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The Heritage Pages... Heeley, Standing the Test of Time

Jean Wilson was born in 1929 on Matilda Street and has lived in Heeley all of her life. Apart from a brief spell in Crookes which was too cold: ‘My mum couldn’t stand it, the Bole Hills were next to us and the winds came from Blackpool. The house was about 6 steps high and my mother had to put the washing machine against the door to keep the wind from opening it.’

Above: Jean Wilson at St Mary’s Lunch Club

Jean has lived on; Clyde Road, Richards Road, Upper Valley Road, Rushdale Road, Gerrard Street, Westhouse Flats, Norton Lees Road and Cambridge Court. Between 1944 and 1947 she worked in Meersbrook Park Nursery in the Pavillion, at the bottom of Meersbrook Park, (erected for the purpose of being a nursery). She and five other girls looked after children who’s mothers worked in the munitions factories in town. They worked from 7am to 7pm with a 3-hour lunch break.

There are some things that have changed about the area like there are more people and houses than there used to be, and less of the small shops. And the RAF station on Broadfield Road or the barrage balloon on Clyde Road are no longer there. ‘There was Timpsons shoe shop, Wainwrights, a right old-fashioned shop where I got my wedding veil and stuff for my bridesmaids. There was Meadow’s the grocery shop and one or two butchers.’ The park, Jean says is similar to how it was, but Meersbrook House was then a library, which became a museum and now, houses council offices. She remembers, ‘All the railings were taken away for the war effort. We all felt very safe in the park, even at night in the blackout.’

There was plenty of entertainment around Heeley. Jean says, ‘We would sometimes go to the cinema, there were two picture houses; The Coliseum and The Palace on Heeley Bottom and next to the side of the Barrage Balloon was a ginnel that we walked through to get to the Abbeydale Picture House. Up at Heeley Green Picture House there was a courting seat where you could sit your old man.’

Films at the time were full of stars like Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontayne. And those were the days when the ice cream lady would stand in the middle of the aisle half way through.

‘Under the Abbeydale Picture House was a dance hall, I did waltz and quickstep there,’ she says. ‘But when the Americans came, they went to the City Hall or Cutlers Hall and we followed them there,’ says Jean. ‘I did have a boyfriend in the RAF for 3 years, but then I met George in 1948 on a blind date. He’d come home from conscription in Egypt.’

Jean and George got married in Heeley Church in March 1950. They had 3 children. ‘I know the area very well,’ says Jean. ‘I’ve always been very happy here.’

VL Signing the Quarter

The Sheffield Antiques Quarter’s (SAQ) ‘Signing the Quarter’ proposal went live on 1st December, with the group aiming to raise £20,000 to fund the installation of banners, art- work and information points within the quarter as well as tourist signage city-wide.

“Crowd Funding is an excellent way of raising money locally for projects that will have a wider impact on an area” explained SAQ Chair Hendrika Stephens. “12 new businesses have opened in the Quarter in the last year, demonstrating a positive effect on the local economy”.

“As a group we have done much to get the quarter off the ground and what we need now is the glue to hold it all together. We see the increased signage as key in giving the quarter stability as well as helping new visitors to the city to find their way. These simple measures will make a huge impact and guarantee a future for the quarter”.

Above: Children and staff at Meersbrook Park Day Nursery Christmas 1945

15 New Heeley Voice December 2013 Issue 59 0114 250 0613

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