Thank you, folks, for allowing us to carefully spend your money on history!

The BBC (which I read on line daily) had this recent announcement:

An 18th Century steelworks in Sheffield has been given funding to further develop as a visitor attraction.  The Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet has been given £47,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop plans for the site and apply for further funding.

Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet will be saved from crumbling into history’s memory.

Plans include a new learning centre and the restoration of machines.  The initial funding will be used to develop plans for the site and apply for a full grant later in the year of more than £800,000.  The hamlet, which contains 18th and 19th Century listed buildings and machinery, plans to expand as a visitor attraction.  The machinery at the site, which was originally powered by four water wheels by the nearby dam, will be brought back to life if further funding is given.

I read this happy news and can report that I have received additional funding as well!  A generous Fulbright Alumni Grant will allow me to rewrite and print my “No One Is From Here” curriculum and distribute it to a number of target districts in California, and, hopefully elsewhere in the US.

If you have £800,000, I can sell you millions of these!

I will not be so cheeky as to propose that my lessons for children are as historically significant as this mill site, originally called Abbeydale Works and one of the larget water powered sites on the River Sheaf. The main products of the works were agricultural scythes, but other tools were made there also, such as grass hooks and hay knives.  If you visit the site, you can see waterwheels, tilt hammer, a grinding hull and the only intact crucible steel furnace surviving in the world today.  I’m not too sure if I saw all those things when I was there at Easter, 2012, but I can attest that costumed interpreters do a terrific  job outlining the history of the facility that sits in a place with  centuries of experience in metal working.

However, the main parallel here is the hopeful news that after Abbeydale receives £47,000 , the steelworks can apply for further funding of £800,000!  All this is possible through the Heritage Lottery Funds, which has to be the most visible and productive lottery disbursement in the world.  Tangible and well labeled improvements to attractions all over the UK testify to wise spending in improving the country’s past.  A quick look at the fund’s website: will impress Americans with just how productive the spending from a lottery scheme can be.  As well as improving historic industrial and maritime sites, the Heritage Lottery Fund spends about £375 million  a year rescuing, upgrading, and restoring the UK historic sites, museums, lands, and social historical records.

So I doff my hat (which I am not wearing, because I don’t look great in hats…) to the preservers of history, and I gratefully join the ranks of hopeful individuals who put sweat, if not blood, into the creation of something that hopefully will improve the world just a tiny little bit.  Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet:  congratulations!  And say, Abbeydale Board of Directors:  if your education department needs some curriculum materials written up for school tours – I understand you may have £800,000 more coming your way.   For £10,000 I can put you in touch with a very eager writer who loves history, and really loves Sheffield!  Cheers!


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