book 4 Gaby Title.jpg

Chapter 37

Steel City

Oh sugar indeed!

“Well I wouldn't have guessed it was you.” Helen stated, “So you got any more pics of these con things?”

“None here.” I lied; I hope she didn't see the file tree just now.

“Pity it looks like its fun.”

“Yeah it is.”

“What's the time?”

“Ten past eight.”

“Shitzen! I'd better get home.”

Saved by the clock!

The rest of the Easter holiday was a bit strange. Ally and Em were still in Spain and Wales respectively and even Mad was still away at her Gran's so it was just me Bern and Helen. Between my training rides, Helen's Guides and Bern's babysitting we actually didn't really do much. My sister was hardly in evidence either; the girls are really into this band thing so they've been practicing all the time – like I believe that!

I had an appointment with Dr Johnson on Friday; I'm actually starting to like her. I mean for a doctor she's pretty cool, not all condescending or anything. Anyway we had quite a long chat about all sorts of stuff, of course she did the vampire bit too and prodded and poked my chest and um other bits.

“Well young man, it looks like things have slowed down a bit, it might be something to do with your more intensive bike training or it might be a natural slow down, the bloods should tell us which. Your Mum said you passed out again last Sunday?”

“It was a really hard race, I was just very tired.”

“Well I'm changing your iron dosage to see if that helps. Are you having any other problems?”

“My chest is always itching.”

“The cream not helping?”

“I um haven't been using it.” I admitted.

“Drew!” Mum put in.

“Easy Jenny,” the Doc soothed, “Drew you need to use the cream, it will ease the discomfort a lot, you are wearing the supports?”

You might call them supports but they are bras!

“Most of the time.” I had one on today of course, I'm not daft, but it makes things seem, I don't know, more weird. So okay I wear girl's knickers most of the time now but that's coz they are like more comfortable but the bras, well boys just don't wear them!

On Saturday it was Metheringham again, I was more switched on this week and had a much more even ride sat in the bunch – no showing off for Mum! It came down to a sprint which I lost by half a wheel to a lad twice my size and nearly two years older. I really do need to do some sprint training!

By contrast I spent most of Sunday with Jules catching up on the homework I should have done during the hols. The last day of the holiday and I was writing an essay about the Nazi's and their influence on pre war Germany. Heavy stuff and it took me nearly all day to finish.

“Hurry up Bond, we haven't got all day.”

“No Sir.” I hurried up to get on the school minibus for today's geography field trip.

You'd think they'd take us somewhere interesting wouldn't you but no, we get a day to Sheffield! I was the last on board so Mr. Pilling slammed the door shut behind me before going round to the front. Mum was in charge but Mr. P was driving. A bus full of teenagers is never gonna be quiet and the ride over to Sheffield was spent catching up on the news from the hols. All the gang were on board, Ally had a nice tan from Spain, Em er I mean Rhod had got his ears pierced and Mad had been to a Sci Fi Con in Liverpool with Uncle John and Aunt Carol.

I hadn't really been taking much notice of where we were until we pulled up in what looked like a housing estate.

“Come on people, we've got a lot to get in today.” Mum, erm Mrs. Bond told us.

We shuffled off the bus and Mum led us along the path and through a gate.

“Okay, quiet up! Right then we'll just walk down the path to the signpost before we go into Bishops House.” She indicated the black and white building, which had gained a bit of attention. We quickly reached the vantage point and Mum started her spiel.

“I'm sure you've all been to Sheffield before but the city you see now has changed immensely in the last two hundred years. What you can see behind me is very different from what you might have seen even twenty years ago.”

She paused before going on, “as recently as the 1980's this view would have been obscured most of the time by smog from the heavy industry in the city. Today it's a clean modern city but it owes that in large to a history founded on heavy industry, especially steel production and of course the city is famous for cutlery production too. We'll be looking at the industrial heritage and regeneration later on.

We'll start by looking at some pre industrial Sheffield, in a minute we'll have a look at Bishops House then we'll move on to Beechuff Abbey * . Then we'll pick up the industry trail at Abbeydale before we go to Kelham Island Museum. This afternoon we'll look at the Don Valley and its regeneration, if there's time we'll see some of Sheffield's hidden gems. Right, time to start! ”

We paused only briefly while some of us took photos, we've got a project to do on this and knowing Mum she'll be expecting a complete guidebook of our trip. Once inside it was clear that the impression outside of a small house was not deceiving, no Tardis ** effect here. I'm sure it's all very interesting but nothing in there was holding my attention so I was quite happy that the visit was short.

Our next stop was barely five minutes away and it was really more up Dad's street. I couldn't really see where Beauchief Abbey came into industrial heritage but Mrs. Bond assured us it did promising an explanation shortly. It wasn't exactly impressive, Dad has taken us to more than one old monastery and this was by comparison pretty grot – except of course that its still used as a church. Mum explained about something called contraction and showed us how big the abbey was originally.

It was already nearly eleven o'clock when we got to stop three, Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet *** another half a mile on. I'm pretty sure our flying visit missed some stuff but it was at least a bit more interesting than the first two stops. The oldest bits date from seventeen something and some of the houses were lived in right up until the 1970's. This place is one of the oldest steel production plants in the world and apparently the original crucible still produces steel on special working days.

They did everything here pretty much from making the steel to the end product, apparently they specialized in things like scythes, and the guide blokey did his best to explain how everything worked. I know he lost me when he started on about patent riveted scythes and forged crown scythes – guess I'll have to do some research at school on that. Apparently the Abbeydale set up is quite rare and before we left Mum told us about Shepherd Wheel **** which is much more typical of how they did things, what is called a single process site. As I read it that means it's a bit like a windmill where they only grind corn or, hey I guess like the language labs at school! Abbeydale is the equivalent of the school hall I suppose, it's multi functional! Mum's gonna like all this!

“Come on Drew, we're off now.” Ally advised waving her hand in front of my face.

“Yeah okay.”

“So what's making you smirk like the cat with the cream?”

“Nothing really, when do we eat, I'm starving.”

“Soon enough Bond.” Mr P's voice mentioned from behind me, “now hurry along or you'll have longer to wait.”

“Yes Sir” I sighed.

We drove up through Abbeydale Woods, I know that's what they are called coz Mum told us how they used to belong to the monks and stuff, and then dropped down into what Mum called the Forge valley. Why on earth did they build houses round here? It must be nigh on impossible to even walk up and down these roads let alone build on these steep hillsides. Mr P pointed out where the Shepherd Wheel was; you could just see the top end of the mill pool as we climbed back out of the valley. It must be bad riding a bike around here, it's all up or down and steep with it!

We couldn't avoid all the traffic; we had to make our way around the University before dropping down into the Don Valley to get to Kelham Island Museum ***** .

“Okay people!” Mum had to raise her voice to get us to be quiet. The museum is inside an old factory place and we were grouped by the main entrance. “There is quite a lot to see in here but I'm going to let you explore yourselves.” Brill! ”Take one of these sheets, I want you each to fill one out – you can go round in groups if you want but I want your answers okay. We'll use this as our lunch stop too so I want you all to meet at the cafeteria at one thirty. Mr Pilling and myself will be walking around so behave! Helen, can you give these out please.”

Hel gave everyone a clipboard from the pile, so this is what Mum was up to last week.

“Okay, any questions?”

Mad thrust her hand up.

“What Madeline?”

“Um where are the toilets?”

Of course that raised a few chortles.

This place was certainly more like it – inside, lots to see – and we lose the teachers for an hour! The old gang along with Helen set off; first stop the lav's, the sound of a big machine starting up attracting our attention.

The source of all the noise was a huge thing called the River Don Engine ****** , quite a crowd had gathered to see this monster in action. I was fascinated as the huge pistons and flywheels did their stuff, the girls were less than impressed and I was soon dragged off to the relative quiet of the next room. This bit was more museumy with all sorts of strange stuff from Sheffield's industrial past. There was everything from spanners to a huge pair of scissors about a metre long! Mum's questionnaire thingy certainly had us on our toes and some stuff needed more than one head to find!

We worked our way through the rooms which included cars, a really fancy Penny Farthing ******* , a reconstructed street and even the world's biggest bomb ******** ever which was made in Sheffield! We were booked into the café so when we got there we found several tables roped off with a sign saying ‘Warsop School' on it. I suppose they did mean us, anyway that's where Mum and Mr P were sat with their coffee when we loudly joined them. Lunch was a pack up, squidged sandwiches, a cold pasty, crisps and a bit of flapjack, I looked longingly at the counter from where I could smell sausages and that quiche Mum was tucking into was making my taste buds work overtime.

“Right, if you can all be back at the minibus in ten minutes please.” Mr Pilling intoned.

“Come on, let's see what's in the shop.” Bern encouraged.

“I need the loo, see you there.” I informed my mates turning towards the conveniences.

It wasn't so much the toilet I needed as much as the sinks – the smell of the food in the café finally got the better of me and I succumbed to a sausage sandwich, a bit pricey and I ended up squirting tom sauce everywhere but it quieted my rumbling tum!

‘Oh sugar,' I looked down at my jeans, today's field trip was ‘out of uniform' at least, and groaned at the mess of ketchup down my thigh – geez I look a right scruff. A wet paper towel removed most of the residue but left me with a wet leg ‘great!'

“There you are.” Ally mentioned waving me over, “what do you think of these?”

“What are they?”

“Recipe books, this ones got like Yorkshire cakes and stuff and the other one has all sorts of soup and stuff.”


“Well I thought as you like your food so much...”

“I don't cook it though – well not much.”


I turned my attention to the postcard rack, hmm I could get some for Dad and I could send one to Brit – hey now that's an idea! I selected several views of stuff in the museum and Sheffield then turned to ask Ally what she thought of the card with a tram going to the North Pole, bum where is everyone, oh sugar!

On impulse I grabbed one of the recipe books and went to the till to pay. So because I was late the girl on the till took forever, Mum's gonna go spare. I paid and grabbed my bag of stuff and dashed for the door. I skidded to a halt at the back of the group as Mum finished explaining about the huge lump of iron they were looking at.

“So the Bessemer converter ********* was instrumental in the start of large scale steel production here in Sheffield and worldwide. Good of you to join us Drew.”

“Sorry Mum.” Oops! Did I just say Mum?

“Miss, miss!”

Everyone turned to see who was shouting. It was the girl from the shop.

“Caught you! You forgot your change miss.” She announced then promptly took my hand and placed the money in it. “You don't want to go round leaving that much behind, not unless you find a rich boyfriend!”

I stood there dumbstruck; there was just no way I could escape from this. The young woman gave a cheery wave as she headed back inside.

To be honest I think my mind shut down.

“Excuse me miss , you forgot your change miss !” Clive mimicked.

That was the least of it. For the next five minutes I was the butt of every joke you could think of, why me? There was nothing to do about it other than hope they all tired of it quickly. Back on the minibus we headed towards the city centre.

“This afternoon we will be looking at some of the cities hidden, well not so much hidden but less known features as well as having a look at how the city is remembering it's industrial heritage.”

By now we were in the maze of one-way streets that make up Sheffield city centre, Mr P seemed to know where he was headed though and we pulled up right outside the Town Hall. We decamped amongst the shoppers and regrouped by the steps into the newly completed Peace Gardens. Mum explained the history behind this oasis in the heart of the city, even producing some photos of the old St Paul's church that stood here until WW2. There were some pre schoolers playing around the centrepiece fountain, darting in and out as the water rose and fell. We then did a short walk around the Town Hall area before returning to our transport where Mr P was waiting.

Another short drive and we offloaded at the canal basin. A lot of places have canals, a few have their own canal like Sheffield, but according to Mum nowhere else has a Straddle! It looked like just another one of those converted warehouse places, I've seen some in Nottingham and there's even one in Worksop. What makes this unique apparently is that the barges could / can go right through underneath to load and unload and when we got round the back they could actually moor up inside the warehouse that marked the end of the line.

the straddlebarge dock

Well it was pretty interesting so I took

A few pics for the project before we

returned to the bus.

Although it was bright enough early on it's been a bit overcast since Bee chief but as we set off for our next stop the sub was showing signs of making a late appearance. Mum was directing Mr. Pilling and after negotiating what Dad calls the magic roundabout where the trams run across the top, we used some back streets towards what I recognised as the Meadowhall area. I was surprised when we pulled up on a grotty bit of street with apparently nothing to see.

“We won't get off here but if you look on the wall over the road there is a plaque to commemorate the loss of I think it's twenty something people in a Zeppelin raid during World War One.”

“Zeppelin?” Paul enquired from the back row.

“You know like in Indiana Jones .” David Pratt offered.

“There's a museum in Germany.” I informed the bus, “I went last year.” I preened.

“Whatever miss Bond.” Pratt spat, his own importance sidelined.

“The boy's are right, what makes this significant is the impact it had on people not actually fighting in the war, anyone know why?” Mum asked.

There was a thoughtless silence before Helen spoke.


“Yes Helen.”

“Was it because it made them involved in the war more?”

“You have the gist of it Helen, up until the 1914-18 War unless you lived close by a battlefield wars were fought away from home, so ordinary citizens were rarely involved and only those losing family members would be affected. The use of airships and to a lesser extent aircraft, in the Great War changed all that forever.” Mum paused, “the result of raids such as this one on Sheffield by a silent, deadly enemy was very bad for morale, suddenly everyone was involved in war. None of those killed in the Sheffield raid were in the military, in fact there were several children lost to the bombs.”

The bus was reduced to silent contemplation for a few moments before Mr. Pilling set off for the next stop.

I guess Mum must've been around before or she had a map as she directed us into a housing estate where we gawped at a huge hydraulic press thing before parking up at the Don Valley Bowl. We trooped to the far side over near the tram line where there was another huge lump of steel which turned out to be another, more modern Bessemer converter. It could do with a lick of paint but we all made use of the stairs and viewing platform that have been installed.

Mum went on about regeneration and stuff, how all this area of the Lower Don Valley was once filled with heavy industry. Well the Arena and Stadium have been here as long as I remember but Mum says that they are going to build more sports facilities in this area later in the year making Sheffield a regional centre of excellence. Whatever. From our vantage point Mum pointed out where there is some Roman ditch thing and a hillfort like the ones Dad drags us to every now and then!

“Okay, people, times getting on so what we'll do is look at a bit more of how Sheffield is celebrating its industrial heritage before we head back to Warsop.”

We made the short walk back to the school minibus and we were soon on our way again. Mum pointed out the bizarre thing stood on a roundabout, apparently its one of the biggest castings ever made, for an oil rig or something like that. Then we had to loop around a big one-way system to look at a huge steam hammer called the Firth Brown Hammer, which was made near where we saw the other press thingy earlier.

We rejoined the by now building traffic to start our journey home. We sat in the warm bus getting hot and bothered as the traffic crawled towards Meadowhall.

“This is ridiculous Jen.” Mr. P stated.

“Nothings moving this direction at all.” Mum agreed.

“In that case, I have an idea.” Mr. Pilling announced swinging the bus around to head back the way we had just come.

My in built compass said we were going north but I don't really know Sheffield well enough to confirm that. We seemed to go uphill for quite a way, there was a sign at one point for the Sheffield Ski Village then we dropped downhill and I could just see the motorway ahead of us. There was certainly something up as the southbound traffic was just about stopped. Mr. P must've seen as well as he didn't take the signed road for the motorway instead heading out into more open countryside.

He threaded us through a trading estate and we started to climb again.

“Here we go!” he announced swinging the bus onto one of those office park places before pulling up.

I obviously missed something as David and Clive both growled, “cool!” as we stopped.

“One or two of you have already spotted it but for the rest of you, just over to our right is one of Sheffield's less know war memorials, you saw the Zeppelin plaque, this one doesn't commemorate an attack or even specifically any particular death or deaths. Instead it is here to commemorate the fact that Sheffield was the chief manufacturing centre for the Churchill tank. Stretch your legs for a few minutes while we work out how to miss all this traffic."

I joined the lads, except Rhod; in inspecting the fighting machine parked serenely overlooking the north of Sheffield. The girls (and Rhod) stayed by the bus chatting; as the others explored the hulking monster I debated joining the girls. Do I want to be ‘one of the girls'? Or should I pretend to be more manly?

“Hey miss Bond, you coming up or what?” Clive's voice broke my line of thought.

“I ignored the jibe, “yeah I guess.” I replied before climbing up to join the lads on top of the tank.

Apparently there was a big accident on the motorway, the police had closed it hence the big jams. So we found ourselves picking our way through Rotherham and Maltby to get to Worksop and back home arriving nearly two hours late. Well its not like we had to go back into school or anything.

It was actually my night to host the gang but under Mums influence we cancelled, she wanted a teen free evening at home.

I sat waiting in the car for her to return from the staff room and reflected on the day. ‘Dad would've enjoyed it today, that sort of thing is right up his street. That tank was pretty cool, I wonder how Mr. P new it was there, there weren't any signs or anything. Why did that girl think I was a girl? I'm glad she brought my money out mind; I can't afford to lose like six quid like that. It was a bit of a pain though, Pratt really is one and even Paul and Clive were letting me have it. Sugar I hope they don't put two and two together!'


“Ready?” Mum enquired slipping in beside me.

“Er sure.”

“We'll stop by the chippie, I'm sure your sister will have fed herself so we'll have a bloater eh?”

And so summer term at Warsop College started, my last term in Warsop, my last term with all the gang.




* Spelt Beauchief
** Dr Who's ‘bigger on the inside' space ship


Maddy Bell 02.12.06 © 2006

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