On a cold rainy night, it’s hard to believe that Paradise Square was once a cornfield called Hick Stile Field.
About 1736, Nicholas Broadbent, a successful merchant of Old Bank House, Hartshead, built a row of five houses on the Shrewsbury Hospital estate, along the east side of the field and called it, for some reason only known to himself, Paradise Row.
In 1771, his grandson, Thomas, a banker, obtained a lease of the cornfield, which he offered for subleases in building lots, designed by William Fairbank.
The square was to be called after the row of houses already built, and between 1771 and 1790 he laid out the other three sides of the square with a variety of houses.
It was this same Thomas who was responsible for building Page Hall, constructed for his own use, but unable to be completed due to the collapse of his bank in 1782.
The square and its occupants have played an important part in Sheffield history.
The painter and sculptor Francis Chantry had rooms at No.24 in 1802, and Dr David Daniel Davis, the physician who attended the birth of Queen Victoria, lived at No.12 from 1803 to 1812.
No.18 was the Freemasons Lodge in the early 19th century, and the House of Help for Women and Girls was set up at No.1 in 1885 to rescue those “in moral danger and miserable surroundings.”
Paradise Square was used for a time as a market-place and its size and slope made it an ideal meeting venue. In 1779, John Wesley preached to a vast crowd from the balcony of No.18, and to the alarm of authorities thousands gathered here to support the Chartists’ cause in the 1830s and 1840s.
The square was also home to Mr Edward Hebblethwaite’s academy, one of the leading schools in the town, and from which ladies and gentlemen went on to command high positions in society, both at home and abroad.
He started as a schoolmaster, aged 21, at the Lancastrian School, later having his employment terminated. “He was passing through the streets of Sheffield very much depressed, with his eyes cast down and wondering what he should do, when he walked into the well-known square and saw premises to let, which he took to carry on a mixed school.”
The school opened in 1829 and lasted until about 1865.
It was notable through its connection with political history. The broad flight of stone steps leading to its entrance were often used by political candidates to address electors, and it was from here that the likes of J.A. Stuart Wortley, Lord Brougham, Earl Fitzwilliam, Ebenezer Elliott and James Montgomery tried to improve the townsfolk.
When middle-class residents started to move out the square slipped into dereliction and decay, resulting in a comprehensive restoration scheme of 1963-1966 directed by Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson and Partners.