Oyl int Ruwad
September 14, 2014 7:53 AM   Subscribe

In the 1960s, the city of Sheffield redeveloped their neglected market square into a Hole in the Road. "A small early forerunner to Meadowhall-type malls; but with more drunks and dodgy smells," the Hole was filled in and paved over in the 90s.

I've never been to Sheffield, but somehow this story activated my second-hand nostalgia. Here's some photos:

Under construction
Buskers, bums, and others
In the hole, day and night
From above and below

And be sure to check out that animated lego music video in the first link!
posted by moonmilk (19 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
* Meadowhall-type malls
posted by moonmilk at 7:56 AM on September 14, 2014

Sheffield's quite pleasant these days. As you come out of the station there's an impressive open space, and one tower block - it belongs to Sheffield Hallam - has a special welcome poem by Andrew Motion in huge letters down the side.
posted by Segundus at 8:07 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

SO was pleasantly surprised by how Sheffield's cleaned up when he went back after avoiding it for 25 years.

On the other hand the only thing open at 8pm on a weekday night was Wagamama's soooooo
posted by The Whelk at 8:23 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

“When it was first built I guess it was seen as a symbol of Sheffield's determination to be a 'City of the Future', but it soon became the favourite hang-out of the local wino population. They would occupy the long curved benches that ran around the circumference of the building leaving little or no room for weary shoppers."

This is the story of all optimistic developments built in Britain in the 60s.
posted by Artw at 8:27 AM on September 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

No one does unintentionally dystopic modernism like the British

I used to live near Old Street Tube. Sounds like this was a larger version of that.
posted by JPD at 8:32 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I remember it well, quite cool when I moved there in 1991.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:34 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you remember the fish tank, GallonOfAlan? The most common phrase to come up while I was googling this thing was "I wonder what happened to the fish."
posted by moonmilk at 8:42 AM on September 14, 2014

The need for the Hole in the Road came about due to the--pretty disastrous--post-war decision to encourage cars through the town centre rather than forcing them round it. Sheffield still suffers to this day with a somewhat disjointed urban fabric in the middle. Castle Square, the Hole's replacement, is still a mess of traffic. That said, some of the parts of Sheffield's centre are really better than elsewhere in the north, such as the already mentioned square outside the railway station and the welcoming Peace Gardens.

I can well believe that something of the Hole's structure still survives, as when they got rid of other underpasses later--on Furnival Gate--they were literally filled in.
posted by Thing at 8:42 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm looking for start of the Full Monty because it seems apropos, but I can't find it. I have, however, found the full documentary that is excerpted in the opening.
posted by hoyland at 8:46 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another article. Check out the fashion ads at the bottom!
posted by moonmilk at 8:46 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know what it is about these below ground public spaces but they almost always end up disgusting and unwelcoming. My favorite exemplar lately is Hallidie Plaza in San Francisco, article title says it all: Just start over with desolate Hallidie Plaza.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:28 AM on September 14, 2014

Bristol has its own hole that's still there, known locally as the Bearpit. It's origin is quite similar to the hole in the road, as it was built along with road improvements and in the center of a new roundabout. Also, this is in an area that was damaged by bombing during the second world war. You cans till see a lot of the big concrete abominations that went up after post war clearing in Bristol, although a lot of them are abandoned these days and seem ready for a new round of clearing.

A friend of mine has actually done a lot of work on the history and the archaeology of the Bearpit, including a wonderful little bit about how it's been managed over the years as a social space.

It's one of those spaces that seems to be constantly vied over for improvement/redevelopment.

The point about it in that last link about the space being 'contagious' is interesting. I'm quite familiar with the area and it is true that it's not a friendly space to be in. Well, the actual Bearpit is not so bad except for the disciplinary architecture, but the buildings surrounding it are horrid. The mall to the south is a big blank wall of brutal. The complex to the northwest is a rotting old pile of concrete and that wraps around to the north and east. It's been 'improved' in the past few years, including turning the mouldering concrete building just east of 5102 into a Holiday Inn (for the construction of which I did some of the day to day cleanup of as a temp worker). Personally, I think that it's not the Bearpit that's the problem, it's the just the design of the surrounding buildings.

posted by ursus_comiter at 10:31 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Bearpit ala Google Maps.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:32 AM on September 14, 2014

The Bearpit
posted by ursus_comiter

This isn't a self-link, is it?
posted by moonmilk at 10:40 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nah, that kind of bear is found a little further south and east in Bristol. Try West Street.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:52 AM on September 14, 2014

Haven't been to Sheffield since the early eighties, and had no idea they'd filled it in. Kind of a shame, I feel. It had that strange appeal of the inexcusably wrong-headed.
posted by Decani at 1:01 PM on September 14, 2014

Sheffield is one the few cities in the England where you cannot find a McDonalds in the city center by following the trail of garbage. It was like I had lost my Tonto-style tracking power.
posted by srboisvert at 3:11 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I lived in Sheffield in the early 70s and shopped in the Hole. It didn't really seem very special, perhaps because I was already used to things like the Houston Underground. The city itself was unique in many ways, though. For example, they had an elected government official known as the Master Cutler — and he in turn had a train named after him! They had one of the best regional theatres in England. They had the Hallé when it wasn't playing in Manchester. Sheffield was also recovering from its earlier reputation as cesspool of the north, and had built a green belt of parks and public walkways that circled the city. All in all it was a very pleasant place to live.
posted by ubiquity at 11:30 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

They have a Winter Garden now in the town center! It was nice.

SO says being able to see the Halle basically on the regular was the basis for his musical education (I'm currently sitting in-between a spinet piano and a full church organ salvaged from a church in Florida.)
posted by The Whelk at 11:39 AM on September 15, 2014

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