The Mystery of Hallamshire – Howard Smith – 17th October 2016

An altern­at­ive title for this fas­cin­at­ing present­a­tion by reg­u­lar vis­itor Howard Smith could well be “Where the f*** is Hallamshire?”

I and quite a few other mem­bers have the words Hallam or Hallamshire in the names of the roads where we live. We vote in the par­lia­ment­ary con­stitu­ency of Sheffield Hallam. I catch a 51 bus at Hallam Head. I pass Hallamshire Golf Club almost every day along with Hallam Football Club (the oldest foot­ball ground in the world, but that’s another story). We go to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital when cir­cum­stances dic­tate, and Sheffield Hallam University is a seat of learn­ing (hope­fully) for more than 30,000 stu­dents.

And yet few of us really know just what con­sti­tutes the his­toric region of Hallamshire, and how and why it came into exist­ence.

Howard, a member of the neigh­bor­ing Crosspool Probus Club, made a vali­ant attempt to explain the facts, but him­self admit­ted that much of the his­tory of Hallamshire is guess­work because no writ­ten records exist from the earli­est days. It is, indeed, a mys­tery.

We are sur­roun­ded by the names Hallam and Hallamshire,” he said. “And yet I sus­pect that if you had a vis­itor from, say, London, who asked what it meant, very few of you would be totally con­fid­ent of explain­ing exactly where it is, how big it is, or its his­tory. It would be a case of ‘answers on a post­card please.’

The truth is,” he con­tin­ued, “there is no such place as Hallamshire. It does not exist. So why on earth is it such a per­vas­ive name?”

In Anglo Saxon times, Hallamshire formed the south west­ern out­post of the Kingdom of Northumbria, and its border with the Kingdom of Mercia. In fact, one of sev­eral sug­ges­tions for the origin of the name Hallam is ‘a corner por­tion of a larger ter­rit­ory,’

That same ancient bound­ary between Northumbria and Mercia – along Stanage Edge – today still forms the border between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, the city of Sheffield and the parish of Hathersage in the Derbyshire Dales and, Howard reminded us, the See of York and the See of Canterbury.

What is gen­er­ally accep­ted as the region of Hallamshire covers an area of 112 square miles and takes in the par­ishes of Sheffield, Bradfield and Ecclesfield. Before Sheffield grew in import­ance, Ecclesfield was the mother church of Hallamshire, and Bradfield – to the north and west of Sheffield – was and still is one of the largest par­ishes in England.

As Howard poin­ted out when list­ing all the place names, organ­isa­tions and com­mer­cial con­cerns which include the words Hallam or Hallamshire: “It doesn’t exist leg­ally or geo­graph­ic­ally, but has become almost a brand.”

Just one example of this is ‘the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire’ — not Sheffield — which has rep­res­en­ted the cut­lery industry in the city and elec­ted a Master Cutler every year since 1624.

We are honored to have within our mem­ber­ship three past hold­ers of this his­toric and very pres­ti­gi­ous post, and it was former Master Cutler John Harvey who provided me with the pos­sible altern­at­ive title to which I referred in the open­ing para­graph.

During the ques­tion and answer ses­sion which tra­di­tion­ally fol­lows our talks, John eli­cited the biggest laugh of the morn­ing when he recalled the time he was attend­ing a white tie livery dinner in London during his term of office. “A very posh lady came up to me and asked: ‘Are you the Master Cutler?’

’Yes,’ I replied. ‘… of Hallamshire?’ she asked.

‘Yes,’ I replied again, to which her response was: ‘Where the f*** is Hallamshire?’”