Film ID:
YFA 4332



Visitor Tabs


Made by local historian Ronald Fairfax, this film provides a history of Sheffield specifically with an emphasis on the steel industry. The film utilizes archive film to illustrate the commentary and includes extensive footage from Frank Mottershaw's 'The Life and Times of Charles Peace', and exceptional film of when there was a bus driver's strike in Sheffield in 1959.

The film begins showing Sheffield City Hall, the War Memorial, the Town Hall and other parts of the City Centre and shops, including the new Moor shopping centre.

Title - The Sheffield Story

The commentary welcomes us to Sheffield, whose symbol is Vulcan, the god of fire and metal working, showing a statue of the god. With pictures depicting the Battle of Agincourt, the commentary explains that Sheffield supplied the arrows used there by the English. Ronald Fairfax, appearing before the camera, gives an account of the original castle, now buried underneath Castle Market, of the Hallamshire Archers, and of how Sheffield was making blades in the 14th century, one turning up in the Canterbury Tales. He also gives an account of the origins of the 'V' for victory sign, and of other battles with the French, including the final battle of the 100 years' war, which included 4,000 men from Hallamshire, shown being re-enacted.

Ronald Fairfax then goes on to explain the connection with Mary Queen of Scots, who was held at Sheffield Manor between 1570 and 1584, from where he gives his account. He gives an explanation of the origin of marmalade from her use of boiled oranges when ill, and suggesting that her ghosts may still be there. He states that it was George Talbot who encouraged the use of the local rivers, using grindstones made from local grit, for making waterwheels. Eventually the Company of Cutlers was formed to ensure standards, and there is film of a meeting at Cutlers Hall. An elderly craftsman is shown working at a forge in his workshop.

By the 17th century Sheffield was making its own steel. Ronald Fairfax stands in front of the last cementation furnace in Hoyle Street, where blister steel was made. On showing a sign for Doncaster Street, and workers emerging from a factory, the commentary explains that later came Benjamin Huntsman, who invented crucible steel. A worker is shown kneading down some clay with his bare feet, where others are working in a small forge. Archive film from the 1950s shows the workers 'charging the pots', and 'teeming ingots'. It then moves to show the more modern method using the Bessemer and Open Hearth processes for smelting steel.

Now, standing in front of an engine for powering the rolling mills in Kelham Industrial Museum, Ronald Fairfax explains how Sheffield supplied the world's armaments industry. There is then archive film of Edward VII visiting a steel works in Sheffield, and then visiting the docks in Germany to inspect the Dreadnoughts.

Now standing in front of a dilapidated Adelphi theatre, Ronald Fairfax explains how Sheffield used to have 50 cinemas. He recounts the filming of 'The Life and Times of Charles Peace', showing clips from nine of the scenes from the film: 'Peace's First Burglary', 'Peace at Dyson's House', 'The Murder of Mr Dyson', 'Chas Peace at Home', 'Peace Captured by P.C. Robinson', 'Peace being Taken to Trial Sheffield for Trial', 'Struggle in the Railway Carriage', 'Chas Peace in Prison' and 'The Execution'.

The film moves on next to show an extract from a film made before the First World War by the Chamber of Commerce: 'City of Sheffield Development Department', with titles, 'The City of Sheffield' and 'Midland Railway Station', reproduced in four languages. It shows people making their way to and from the Midland Railway Station from early in the twentieth century. The archive film then shows: 'Cinema House'; 'King Edward VII Hospital'; 'Ruskin House'; 'Whiteley Woods'; 'The Moor', showing the Nelson Hotel and the old round Information Office located on an island in the road; 'Kenwood Park Road', with a man pushing a pram down the road; and 'Hunter's Bar Council School', with the school children running out and playing at break time.

Next there is archive film from the front line in France from the First World War. Munitions are shown being built, with lines of women workers in a factory. Now standing on Wincobank Hill, Ronald Fairfax states that it was here that the first tanks were tested, and that there are still remains of an old fort made against the Romans. The film then shows more archive film from after the war, with unemployed men lined up outside an Employment Exchange and workers in the steel works. He explains some of the industrial hazards they faced, with one of those being affected by bronchitis filmed attached to a machine in a hospital ward. Then there is archive film of a street and more of the large hospital. Workers are shown sitting outside taking their break and eating sandwiches. Some of the workers are very young.

Ronald Fairfax then recounts how the newly formed Soviet Union looked to Sheffield, with its Communist Party second only to Glasgow in membership, for help in building up its industrial base. There is film taken during the Russian Revolution. By the 1930s it was rearmament that kept people off the dole, with archive film of Spitfire crankshafts being forged, and of women in munitions work. Film of Flanagan and Allen is accompanied by a blackboard showing a typical menu of the war years. There is film of tanks being built followed by houses destroyed by bombing.

Standing outside the Shiny Sheff pub, Ronald Fairfax recounts how Harry Brearley inadvertently invented stainless steel, and the origin of the' Shiny Sheff' name from HMS Sheffield. It then shows an excerpt from the film 'Hub of the House', from the late 1940s, showing the benefits of stainless steel tableware. Ronald Fairfax is then stood outside the old Staybrite Factory, explaining that it is now called 'Special metal Products Ltd.' It then shows an extract from 'New Towns for Old', showing factories and housing side by side, with children playing in the slums. The extract also shows the old houses having been pulled down and replaced by new ones away from the City Centre, with children playing in the countryside; and the new plans for the development of the city in the future.

Now standing up by some of the ruins of Hyde Park flats, Ronald Fairfax explains that not all went according to plan. There is then archive film of Queen Elizabeth's post war visit to Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, with displays being put on by children. Then she is shown visiting the University at Western Bank, with children in chairs waving union jacks attended to by nurses.

Ronald Fairfax is next at the Tramway Museum at Crich. There is then archive film of electric trams in Hull from 1899, and film of Sheffield City Centre, including Fargate, with trams from around the same period and later in the 1930s and 1950s. There is then archive film from 1959 when the tram and bus drivers went on strike and the roads, for that time, were filled with cars and motorbikes, for example along the Wicker and over Lady's Bridge and many other places in Sheffield, which are shown with long queues of cars.

The film moves on to the Old Queen's Head pub, formerly the wash house of Mary Queen of Scots. There is then archive film of the building of the shelters at Pond Street bus station in 1956, and the finished buildings. It then moves on to a big Chamber of Commerce Parade in 1969, passing by in front of C&As, around the 'Hole in the Road' and through the City Centre, including one float for the 'Woodcraft Folk'.

The film moves on again to the new housing estates, showing archive film of the one at Greenhill. With more film of steelworks, the narration explains the decline of the steel industry, illustrated by a long excerpt from the Conservative and Unionist Party propaganda film 'Nationalisation - take it away' of 1948. After the extract, Ronald Fairfax explains that it wasn't nationalisation that destroyed the steel industry but 'market forces'. Standing outside the ruined entrance of what was Jessops steelworks, Ronald Fairfax provides an account of how Sheffield has changed, with film of modern day Sheffield, such as Orchard Square Shopping Centre. The film finishes with one of the new trams passing near the M1 next to the old cooling towers at Tinsley.

Produced by Agency Video

Written and Presented by Ronald Fairfax

Incidental music by: A.V.P., Track line, Bruton, Chappell, Focus, Prism Audio.

Archive material from: Sheffield Libraries, Imperial War Museum, The Rank Organisation, Humberside County Council, Reel Film Archive

Thanks to: Sheffield City Council; Tramway Museum, Crich; Kelham Island Museum; Jennifer Fordham; Gerrard Bowden.
'The Sheffield Story' was made with the co-operation and
assistance of Sheffield City libraries and Information Services

This video is dedicated to Ernest & Florence Fiarfax & David Alan Smith

1993 Agency Video