8 April 2016
Sheffield Archives are having an open day on Friday, 15 April from 2pm to 4pm. Everyone is invited to drop in and explore the exhibits.
We asked the staff to tell us their favourite and the most weird or wonderful from the collections.
1. Records from the South Yorkshire Lunatic Asylum dating back to 1872. These include details of ‘supposed cause of insanity’ with reasons including childbirth, religion, sun-stroke and the bizarrely vague ‘change of life’.
2. Orange peel anti-social behaviour item. Council committee notes from 1848 show how litter and anti-social behaviour was an issue, with reports of ‘serious accidents’ caused by ‘persons throwing orange peel on the footpaths and on the streets’. The need for action is noted.
3. ‘Ticket-of-Leave’ book charting the details of all known criminals in the Sheffield area during 1864 to 1874. Records noted crime and appearance and were used to identify and help capture criminals including famous local murderer Charles Peace.
4. Weekly menu from Sheffield’s Workhouse from around 1750. Records show a pitiful amount was spent on food with people fed only milk in the mornings, boiled meat or boiled pudding at lunch and bread and cheese or broth in the evenings – not much given the work they had to do and harsh conditions they lived in.
5. ‘Hoof Prints over the Western Front’ – World War One letters from Sheffield soldier and famous illustrator William Smithson Broadhead. Broadhead’s letters home, like many others from soldiers, tried to shield the true horrors of war. But his also contained illustrations which showed what life was like, including being awakened by rats at night and a soldier being told to have courage as the war is nearly over.
6. Cold War artefacts. It seems strange to think that, in the not too distant past, the people of Sheffield lived under a cloud of possible nuclear annihilation. Artefacts such as this poster showing what a nuclear attack would do to South Yorkshire show a sense of fear in Sheffield at this time.
A selection of the above will be on show at the open day. A conservator will also be giving advice about how people can look after their precious books, photographs and manuscripts.
Pete Evans, Archives and Heritage Manager at Sheffield City Council, said: “The archives are brilliant. They have so much information about our past and really bring history to life.
“There’s so much to discover here – more than 50,000 of boxes of material from the 12th century up to modern times, charting the history of the city. It’s all freely available, and much of the material is also online.
“We’re very lucky to have such a treasure trove here in Sheffield and hope people enjoy discovering it at our open day.”
Sheffield Archives are located at Shoreham Street in the city centre. For more information visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/archives or call 0114 203 9395 on Mondays, Tuesdays or Saturdays.
The Archive open day is being held as part of Sheffield City Council’s Multi-Story Library Festival. Visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/libraries for more information.