Sheffield FridayNightRide

we have nothing to lose but our chains

2009/04/24 J G Graves – philanthropist and cyclist


Sheffield FridayNightRide

JG Graves – philanthropist and cyclist!

Friday April 24 2009

Meet at Ornamental Garden and Fountain, Balm Green,

in front of Fountain Precinct, corner of Barkers Pool

6-6.30 for a 6.45 start

“To gain a knowledge of the topography and attractions of our beautiful countryside, nothing that I have ever sampled will compare with a journey on a well-made bicycle. To go as you please, where and when you please, independent of trains and petrol and all under your own control, I reckon to be a combination of exercise, pleasure and convenience which has not so far been excelled.”

                                                                                                J G Graves

John George Graves (1866-1945) was a local businessman, politician and, most importantly to us now, a munificent philanthropist for Sheffield.

Parks and playgrounds, open spaces, health, education, housing, sports, youth groups, charitable organisations, and the arts were all supported and funded by Graves who, from the late 1920s to the end of his life, did deeds that have enhanced the lives of Sheffielders for ever.  His philanthropy and his legacy is still maintained and developed by the Graves Charitable Trust.  All the places in brackets in the route guide below are a part of Graves’ legacy (there is more) – see the map for more detail.

He was also a keen cyclist who, at the age of 41, rode from Sheffield to London in 19 hours: we won’t be doing that!

So let’s celebrate this self-made man, who gave so much back to his adopted city, by cycling to places and institutions that were part of his life or owe their establishment or longevity to Graves. Hurrah!   

Map of the route with much more detail at,-1.470966&spn=0.022775,0.054932&z=14

Heads up! This is a longer Sheffield FNR of nearly 17 miles.  Most of the route is on roads with some trails through the Porter Valley from Whiteley Woods to Endcliffe Park.  Suitable for road bikes.  There is a long climb at the beginning then a bit of down, up, down and up before finally down into town.

Route.  OK we follow the new South Sheffield cycle route from the city centre to Gleadless Townend.  So we start at the Ornamental Gdn ( a Graves’ donation to the city) in front of Fountain Precinct, Barkers Pool then down Surrey St (site of a Graves shop), glance down Tudor Square (refrubishmnet supported by the Graves Charitable Trust, and the Crucible) past the Graves Art Gallery out to South St, Norfolk Rd, Norfolk Park, up St Aidens’ Rd across tramtracks then over Park Grange Rd and up through the Manor, down Gleadless Common to Hollinsend Rd where we will gaze at the most perfect examples of Graves Trust Houses on Ridgeway Rd. Then a couple of wiggles up to Gleadless Townend and a brief bit of pavement to the Norton roundabout (missing a cycle past the Graves Tennis Centre at Norton) and then along Hemsworth Rd to Graves Park.  Through Graves Park to Meadowhead and down past Chancet Wood (glance back at some Graves Trust Houses) to Bocking Lane, Abbey Lane, across Abbeydale Rd (passing between Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and Millhouses Park) and up through Abbey Lane (through Ecclesall Woods, cycling parallel to Ryecroft Glen) and along Whirlowdale Rd to Whirlow Brook Park (the end of Limb Valley), then a short bit along Ecclesall Rd South turn left up past Whirlow Hall Farm up towards Bents Green then up Ringinglow Rd and down past (Forge Dam to our West) Whiteley Woods (near the Guides Outdoor Activity Centre) and along the trail to Endcliffe Park, up Riverdale Rd (where Graves lived) to Fulwood Rd (past Weston Park Hospital) and down through Broomhill (past the Children’s Hospital) to the University (past the Octagon, the final site of Graves’ business, and see the Graves Building at the Students Union), down to Shalesmoor (to the site of a Graves Playground on Matthew St) and then finish at the Shakespeare in Gibraltar St (the street on which Graves served his time from the age of 14 as an apprentice watchmaker).  Graves was a devout Methodist and more than likely teetotal but I am sure that he would not begrudge us a drink as we sip a beer satisfied with the ride and marvelling at the extent of his generosity.

This ride also incorporates items from previous themes, some public art, some social housing, the location of the first gig by the Beatles in Sheffield, produced by Peter Stringfellow in 1963, and some remnants of the old tramways routes.  Enjoy, as you puff past.

Ride Report

Brilliant – I think 13 nightriders, of whom 6 were new to the Sheffield FNR, and four apologies.

And one who missed us, got there late? and I apologise; I didn’t pick up the text during the ride.  We went on the dot of 6.45 and must have missed you, I’m really sorry.  Please get back to me on email or give me a call as your number was not in my phone’s address book

If you know you are joining the ride and are pushed for time to make the meeting place then call me(number at the end of this email), rather than text – I just don’t hear the beep the phone makes with a text and my pachyderm skin doesn’t feel the vibration.

So it was a really calm evening, mild temperature and weak sunlight with a light cloud cover – good for Sheffield.

Really nice buzz and atmosphere as we all gathered and chatted and then we started with a bit of info about Graves and a bit about his life and his business, and what his philanthropy did, and still does, for Sheffielders and then we sedately pedalled from Balm Green down Surrey St, past the Graves Art Gallery down Howard St and onto Pond St towards Fitzalan Sq.

Mick showed the group how to take a right at the bus station over the cycle path to the Penny Black pub and then how to blithely cycle the wrong way down the other side of Pond St (or do it in a state of shock!), do a U turn at the Ibis Hotel and go up the ramp to the tram bridge. We crossed the bridge and then the tramlines to cycle up the pavement on South St past the gutted Park Hill flats and on to Norfolk Rd between the Shrewsbury Estate and Cholera Monument to cross Granville Rd into Norfolk Park.

The park looks brilliant this time of year with the fresh green of the new leaves and the white, pinks and yellows of the blossoms. At the top of the park we looked back over to the hills the other side of Sheffield city centre and then pedalled up St Aiden’s Rd (v slowly in Mick’s case) , along Park Grange Rd to Spring Lane and then follow the new signs for the South Sheffield cycle route and steadily climbed up past the old Norfolk School, through the Manor and ended up at the top of Gleadless Common next to the Park Springs Academy.

That was a steady long climb and those on fixies and single speeds should be commended for their fitness and pace on this climb – and the other climbs we did. Then a lovely medium paced descent down Gleadless Common with only a loss of one pannier – damn Sheffield roads!

We regrouped just before Hollinsend Rd and then took a short detour to Ridgeway Rd to look at the Graves Trust Houses there, bit of info about them and back to Hollinsend Rd and follow the clearly signed cycle route to Gleadless Townend.  That cycle route must finish with about 10 yds of 1 in 3 slope, not brilliant.

Rather than cycle on the outer ring road towards Norton, we cycled along the pavement of Ridgway Rd, Paul took over point just the other side of Herdings Park and led us through some quiet streets to Hemsworth Rd which we freewheeled down to Graves Park.  We took a detour up Bunting Nook by the side of the Park to intrude into the John Easton Almshouses for a nosey, with Mick reassuring everybody that ‘No unauthorised access’ notices do not apply to cyclists.

Then Simon led us down past Norton Church into Graves Park, bit more info about Graves, and then we cycled past the hairy cattle at the Rare Breed Farm out of the park and along a footpath which must have had the most litter of broken twigs and small branches I have ever seen. Rob thought his tubeless tyres would give out but luckily nobody’s tyres gave out and nobody got twigs or branches jammed into spokes.  Then into Little Norton Lane and the sight, in the crepuscular moment of the day, of exemplary Graves Trust Houses, five 1930s blocks of four maisonettes in beautifully kept grounds in a quiet backwater but near plenty of amenities – well worth a visit.

Out onto Meadowhead, turn right towards town and then left onto Roxton Lane(?) and a quick descent down to Bocking Lane with Chancet Wood on the right.  Then a beautiful fast descent down Bocking Lane, left onto Abbey Lane and down to Beauchief across Abbeydale Rd, up through Ecclesall Woods and up to the junction of Whirlowdale Rd and Ecclesall Rd South where Mick – when he had puffed in last – told folks how Graves virtually established the Round Sheffield Walk.

The order of the day was now for refreshment so the group cycled down Ecclesall Rd South to turn left up past Whirlow Hall Farm, and turned right down towards Bents Green.  Fulwood Rd seemed like a reasonable target missing out Whiteley Woods so through Bents Green and down Highcliffe Rd at breakneck speed with a couple of skids around the hairpin bends at the bottom, up Hangingwater Rd, til we reached the gennel which we followed with lights on in a lantern style procession to Nether Green and down into the car park of the Rising Sun, on Fulwood Rd.

It was mild enough to sit outside surrounded by pretty fairy lights strung along the pub wall beside the benches, with our bikes stacked by the fence, and then to beer, crisps, chat and good company. That was it and over the evening we slowly dispersed having had a really pleasant ride.

It was 12 miles up to that point but I thought quite a lot of climbing compared to other FNRs.

Mick and Paul pelted down into town at the last and repeated the first part of the ride to to the top of Norfolk Park where Paul then made his way to Manor Top and Mick weaved up to Manor Lodge.

Thanks to one and all. Hope to see you on another ride

079 49 59 67 02
“We have nothing to lose but our chains!”