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Judith Gilchrist and sculptor Jason Thomson at the installation of the iron compass
Judith Gilchrist and sculptor Jason Thomson at the installation of the iron compass

Iron compass points the way to park’s history

14 June 2018

A project unlocking the history of Sheaf Valley Park was celebrated yesterday with the installation of an iron compass at the Cholera Monument, pointing out the key developments of the area’s interesting past.

The iron compass was made possible thanks to Warren Gilchrist, a former Sheffield Hallam maths professor who bequeathed some money for public art in his will, and was unveiled by his daughter Judith overlooking the university where he taught for many years.

The designs on the sculpture are influenced by the parks’ history, featuring images of deer, the rivers and Manor Lodge. The late Professor Gilchrist often walked in Clay Wood, South Street and Sheaf Valley Parks with his family and was passionate about the local area.

Alongside the new sculpture are several new interpretation boards which show the local area and describe its history.

Once part of an extensive deer and hunting park, Sheaf Valley Park began to be urbanized in the late 1700s when terraced housing was introduced in the area.

Originally erected in 1834, The Cholera Monument was installed in honour of the 402 people who died during the epidemic and represents faith, hope and charity.

Sheaf Valley Park and the Cholera Monument have a fascinating history and now thanks to a project by Sheffield City Council and The Friends of Sheaf Valley Park, visitors can delve deeper in to the histories of these sites through newly installed information panels.

Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “Our parks are treasured leisure areas but they are also key sites of local interest and history. It has been a pleasure to work with the Friends of Sheaf Valley Park to develop these information sites so that visitors can understand their significance and the part they play in Sheffield’s changing scenery.

“The installation of the compass is a wonderful last part of this important journey. It shows the rich history of the area and its landscape and is a fitting tribute to Professor Gilchrist, who knew the area well.”

Councillor Mary Lea and parks officer Catherine Nuttgens admire newly installed information panel

Councillor Mary Lea and parks officer Catherine Nuttgens admire newly installed information panel

Following Professor Gilchrist’s death three years ago, it was revealed that he left a legacy in his will towards interpretation at Cholera Monument.

His daughter Judith worked with artist Jason to design a formula that incorporates Mr Gilchrist’s initials and represents his life’s work in mathematics, which has been subtly included in the metalwork.

Judith said: “I know that my dad would have been thrilled to see this sculpture, overlooking Sheffield Hallam where he taught for many years. He was also a former chairman of the British Statistical Society and so it’s right that there is a mathematical equation in amongst the wonderful artwork.

“He loved the parks across the city, particular here and at Skye Edge, so we’re delighted that this lasting legacy can now be enjoyed by people who feel the same way.”

Maps on the seven new panels that have been installed in different locations around Sheaf Valley Park, will help visitors understand the links between the park and other locations in the area, such as Sheffield Station and the city centre, whilst telling the stories of how dramatically the area has changed over the centuries.

Other improvements include refurbishment to benches and notice boards and removal of old plinths at the Cholera Monument giving visitors a comfortable seat to enjoy an uninterrupted view of Sheffield from the Monument.

Linda Ball, of Friends of Sheaf Valley Park, said: “The FOSVP have been really pleased with the recent developments in the Cholera Monument grounds and South Street Park and really enjoyed working with the council on the new interpretation boards. They are really eye-catching and do a great job of illustrating the parks’ wonderful history and we loved the compass sculpture and the story behind it.

“We often see people standing at that point and asking what direction they are facing and now, thanks to the sculpture, there can be no doubt.”