Sheffield Steel City

Sheffield is one my favourite English cities and one which I did not come to know until a few years ago. It is large with a population of  585,000 and 1,569,000 in the greater metropolitan area.  The River Sheaf which runs the city which give the city its name. The city is also known as Steel City because of its association with steel fabrication, especially the cutlery trade, which put Sheffield on the industrial map and accelerated it’s growth in the 19th century.  

As well as football Sheffield has a number of other interests for me including that it is historically linked to my other passion the Connaught Rangers. Sheffield’s impressive town hall, is located on Pinstone Street. It was designed by the London-based architect E. W. Mountford and constructed over a seven-year period from 1890 to 1897, opening on 21 May 1897.
The building was opened by Queen Victoria, using a remote control lock from her carriage. The turning of the key in the lock triggered a light in the building which was the signal for three concealed men to open the gates. The Connaught Rangers then stationed in Sheffield provided the Queen’s guard of honour. Her Majesty Queen Victoria visited Sheffield on June 21st 1897 for the purpose of opening the new town hall, on which occasion, the Connaught Rangers furnished a Guard of Honour at the railway station, under Cpt H.G.Adams-Connor with Lieuts P.T.Horton and HFN Jourdain.

Perhaps it was this connection to Sheffield which drew a number of recruits from the city into the ranks of the Rangers.

QUEEN VICTORIA

As in common with so many other cities Sheffield erected a statue to their beloved Queen following her demise. The official unveiling of the “Victoria Monument” by HRH Princess Beatrice of Battenburg took place in the town hall square (The junction of Leopold Street & Fargate) on May 11th 1905. The Monument was the work of Alfred Turner (1874-1940) is made of bronze and was commissioned by public subscription. It stood there until 1930 when it was moved to the South East end of Endcliffe Park where it sits to this day.

A statue of her son and successor, King Edward VII, was unveiled in Fitzalan Square, Sheffield by the Duke of Norfolk in October 1913, three years after his death. The statue, designed by Alfred Drury, is also made of bronze, and set upon an Aberdeen Kemnay Granite plinth. This statue remains in his original position despite Fitzalan Square being almost obliterated during the Sheffield Blitz of December 1940.

More on that later. Sheffield also contains a huge variety of decent pubs alongside the usual rubbish, godawful monstrosities that pass for pubs and litter so many English towns and cities. One my favourites is the unusually shaped Three Tons Pub on a hill behind the cathedral. From there you can make your way to the Red Deer on Pitt Street which has a huge selection of ales. Then onto the beautiful interior of the Bath Hotel on Victoria Street.

HEELEY

Heeley is a former cluster of villages which all now form a suburb in the south of the City. It is famous for many things but one being the Heeley Triangle a short, or if you wish, a longer pub crawl. There are two interpretations of the Heeley Triangle – the small version at Heeley bottom, taking in the Sheaf View, Brothers Arms and White Lion; and the bigger version including London Road, Bramall Lane and Abbeydale Road.

SHEFFIELD AND WW2

On the night of Thursday December 12th 1940 the city of Sheffield had a night of unprecedented horror. Sheffield’s factories, located in the east of the city along the river Don, had been altered into the production of weapons and ammunition for the war effort and so became prime targets for the Luftwaffe. On a cold, clear night with a full moon the German air force launched Operation Schmelzteigel (Crucible) and dozens of bombers, about 280 aircraft, left northern France to attack the city. The first bombs dropped by the Pathfinder squadrons fell at 7.41pm on the suburbs of Norton Lees and Gleadless, five km (three miles) south east of the city centre. The bombers came in waves and bombs began to hit the city centre about 2 hours later demolishing the east end of the Cathedral. At 10.50pm bombs destroyed buildings around Fitzalan Square and people took shelter in the cellars of the Marples Hotel. The hotel itself received a direct hit at 11.44pm , completely demolishing it and killing up to 70 people. The majority of the bombs fell on residential areas and the city centre and last bombs fell about 4am. Very few of the factories were hit.

On Sunday December 15th 1940 there was second raid this time by about a smaller number of bombers carrying incindiary bombs and began to bomb Sheffield about 7pm starting fires which guided in the following waves. This raid was a bit more accurate hitting a number of steelworks. The raid ended about 10.15pm. In all about 660 people were killed during the two raids and 1,500 injured with a further 40,000 made homeless. 134 of those killed were buried in a communal grave in City Road cemetery. King George V and and Queen Elisabeth visited the Sheffield after the bombing as did Winston Churchill who addressed a crowd in Town Hall Square.

Just over three years later another aircraft, this time American, crashed in Endcliffe Park. MI-AMIGO was a B17G ”Flying Fortress” which limped back to the UK after being badly damaged by Luftwaffe fighters during a daylight raid over Occupied Denmark. Attempting to get back to their base in Northampton the aircraft began to lose altitude over Sheffield. The pilot, Lt John Kriegshauser, received the Distinguished Flying Cross (posthumous) for diverting his stricken aircraft away from children playing football in the park that fateful day – February 22nd 1944. All 10 crew were killed instantly when the bomber crashed into a glade in the Park. THE MI-AMIGO MEMORIAL STONE was put into place in 1969 at the crash site and records the 10 brave young men from the 305th Bombardment Group who sacrificed their lives to save those of civilians on the ground.

STEEL CITY FOOTBALL
Sheffield of course has two football teams, bitter rivals, United ‘The Blades ‘ and Wednesday ‘The Owls. In recent years both teams slipped down to the First Division but are now back in the Championship and pushing for promotion.

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