Sunday, 2 September 2012

Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet: A Day Trip

industrial heritage sheffield
Broke with no more paid holidays to escape from a non-existent summer in Britain, it is a testing time for two travel buffs like us. It has only been three months since our long weekend in Wales yet it felt like years ago already. So faced with a prospect of an otherwise cold long weekend indoors, we decided to explore closer to home. 

Inspired by the Opening Ceremonies of the recently-concluded Summer Olympics, we drove to one of the surviving reminders of Sheffield's industrial heritage: The Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, south of the city centre. It was a fascinating experience and a massive insight into the lives of the ordinary citizens during the Victorian era. 

industrial heritage sheffield
industrial heritage sheffield
This was not Britain that Jane Austen painted in her romance novels made into Hollywood movies: the Great Britain of the rich and privileged filled with frilly costumes and debutante dances whose past times involved romantic walks in the rolling hills surrounding their stately manors. This was the Britain of the rest of the population who toiled to pay for the lifestyle of the aristocracy.  This was the real Britain, the Britain who once ruled the world because of their ingenuity and hard work.  

The former steel-working site is an industrial museum with works and buildings dating between 1714 and 1876. It has a tilt hammer and grinding machinery fuelled by the water wheels powered by the river. There are workshops and rusty tools where you can just about imagine labourers wiping their sweaty foreheads and getting on with the job. It was raw and it felt real.  
abbeydale industrial hamlet
But perhaps the most hard-hitting was the comparison of the dwellings of the workers against the site manager's. The workers' homes are dim, cold and sparse in stark contrast to the elegantly-decorated living quarters of their superiors. I hoped then that when the few English people who loves dressing up imagine themselves in their ancestors' shoes, they also think of this much realistic lifestyle of the common men and women who made their country what it is today. 

industrial heritage sheffield
A Worker's Accommodation
Industrial Heritage Sheffield
A Manager's Cottage

The trip had been very inspiring but like most people who have written their reviews online, it is a shame that the city has not endeavoured to raise as much awareness about this site. It has taken me two years to visit this museum and I'm pretty sure most of the locals or those who have adopted this city as their home have not been there too, which is rather sad because it was really worth the visit. 

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