A brief guide to Sheffield's most famous residents
By Dario Lecic, PhD student in Slavonic Studies
A while ago I was walking down Marlborough Road in Broomhill (close to Goodwin Sports Centre) and I passed by a house with a plaque outside it. So I stopped to read the plaque and it turns out that the house used to belong to Adela Pankhurst.
Now, I recognised the surname Pankhurst, but the name Adela did not sound so familiar. So I decided to look into it. Adela was the daughter of Emmeline, the famous suffragette leader.
So how did she end up in Sheffield? She worked here for two years promoting women’s rights and running the Women’s Political and Social Union. The house still has original decorations from when she dwelled in it but is unfortunately not in a very presentable condition.
Anyway, this experience motivated me to check out what other famous residents Sheffield had and the stories behind them. For instance, outside of Sheffield’s Town Hall, you can find what is commonly referred to as the Sheffield Walk of Fame (by analogy with the more famous one in Hollywood where movie stars are immortalised in the form of, well, stars in the pavement). Let’s start from some of the names there.
Much has been said about the golden athlete Jessica Ennis’s affiliation with both the city and our University, so I won’t talk much about her. Another former athlete and Olympic gold medallist’s name is there as well. That is Lord Sebastian Coe, who wasn’t born in Sheffield per se, but he moved here in his early teens. He attended Tapton School in Crosspool, where he first took up athletics. Besides being a successful athlete, he was one of the people most responsible for bringing the 2012 Olympics to London and now he is the chairman of the British Olympic Association.
Being a football freak myself, I couldn’t help but notice the name of Gordon Banks on the pavement, goalkeeper who contributed much to this country winning their first (and only) World Cup in 1966.
In the world of show business, I am sure we all know about Sean Bean’s connection to the city and his occasional visits to his nephew Danny who runs the nearby Broomhill Friery (I am not actually sure which one of the two is more famous in Sheffield at the moment). Another native of Broomhill is Michael Palin, member of the legendary Monty Python, who later turned to travel writing. Being a Yorkshireman himself, I wonder whether it was him who got the idea for the Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch.
In the world of music, probably the biggest Sheffield icon is Joe Cocker, who unfortunately passed away just recently. In his younger days he lived in Crookes and before stepping into the spotlight he worked as a gas fitter around Sheffield homes. Who knows, he might have even been in one of your houses at some point. The original members of the rock band Def Leppard, Joe Elliott and Rick Savage, attended Tapton School together and from there conquered the world of music, with the help of their one-armed drummer Rick Allen.
Another band that came to life in Sheffield (High Green to be exact) are the Arctic Monkeys - they don’t have their star yet on the Walk of Fame, but I hope they get one soon because they are amazing.
There are many more people commemorated in front on Town Hall; unfortunately, I do not much about them, probably due to the fact that I am not British myself. But I invite you to check it out, you might find something interesting.
Wikipedia’s list of people from Sheffield will also give you some interesting information. For instance, you can discover that several writers were born in Sheffield, such as Malcolm Bradbury (author of The History Man), 1990 Booker Prize winner A.S. Byatt (author of Possession: A Romance and The Children’s Book). It would be unfair not to mention Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, Five Quarters of an Orange and other gems, who was born in nearby Barnsley and trained to be a teacher at our very own University. For a brief period she also taught French at the University. On the other side of the city, Ukranian-born Marina Lewycka, author of the hilarious A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian was for a long time teaching at our “beloved” Sheffield Hallam University.
The list goes on and there is simply not enough room to list all the scientists, artists, sports people, scholars who were associated with this city at one point or another. I encourage you to check out Wikipedia’s list as well.
I will end this story in the same way as I started it - with another personal experience. In one of my first days in Sheffield I was walking down the street and I saw a bus, I can’t remember which number it was anymore, but I remember its destination was Loxley. And I thought to myself, Loxley, where do I know that from? And then it hit me - Robin of Loxley. Could it be? And yes it is. Robin Hood, probably the most famous of all the people I mentioned, was from around here. The most widely researched legend locates his birthplace to a place called Haggas Croft in Loxley Firth. Considering Sherwood Forest is just around the corner, now spreading between South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, this is not such an unbelievable story. Imagine walking the same streets that Robin Hood used to walk.