A narrow cobbled lane with a violent past

Penton Street, looking towards Bailey Lane. Image: DJP/2022

I love those Sheffield streets that people struggle to identify with. This is typical of Penton Street, a short, cobbled road that slopes diagonally between Trippet Lane and Bailey Lane. It might serve little purpose nowadays, but if we go back in time, this was a residential street amidst factories.

This street was once a haven for criminals, many living in old houses deemed dangerous, injurious to health, and unfit for human habitation. It was no surprise that violent attacks and street robberies around this narrow, congested street, were not uncommon. There were tales of suicide, domestic abuse, and personal tragedy, within these slums.

To get an idea of what Penton Street was like, the oldest known novel about Sheffield, Put Yourself In His Place, written in 1870 by Charles Reade, a contemporary of Dickens and Elliott, is loosely based on the true story of a London woodcarving-tool maker, James Bacon Addis, who was brought to the town by Ward and Payne, and provided an account of the ‘Sheffield Outrages,’ the battle to protect union membership, often through violent means.  And Penton Street was always at the heart of the unrest.

In 1886, the street was at the centre of a riot at the factory of Ward and Payne, edge tool and sheep shear manufacturers. A crowd of two thousand youths, congregated in Bailey Lane, Trippet Lane, Penton Street, and West Street, and armed with stones, smashed hundreds of panes of glass. The rioters believed that German grinders had arrived to replace workers sacked by the company. In truth, no foreign workers had been employed.

A big fire in 1929 at the factory of F.G. Gill, putty knife manufacturers, threatened to burn down all the houses in Penton Street. People evacuated their homes and hastily removed furniture before the fire was brought under control.

Industry has long gone, as have the houses, but a huge block of student accommodation now lines one side of the street. And, of course, Trippet’s Lounge Bar, formerly the premises of Bowler J. Dewsnap, cutlery manufacturers, occupies the triangle of land on the right.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.