Story and photo by Graham Jones
Rhonda Hyatt grew up on Harvest Lane at the southern end of Woodside Lane in the 1950s. She attended Woodside County Primary and Junior School but massive clearances of streets caused its closure in 1972. Rhonda has happy and fond memories of her childhood there. Horses and carts used to trundle through the streets, driven by rag and bone men or mobile greengrocers. There wasn’t much traffic and children played out on the street. Trams used to run along Mowbray Street. There were three pubs and a railwaymen’s club nearby: the smell of beer was ever present and in the evenings the sound of a pub pianist filled the air. There was never any violence though.
When Rhonda’s mum moved to the area, she was horrified that there was not a tree in sight. Then her shoe heel went right through the rotting floorboards. On one wall there was even a tide mark from the Sheffield Flood of 1864. Women proudly battled with the grime, dirt and sootballs to keep their doorsteps and windows clean. Workers at local factories wore dazzling white cravats which they used to wipe the sweat off their faces.
There was a row of shops including Eva’s fish shop, “Scottie’s” that sold everything, Senior’s butchers, Salvin’s grocer’s, a wool shop and a second hand clothes shop with a reputation for being “buggy”.
Rhonda says that:
“Poverty escaped me. People were good and kind. Everybody had nothing. Nobody tried to be above another. Strangers offered to babysit, or brought sweets or cigarettes. When I go back, I see the cobbles, I see the whole community. I know that most are dead and gone but there are still some of us left. I still dream of going back to that house.”
In 1957 in an upstairs room Rhonda’s dad, Ken Hughes, was unable to work because of Motor Neurone Disease. He used his amazing natural artistic talent to create views in ink and colour of what he could see from his room. These pictures capture an almost forgotten world with their fine eye for detail: a tell-tale brick missing from a wall where, before betting shops existed, illegal gamblers kept an eye open for the police; or the dishevelled local character sitting on a front step who sold a special “laundry blue.”
Rhonda has some of her father’s other beautiful artwork bravely done during his suffering from this progressive and disabling disease. Rhonda and her mother nursed Ken at home for years until he died.