“If the people of Sheffield could only receive a tenth of what their knives sell for retail in America, Sheffield might pave its streets with silver.”

– William Cobbett

Sheffield is the second largest city in Yorkshire. According to the 2011 census, it has a population of just over 50,000 people.

This Yorkshire city is situated at the confluence of five rivers. One of these is the River Sheaf which the city takes its name from.

It’s located in South Yorkshire which was originally the West Riding of Yorkshire. Sheffield is most famous for its steel production, contribution to British music, and a proud sporting heritage.

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Sheffield’s Steel Industry

Sheffield’s steel industry dates all the way back to the 14th Century. It specialises in the production of cutlery.

The city is even mentioned in one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In this, the tale refers to a Sheffield “thwitel”, or knife.

Sheffield’s location includes several fast flowing rivers. It’s also surrounded by hills that are full of minerals.

This city wasn’t conventional in their use of water wheels which were traditionally used for milling corn. Instead, they used the location’s conditions to their advantage in manufacturing blades.

In 1600, Sheffield was the largest producer of cutlery outside of London. To oversee this, the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire was formed.


This company was a guild of metal workers with its head known as “The Master Cutler”. In 1638, their original headquarters were built.

The current building on the same site was built in 1832. This is now known as The Cutler’s Hall.

Inside this grand building are displays of old Hallamshire knives. Some of these even date back to the Elizabethan times.

Nowadays, the hall is used for civic ceremonies. These include the annual banquet, weddings, and conferences.

Sheffield were well known for their reputation in steel making. However, this was further enhanced thanks to two innovations.

In 1740, Benjamin Huntsman of nearby Handsworth invented a new way of making crucible steel. This was a stronger material than what they were using at the time.

Later in 1912, Harry Brearly discovered stainless steel. This type of steel is still popular and often used today.

Like many industries in the UK, steelmaking declined in Sheffield during the 20th Century. However, the city has still kept some of its old industry.

Sheffield Forgemaster was created in 1983 as the result of a merger between the nationalised British Steel. British Steel itself is a mixture of several Sheffield companies and Firth Brown.

Its buildings dominate the Brightside area of the city. Steel castings and ingots are produced for many different companies including the military, oil rigs, and the nuclear industry.

Sheffield’s Green City

Sheffield earned the nickname “the steel city”. Despite this, the city is actually one of the greenest places in the UK with numerous parks, gardens, and woodland.

One third of the settlement is situated within the Peak District National Park. It incorporates the Sheffield round walk which is a 14 mile trail around the city.

The footpath passes through the city’s largest green space, Graves Park. This park opened in the 1930’s and has been much loved ever since.

It houses an animal farm, cafe, fishing lakes, and nature trails. There are also large areas for outdoor sports such as football, golf putting, and bowls.

The winter gardens are a great retreat. Picture credit wikipedia public domain.
The winter gardens are a great retreat. Picture credit wikipedia public domain.

The city centre enclosed Winter gardens opened in 2003. This is located inside one of the largest temperate glasshouses in Europe.

It features over 2,000 plants from all around the world. These are changed five times a year in accordance with the seasons.

In total, there are 80 parks in Sheffield. These include Endcliffe Park, Hillsborough Park, and the Cholera memorial grounds.

In 1834, the Cholera memorial grounds were created. It’s located on the site of a burial ground for the 400 people who had perished from the disease two years earlier.

The land was given to the city by the Duke of Norfolk. A monument was also built here.

In more recent times, facilities have been added such as a bowling green and access to the adjacent Clay Woods. Repairs to the monument were also made after being blown over during a storm in 1990.

There are seventeen nature reserves in the city. Six of these sites are of special scientific interest.

Sheffield was built in a valley. It has a natural setting where wildlife can thrive in a variety of habitats such as rivers, marshland, and moorland.

Sheffield Cathedral

Sheffield Cathedral is a historic landmark in the centre of the city Picture credit Chris Downer geograph creative commons.
Sheffield Cathedral. Picture credit Chris Downer geograph creative commons.

Sheffield Cathedral is the oldest building in the city. It dates back to around 1430 although two previous churches have stood on the site since Norman times.

Originally the building was a parish church under the governance of Worksop Priory. In the late 18th Century, Sheffield’s population grew and the church was extended in 1777 as a result.

However, it wasn’t until 1914 that the church was given cathedral status. Throughout the 1930’s, the building was further extended.

This extension saw three new chapels added. In the 21st Century, community rooms for hospitality and local businesses, and shelter for the homeless were added.

Museums & Art Galleries in Sheffield

Although Sheffield isn’t full of historic tourist attractions, it does have a very strong and independent culture. This is reflected in its numerous museums and art galleries.

In 2001, the Millennium Gallery opened. It has space for two permanent collections and two temporary exhibitions.

The permanent galleries feature work from the Victorian artist John Ruskin. It’s a display which celebrates Sheffield’s industrial heritage in metalwork.

In total there are 13,000 items used within Ruskin’s display. Each of these were made in the city’s famous spoons, forks, bowls, and scissors.

The older Graves Gallery is located about the Central library. It has been in the city since 1934.

This gallery displays work from local and international artists. There is also the personal collection of its founder John George Graves who contributed 700 exhibits to the gallery.

In 1875, the Weston Park Museum opened. It tells the story of the history of Sheffield and is home to one of the oldest weather stations in the country that has been active since 1882.

The museum underwent refurbishment in 2006. Originally it was called Sheffield City Museum and Mappin Art Gallery but this changed to Weston Park Museum after the refurbishment.

One of the main attractions of this museum is the treasures gallery. Artefacts brought from other parts of the world include a crocodile skull from India and a set of Japanese dolls gifted to local industrialist Arthur Balfour.

The “what on earth” gallery displays South Yorkshire’s natural history. It allows visitors to see and listen to animals found on the moors surrounding the city.

Theatres in Sheffield

Sheffield has two major theatres in its city. These are the Lyceum and the Crucible.

The Lyceum opened in 1897 and closed in 1969. It was able to hold a capacity of 1,068 people in the auditorium.

During the 70’s the building was saved from demolition by local pressure groups. As a result, the site became a bingo hall and rock concert venue.

However, in 1985, the Lyceum was bought by two local businessmen. They, along with the help of the council, restored it to its former glory and reopened it as a theatre in 1991.

This theatre traditionally hosts the city’s pantomime. It also features a variety of plays, comedy, and dance performances throughout the year.

The Crucible is known for hosting the World Snooker Championships every year. In 1971, it opened its doors at a time when the Lyceum and other venues had closed.

It’s theatre’s 900 seater auditorium is unique in that it has a prominent “thrust” stage. This is a performance area that extends into the audience so they can see the stage from three sides.

The smaller Crucible Studio Theatre is a 400 seater venue. It hosts more intimate events such as comedy shows and classical concerts.

Entertainment Venues in Sheffield

Sheffield City Hall opened in 1932 and is another entertainment venue. There is a 2,000 seater ballroom which hosts tea, dances, club nights, and parties.

Sheffield arena has been present in the city since 1991. It has an approximate capacity of 13,500 people.

The arena hosts a range of pop concerts, comedy shows, sporting events, and dance performances. These include comedians Russel Brand and Peter Kay.

It also hosts sporting events such as WWE wrestling, Premier League Darts, and World-title boxing. It’s also home to the Sheffield Steelers Ice Hockey team.

The arena has also been used for major TV shows. These include The X Factor and Sports Personality of the Year.

In recent music years, it’s hosted some big music names. Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and The Arctic Monkeys have all played here.

Pop Music in Sheffield

Sheffield has made an enormous contribution to UK pop music during the past thirty years. In the early 80’s Sheffield was at the forefront of the new synth pop sound.

This included bands from the city such as The Human League, Heaven 17, and ABC. Each of these bands consistently topped the charts throughout this era.

The city also played a part in the acid house movement at the end of the decade. Warp record, one of the scene’s most prominent record labels, was established in 1989.

Rock and Indie music have also thrived in Sheffield. Bands such as Def Leppard, Pulp, and The Arctic Monkeys have led the way from the 1980’s to the present day.

Nightclubs in Sheffield

In 2002, Niche nightclub opened playing the then underground genre of bassline. It closed three years later due to its links with crime and antisocial behaviour in the city.

Sheffield was also home to another famous nightclub called Gatecrasher. This opened in 1997 but burned down ten years later.

A fire started early in the evening from the DJ stand. Luckily only a few staff were present and they were all safely evacuated.

Currently, clubbing in Sheffield includes places such as Amnesia, The Viper Rooms, and The Leadmill. Chain clubs such as Reflex are also popular venues in the city centre.

Festivals in Sheffield

Each July the Tramlines Festival takes place which celebrates music in the city. It features a combination of national and local artists.

Genres within this festival range from hip hop to folk music. Tramlines is held at around 70 venues across the city including its universities.

Travelling In & Out of Sheffield

Sheffield is very well linked to other parts of Yorkshire. It’s within easy reach of two motorways which are the M1 and the M18.

The M1 runs north to Barnsley and Leeds. On the other hand, the M18 cuts across the county to link Sheffield to the M62 and places such as Doncaster, Goole, and Hull.

Sheffield brought back their tram system in the 1990s. Picture credit: Rept0n1x wikipedia creative commons.
A Sheffield Supertram. Picture credit: Rept0n1x wikipedia creative commons.

Sheffield has had a long history of trams. It has an original network that’s known as The Sheffield Tramway which ran from 1873 to 1960.

Currently, Sheffield is the only place in Yorkshire to have a fully operational tram system. The new Supertram network was developed and fully opened in 1995.

It stretched from the city centre to three parks and rides at Meadowhall shopping centre, Middlewood, and Halfway. There were also plans to extend the tram service from Meadowhall to Dore village in the South West.

Sheffield Railway Station opened in 1870 and extended in 1905. It’s also used as a tram stop and is one of the busiest train stations in Yorkshire.

Currently, there are services to London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds amongst others. Sheffield is also one of the cities which will be included in the HS2 rail link to London.

A short walk away is the Sheffield Interchange bus station. It opened in 1936 and redeveloped in the 1990’s.

Sheffield Interchange bus station opened in 1936 and redeveloped in the 1990’s. It’s complete with its own Castle Square tram stop.

The interchange has thirty stands in total which cover destinations around Yorkshire. There are also services which run further afield through the National Express.

Education in Sheffield

Sheffield is home to two major higher education institutions. These are Sheffield University and the new Sheffield Hallam.

Sheffield University was founded in 1897. Later on in 1905, the university received a Royal Charter.

It was one of the original red brick universities in the country and expanded rapidly during the 20th Century. It’s never had a campus of its own, instead it’s made up of a cluster of buildings.

One of these is the Arts Tower which opened in 1966. It’s currently the highest university structure in the entire country.

The building contains one of the last few remaining examples of a paternoster lift. This is a chain of two berth compartments that move slowly in a loop.

This university has a long history. It has high credibility in research with major companies such as Siemens, Rolls Royce, and Boots.

The student union has won awards for being the best in terms of facilities and experience. It has two watering holes, Bar One and The Raynor Lounge, and its own inhouse student run cinema.

Sheffield Hallam is one of the largest universities in the UK. It accommodates over 30,000 students who are studying more than 700 courses.

The university is spread over two campuses. One is in the city centre, and the other, called the Collegiate Crescent, is based in the south-west of Sheffield.

It’s also one of the biggest providers of nurses and teachers in the country. Notable alumni are Dame Kelly Holmes, Nick Park, and Sean Bean.

The Sheffield Universities varsity takes place over the course of the academic year between the two institutions. 26 sports with points are awarded for each win and reflects the proud and competitive nature of sport within the steel city.

Sports in Sheffield

Association football is the heart of the city’s sporting heritage. The first two football clubs were formed here.

Sheffield FC was formed in 1857, and Hallam in 1860. They went on to take part in the first ever football derby.

Other clubs started to form around the city including one called “The Wednesday”. Together they developed their own rules of the game which had no offside rule but introduced free kicks for foul play.

Nowadays, both clubs play in the non-leagues. They live largely in the shadow of two famous clubs which are Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United.

Wednesday was originally a cricket club which added football to its roster in 1867. It became Sheffield Wednesday Cricket and Football Club, named after the day they play their matches.

The club had success in the early 20th Century and again in the 1990’s when they won the League Cup. They briefly became a real force to be reckoned with before their 1998 relegation.

In 1889, their rivals in the south of the city were formed. Sheffield United play at Bramall Lane which is the oldest major football ground and has been used since 1867.

Sheffield is also famous for hosting the annual World Snooker Championships at The Crucible Theatre. This has been its home since 1977.

Rugby League is also present in the city. Sheffield Eagles were formed in 1984 and play their home games at Owlerton stadium.

The city’s ice hockey team, The Sheffield Steelers, formed in 1991. They have won the title on three occasions since its formation in 2003.

In 1991, the city hosted the World Student Games. It was held in the purpose built Don Valley Stadium.

Unfortunately, the venue was demolished in 2013. Locals opposed this however the demolition was due to cost cutting measures from Sheffield Council.

Sheffield is also noted for its athletes. These include Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis, long distance runner and Olympic organiser Sebastian Coe, boxer Naseem Hamed, and World Cup winner Gordon Banks.

Ponds Forge International sports centre opened in 1991. Currently, it has one of the country’s nine Olympic size swimming pools.

It also has a range of sporting facilities. These include one of Europe’s deepest diving pools, gym, public swimming pool, and multi purpose sports hall.

Sheffield city centre was part of the 2014 Tour de France. It was the finish for the second leg of the race from York.

Shopping in Sheffield

In 1990, Meadowhall Shopping Centre was built. It’s located on the site of an old steel works at the edge of the city.

This is the ninth biggest shopping centre in the UK. It has around 300 shops including high street names, independent traders, and food outlets.

On the top floor of Meadowhall is an eleven screen multiplex cinema. There is also an extensive free car park for all visitors.

sheff meadowhall Paul Harrop
Meadowhall Shopping centre. Picture credit Paul Harrop wikipedia creative commons geograph

The centre is lit up at night and its familiar domes are visible from the M1. Many people use these as a landmark when they drive past the city.

Meadowhall Shopping Centre also has its own tram stop and railway station. This makes it very accessible from all parts of Yorkshire and beyond.

Its main rival is the Crystal Peaks retail park. Constructed in 1988, it lies to the south east of the city.

This retail park hosts a range of fashion outlets. These include Marks & Spencers, New Look, and NEXT.

Both of these shopping centres contribute to the city’s green policy. Meadowhall collects rainwater in a bore hole underneath the centre and four storage tanks used to operate its toilets.

Crystal Peaks on the other hand has installed hives in its roof. They’ve also planted flowers to help the local bee population.

Sheffield city centre has several shopping zones. Each one is home to popular shops.

These shopping zones include the pedestrianised Fargate and The Moor market. The Devonshire Quarter and West Street cater to the large student population.

Once known as the Steel City, Sheffield is slowly becoming the Green City. It has plenty to offer with its distinctive culture and heritage evident throughout its borders.

History of Sheffield

Human activity in the Sheffield area dates back to Prehistoric times. Art and circle stones believed to be around 12,800 years old have been found on the moors around the city.

A hill fort is thought to have been built by the Brigantes tribe around 500 BC. It’s located and can be found on the banks of the River Don.

Sheffield parish church before it became a Cathedral picturedl in 1819
Sheffield parish church before it became a Cathedral pictured in 1819. picture credit: Wikipedia public domain.

This is believed to have been created to form a boundary. It separated Brigante land and its rival Midland based tribe the Corieltauvi.

However, the first notable settlement was created by the Romans in 41 AD. This was built on the banks of the River Sheaf and the River Don.

Sheffield derives from the corruptions of two words. “Sheth” means to divide, and “feld” was a common suffix meaning forest clearing.

The first notable historic event was a truce between Saxon King Egbert of Wessex and King Eanred of Northumbria at Dore in the year 829. This made Egbert the first king of England.

In the 1086 Domesday Book, Sheffield was known as Shafeld. It’s also noted that the manor of Hallun (Hallam), under Norman rule, has sixteen hamlets.

Like most other places in Yorkshire, a castle was built to maintain order. The construction of the castle happened soon after an invasion and as a result a town grew around its walls.

Sheffield was given a market charter to be held on a Tuesday by King Edward I in 1296. The parish church was founded around the same time.

The city was a victim of one of the lesser remembered conflicts in the Middle Ages. This was the Second Barons War which started in 1264 and ended in 1267.

During this skirmish, the castle and parish church were destroyed by a party of Royalist barons. The landowner, Thomas de Furnival, supported the rebel views of Simon de Montfort who protested Henry III’s reign.

After this ended, both the castle and parish church were rebuilt. Since then they have been added to and some of the rebuilt church is part of the cathedral today.

Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Sheffield Castle and Manor from 1870 to 1884. During this time she was awaiting her trial for treason.

In less than 100 years time, the castle would once again be rubble. It was destroyed by Parliamentary forces during the Civil War in 1648.

In the mid-18th Century, the Industrial Revolution began. It was only then that the history of Sheffield really took off.

By this point, Sheffield thwitel or knife had been mentioned in Chaucer’s 14th Century Canterbury Tales. In 1600, Sheffield became the largest producer of cutlery outside London.

Benjamin Huntsman discovered crucible steel in 1740. This discovery came at the right time as it allowed Sheffield to grow from a small market town to a major industrial city.

Over the next one hundred years, the population of Sheffield increased tenfold. Workers moved from the countryside to work in the city’s numerous steel factories.

Poor conditions in the city at the time caused several cholera outbreaks. The worst was in 1832 which resulted in 402 casualties who are commemorated in the Cholera memorial grounds.

In March 1864, the city experienced its worst flood. The newly built Dale Dyke Dam collapsed and water surged down the River Don destroying or partially destroying 506 houses and businesses, flooded 4,000 homes, and killed at least 240 people.

A new dam was built further up the valley. The disaster created a lot of damage and heartbreak which resulted in a change in their design and engineering.

In March 2014, it was the 150 year anniversary of the disaster. This was commemorated by a memorial service for the victims and a plaque was unveiled to mark the occasion.

Henry Bessemer made further discoveries in the production of steel in 1856. He invented the Bessemer converter.

Sheffield Forgemasters are one of the last few remaining steel plants in the city. Picture credit Stephen Craven wikipedia creative commons.
Sheffield Forgemasters are one of the last few remaining steel plants in the city. Picture credit Stephen Craven wikipedia creative commons.

Harry Brearly also made the discovery of stainless steel in 1912. This cemented Sheffield’s reputation in steel and two years later its church was upgraded to cathedral status.

In both World Wars, Sheffield was a target for the German bombers. This was because most of its steel factories produced munitions for the war effort.

There were two nights of heavy bombing in December 1940. It became known as The Sheffield Blitz which caused more than 660 lives to be lost.

Sheffield saw a lot of changes during the second half of the 20th Century. Like other Yorkshire cities, industries began to decline.

Mergers started to happen between some of the larger steel factories. Some of these remained in the shape of the current Sheffield Forgemasters in 1983.

The 1990’s saw rapid change and modernisation of the city. Meadowhall Shopping Centre was built in 1990, followed by the Don Valley Stadium, arena, and Ponds Forge a year later.

Ultimately in 1995, the Supertram system opened. Following on in the 21st Century, cultural projects such as the Winter Gardens and Millennium Galleries.

Sheffield is now regarded as a thriving Yorkshire city. It has a large student population and growing industries.

In 2011, the city was declared an enterprise zone. This makes it a good place for people to run independent businesses.

Despite continuously growing, Sheffield also retains some of its past glories. This is done without compromising on its modern, green, and independent culture.

Sheffield Trivia

Sheffield’s name comes from the River Sheaf which runs through the city.

There is evidence that Sheffield has been inhabited for almost 12,000 years.

During the Iron Age, Sheffield was part of The Brigantes territory. They constructed several Iron Age forts in and around the area.

After The Romans abandoned Britain, Sheffield became part of The Celtic Kingdom of Elmet.

During the Anglo-Saxon period, Sheffield was half in the Kingdom of Mercia and the other half in Northumbria.

Sheffield was known for its production of knives by the 14th Century and has since become world famous.

In Chaucer’s 14th Century Canterbury Tales, a Sheffield thwitel (knife) is mentioned.

Half of the surgical blades in the world are made in Sheffield.

In 1864, Dale Dyke Dam broke resulting in The Great Sheffield Flood. Around 506 houses and businesses either destroyed or partially destroyed, over 4,000 homes flooded, and at least 240 people died.

In 1937, George Orwell wrote “Sheffield, I suppose, could justly claim to be called the ugliest town in the Old World”.

At night on the 12th and 15th of December 1940, there were two heavy raids that became known as The Sheffield Blitz. Over 600 people died and many buildings were destroyed.

The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University have a combined student population of 54,000.

In 1857, Sheffield F.C was formed making it the world’s first official football team.

Sheffield has two football teams. These are Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United.

Sheffield Wednesday got its name from the day they played their games.

Sheffield is home to The Don Valley International Athletics Stadium which is the largest athletics stadium in the UK.

The city has a ski village which is the largest artificial ski resort in Europe.

These well known brands come from Sheffield: Heaven 17, The Thompson Twins, and The Human League.

The Arctic Monkeys were formed in Sheffield in 2002.

Founding members of Pulp and Def Leppard went to Sheffield Hallam University.

World famous actor Sean Bean is from Sheffield. He starred in football film When Saturday Comes based on Sean’s favourite team Sheffield United.

The Full Monty and Whatever Happened to Harold Smith are set in Sheffield.

Both The Full Monty and George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier say Sheffield is built on seven hills. A study has shown that it’s actually built on eight. 

Sheffield is built on the confluence of five rivers: The Don, The Sheaf, The Rivelin, The Loxley, and The Porter

Sheffield is home to Magners Grin up North comedy festival which is England’s largest comedy festival.

Sheffield has held The World Snooker Championship at The Crucible Theatre since 1977.

The Crucible Theatre and The Studio Theatre make up the largest theatre complex outside of London.

Liquorice Allsorts have been made in Sheffield for over a hundred years.

Henderson’s Relish has been made in Sheffield since the end of the 19th Century.