Review by Graham Jones
First published when the railway came to Sheffield in 1838, Drake’s Road Book of the Sheffield and Rotherham Railway has now been reproduced, complete with its original advertisements.
The original railway station was situated on the land between Spital Hill and Savile Street, currently covered by Tesco. The railway not only connected Sheffield to the rest of the national network but enabled the development of heavy industry on the banks of the Don all the way to Rotherham.
There is loads of history in this book, all the more interesting because of its 1840 standpoint. The descriptions of the local landscape captivate, for instance: “the placid stream of the Don” and “…we have a still more interesting view of Brightside, which from our present position has a truly romantic appearance.”
The literary quotations also fascinate, such as the corn law rhymer, Ebenezer Elliott’s verse ‘On the Opening of the Sheffield and Rotherham Railway,’ which includes:
Behold it – Osgathorpe, behold!
Look down, and cry All hail!”
Skies! brighten into blue and gold,
O’er all the living vale!
Wan, lingering foxglove! you, ye trees!
Thou wood of Tinsley! tell the breeze
That hell’s dark cheek turns pale;
Drake had a less idyllic view, however:
“The most conspicuous object is the blackened brick building of the Grimesthorpe Grinding Wheel Company… The lofty hill, whose bold brow is shaded with wood, is the classic Wincobank of which Sheffield bards have often sung, and on which, say they, ‘The golden cheek of eve rests loveliest.’”
Sheffield to Rotherham took 17 minutes by train in 1840, compared with 12/14 minutes today. That’s progress for you! The book is available to order online, or can be read for free at https://archive.org/details/drakesroadbookof00drakiala