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Sunday Morning in Sheffield

Published
May 25, 2022
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Sheffield, plus Tadcaster a little over 50 km north-north-east of Sheffield, on the way to York. Tadcaster is identified on the map for this post, as it is too small to show up otherwise. Also indicated at the bottom right are Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest. Background map data ©2022 Google. North at top.

COMING off the Peak District, I rolled on down to Sheffield. Here are a couple more photos of the bleak Peak District terrain on the way. I’m still amazed how there can be such wild country just a few kilometres from the city.

In the Peak District, with a carpark in the background


Sheep grazing by the side of the road in the Peak District, over an ancient-looking bridge

I wouldn’t have stopped in Sheffield, except that I heard it had lots of parks downtown: the Peace Park, the Winter Park, and lots of parks in general. Indeed, it does.

Sheffield’s Peace Park


Another view of Sheffield’s Peace Park

But I’m glad I did anyway, because it is a famous old city with lots of fine buildings. The oldest one, as usual I suppose, is the cathedral, Sheffield Cathedral.

Sheffield Cathedral


A selfie by Sheffield Cathedral


Inside Sheffield Cathedral

There was a display inside the cathedral describing the activities of worthy local citizens and other initiatives the cathedral was associated with. What the city is most famous for, actually, is steel-making and metal industries more generally.

Founded on the River Don, the city grew ten-fold in size during the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution: it was not much more than a village before that.

The built-up area shown in Ralph Gosling’s 1736 map of Sheffield corresponds only to about the innermost square kilometre of today’s Sheffield.

To put things in perspective, Sheffield Cathedral, which Gosling clearly depicts in the middle of the built-up area, complete with its spire, is less than 500 metres — in fact, less than 500 yards — from the Don, which still flows on much the same course today.

Ralph Gosling’s plan of Sheffield, dated 1736. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

Before the Industrial Revolution, along with a magnificent cathedral in an otherwise fairly small town, Sheffield may have been the birthplace of the folk-bandit Robin Hood, who is said to have spent time hiding in the Peak District to the west of Sheffield, when he wasn’t holed up in Sherwood Forest, about 30 km or twenty miles to the south-east of Sheffield, just south of Clumber Park, the former seat of the Dukes of Newcastle and now a property of the National Trust.

Sherwood Forest is about 9 km or a bit over five miles long, and about 2 km or a bit over a mile wide. Clumber Park seems to be even bigger but is fortunately now open to the public. I must visit both, next time.

Sherwood Forest lies between Sheffield and Nottingham: the abode of Robin’s nemesis, the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. These days, Sheffield shares a friendly rivalry with Nottingham for the honour of being Robin’s birthplace. Of course, there are those party-poopers who suppose that Robin never existed in the first place.

During the Industrial Revolution, ‘Sheffield steel’ became a by-world. The swordsmith James Wilkinson, at the top right in the display, was one of the pioneers of steelmaking in Sheffield: perhaps you have seen ads for Wilkinson Sword razor blades at one time.

From a display inside Sheffield Cathedral

The city also became known for making the steel into cutlery, and in the area of copper-working, it also became known for ‘Sheffield plate’, copper alloys durably plated with silver which was very popular for cutlery before stainless steel came along. Even more amazingly, perhaps, Sheffield is also the city where stainless steel was invented, around the time of the First World War.

All this industrial prosperity brought a great deal of fine architecture to the city (I’ve got photos below) but it’s also true that for a time, during the years of its rapid growth in the Industrial Revolution, Sheffield was a squalid place, where people died on average at the age of 27 from some disease or other.

More details from the display inside Sheffield Cathedral

Life expectancy just 27 … ah, the good old days. This must have been the statistical average taking the deaths of many babies into account as I am sure most people didn’t just drop dead at 27, even then.

But to come back to more cheerful topics, Sheffield is a fine old city of ‘northern pride’ and this is reflected in the architecture that the steel and cutlery paid for. The city of today also has a modern tram service, which makes a nice alternative to streets full of cars. It was Sunday morning, of course.

One of the main streets, with tram lines


A tram at a stop


The Sheffield City Hall is on the left in this view


Sheffield’s Old Town Hall


Even the headquarter of the water works look rather grand


Who’s that strange person taking a photo of me?

I visited Sheffield Cathedral at 10 am. The singing was just amazing. Here is a video I made, in and around the cathedral:


There were good eateries, and the city is easily accessible from London. It’s also fairly compact and walkable, only taking about an hour and a half to walk around and see the main sights.

Sunday is a good day to visit, as you get free parking. In fact, Sheffield is also regarded as a good city for daytrips in general, which can often begin and end with a train trip from Manchester through the Peak District, an adventure in itself.

There are several pages describing what to do in Sheffield in a day, from The Navigatio, The Urban Wanderer, One Day Itinerary, and Ebun & Life, among others. One of them mentions a Kiwi coffee bar: apparently, we Kiwis have a great reputation for café culture in Britain. Who would have thought it!

As to how I found my way around, I discovered that the local universities, Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam University, offer self-guided map tours, most probably for the benefit of their new students.

The content arrives from each university as a PDF flier, which you can print out and carry around. I can’t link these self-guided tours here since they try to open a PDF directly in the article. But you can search for them online, no problem. Just plug in ‘self-guided tours Sheffield’ and spot the ones from sheffield.ac.uk and sheffieldhallam.ac.uk (NB the city tours, not the campus ones).

There’s also an app from GPSMyCity. And there are others as well.

Tadcaster

After a few hours in Sheffield, I headed off in the direction of the old Mediaeval city of York. Just before I got to York, I arrived in Tadcaster, the home of the John Smith Brewery on the River Wharfe, which winds its way down from the Yorkshire Dales.

The Tadcaster Town Trail


The main street in Tadcaster (it’s not very big)


On the River Wharfe

I saw an amazing number of barbels, a species of fish resembling carp, spawning in the river. Here is a video of the barbels spawning:

My next post will be about York!

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