“The children spent a warm spring afternoon playing beside the river.”

Platform_, Sylvester Street, Sheffield. Image: DJP/2022

“The children spent a warm spring afternoon playing beside the river. And when their energy was spent, they trod wearily the path across Alsop Fields, passing the old farmhouse that had once belonged to Aulsope Farm.”

This might have happened 300 years ago, and nothing remains of it except Porter Brook.

The large steel structure rising above Sylvester Street, on the outskirts of Sheffield city centre, is the latest chapter in the city’s development. A rural idyll, swallowed by the advancing town, used for industry, and when this declined, utilised for residential.  

The Sylvester Street development is a £75m plan to construct 335 ‘build to rent’ upmarket apartments alongside Porter Brook.

More importantly, once completed, a stretch of the river will be spruced up and opened to the public.

The developer promises to plant vegetation along the edge and place rocks in the middle to slow down the water’s flow and reintroduce habitats for wildlife. A new pedestrian route will run parallel to the river, with a bridge allowing people to access the new buildings. The brook will remain culverted in places – here open spaces are to be created.

It will be respite for the river that suffered at the hands of Sheffield’s industrial development.

Platform_, Sylvester Street, Sheffield. Image: DJP/2022

In 1789, a building called Sylvester’s Wheel stood nearby, land to the west was Joseph Broomhead’s garden, and land to the right was owned by Robert Walker. During the 1800s, Porter Brook was used to power industry and larger scale industrial buildings started appearing including Sylvester Works, Thomas Ellin, and the Oak, Stella, and Crown Steel Works.

By the end of the twentieth century, the downturn in Sheffield’s metalworking industry was reflected in the clearance of most of the site. In 1994, a large retail shed was built on the former Crown steel works, occupied by Carpet World and subsequently by Sofa World. This was demolished about 2009 as were most of the remaining industrial works.

And now, this massive residential development rises above this long-lost green space.  

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