Sheffield - UK


Sheffield is a city of around 530,000 people situated right in the centre of Britain on the southern edge of Yorkshire. Built on and within seven hills at the confluence of the rivers Don and Sheaf, it has very varied views and there are many enjoyable walks in the lush valleys leading away from the city particularly alongside the rivers Porter and Rivelin.

Sheffield has existed since very early times and has always been known and highly regarded for its cutlery production. Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343 - 1400) writes of a 'Sheffield Thwittel' (meaning knife). However, until the industrial revolution of the 19th century, it was overshadowed by its now smaller neighbour, Rotherham which was a busy market town. The thriving cutlery trade was located all along the main valleys, particularly of the Porter and Rivelin, where dams provided the water to power water wheels for small factory units. Some of these can still be seen and the remaining dams are a haven for local fishermen. Each small factory specialised in certain processes such as forging or grinding and the part finished cutlery progressed from workshop to workshop along the valley until it emerged finished on mule trains for conveyance to Manchester, Birmingham or London where it could be sold.

Another famous site was the Mousehole Forge at Loxley where, for well over a century, virtually every anvil in the western world was produced and Sheffield was also home to the world famous Wilson's Snuff, originally started by one family but, after a family argument, split into two separate operations, the only remaining part being known as 'Top Mill' snuff from its being the higher of the two original factories. This mill still has part of its original water powered equipment in working order and will allow visitors by prior appointment.

During the first half of this century, heavy steel production was the mainstay of local industry with the making of rail track and plate armour for the early battleships among the main products and, of course, steel itself was invented here by Benjamin Huntsman.

Other products invented in Sheffield have included Henderson's Relish, Mushy peas and the Gripple, not forgetting Bassets Liquorice Allsorts!

Whilst heavy steel production has now all but ceased in Sheffield, the actual output of steel is greater than ever. however, it is now mainly stainless and special steels, the production of which is kinder to the local environment. During my youth it was not uncommon to have to claw one's way to school through thick yellow or orange fogs when weather conditions prevented the steel works smoke from rising but, thanks to the changes in steel production and particularly the Clean Air Acts of he mid 1960's, Sheffield is now a very clean and pleasant place to live.

Since hosting the World Student Games several years ago, the city has seen the development of a whole new sector of sport related industry and is now the focus of many national and international sporting tournaments and its new stadia also provide an ideal venue for major pop concerts etc. There is also a growing media industry producing films, television and computer programmes.

The city centre was heavily bombed during WWII and the majority of commercial buildings date from the rebuilding in the 1950's, however, the Town Hall, the Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Cathedral and several other important buildings escaped the bombing almost unscathed. Unfortunately, modern traffic schemes have made the city centre almost inaccessible and so many businesses have relocated to the outskirts or left the city altogether. The development of Meadowhall Shopping Centre, a large shopping mall, fortunately provided a home for many retail outlets and is conveniently situated at the junction of Sheffield and Rotherham alongside the M1 motorway.

Here are some images of the Porter Valley to the South West of the City Centre taken on the morning of 1st January 2000

Looking towards the City Centre
Shepherds Wheel Dam
Forge Dam
Porter Brook
Back to Homepage To Links Page