Virginia Barton

3 February 2017: Ode to Sheffield


3 February 2017


There are many good reasons to visit Sheffield, not least it being well on the way to The North. Here are just two of those reasons.

Firstly, the super romantic “CLARE MIDDLETON I LOVE YOU WILL U MARRY ME” bridge, in the Park Hill area of the city. This everyday yet poignant phrase can be seen from miles away.



The message is “written” across a footbridge about 60 feet up between two blocks of flats. How Clare’s admirer came to carry out this most public of declarations was a perilous feat of daring: her supirateur leaned over the side of the footbridge and painted the words as best he could. He later confessed to being frightened of heights.

The “proposal” is still there, now picked out in neon (above). But sadly, the point of the message, Clare’s name, has almost disappeared. The bridge has become something of a legend and an industry of merchandise has grown up around it: posters, mugs, Tee shirts and the like. The admirer, eventually found and named only as Jason, said he did it for love of Clare in 2001. And no, she didn’t marry him.


Another good reason for visiting Sheffield is rather different. Positioned in the city centre is a bronze statue of two women (below), arm in arm wearing factory work-clothes; at a guess just leaving a shift. They commemorate the “women of steel” who worked in Sheffield’s famous steelworks during both world wars. These are proud women, tough women, who endured gruelling hard work and air raids.

IMG_1045 (703x1024)You can see the camaraderie in their figures as they step out, arms round each other; the tilt of the head of one combines pride and defiance, she has pushed her goggles onto her forehead and carries her gauntlets. The other carries the tools of her trade – riveting tongs. The sculptor, Martin Jennings, has a considerable body of work to his credit and is now hard at work on George Orwell.

These women put me in mind of the famous American WW2 recruiting poster depicting “Rosie the Riveter”. As a recruiting ad. the poster was a failure I believe. As an “iconic” artwork it’s unforgettable.

Someone please, let’s have the true story. (But no fake news, thanks.)


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