Sheffield - The Steel City in a Golden FrameCity of Hills and Rivers at work and leisure
The Seven Hills of Sheffield,
carved by the Six Rivers
that powered the Wheels
that Ground the Steel
that made Sheffield famous.
What turns the wheels of the city now?
Progress and innovation!
Long gone are the many dozens of water mills powered by the six rivers. Those valleys have become arteries of green space, homes to parks and woodlands leading through the suburbs almost to the city centre in places.
Long gone are the noisy, dirty steam engines that provided a more reliable power source than the water wheels.
Long gone is the image of a heavily industrialised and polluted city, Sheffield has more trees per capita than any other city in Europe. The massive steel-works are largely a thing of the past but the steel industry remains, now concentrating on the high-value, high-grade steel alloys.
But Sheffield remains proud of our history, our hard work remaining at the cutting edge of technology. Many of the historic sites are either preserved or like the Portland Works sensitively converted to other uses such as workspaces for artists, traditional and modern craftspeople, offices, accommodation, entertainment venues, restaurants…
You can still get an impression of the massive steel foundries at Magna or the complete water-powered scythe factory at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet. Another option is the Kelham Island industrial museum where it’s well worth timing your visit to see the massive River-Don steel rolling mill operating (usually 12pm and 2pm when the museum is open). Also see the Shepherd Wheel, a small water-powered grinding and sharpening workshop (weekends).
Industrial air pollution was notoriously bad but starting in the 1950s there was a drive to improve, so successful that by the mid 70s it was declared “the cleanest industrial city in Europe”, proof that when we set out a goal to achieve, we excel.
So much for the past, what of the future? Although many of the older metalwork workshops were unable to compete with low quality cheap imports, the premium manufacturers remain providing items for the quality end of the market. A fairly random selection might include Henry Taylor tools (woodworking/turning chisels), Chimo Holdings (cutlery and silverware), Thomas Flinn (craftsman’s saws) but there are dozens of others.
Many of these businesses are “below the radar” of the average resident but tucked away in quiet corners and business parks, out of sight to most of us but labouring away on their specialist areas of expertise. We may know that Sheffield has a long standing jewellery and precious metals sector, and our own Assay office. But how many of us are even aware that one of Sheffield’s long established trades is the manufacture of pewterware? A few manufacturers remain, producing not just the traditional beer tankards but a range of beautiful items, you’ll find some, along with a wide range of the finest locally made products at The Famous Sheffield Shop
Other examples of Sheffield craftsmanship can be seen in the Millennium Gallery and the Cutler’s Hall
Still more of the future lies with our two highly rated Universities, attracting students from around the world and frequently involved in the development of innovative products especially in the traditional spheres of engineering and medicine. The city is home to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).
Much used to be said of “The Golden Frame of Sheffield”, that description seems to have fallen by the wayside but it is still apposite, meaning not just a green-belt but well beyond the city borders are a multitude of attractions of all kinds. I hesitate to single anything out but the Peak District is on our doorstep, the UKs first National Park, home to the palatial Chatsworth House and start of the Pennine Way, the UK’s first long distance hiking trail.