Thursday, 24 March 2016

Britain's tallest carousel ride, Fargate.

Britain's tallest carousel ride, Sheffield, Fargate, March 2016Hooray! Britain's tallest carousel ride has now been erected in Fargate in Sheffield city centre.

If memory serves me right, it's two hundred and twenty feet tall, which makes it just thirty five feet shorter than the University Arts Tower and therefore makes it one of the tallest structures in Sheffield.

As I explained on Twitter on the day I took these photos, I have so far neglected to go on it.

There are those who may assume it's because I'm a spineless coward afraid of being flung around at great altitude in a way that nature never intended.

It is instead because Logan's Run has made me deeply distrustful of carousels.

It's also made me distrustful of robots who want to be sculptors.

Fortunately, there are no such robots in Fargate.

I've checked.

Anyway, here's a load of people who clearly don't realise that, now that they've been on it, it means they have to be disintegrated on their thirtieth birthday.

Britain's tallest carousel ride, Sheffield, Fargate, March 2016

Friday, 28 March 2014

Lees Hall, Gleadless.

Lees Hall duck pond, Gleadless Valley, Sheffield
Pond near the site of Lees Hall Farm - (Neil Theasby) / CC BY-SA 2.0
You have to hand it to Sheffield City Council. There's not many municipalities would think it a good idea to demolish a 16th Century mansion in order to create a rubbish tip - but Sheffield City Council did exactly that in the late 1950s when they knocked down Lees Hall in Gleadless Valley, in order to create what would later become the Blackstock Road Dump-It site.

Having done that, they then bulldozed the rubble into the house's duck pond, in order to completely remove all signs that any such thing had ever existed.

This is of course one of the great architectural scandals of Sheffield and would never be allowed today.

Lees Hall was a three story, triple gabled structure but all that remains of it now is the name - which lent itself to the neighbouring Lees Hall golf club - a bit of rubble and the above ditch which is the last remnant of the duck pond. Up until a few years ago, even that was lost but it was exposed during a clean-up of the site, meaning we can at least have a tantalising glimpse of what was once there.

That may be a picture of Lees Hall as it is now but pictures of it shortly before its destruction can be found at Picture Sheffield.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Egg Box Town Hall extension.

Sheffield Egg Box Town Hall extension being demolished
Photo by neuroticcamel from Sheffield, England (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I'll admit it. I liked the Egg Box. Plenty of people hated it but I refuse to hate any building that could possess such elements of chunky sticky-inness and sticky outness.

Not only that but it'll always hold a special place in my heart as the first building in Sheffield whose creation and then death I witnessed. Somehow, experiencing the entire lifespan of a building gives you a whole new view of life and the passage of time.

Of course, its great claim to fame was that, in Barry Hines' TV movie Threads, it was the location of the bunker from which Sheffield City Council would run the city in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Given that the council often struggle to run the city when there's not been a nuclear holocaust, perhaps it was a little optimistic to think they could run the place when there was one.

Well, that's all fine and dandy but, for me, its other claim to fame is that, in the 1970s, there was an amusement arcade in Blackpool that had a roof like an egg carton - and thus the two buildings felt like spiritual brothers. That building had a dalek you could sit inside and pretend to kill people with.

Sadly, Sheffield's building lacked such a thing.

No wonder it wasn't popular.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

King Edward VII School.

King Edward VII School, Sheffield
Photo by Wikityke at en.wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
There are times when it seems like every single famous person from Sheffield went to the same school as each other.

And that school is King Edward VII.

People from the Housemartins went there. People from Def Leppard went there. People from the Human League went there. People from Heaven 17 went there. Matthew Bannister went there. John Rawling went there. Graham Fellows went there. Rony Robinson went there. Professor Ian Fells went there. Clive Betts went there. Even that woman from Countryfile, who seems to be permanently pregnant, went there.

Of course, that impression's completely false - as I didn't got there; proving that even a boy from a bog-standard comprehensive can achieve global superstardom if he only clings to his dreams.

Admittedly, my dreams all involve talking bunny rabbits but how I cling to those talking bunny rabbits, desperate in my hope that they might somehow yet prove to be my one route to immortality.

To be honest, without Googling, there's little knowledge I can impart about the building itself but I can tell you that, of all the buildings in Sheffield, this is the one I would most like to adopt as my secret headquarters.

Admittedly, being so visible might make some feel it would serve poorly as a, "Secret," headquarters but, then, what's the point of having a secret headquarters if you can't shove it in everyone else's face that you have one?

Friday, 31 January 2014

Mappin Art Gallery and City Museum, Weston Park

Mappin Art Gallery and City Museum, Weston Park, Sheffield
Photo by Oosoom at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia)
[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Steve Does Facts:

The museum first opened in 1875 and was totally refurbished between 2003 and 2006. It attracts 250,000 visitors a year.

The art gallery was closed in the 1950s and 1960s, having been hit by a bomb and partially demolished during the war.
Dinosaurs aren't just ugly, they can also be a major letdown.

The ones in Sheffield's City Museum certainly are.

Mostly because they don't exist.

Nor are there any woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers or even a killer possum to excite the childish imagination.

And so it was that my first ever visit to Sheffield's city museum as a child was a severe disappointment to me.

Still, there were some good things to say about it. It had a stuffed polar bear and it had a bee colony stuck to one of its windows.

On top of that, on the way to it, we went past a genuine skyscraper in the form of the University Arts Tower which, despite it being the tallest building in the city and standing out like a sore thumb in its low level surroundings, I'd up until then somehow totally failed to notice the existence of.

But, of course, the building still manages to be a magical building because it not only contains the city's primary museum but also its major art gallery.

The dual purpose isn't in itself magical. What is magical is that the two buildings are separated by a single glass door in a corridor and that stepping from one building to the other really does feel like you're doing something strangely forbidden, even though you're not. I can only compare it to the feeling you used to get whilst using that mysterious subterranean tunnel that once linked Redgates toy shop to the former Quadrant Stationers.

It's strange how a building that lacks magic through its lack of monsters can instead have a sense of magic through having something as humble as a door.

And perhaps that's why doors still exist and dinosaurs are long gone. If only dinosaurs had had the cunning of doors, maybe, just maybe, they too would still be with us.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Moor Market.

The Moor Market, Sheffield
Photo © Copyright Peter Barr and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Castle Market may have breathed its last but, to take its place, we have the brand new Moor Market which manages to be diametrically opposed to its predecessor both geographically and conceptually, being at the polar opposite end of the town from the traditional markets area - and being what's basically a large shed as opposed to the insane labyrinth of Castle Market.

To be honest, being tight-fisted, I've not yet bought anything there but have had a couple of walks around. What most strikes me is that, despite its greater simplicity, it seems harder to navigate than Castle Market. Castle Market may have seemed convoluted but, thanks to the stairwells and the junction with the neighbouring meat and fish market, you mostly understood where you were relative to the overall building. The Moor Market's lack of such landmarks makes it easier to gain a sense of disorientation.

Design-wise, the most impressive thing about the building is its high-profile arched entrance that contrasts dramatically with the near-secret entrance to Castle Market.

The least impressive thing design-wise is probably the blank, unadorned wall facing Cumberland Street. It does seem odd that the side that faces where all the buses stop should be so anonymous and present no noticeable point of access. On the other hand, the side that faces the neighbouring car park has two entrances. Clearly, when they were designing it, the council were far more concerned about convenience for drivers than for bus passengers. It seems some people's fears about the new markets being part of an obsessive council drive towards gentrification of the city may not be totally unfounded.

Overall, despite those reservations, I think I have to conclude that the lighter, less claustrophobic feel and the lack of internal staircases, make it a better place to shop than Castle Market. But the real good news for me is the building has a large Iceland and Poundland built into the side of it which is perfect for a man of my quality.

According to The Sheffield Telegraph, footfall on the Moor is up 30% thanks to the new building's opening. Hopefully this bodes well for the future development plans of the rest of the Moor.

Sadly, how footfall is holding up on Waingate since Castle Market closed, has yet to be reported.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Castle Market.

Castle Market, Haymarket, Waingate, Sheffield
Castle Market photo © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
In a tragedy for all lovers of rampantly lunatic architecture, Sheffield's Castle Market was closed down last week, to be replaced by a spanking new indoor market at the bottom of the Moor. From comments on various sites, it seems few'll miss it.

But I certainly will.

I'll miss it for three reasons.

One was that I have happy childhood memories of it. I got my first ever box of Lego there, from a stall that had a Lego model of Queen Elizabeth as its centrepiece. I got a Dalek money box from there - possibly from the same stall. I also got a machine gun (admittedly not a real one) from the market, and a banjo. Truly it was a place of many and magical delights for a child.

Secondly, in the good old days it had a pet shop in one of the units that lined the building's ground floor exterior. That shop's downstairs holds no great memories for me but the upstairs had goldfish and snakes. No trip to town was complete without a trip to see the snakes.

The other reason is that it's a building that makes no sense at all. So random is its exterior that it's impossible to close your eyes and imagine walking round the outside of it. It's like a whole bunch of different buildings have collided with each other through some process of continental drift.

Likewise with its oddly labyrinthine interior that left you with the feeling you could roam it every hour of every day of your life and somehow still never fully know it. There'd always be some nook, some cranny, you'd never before encountered. That might not have it a sensible design for a market building but it did mean it was impossible to get bored by it.

I assume it's a truly unique building because I can't believe anyone would ever have been daft enough to build another market anything like it but, of course, that means the complexity and randomness that made it a bizarre design for a market also made it seem oddly special.
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