As such, cinema was not consider a separate entertainment entity or art in its own right at first, instead being set in a variety of amusements and entertainments. Thus early cinematographers were usual variety showmen with a selection of entertainment acts, rather than purely working on moving pictures. Pictured (below) is an advertisement for 'cinematograph entertainment' provided by ‘Prof de. Lyle’ aka George A. Fox, a showman, conjuror and resident at Ecclesall Road.
(Picture Sheffield: v01305)
 

As Cinema, in its early years, was not yet a fully-fledged art form, most early films were shorts with live orchestral accompaniment and depicted everyday subjects, rather than the more ambitious projects undertaken in cinema from the 1910s onwards.
Fitzalan Square, c.1900 - the Wonderland booth can
be seen to the right beside the Bell Hotel
(Picture Sheffield: s16021)

Travelling shows at fairgrounds, markets and holiday resorts were a mainstay of cinematic showings in the 1890s. More permanent fairground structures in Sheffield were created such as Wonderland, Fitzalan Square which showed short films in a primitive fashion. It was demolished in 1910 and replaced by the purpose built Electra Palace (pictured).
Frank Mottershaw (Picture Sheffield: y02357)

In June 1896, the first cinematic display was shown by the Lumière brothers touring company, who had been experimenting with photography since the 1880s; they were part of the variety bill at the Empire Palace. They mostly showed street scenes of everyday life. Evidently a success, it returned again in September of the same year.
Mottershaw family (Picture Sheffield
y02358)

Sheffield had a prominent role in early cinema through the Mottershaw family who founded the Sheffield Photo Company in the 1890s and were significant in the development in early British cinema.  On Queen Victoria’s visit to Sheffield in 1897 to open the Town Hall, the Mottershaws photographed the event and purchased a film of the occasion along with other shorts which they showed in touring presentations.  They made their own film for the first time in 1900 with Dolly Grey - a garden party of a local family - and subsequently began film production from then onwards.

One of their main contributions was pioneering chase sequences in a number of films: A Daring Daylight Robbery, 1903; Robbery of the Mail Coach, 1903 and the 1905 picture The Life of Charles Pearce which used on location footage in Sheffield for a sense of realism by using the actual haunts of its titular figure. These films were exported around Britain and abroad in America, although there was a significant issue with piracy of films at the time, likely due to the newness of the medium and therefore difficultly in enforcing copyrights. Despite these difficulties, the Mottershaw Sheffield Photo Company  was appointed official photographer by Edward VII in 1905.
From SUFC programme, 24 Feb 1900 (Picture Sheffield: y03515)

Finally, to satisfy those interested in Sheffield football club history, here are some stills of The English Cup Sheffield United v. Sheffield Wednesday match at Owlerton, Monday 19th February 1900 by the cinematographer Jasper Redfern (left).



Amy Guest, University of Sheffield

 

Early moving footage online:


Experience Sheffield's oldest working picture house first hand: http://www.abbeydalepicturehouse.com/



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

New course starting at Sheffield Archives this autumn...


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: The name of the wind by Patrick Rothfuss

How to describe this book? Rothfuss takes the reader on a twisting, turning, and seemingly totally mundane journey that manages to grab hold and not let go.

His protagonist, Kvothe, decides to tell his life story to a man known as The Chronicler, and the narrative jumps between the telling and the living. In another writer's hands, this could be too confusing, but Rothfuss handles it exceptionally well. There are passages where nothing much seems to happen, which would usually be the point where I put the book down, but I was so captivated by the prose and the characters that I couldn't stop reading.

Rothfuss has created a self-contained and believable world, with plenty of nuance and interest, and since this story is intended as a trilogy, there's more where this came from. Thank goodness.



If you like the sound of this, you might also like:
Review written by Ann Brook (Library and Information Assistant)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Exploring the Archives: Sheffield Castle - the city’s lost landmark


Artist's impression of Sheffield Castle in 1060
Students in the School of English at the University of Sheffield are provided with the opportunity of taking a work placement as part of their degree programme.  This year Mollie Littlewood is working with us at Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library.  She is writing a series of blog posts highlighting the city’s fascinating archival treasures. This week she took a walk down to Castlegate to try and better understand a document she found in the archives...
Map data copyright 2017 Google
On the site next to Wilkinson's, Castle Market stood from 1965 to 2015; it was named after the building that was once in its place. Over 900 years ago on this same spot next to the River Don, the first earth and timber castle was constructed by William De Lovetot. This wooden castle, along with most of the town was destroyed by John de Eyvill’s forces in 1266. King Henry III granted permission for it to be rebuilt in stone in 1270, and this stone castle formed the centre of the structure which survived until the 17th century.

Plan of Sheffield Castle about 1700 (drawn
in the 1930s)
Sheffield Archives holds a document dated 16th November 1586 which details the inventory of armour held at the castle at that time. According to the document the castle held various weapons and pieces of armour. These included pistols, firearms, muskets and haldberds (a combination of spear and battleaxe). The castle stored armour for the horsemen and footmen which included ‘Jacks and plat coattes’ which were a sleeveless coat or tunic worn by foot soldiers and coats of plate armour, a kind of light armour first used in Germany called ‘Almann Revett’. There were also pieces of armour for protecting specific parts of the body;
Gorget - a piece of armour for the throat
Curiass of proof - a piece of armour consisting of breast and back plate made of tested metal
Morryan - a kind of helmet without beaver or visor 
Poldrens’ - shoulder plates
Scules’ - skull caps made of metal
Splents’ - overlapping pieces of steel in armour often used for the knee and elbow to give flexibility
Vambracis’ - a piece of armour protecting the forearm from the elbow to the wrist.


Sheffield Castle excavations recorded by J.B. Himsworth.
Shoe found in Castle Moat.
Western Park Museum exhibits items from the Sheffield Castle including fragments of jugs, cooking pans and plates that would have been used by ordinary people. The museum also has items that would have been found in the castle armoury including stone and iron cannonballs, a lead musket ball and an iron spur that would have been worn by the horsemen.

Inventory of armour at Sheffield Castle
dating from 1586 (Sheffield Archives)
Despite the Castle’s vast armoury, this did not prevent it being severely damaged in a parliamentary siege during the English Civil War in August 1644. The castle was able to withstand the siege for several days because of its 18 feet deep moat and walls that were two yards thick. However, two larger cannons were brought in and caused major damage to the castle walls.

Two years later on 30th April 1648 the House of Commons resolved that Sheffield Castle should be made untenable. The order was carried out that same year and the stone and various effects were sold to local people for building material, meaning that the body of Sheffield Castle is perhaps still standing in fragments and spread across the city.

Stones from Sheffield Castle
The document detailing the inventory of armour at Sheffield Castle is also fascinating in itself. It is now over 400 years old. There is evidence of where the edges have at one time been folded and pieces have been ripped away. However the ink has not faded and the writing is still clear, although the style of handwriting is difficult to read.

The handwriting used in this document is a specific style of handwriting that was developed in the 16th century because of the new diversity of uses for writing. What was demanded was ‘a universally acceptable style - one which could be written quickly and read everywhere without difficulty - a handwriting for the ordinary man.’ Of course this handwriting is now practically illegible to the 21st century lay person, however at the time it was introduced to create a standard handwriting that did not represent an individual, as handwriting normally does, but that looked consistent whoever was writing it. This type of handwriting was called ‘Secretary’. There were three types of Secretary handwriting; engrossing, upright and sloped. Sloped style had no consistency between the different letters and it was influenced by the consistent slope of italic hand. Engrossing secretary, or ceremonious hand, had regularity in design, a consistent uprightness, absence of linking strokes between the letters and a contrast between different strength of strokes.
Read today some of the letters can be mistaken for a different letter, for example the e and the c in upright secretary look very similar. The letter h bears no resemblance to the way we write the letter h today, but looks closer to the letter g or S as it begins with a loop and is finished off with a deep curving swirl underneath. The letter p is written in one continuous action and often looks like an x. The letters a, c, and g are sometimes begun with ‘a long straight stroke, inclined to the right and rising high above the line of writing’. The letters can be difficult to distinguish from one another making the handwriting difficult to read.
Coloured reconstruction of the castle (from Brightside
and Carbrook Co-operative Society Annual Report 1968)
Although at first glance this document looks impossible to engage with, when you begin to learn about the style of handwriting and how the different letters are formed it becomes slightly clearer. I know I felt an achievement when I began to recognise and was able to read these 400 year old letters and words within the document. Along with the incredibly helpful transcription this document detailing the inventory of armour in Sheffield Castle in 1586 is a gateway into exploring the inner workings of the castle, but also a glimpse into 16th century life in this city.



Mollie Littlewood


The Inventory of armour in Sheffield Castle, 1586 is available to view at Sheffield Archives upon request.  Please quote the reference number: JC/919.  A transcript is available on the Archives catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/SheffieldArchives/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=JC%2f14%2f19&pos=2
For more information on the Sheffield Castle site see: http://friendsofsheffieldcastle.org.uk/


For a full list of sources at Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library relating to Sheffield Castle, see our comprehensive Study Guide: http://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/libraries-archives/access-archives-local-studies-library/research-guides/castle





 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Exploring the archives: Sheffield's first free public library


Frank Waddington's watercolour of Sheffield Central Library, 1934
Students in the School of English at the University of Sheffield are provided with the opportunity of taking a work placement as part of their degree programme.  This year Mollie Littlewood is working with us at Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library.  She is writing a series of blog posts highlighting the city’s fascinating archival treasures.  This week she’s been looking at the very first handwritten Library Committee minute book from 1853 to uncover the origins of the library service in Sheffield…

The front cover of the first Library Committee minute book
at Sheffield Archives dating back to 1853
The job of establishing a free public library in Sheffield was undertaken by the Free Public Library Committee. The committee meetings were attended by the Mayor, the aldermen, the councillors and inhabitants of the Borough who were not members of the council. Sub-committees were also appointed to handle certain aspects of the project. For example a Book Sub-committee was established which controlled the purchasing of books for the library. There was also a General Reference Sub-committee which assisted the librarian and attended to the state of the library. The first meeting of the committee was held on Monday 19th December 1853. By 1856 a public library was open to the people of Sheffield. Sheffield Archives holds the original handwritten minute books of the Free Public Libraries Committee. These document the process of the establishment of Sheffield’s central library and branch network.

Mechanics' Institute, Surrey Street - home of the
original reading rooms of the public library.
The plan of the committee was to establish both a library and museum in the city; however, the library was prioritised. At the first meeting it was decided that a Borough Rate of one half penny was to be introduced to pay for the library. The library could have been located at Arundel Street on land adjoining the School of Design, however the site was rejected as ‘not sufficiently eligible’ with the feeling that a better site could be found.  Their judgement was correct as on 4th January 1855 the committee were offered two rooms in a building held by the Sheffield Mechanics Institute on Surrey Street – the same site at which the library is still located today. One of the rooms in the Mechanics Institute was already used as a library and so this formed the basis upon which to build the Sheffield Library. The committee went on to rent the entire ground floor and basement of the Mechanics Institute for the use of the library.

After finding a suitable site one of the first jobs of the Committee was to appoint a Librarian. An advert was put out in the local newspapers on 6th March 1855 for a Librarian who was ‘required to devote his whole time to the duties of the office and to act also as secretary to the Public Library Committee’. Fifty nine people applied for the role; Mr Walter Parsonson was appointed and he remained the Chief Librarian for many years. As the library grew in size and more rooms were rented from the Mechanics Institute, an Assistant Librarian, Mr Thomas Hurst, was appointed to help manage the workload.

The committee also drew up rules and regulations for the library, which included:

  • Library to be open every day 10-2 and 4-9:30
  • 'No person shall be admitted who is intoxicated or in an uncleanly condition'
  • 'No person shall be allowed the use of the library, without first obtaining the signatures and addresses of two ratepayers whose names appear on the Burgess Roll of the Borough'
  • No one under the age of 14 allowed in the Reading Room

The Librarian also reserved the right to delay the issue of books if he felt the need to enquire into the person wanting to loan the books, or their referees. There was also a restriction on how many items were allowed to be loaned out from the library. Readers could not take out more than one volume and one unbound periodical at one time. The books were also marked with letters A to I, similar to the system still used today, and all books could be kept out for 14 nights except for those marked with H or I. Also, like in libraries today, there was a fine if a book was not returned on time. In certain circumstances the penalty would increase to that reader being denied access to the library for an agreed amount of time.

The first handwritten minutes of the Library Committee, 1853
There were certain learning curves that the Library Committee had to go through in setting up the library. For example the Librarian kept a Register Book in which he wrote the number of the reader’s ticket when books were taken out. However it was noticed that when books went missing a lot of them had been taken out under wrong numbers.  Because of this it was decided that the name of the reader would be recorded in the Register Book as well as their number so it would be known who was not returning books. This system has evolved over the years to become the electronic library card system we use today.

These first three minute books (all bound together in one) depict a period of experimentation for the Sheffield Library in its first few years of existence. In 1857 there was an experiment to see if the working men of Sheffield would appreciate a public museum. Readers were allowed access once a week for three hours to the museum of the library and the Philosophical Society. However it was concluded that the museum would not get an increasing number of visitors because it was not sufficiently stocked, the objects were not sufficiently classified and that the room was too gloomy. It was felt that the money should be put into the library instead.

On 11th April 1856 a room in the library was opened solely for the use of female readers. A year later there was a suggestion they remove the female reading room and make it into something else, however it was seen as a positive that women had their own space to go and read. A report by the General Reference Sub-committee in the minute books observes that the room was being more frequently used. It is pointed out that if the room were to be made into something else the library would lose a large portion of its visitors as one quarter of books borrowed were borrowed by females:

The original reading room
‘were the room to be applied to another than its present purpose, the females would not only be deprived of a privilege which they duly value and avail themselves of, but by being denied the necessary accommodation, would in many cases be prevented from attending the library...’ 

The number of readers attending the library overall is documented as having increased every year since the library opening. However, even though the library was being enjoyed by the people of Sheffield, in the 1860 report the committee admits that the stock of books was still much lower than needed and that ‘many who desire to use the Lending Department are deterred from doing so by the difficulty of procuring the works they wish to read.’ They also report that the library was ‘insufficiently supplied with the current literature of the day’ and that they were without many of the standard works a public library should have.

The original minute book at Sheffield Archives
Although the committee reports that the library was insufficiently stocked, it was felt that more space was needed. In the 1859 report the establishment of branch libraries is suggested as it was felt that ‘the time will shortly come when better arranged and more spacious accommodation will be required for both readers and books’. The first branch library opened at Albert Terrace Road in Upperthorpe in 1869. There is still a library at Upperthorpe to this day, located in the Zest Centre.

The Sheffield Library service expanded considerably thereafter with branches being established across the city. The success of the original two-roomed public library, established over 160 years ago, is evidenced by the fact that the library network in Sheffield is still a busy, vibrant place where people use computers, attend events, meet people, conduct historical research and, of course, borrow books. It is thanks to the Sheffield Free Public Library Committee who set up the library system in 1853 - and whose every decision is carefully written out in hand in the many volumes of minute books at Sheffield Archives - that we have the modern library network we use today.

Mollie Littlewood

Source: minute book of the Sheffield Free Public Library Committee, 1853 - 1870 (Sheffield Archives: CA-LAM/1/1) - available to view at Sheffield Archives by request.

To mark its 100th anniversary, the Libraries Committee commissioned a short film about Sheffield Libraries called 'Books In Hand'.  This is available online via the Yorkshire Film Archive website and is well worth a watch: http://www.yorkshirefilmarchive.com/film/books-hand

 
 




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: Adventures in the Anthropocene by Gaia Vince

We're entering a new geological age: the anthropocene. This is the era where humankind's effects on the planet are making themselves known. In this absorbing book, Gaia Vince travels the world to find out how people are living and coping with these changes.

Each chapter focuses on a different biome (including the atmosphere, rivers, oceans, savannahs, rocks, and cities), and this format provides a logical and progressive order to this challenging field of research. The language is clear and accessible without dumbing down the complexities. 

Vince talks to the people on the ground who are employing innovative solutions to environmental problems. These solutions can be controversial and she isn't afraid of showing some criticism or skepticism where necessary. However, with many of the techniques yielding results and even exceeding expectations, Vince also has the happier task of describing the success stories too.

The problems are big and their impact is vast, but the ingenuity of people is astounding, and gives me hope that we can make the most of this new age.


If you like the sound of this, you might also like:
Review written by Ann Brook (Library and Information Assistant)