Our Speaker this week, David Templeman, has given us several most interesting talks on the local history of our city and this was to be no exception. His presentation was to cover a broader picture than its title. As we were to discover, Sheffield’s street names encapsulate and bring us into touch with so much of our city’s history.
If you click here a map of Sheffield in 1771 will appear on a separate tab and you will be able to flip to and from the map using your tabs at the top of your browser.
David began his talk by sketching out the origins of our street names. In many instances these are obscure but are thought to be adaptions of earlier names. While Sheffield does not share (with example, York) Roman influences or a defining surrounding wall it did share Viking (eg ‘thorpe’ and ‘toft’ Danish names for farmstead and outbuildings), Norman and medieval aspects including a castle (at four acres the fourth largest site in England), narrow streets and overhanging buildings. Some historians think there must at some time been settlement from the Celtic fringes as some street names have Gallic derivation including Fargate (Fuaran) and Balm Green (Beum). In common with many towns, Sheffield has its fair share of names derived from local prominent people (Eyre, Fitzwilliam, Matilda, Norfolk, Howard) from its surrounding countryside and agriculture products (green, field, mill, pond, pool, nursery, orchards, hay, milk, peas, sheaf) all feature. The current controversy over removing trees reminded us that Sheffield has a history of parks and tree lined streets planted to beautify, to combat pollution and to commemorate the fallen in wars (eg Western Road). Did we know that off the High Street there were once tree lined ‘crofts’ surrounding fine houses? While there is no lime street (the most common street tree (eg Rivelin Valley Road has a two mile avenue) our arboreal friends are represented by the humble holly, sycamore, fig and mulberry.
Our speaker moved on to take us on a tour of “old” pre 1700 Sheffield. This was a compact area bounded by the Don and castle on the north-east, the Sheaf and ponds to the east, Moorhead to the south, the (now demolished) cross at the junction of Townhead and Church Streets to the west and West Bar to the north. The town was to soon outgrow this area with the population rising from around 1500 people in 1600 over 500,000 by 1900 with most of the growth after 1850 as the steel industry (now serviced by railways and steam power) expanded from the confined (water powered) valleys to the flat East End.
We commenced our tour at Barker’s pool, a reservoir fed by one of the many fresh water springs to be found in central Sheffield. This facility, much safer than a polluted well, provided drinking water and a supply in the event of fire. Every quarter, water was released to flush the streets clear of animal droppings and detritus. The deposits were flushed down the hill formed by what is now the High Street (the best area to live) via the Castle and into the Don near Lady’s Bridge-the poorest area. We were shown photos of some of the narrow streets nearby including Balm Green with small cottages still in place as late as 1900. We then moved along Coal Pit Lane ( since 1857 named Cambridge street after a Crimean War General). Coal was once dug to a depth of 60 feet in this location. Progressing via Holly Street where there was grazing, Pinfold Street (animal compound), Trippet Lane (with another water source named after a local family) to Paradise Square (meaning ‘enclosed place’) the home to a prosperous, professional community with access to fresh air. We looked at pictures of old Fig Lane, narrow as today, Hartshead with its deer hunting connections and Sheffield from Kelham Island showing orchards in the foreground and bucolic hedge-rowed countryside behind now covered by housing around Manor.
The Wicker (Viking Viker) area, once much more the centre of gravity than today, Waingate and site of Castle market were the next points of interest. Apparently there has been a crossing at Lady’s Bridge since 1486 (named after the chapel of Our Lady demolished in 1760) the bridge being widened in that year and 1864 and 1909. The original bridge is still there. This was also the site of a ducking stool for unruly women as well as a bear baiting pit. Moving past the site of Sheffield Castle (also demolished in 1760) and Market (demolished 2015) we traced the now underground River Sheaf to Ponds Forge where the was another bridge across a frequently flooded area (now Midland Station) leading up to avenue of walnut trees towards what became Norfolk Park.
The Duke of Norfolk was to become, and remains, the largest landowner in the Sheffield area having been granted land rights by James Ist in 1617. His successors began develop the area (known as Allsopp’s fields) to the south east of what is now the Moor from 1771 onwards, setting the grid pattern of streets we see today and bequeathing many street and pub names. We returned to the city centre via the romantic sounding Truelove’s Gutter (now Castle street) Tudor Square and Chapel Walk. Our last port of call was Cutlers’ Hall of which there have been three, the current building dating from 1852. The Cathedral, opposite, deserves a talk in its own right.
In conclusion, our Chairman warmly thanked David Templeman for another fascinating presentation leaving us much better informed on our city’s history and nomenclature. What better way for working up an appetite for our annual lunch which was to follow!