Story: Marion Graham
Firshill and Pitsmoor History Group
We’ve had a slow start to this year – we are all getting on a bit and the weather has somewhat restricted our normal outings.This situation started us reminiscing about the weather conditions when we were young.
It was unanimously agreed that wintertime in those days was very much worse that we have become accustomed to in recent years. There was no central heating and no running hot water. We mostly washed our hands and faces in the mornings in cold water – or if we were lucky there might have been some hot water in the kettle to spare. For some baths were a weekly event when probably all the family used the same hot water in a tin bath in front of the kitchen fire – taking it in turns – so if you had a big family the water could get a bit nasty if you were at the end of the queue. We had hot water bottles sometimes to warm the bed at night or even “oven plates” which were the shelves from the coal-fired oven that were taken out and wrapped in a bit of material and popped into the bed to warm it up. Some of our members recalled having no heat at all in their beds but overcoats and almost anything else would be piled on top of the blankets to try to keep warm. In fact, on going to bed sometimes we put on more clothes than we took off!
Getting to work
Whatever the weather, though, it did not stop normal day-to-day living – the men had to go to work (they usually walked to work anyway) the women had to do the shopping (although it was probably just at the local corner shop) and the children went to school. No telephones then, or local radio to tell you not to turn in to school, it was just like any other time, except a bit colder.
One thing we did not have much of was traffic problems in the snow, because there was not much traffic. We had trams, which our members remembered as not having too much difficulty except on steep hills, and the buses made an effort to run. However, some remembered that if the bus got stuck in the snow going up a hill, people had to get off to lighten the load and as many as could helped push the bus up the hill. Then everyone piled back on to the bus until the next hill.
Staying on your feet
There was no salt or grit, except maybe on the main roads in town, but people used to clear the snow from the pavements in front of their homes and spread the ashes from their coal fires on to paths to try to make it a bit easier to walk on them. One of our members, whose father delivered coal by means of a horse-drawn lorry, remembers that they used to get straw from a farm for the horse and in snowy weather this was put down on the road for the horse to get a footing. She also recalled that very often mixed in with the straw there would be eggs which had been missed by the farmer before the straw was cleared out at the farm. Her family enjoyed lots of meals from those eggs over the years!
Sledging in Roe Woods
Another memory was of the really bad winter of 1947 when there was lots of snow which stayed for a long time. Being at the top of the hill in Roe Wood the “Atlas and Norfolk” sports ground (now the Sheffield United Academy) had huge drifts of snow covering the lower field. The sports club/caretaker’s house was in the middle, between the top and lower fields. Somehow or other, the groundsmen cut a path through the snow on the lower field going from the clubhouse down to join the path which went through Roe Wood. It must have been a massive job. My best friend’s grandparents were the caretakers of the ground, and she and I walked up to see them by this path which was like a “topless tunnel” with the snow on each side reaching higher than our heads. We were about 10 and 12 years old at the time so it must have been pretty deep. The most exciting thing that winter though was the sledging down the hill in Roe Wood. It was fantastic, but quite scary I remember, and people came from all over Sheffield to sledge there.
By and large then the conclusion of our members was that we all appreciate our central heating, hot water, and a cooker which all help to keep us warm, whatever the weather.