Thursday, 13 June 2013

Sheffield is not what I was expecting. Before I left, I somehow formed a picture of Sheffield that looked a bit like the movie ‘Billy Elliot’ – grey and suffocating; depressing, I know! Driving from Manchester, I was stunned by the beautiful countryside. Arriving in Sheffield, the space and greenery surprised me, and the industrial buildings are far from depressing, they look like pieces of history.
I think I have surprised myself at how interested I am in Sheffield. I’ve always loved history and old architecture, but I’ve found myself thinking about, not only how Sheffield is trying to preserve its history, but also how they are fusing the past with the present, and forging a new identity. Walking around the city centre, beautiful old buildings dominate the area, with modern offices next door. More often than not these historic structures are home to coffee chains or fast food restaurants.
I enjoyed the visit to Abbydale Industrial Hamlet because it is so well preserved that we could see where and how people were living and working during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It also gave us an insight into Sheffield’s heritage guidelines – I was amazed to hear that Abbydale had recently been awarded £1 million to restore the buildings and equipment.
Chatsworth House was also an incredible experience. Every room was so elaborate that it was difficult to imagine anyone living there! I found it really interesting that each century was visible in the art and decoration. Some rooms were decorated with Renaissance art and sculpture, others with portraits of historical figures such as Henry VIII, and interspersed among these were a lot of modern art pieces. I definitely felt like we didn’t have enough time there. I had just enough time to walk around the house and have a piece of cake in the converted stables, but I didn’t get to have a look around the amazing gardens!
It was really interesting to make the contrast between Abbydale and Chatsworth. The class distinctions are extremely apparent in the architecture, design, space, location and functions of the two properties, and both show completely different aspects of Sheffield’s history. I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about the upper classes tomorrow. 
- Bethany Exiner (Bachelor of Archaeology)


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