General View of Sheffield from the East

General View of Sheffield from the East. Source: The Graphic 10 (28 November 1874): 520. Click on image to enlarge it.

General Description of Sheffield

THE “steel metropolis” covers an area of 19,000 statute acres, the largest extent of ground occupied by any provincial town in the kingdom. In the borough there are 188 miles of roadway and 150 miles of main drainage. The town is nearly encircled by hills rising from 120 to 1,300 feet in height. It lies in the southern portion of the West Riding of Yorkshire, bor dering on Derbyshire, and is watered by the Porter, Loxley, Rivelin, Don, and Sheaf. From the last-named stream the town is supposed to have derived its name. The better class of dwellings are built on the sloping sides of the hills, while the industrial portion of the town covers the undulating base of the vast amphitheatre. Beyond the town proper lie numerous rapidly-increasing suburbs, which are within the Parliamentary limits of the borough. In conjunction with the surrounding villages, where cutlery operations are carried on, it is known as “Hallamshire.”

It is easy to obtain a comprehensive view of Sheffield by ascending one of the neighbouring heights, provided a clear hour can be secured for the purpose; but that is an especial difficulty in rainy weather, for whenever the atmosphere is damp the smoke of the hundreds of furnaces, mingling with the moisture of the air, hangs over the town in a dense black cloud. Our artist has selected as the best point for a general view St. John's Church, situated at the eastern end of the town, on an eminence overlooking most of the public works and buildings. Taking his station here, the observer would behold a complete forest of chimneys, round, square, and conical, vomiting forth huge volumes of inky smoke or great bursts of lurid flame. Along that valley almost everything that can be manufactured from iron or steel is fabricated. There are fashioned the munitions of war—armour plates, cannon, mortars, shot, and shell—the furnishings for rail. way and other steam engines, tyres, axles, springs, buffers, and rails, every variety of tools, saws, files, screws, wrenches, vices, hammers, anvils, scythes, sheep shears, and articles of cutlery, together with the most recent inventions in skates, velocipedes, sewing machines, stoves, grates, fenders, and fire-irons. Of course the manufacture of those articles is not confined to the district under notice; it is pursued all over the town and suburbs, but the spectator will remark that the eye encounters fewer tall chimney-stalks—those exponents of manufacturing industry—in ' other quarter of the town than in Saville Street and the valley of the Don. In this district are situated the vast works of Sir John Brown and Co. (Limited), which occupy upwards of 25 square acres of land, and give employment to more than 5,000 men; the equally large works of Messrs. Charles Cammell and Co. (Limited), in which the present Master Cutler is managing director; the works of Messrs. Mark Firth and Sons; of Messrs. Spear and Jackson; of Messrs. Jessop and Sons; of Messrs. Brown, Bailey, and Dixon (Dimited), and many others of great extent and productive capacity. It was in this district that the memorable flood of March 11, 1864, committed its terrible ravages, when the Sheffield Waterworks Company's reservoir at Bradfield burst, causing the deaths of 280 persons.

Besides the manufacture of cutlery goods, for which Sheffield is famed, the capital of Hallamshire is fast becoming a formidable rival to Birmingham in the production of electro-plated wares. Indeed electro-plating is a Sheffield invention. Mr. Wright, who discovered the process, sold his right to a Birmingham firm, who so rapidly developed it that electro-plating soon became an important part of the local industry of that town. Silver-plating is likewise a Sheffield invention, the art having been accidentally discovered in 1742 by Mr. Thomas Bolsover, and thereafter improved upon by Mr. Joseph Hancock.

The Sheffield manufacturers do not seem to find it necessary to erect handsome warehouses for the display of their commodi ties, which is a pity, so far as the appearance of the town is concerned. A few more such show rooms as those of Messrs. Joseph Rodgers and Sons (Limited) would greatly improve the town, which, apart from its industrial aspect, is not eminently remarkable; and its public buildings are not of a very imposing character. The Town Hall, wherein the police courts are held, does not present great architectural beauties. The Corporation meet in a room on the second floor of the plain square building which may be seen rising away to the left in Surrey Street, of which the basement does duty as the Central Free Library and the top flat as a Mechanics' Institution. The Albert Hall, near the centre of the town, the Banks, the Cutlers' Hall, the offices of the new Gas Company and the Water Company, the Wesley College, and the new Board Schools may be mentioned as the most favourable specimens of the secular architecture of Sheffield. The churches and chapels are both numerous and handsome, and give a pleasing variety to the landscape. The population of Sheffield has increased rapidly. In 1851 the numbers were 135,307; in 1861, 185, 155; and in 1871, 239,947. Its present population is 260,000, the yearly, increase being reckoned at upwards of 10,000. Hitherto cultivated taste and public spirit seem to have been somewhat in arrear of wealth, but now the authorities, in concert with the moneyed classes, are bestirring themselves to make up for former shortcomings. Upwards of 20,000l. were spent in erecting the Albert Hall. Another 5,500l, were expended in procuring an organ from Paris, which is reputed to be the finest in the kingdom. A considerable part of the funds for building the Albert Hall were subscribed on the condition that entertainments should be given suitable to the taste of the working classes and at prices within their reach. The new Board Schools reflect the highest credit on the liberality and taste of all concerned in their erection. The Newhall School was the first building erected under the Education Act of 1870. Last August five elegant and commodious new schools were opened with appropriate ceremony, and other five schools are in course of erection. Sheffield's first public park was opened in the month of May amid great rejoicings. Weston Park, as it is called, was purchased by the Corporation. The spacious hall is being converted into a combined museum, fernery, and aquarium. In July last Mark Firth, Esq., of Oakbrook, the newly-appointed Mayor, presented to the town a portion of Page Hall estate for the purposes of a public park. This second park, which is at present being properly laid out, is about half a mile in length, and a quarter of a mile in breadth at its widest point. It is to be called the “Firth Park,” and will prove a great boon to the neighbouring residents. A scheme is now before the public for widening and improving, at a cost of 300,000l., the present marrow and tortuous streets in the centre of the town. In the suburbs and towards the west-end, where the wealthy merchants and manufacturers reside, there are many fine mansions, but seen rom St. John's Church, or by a traveller passing through by ailway, Sheffield, especially on a murky autumn day, presents to the eye the appearance of a jungle of brick and mortar and blackened stone. [522]

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“Buildings and Industries of Sheffield.” The Graphic 10 (28 November 1874): 520-22. Hathi Trust online version of a copy in the New York Public Library. Web. 2 July 2021

Last modified 2 July 2021