Tragic story behind Sheffield's famous Park Hill "I love you" graffiti bridge revealed

The famous graffiti on the Park Hill bridge.

The famous graffiti on the Park Hill bridge.

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The tragic story behind Sheffield's famous Park Hill "I love you" graffiti bridge has been revealed - more than 15 years after it became a city landmark.

The lover's plea was scrawled high above the city in 2001 - and now the heartbreaking story behind the infamous graffiti has been uncovered.

The daubed message, which now forms part of an art installation at the redeveloped Park Hill flats overlooking the city, was originally written in 2001.

Now The Guardian has unearthed the story behind the man who wrote the message in paint on the Grade II listed building and which is visible for miles around - and the woman it was aimed at.

The "I Love You Will U Marry Me" message has now been immortalised in neon by developers Urban Splash - although the full message actually read "Clare Middleton I Love You Will U Marry Me."

A man called Jason, who has not been named in full, has come forward to claim writing the message in April 2001.

The graffiti was immortalised in neon in 2011.

The graffiti was immortalised in neon in 2011.

He had been dating Clare for over a year before making the very public show of proposing to her, despite being scared of heights and planned to show her the artwork from the Roxy nightclub, then the Odeon cinema, opposite.

"I took her there, she thought she was going to see a film and I said 'I've got something to show you' and I told her to look up and she read it," he said.

"She said 'yeh'. She thought I was mad."

However, events did not end up running smoothly and the pair did not marry, splitting up three months later.

Park Hill as it looks today.

Park Hill as it looks today.

Ms Middleton, who has since died of cancer, was going to marry Jason, according to her mother.

"At the time she was in love with him," she said. "But things went wrong. She did get married in the end but not to Jason.

"He was obsessed. He used to follow her around town saying, Clare will you marry me, she kept saying 'no'.

In 2010, writer Frances Byrnes decided to investigate the graffiti and asked film-maker Penny Woolcock to join forces and work on a documentary for Radio 4.

Park Hill, a brutalist structure, is now a Grade II listed building and still divides opinion among Sheffielders.

Park Hill, a brutalist structure, is now a Grade II listed building and still divides opinion among Sheffielders.

The Star issued an appeal for people with information to come forward and gradually the pair were able to piece together the story.

Wrote Frances: "We met Jackie, Clare’s half-sister. She says Clare loved the proposal, “Best thing anyone’s ever done for her.” Clare was living alone with her two boys, a toddler and a baby, when she met Jason."

The story reveals that Clare had problems with drugs and social services over her children and flitted from romance to romance attracting "bad boys."

It also reveals that Jason was abused in children’s homes, both physically and sexually and his own children were taken into care.

The report added: "Jackie was clubbing with Clare one night when a friend came and said, “Your Clare’s doubled over.” Jackie found her in pain and bleeding. It was cancer." She died in 2007.

Added Frances: "The whole city sees the bridge when we look up. It lives with us in myriad ways. Travellers see it, glowing blue at night behind the railway station. Young people see a love story. To Jackie, “It’s bittersweet. Clare was proud of the bridge to the day she passed away, but to me it’s a ghost that will live on the skyline of Sheffield for ever.”