Andy Moffatt on Chippingham Street
Memories of an Attercliffe Kid
Andy Moffatt was born in Attercliffe in 1968. He was the last generation to experience outside toilets and no running hot water. Andy writes about growing up as an Attercliffe kid...
Born at 140 Chippingham Street Attercliffe, my first memories would have been lying in my pram outside staring up at the blue skies and clouds.
It was a big old pram, not the fancy three wheel buggy variety of today but a great big four wheeled monster built like a handcart complete with a retractable creaky hood housing a dirty plastic window. It had a sturdy frame and wheels that any go-kart building kid would die for. This would be parked outside the back door in our yard which was shared by three other houses.
View of Chippingham Street in 2008
The two corner houses had kitchens and a bathroom above, then in front of this would be the toilets which were situated back to back so our middle house and next doors faced the canal.
This was a long way for a kid to walk and scary as the wind would travel up the canal and make the trees rustle opposite the toilet door.
It’s amazing as a small kid just what monsters you can conjure up that climb the wall and jump out of the tree. Especially when you had the toilet door open, as you were too scared to have it closed. Sat there trying not to see things with an old bike lamp facing inwards to help matters.
Andy and older brother Graham
I suppose this is why we had a special wee bucket in the bedroom as an emergency (it was too dark or raining). Most of the time it had my Sooty and other teddies in it, as my brother would take great delight in throwing them around until they landed in it. I can clearly remember Sooty hanging most weekends by his now long ears on the washing line.
:: Click here to listen to Andy Moffatt speaking with Rony Robinson about his life as an 'Attercliffe Kid'
Our house was a two up/two down with the stairs going between the middle of the rooms. There was also an attic which was a scary place to venture even in the day. I only went up with my brother.
It was always full of junk and disused furniture covered in a thick dust. There was an old trunk under the roof window, which was made up of two pieces of glass and stained through decades of steelworks smoke.
Attercliffe girls, 1970s - Andrew Lloyd
I remember one item in particular in the trunk which was the top tier of my parents the wedding cake. It must have been about seven years old but we still tried some icing of the top.
And there was my brother’s old hamster cage which had once housed his three legged hamster, but it died so it became a garage for my toy cars.
:: The black and white photos to the right and immediately below were taken by local photographer Andrew Lloyd, who also spent some of his life in Attercliffe ::
Even though we had a best room at the front, all the rooms downstairs had a square of carpet, with lino then stretching to all the corners of the room. Upstairs there was only a rug to put your feet on when you got out of bed, the rest being bare floorboards.
I remember in winter the curtains would stick to the old sash windows, especially when it had been snowing. I would sit on my bed with my elbows pushing them against the window to try and keep them warm staring outside at the frosty bank and frozen canal glittering under the bright moonlight.
Attercliffe, 1970s by Andrew Lloyd
The only warmth was my paisley pyjamas and the one hot water bottle that I shared with my brother. Unfortunately it was always in my bed first so mine would be cold by the time we went upstairs and he had it the rest of the night (the plight of being the younger brother). Later on we had a bottle apiece which became possible by going through all my mum’s handbags and coats to collect the Co-Op stamps and filling the books out to get them every winter.
Attercliffe was an exciting place for a kid. There were plenty of old houses that had been vacated for demolition to play in. You could find so much in the cellars or attics like old annuals, comics, Dinky cars - the works.
When we were bored of this we would go down the Fox House Pub on Shirland Lane and play in the old cars outside the scrap yard, trying to find one that would roll down the hill or start. Inside the yard were better cars, but this was always protected by the meanest, hungriest Alsatian which we avoided.
Once my brother braved the dog to get a Jaguar car mascot which was the ultimate prize while in the background was the ever present thumping noise of the steelworks drop-hammers and the oily smell in the air which mixed with the smoke from the houses as they were being demolished.
It was like another world at night with the soggy thick night air surrounding our area.
Banners department store
Banners Department store was a great place for a kid, holding my mum’s hand she would take me down to Jackson’s food hall to get the weekly shop.
I remember the big pile of empty boxes at the side of the stairs. We would take one home and make a special box of favourite toys to play with at the bottom of our bed. (Another ploy to get us to tidy our room up).
Downstairs the floor was black and white tiled and worn from years of walking on. Posters were on the end of the aisles and up the stairs were hand written signs showing the latest price cuts.
I don’t remember going to the other departments with my mum, this was left to me and my brother to explore. We would travel up and down the old wooden escalators - reputedly the first in any department store in the UK - and go from floor to floor in the old lifts pretending when the doors opened that we were in another land, we had to explore. It would be a good 30 or so minutes of fun until we were sent out by one of the staff, only to return the next weekend.
There was an old pneumatic tube system that used to fascinate me. Watching the money load and then shoot off to a room above only to be returned moments after with the shoppers change.
I still have a Banners Cheque which was the store’s form of credit you could buy to spend in the store.
I remember the old library which was the first place in the area to list the local job vacancies.
We would all troop down from Huntsman’s Garden School and pick three books, climbing up the old brass step and turning the circular brass handle which was inset to open the door.
It was always hard to stay quiet when the zigzag pattern floor would creak so much.
Next to this was the Attercliffe Baths, so named as it was a place where you could actually get a bath after a hard day’s work - since most houses didn’t have these facilities in those days.
I remember it as the place I learnt to swim and got my first badge from school. We would all walk down the edge of the pool where the cubicles were lined all the way around, boys would go to the right and the girls left. Then it would be a mad dash to get changed without dropping your clothes on the wet floor.
Before I could swim there was a race to get one of the big rubber rings, as there were only four rings and six chubby kids. More often than not I would end up with one of the smaller flowered ones and have to try harder not to sink.
This place had that special smell of chlorine which stayed in your nostrils for hours after. It had an amazing tiled wall and staircase which was an art in itself.
Attercliffe Baths plaque
These places are still there but contain offices and small businesses; it’s nice to see a plaque on the outsides to mark its history. It always gives me a warm feeling and makes me reminisce when I visit back home.
The old Radical Working Man’s Club or “Rads” as we called it, was the place to meet where every kid played outside - when the turns or bingo started - in their best clothes which often didn’t stay best for much longer.
Christmas and Easter were great when all the in-laws would meet, each queuing up early with a foil package of sandwiches and pickles to share with each other over tables shoved together.
Queuing up at 5.30pm to secure your seats was so boring as a kid, but the acts like the “Discos” which mimed all the latest bands and hits were a must to see on Christmas Day.
I remember missing the Six Million Dollar Man film on TV for them one year. We could take one toy with us, and mine was Mr Spock, who after searching around the silver tin foil food parcels accidentally kicked my Dad’s pint over his best flared trouser suit.
He had to go home and change and was furious so I took the safe way out and burst into tears to avoid a thick ear.
Mr Spock then spent the rest of the night in Mum’s handbag unfortunately. But it was always a good time when the cockle man came round with his basket and white coat. He must have made a mint. “Best cockles in town” he would say.
We lived in Attercliffe until around 1980 when we were one of the last to move from the street. Me, mum, dad and older brother Graham moved to Barnsley having been given a relocation fee for moving.
Life there was never the same as my old town. I always felt different or an outsider coming from Sheffield. Then the teenage years set in and changed everything. The last time I remember visiting my old house, was as they were stripping the insides out ready for demolition in about 1982. I just wish I had taken some pictures before it was too late. If only I had could go back in time and take pictures - not many exist of Chippingham Street to this day.
Skip forward a couple of years and I’m now in Torquay, South Devon and have been here since 1992. It wasn’t until a few years later on a visit home I went down to Attercliffe and saw where the tram runs right through where my house stood, marking the place where I was born and the canal beyond. All around had changed.
I do miss Attercliffe, Sheffield, it’s the people and a great community to this day. I do plan to move back someday, although I know a lot of things have changed and moved on, my memories still remain and keep drawing me back home every year.
This was the reason for my website, striving to keep my memories and hopefully other people’s alive in a time that seems hundred years in the past, but is only actually thirty or so.
So many families knew so many other families and it was a good community where most would give you the time of day and a chat in hard times.
It’s nice to see that there is a development of houses growing in this area and that the canal is now a cleaner place, containing fish and not bikes and tyres as it did back then - not to mention most of my dad's tools.
Visiting Atterciliffe today it always makes me feel at home. So much has changed and I feel sad to see most of the old places gone. But it’s encouraging to see a new housing estate built and named the 'Attercliffe Village' complete with an old furnace hammer in the centre.
Also the small and major businesses which have sprung up where the houses were once has kept some of the original shops and community spirit alive.
But on the other hand again it seems that the regeneration was started and then abandoned to be left to ruin, as the walkway aside the Don Valley Stadium has been.
The once trimmed pathways are now overgrown and the large sundial feature smashed and broken. It seems some kids today who have more than we ever dreamed of, find their entertainment in ruining things that are built for the benefit of the community.
I can only hope that it won’t just end here, and that the people with the power and decisions will see the potential and beauty that this town has. I for one would love to see this happen and would be the first to visit and comment.
Attercliffe and Sheffield are always fantastic places in my heart and if not for these memories I would probably be a different person today. I'm proud to be a Sheffielder.
last updated: 26/06/2009 at 11:59
Have Your Say
What are your memories of Attercliffee, do you love the town as much as Andy?
Ms. H . Moffatt