Carver Street Methodist Chapel

For the non-believers, the Methodist movement is a group of denominations of Protestant Christianity which derive their practice and belief from the life and teachings of John Wesley (1703-1791), a minister who sought to challenge religious assumptions of the day.

The movement was particularly strong in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with a significant number of Methodist chapels built across Britain.

This being the case, I’m not sure what the old Methodists would think about the present use for this building, known to most of us as Walkabout, an Australian-themed bar, since the turn of the century.

This was originally the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, or Carver Street Methodist Chapel, built in 1804 by Methodist minister-turned-architect, Rev. William Jenkins (1763-1844). It was the first chapel designed wholly by him, the five-bay façade derived from Wesley’s Chapel at City Road, in London.

Afterwards, Jenkins designed about thirteen similar chapels, of which only five (including this) survive.

When it was built, the chapel was was surrounded by cornfields, known as Cadman’s Fields. Built in brick, with stone dressings, its spacious interior had a wooden single-span roof, impressively wide for its date, with a round-ended continuous gallery.

The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel opened in 1805 with capacity for 1,100 followers, the biggest of its kind built in Sheffield.

When the chapel was built it was surrounded by cornfields, known as Cadman’s Fields

Few non-conformist chapels in the city had their own burial grounds, but the Carver Street Chapel was an exception. About 1,600 burials took place here between 1805-1855, the gravestones sited in a small front graveyard and on both sides of the building.

By the end of the twentieth century the chapel had closed and was empty for several years.

And now to the shocking part, one that some people will find astonishing.

Some of the graves extended across modern West Street, as well as Rockingham Lane behind.

In 1993, in advance of the Sheffield Supertram project, bodies were exhumed from beneath West Street, long-hidden beneath the road surface.

And if matters couldn’t be worse, the opening of Walkabout inside the Grade II-listed chapel meant that a new beer cellar had to be built outside. This meant that a further 101 individuals were excavated from the old graveyard to allow its construction.

Finally, most modern-day revellers, taking advantage of the external beer garden, will be alarmed to find they are standing on top of old graves.


History repeating itself

I write this not to spark argument, because I know that a lot of derogatory comments, about tree-felling and Sheffield City Council, will follow. This post is merely to show that history has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

First and foremost, Sheffield has long boasted of being “Europe’s greenest city” – in part because a third of it sits in the Peak District. But it is also due to the sheer number of trees that line the roads.

Some 30,000 of them still arch over highways and footpaths, but according to a correspondent here, nearly six thousand have been felled between 2012-2018.

But let’s go back to 1939, when this letter appeared in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph: –

“A very destructive hand has been at work among Sheffield’s trees. In the Fulwood district, trees apparently have been wantonly mutilated, reduced in some cases to barren stumps as though the ebullience of nature were being regimented to conform with nearby tram standards.

“It is obvious that the authority responsible for this butchering of trees do not understand that trees have a special beauty which depends upon their form and that each tree has its characteristic form which can be eternally ruined by unskilled pruning.

“I should like to recommend anyone who in future may cause a tree to be pruned, to employ a skilled woodsman and not a carpenter, and to arm the Woodsman with the Roads Beautifying Association’s leaflet called ‘Advice on the Pruning of Roadside Trees’.”

As might have been expected, a spokesman for Sheffield Corporation defended the actions.

“The trees were dealt with at the urgent request of the frontagers. Branches of the trees were right over their lawns, and in some cases the roofs, and the nuisance was aggravated by the fact that there were many crows’ nests in the trees.

“In some cases, trees are unsuitable for the street. They were far too big, and residents had neither light nor air.

“Actually, we are contemplating in cases like this removal of the trees altogether, and the planting of really suitable trees.”

But the matter didn’t stop there.

Complaints about unsightly, and in some cases unnecessary, lopping of trees in Sheffield, particularly in the older western suburbs, flared up again in 1945.

A 1946 Annual Report from the Sheffield, Peak District and South Yorkshire Branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England referred to a “holocaust, when graceful forest trees – perhaps Sheffield’s only remaining beauty – were reduced to mutilated stumps, regardless of their natural history or shape.”

The Branch commissioned a report by Mr A.D.C. La Sueur, consultant forester to the City of London, to inspect the trees and prepare a report. He concluded that in some cases trees had been lopped for no apparent reason and suggested that Sheffield employ a full-time arboriculturist.

A leaflet, “Town Trees,” was published in 1947 emphasising the need for progressive pruning over several years, rather than the Sheffield practice of heavy pruning at long intervals. The leaflet was reviewed in the press, including the Manchester Guardian and The Observer, the resulting backlash encouraging “constructive meetings” with the council about the treatment of the city’s trees.

And then it all died down… until a bigger battle began this century: one which spread across the city, saw mass protests and riot police on suburban streets, and ultimately revealed an astonishing secret plan – hidden within a £2.2billion contract – to cut down almost 20,000 street trees.


The Green City

Despite Sheffield’s past reputation as a gloomy, dirty industrial city, mercifully no more, it has always enjoyed close proximity to open countryside.

I surprise people in the rest of the country when I tell them that a large proportion of the city lies within the Peak District, designated Britain’s first national park in 1951.

Look at this map, and you’ll see, with the green-shaded area, that a third of the city lies within the park, divided between two planning authorities, Sheffield City Council and the Peak District National Park Authority which covers the western area.

As well as Yorkshire, the park also reaches into four other counties: Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Greater Manchester.

The park’s name derives from peac, an Old English word meaning hill. The Peak District’s high point is on Kinder Scout, a Derbyshire moorland plateau some 2,088 feet above sea level.

The Peak District is traditionally split into two contrasting areas, essentially defined by their geology.

The White Peak (Derbyshire Dales) is a limestone plateau of green fields with rolling hills and many incised dales (areas around Ashbourne, Dovedale, Matlock, Bakewell, Longnor).

The Dark Peak (or High Peak) is a series of higher, wilder and boggier gritstone plateaux (moorlands) and edges (areas north of Castleton and Hathersage), and in which land in Sheffield falls.

Over 90 percent of Peak District is privately owned land. The National Trust owns 12 percent, and three water companies own another 11 percent. The Peak District National Park Authority owns only 5 percent. About 86 percent of the total is farmland, which is used mostly for grazing sheep or cattle.

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act received Royal Assent in December 1949 and received a designation order in December 1950.

After years of debate and argument , the Peak District National Park became a reality in April 1951, announced by Hugh Dalton, Minister of Local Government.

He specified that a Joint Board of 27 members, including people nominated by Sheffield City Council, should be responsible for its management.

Interestingly, Derbyshire County Council had opposed the idea of a joint board and persuaded the County Councils of Staffordshire, Cheshire and the West Riding to join them in opposition. But Sheffield City Council supported the idea of a single planning board.

All these years later, Sheffield City Council is currently represented on the Peak District National Park Authority by Mike Chaplin, Labour Councillor for Southey.


West Street

Let’s talk about West Street, a haven for bars, restaurants and takeaways, a road that has changed considerably since the 1990s.

However, a look back in history suggests that there were attempts during the 1920s to make West Street one of the city’s main shopping thoroughfares.

In 1929, the Sheffield Daily Telegraph made the following observation: –

“West Street seems intent upon coming into line with other busy shopping centres in the city, and of acquiring the same prestige. Many new shop premises have opened, and recently the removal of a length of hoarding revealed an array of smart, single-fronted shops.

“Such signs are distinctly encouraging, for although many roads radiate from the hub of Sheffield – High Street and Fargate – yet, West Street, with its width and fine approach, appears to be the natural outlet and extension of the shopping centre of the city.

“There are other reasons why the street should continue to develop. It is the main approach to many important public buildings, such as the Royal Hospital, the Edgar Allen Institute, Jessop Hospital, Children’s Hospital, the Applied Science Department of the University in St. George’s Square, Weston Park, Mappin Art Gallery, Western Bank Buildings of the University, and Glossop Road Baths.

“Hundreds of persons daily pass and repass along West Street, on their way to and from these buildings, and motorists going to Derbyshire also make great use of this route out of the city.

“Despite the fact that West Street is served by an excellent service of Corporation tramcars and motor-buses which run to a number of outlying residential districts, it has to be admitted that the road has not, hitherto, enjoyed the prosperity that would appear to be its right.

“It should always be borne in mind that West Street has been developed by private enterprise, Sheffield Corporation do not now possess a single square yard in this street, but there was a period when they owned a considerable area of freehold land there.

“When this was in their possession, the Corporation did not do anything to encourage traders by building new shops, and otherwise improving the amenities of the highway, but simply erected hoardings around the land, making it an unsightly blot in the neighbourhood.”

An interesting look at the past that also throws up some noteworthy observations.

Take, for instance, the fact that all premises built had to be three storeys, or over, and conform with the adjacent property.

Gone were the days of narrow, mean streets, with high crooked houses, each one with a dark and dismal “basement,” and of low, badly lit shops, with small window space. In their place were wide, low windows and a spaciousness about the new properties.

And we also discover that Sheffield Corporation, at one time, considered building a square in West Street, about 5,200 square yards in size, the plan later abandoned as being too costly.

The shopping centre that was promised never really materialised, although there were several specialist and prestige shops. But West Street did eventually thrive.

As the decades rolled on, the University of Sheffield expanded, with West Street becoming the gateway between the city centre and campus buildings. It soon became obvious that the street’s traditional public houses would become popular with students – once described as the “West Street Run” – a turn of events that eventually created the trendy bars that we see today.

And, of course, city living became popular again, particularly along West Street, with numerous new-build apartments, alas creating conflict between those living in them, and the businesses that brought prosperity in the first place.



It’s been a long battle, but one seemingly won by a name famous in Sheffield. The potted meat wars dates to the time when every small butcher in the city produced its own version of this very Yorkshire delicacy.

As trends changed, and pre-packaging came to the fore, a handful of Sheffield-based companies survived, though most fell by the wayside, to leave us with Binghams and Sutherlands.

While Sutherlands takes a large chunk of the market, the undoubted winner turned out to be Binghams, producing about 15,000 individual cartons everyday that go out to most of the major supermarkets.

The company’s history starts with the birth of Charles Bingham in 1893, who along with his brother Walter, started trading in yeast and meat, selling products from push bikes during the early 1900s.

In 1914, despite going to fight for the Yorkshire Regiment in World War One, Charles started producing and selling Binghams Beef Spread from his Sheffield home, a recipe still used today.

By 1934, the business had become so successful that Charles built a purpose built factory in Western Road, Crookes, which is still home of the Binghams brand.

Having seen off competitors and fighting for his country again during World War Two, Charles guided the business up until 1969, when he sold the business to Samworth Brothers.

Under the Samworth Brothers wing, Binghams Food became a subsidiary of Pork Farms, although the business maintained its own identity and brand. In the early 1970s, Pork Farms was sold to Northern Dairies, which was to become Northern Foods.

In February 2007, venture capitalist company Vision Capital bought out a significant share of Northern Foods’ business, which included Pork Farms and Binghams Food, and not long after, businessman Peter Moon received a call asking if he would be interested in purchasing the business.

Moon had worked for Binghams Food as general manager in the 1980s, and with his wife Stella, jumped at the opportunity to reacquaint himself with the business.

Despite employing about twenty people, the manufacturing process is geared up for mass production.

The different areas of the factory are dotted around the courtyard where Charles Bingham used to house his stable of cars – the old garage since converted into packaging operations.

The butcher works alone, slicing and cutting the beef according to the production schedule. While there may be a common misconception that potted beef is made from any cut of beef, Binghams Food favours beef flank to ensure quality in their product.

The beef is cooked overnight before it’s removed and sieved into separate pans for stock and meat. Then the meat is transferred to the mincer, along with seasoning, before it’s put through a hydrogenator. The temperature is checked to ensure it is still above 85°C before the product is deposited into pots. The retail cartons then go into the pasteurising oven before moving into the blast chiller to bring the temperature of the cartons down as quickly as possible.

An operator checks every single pot by hand for a correct seal before it is passed on to be sleeved by hand. Due to the space within the factory, a packing machine cannot be installed so all the cartons are sleeved by hand.

These days it’s not just about potted beef spread. Along with the familiar beef and beef and tomato spreads, there are now modern-day favourites like potted pulled pork, BBQ pork spread, and fajita beef spread.


When Sheffield’s black buildings got cleaned

A question often asked. When did Sheffield’s stone buildings suddenly became clean, removing memories of a time when they were gloomy and dark places to look at?

People of the younger generation will probably not understand what I’m on about here. I refer to Sheffield’s black buildings, largely forgotten, and thankfully no more.

Let’s go back to 1859 and find a clue from a newspaper correspondent as to why our old buildings turned black.

“On recently approaching Sheffield by rail, from Rotherham, after an absence of many years, I was forcibly reminded of all that I had ever heard strangers say of ‘black Sheffield’ – so murky seemed the whole atmosphere, so abundantly were tall chimneys belching forth their sooty contents, so thoroughly dyed with smoke were the outer walls of every workshop and factory within view as the train passed along, and even the line of the railway itself so thickly strewn – with the dark ashes from many smithy and furnace.”

During Victorian times, the industrial revolution depended entirely on coal, and the industries that established Sheffield as an important manufacturing hub created a toxic atmosphere. It was said that a hundred tons of soot fell on the town each year, and with it came a sulphurous smog.

Sulphuric and nitric acids in the air attacked everything, the soot steadily turning the town black, and deceiving children into thinking that Sheffield’s buildings had been built with dark granite.

For decades, the town (subsequently a city) achieved a notorious reputation, one that still lingers with our southern neighbours, who couldn’t resist having a dig at “Smoky Sheffield.”

It wasn’t a problem unique to the city.

A 1930 survey revealed those places suffering the worst air pollution, and Sheffield didn’t even feature in the top ten. Newcastle-on-Tyne was the dirtiest town in the kingdom. Liverpool came second and even London fared worse.

However, it didn’t stop George Orwell from writing that “Sheffield, I suppose, could justly claim to be called the ugliest town in the Old World.”

When the City Hall was built in 1932, it was visited by Sir John Martin Harvey, an English stage actor, who wondered whether Sheffield City Council would have an initiative to keep its exterior clean.

“Civic authorities have not always had the imagination to appreciate the beauty of a fine, clean building. I wonder what the Sheffield City Hall will be like in ten years’ time, if the exterior is not kept free from grime. Let Sheffield take the lead in this matter. Liverpool possesses one of Europe’s finest buildings in St. George’s Hall, but nobody looks at it twice, because the outside is dirty.”

The ”Current Topics” column in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph concurred but thought it a hopeless cause.

“We agree entirely with Sir John’s contention that if possible, the exterior of the building should be kept clean, but the question is – how is it to be done?

“One of these days we shall abolish smoke and then it will be easy enough, but alas! One fears that before that day dawns the creamy delicacy of the City Hall will have faded into a dirty grey.

“There was a time when the Town Hall was good to look at, but now it is encrusted with the carbon deposits of forty years.”

That day eventually arrived.

In 1956, the Clean Air Act established “smokeless zones” in which only smokeless fuels could be burned. In less than twenty years the air became cleaner, the sun appeared above Sheffield again, and by 1972 the whole of the city had become a smokeless zone.

However, the damage from 150 years of black soot had left Sheffield a blackened mess, but it meant that at last something might be done to remove the grime.

During the 1970s and 1980s, a programme of stone cleaning occurred across Britain. London was most prominent, but also Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield, Glasgow and Edinburgh, represented the main body of cities tackling the problem.

The clean-up process was an operation that was gradual and therefore unnoticed by Sheffield’s residents.

The surfaces of buildings were sand blasted, the result of a pressurised flow of sand and water that cleaned the surface and restored it to something like its original appearance. Interestingly, when the Bainbridge Building (former Halifax Bank) was being cleaned on Surrey Street, workmen discovered stone carvings that had been lost and forgotten.

Don’t presume that the exercise was simply a case of aesthetics and enhancement of a building’s appearance.

Sand blasting was extremely expensive, and the cost of reviving public buildings had to be met by the council (ensuring that many of Sheffield’s dirty buildings were only cleaned as and when needed, a programme that lasted well into this century).

Other buildings, including banks, offices, shops, theatres and hotels, were cleaned using private funds.

The filth was also removed to protect the building fabric from decay, the cleaning process also identifying faults connected with care and maintenance, but also improving its character for many years to come.

And there we have it.


Tiger Works

Tiger Works has become a mainstay of West Street’s nightlife, establishing itself as a modern bar within an old building. It’s been open nearly ten years now, lasting much longer than previous uses as a fitness centre, Indian restaurant, nightclub and a Tequila bar.

Officially known as 136-138 West Street, the three-storey building is dated at 1884, with the name “Tiger Works” incised on a narrow but ornate façade at the front. And you can’t fail to notice the two carved tigers that sit above ground floor level.

It doesn’t take you long to realise that the bar adopted the name of the former factory, but its unique moniker has long puzzled locals. The clue REALLY does rest with the carved lions.

You might be surprised to learn that this was the second Tiger Works built in Sheffield.

The first Tiger Works belonged to Joseph Tingle Deakin, a Britannica metals manufacturer, who set up a factory at Green Lane, Kelham Island, in 1860, going into partnership with Henry Ecroyd, Ernest George Reuss and John Bottomley.

Deakin, Ecroyd and Company, were manufacturers of steel files, tools, saws, springs and table cutlery, its trademark consisting of a tiger, standing upon an arrow, with the word “Tiger” underneath. It was no surprise that the factory was named after its hallmark.

The partnership was dissolved in 1874, Deakin and Reuss continuing the business as Deakin Reuss and Company, establishing links with the Spanish and South American cutlery trade and exporting general hardware.

In 1884, the firm relocated to these new premises at West Street, although there is evidence that it had been operating on the site two years before. And it was here that the distinctive carved tigers appeared and have remained ever since.

Joseph Deakin died in 1896, by which time the company had changed its name to Deakin and Sons.

Despite the relatively small frontage, Tiger Works was deceivingly large, with an entrance to the factory through a cart entrance (now forming the main entrance to today’s bar), into a small courtyard surrounded by workshops.

The company moved out after Deakin’s death, with John Townroe and Sons, electro-platers, taking over No. 138 West Street in 1898, sharing with John Scholey, mark manufacturers, who occupied No. 136.

Scholey’s lease was subsequently taken over by J.G. Graves, the famous Sheffield mail order company, which used Tiger Works to sell jewellery, cameras, electro-plate musical instruments, clocks, phonographs and records.

Between 1910 and 1914 , Willie and Emile Viener, electro plate manufacturers, had taken over No. 136, and after they vacated, this section of the building was regularly offered to rent.

John Townroe and Sons, famous for its chromium stainless plating, remained until the 1940s, when it was taken over by the Aurora Gear and Engineering Company.

With various uses for the building ever since, it is somewhat remarkable that the “Tiger Works” name survives, in a very different manner, to that first created 160 years ago.


Into the Megatron (1)

Most of us known about Megatron, a Victorian-engineered labyrinth of storm drains with cathedral-like brick archways and interconnected dark tunnels to contain the overflow of water. (Although officially, the Megatron is one huge chamber further up the network).

Seemingly forgotten for years, this complex system of underground waterways, gained worldwide attention when it was “rediscovered,” becoming a favourite for urban explorers, and even attracting guided tours.

The misconception is that these subterranean drainage channels were built in the mid-1800s, an effort to channel the huge flow of water from Sheffield’s three main rivers – the Don, Sheaf and Porter, but the real story is very different.

Let’s start with the Porter Brook, with its source on Burbage Moor, descending into Sheffield before disappearing into culverts in the city centre. During the late 19th century, sections of the Porter were covered over, partly because the water supply was so poor and had become a sewer, but also to allow for the construction of factories above.

The Porter Brook joins the River Sheaf, the river that gave Sheffield its name, in the Sheaf Valley at a location that becomes evident later.

The Sheaf Valley had historically been prone to severe flooding, the areas around Pond Street and Ponds Forge, particularly susceptible when the River Sheaf burst its banks, and rendering much of the land unusable.

The River Sheaf flows through Sheffield, joining the mighty River Don at Blonk Street Bridge, near to where old Castle Markets stood, and the site of long-lost Sheffield Castle.

Our story really begins with the arrival of the Midland Railway Company, connecting Sheffield with London, which had blundered on its original route, inconveniencing passengers to change at Rotherham Masborough Station and take a branch line to The Wicker.

By the late 1850s, the company made proposals to rectify the matter, bringing the direct line into Sheffield. The site chosen for the new railway station caused disbelief as it was in the valley through which the River Sheaf flowed.

In the 1860s, after gaining Parliamentary consent, land was cleared on a site that was bounded east by Granville Street, on the west by Pond Lane, at north by Harmer Lane, and south by Turner Street.

The platforms were to be built where the River Sheaf flowed, and so the whole distance of the river between Harmer Lane and Turner Street was spanned by three arches and then covered over. The Porter Brook was spanned with two arches, also enclosed, and a portion of the nearby Bamforth Dam (now Sheaf Square) was filled in.

“For months and months past, seeming chaos has reigned in Granville Street and the region adjoining. Thick-booted, muddy-smocked navvies have laboured along in dust and mud, fine weather and wet, pulling down houses and the foundations on which they stood, tearing up banks, blasting rocks, making huge caverns which they said were to serve for tunnels, heaping up and then carting away great mounds of earth. The lines of the rails will run over the bed of the River Sheaf, which is degraded to the condition of a sewer. The work is being undertaken by Messrs. Chadwick and Thurwall for £20,000.”

The Midland Station, now Sheffield Station, opened in 1870, its passengers forgetting that the River Sheaf flowed under their feet (now Platforms 5-8), before emerging again after Harmer Lane.

It was a huge success and by the late 1890s the Midland Railway Company was planning the expansion of the station, and the widening of the tracks.

In 1899, the land in front of the station was cleared and between 1900-1903 its facade was built further forward and surrounding land used for railway business.

The River Sheaf, between Suffolk Road and the Midland Station was arched over and covered, as was a section running underneath Sheaf Street towards Commercial Street. A little-known stream, Pond Brook, between Station Road and Harmer Lane was also diverted through another large culvert.

More importantly, the confluence of the Porter Brook and Sheaf was also covered and is now underneath the south end of Platform 5, close to where Platform 2A is. Thank you to Phil Jones, who volunteers for the Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust, for explaining that today there is a large square wooden access cover, exactly over the confluence.

As to who funded what, is a matter of debate, but it is likely that the “sewer” system, as the River Sheaf was ingloriously relegated to, was funded and built by Sheffield Corporation.

And so, the first parts of the underground maze were completed, and hereon becomes something of mystery.


Into the Megatron (2)

We’ve already looked at the building of Sheffield’s underground tunnel system around Sheffield Station and the ingenious method of “hiding” the Porter Brook and River Sheaf. (Available to read on a separate post).

In this post, we move on from Sheffield Station (formerly Midland Station), which had doubled in size in the first few years of the twentieth century, and resulted in long stretches of the River Sheaf bidding farewell to the light of day.

After the Midland Station, the River Sheaf emerged briefly at a weir, as it does now, close to what is now the Digital Campus.

It then flowed through further culverts under the Electric Light Works (now the front of Ponds Forge International Sports Centre). The river then streamed under Commercial Street and beneath what was once the site of Sheaf Market (now the Travelodge).

Onwards it flowed under Castlefolds Markets, until being freed at Exchange Street and flowing open-air until meeting the River Don at its confluence near Blonk Street. (Remember that the River Sheaf once ran alongside Sheffield Castle).

As elaborate as the underground tunnels were underneath Sheaf Valley , the most spectacular part of the network lay underneath Exchange Street, now known as the “Megatron Chamber” – “something excellent and impressive” – a massive arched brick-lined cathedral that dwarfed any man who stood inside.

The reason for the Megatron has been provided by Heather Smith and Phil Jones from the Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust. It seems that the giant Megatron arch was built for a very specific purpose, to carry heavy old trams across the river on Exchange Street, which rises slowly up the hill, and get them into the city.”

From the Megatron, the River Sheaf flowed out into the open-air, past the old Alexandria Theatre. This last section was culverted over in 1916 after the demolition of the theatre, another massive scheme that allowed the eventual construction of Castle Market above, the rebuilding of Blonk Street and a tunnel entrance that allowed the Sheaf to flow straight into the Don.

The underground system of tunnels is Victorian engineering at its best.

The arched roofs were built with three layers of brick, strong enough to resist the huge torrents of water that the Porter Brook and River Sheaf threw at them during times of high flood.

Alas, as good as the system is, it has failed on occasions, with stories of the old Sheaf Markets flooding at high water, and then there was the memorable Sheffield flood of 2007 when Sheffield Station found its tracks underwater for several days.

A poignant reminder from the River Sheaf that it is still around.

Mostly, the tunnels are accessible to walk through, but should never be entered without permission and expert supervision.

Underneath Sheffield Station the sound of trains can be heard rumbling overhead, and in the lower reaches, bats skim the surface of the Sheaf with fish evident.

As part of the Returning Rivers to the City Scheme, Sheffield City Council is considering reopening the last few yards of the River Sheaf from the Megatron to the River Don, in a park to be called Sheaf Field.


Sheaf Field Park

We’ve already had a look at the series of culverts and tunnels that hide the River Sheaf underneath Sheffield city centre.

The last part of the river to be covered was the stretch from the Megatron, underneath Exchange Street, towards the confluence of the River Don at Blonk Street Bridge.

This was covered in 1916 after the demolition of the Alexandria Theatre, another massive scheme that allowed the eventual construction of Castle Market above, the rebuilding of Blonk Street and a tunnel entrance that allowed the Sheaf to flow straight into the Don.

Following the demolition of Castle Market in 2015, Sheffield City Council announced that a park would be created between Castlegate and Exchange Street.

Alas, four years down the line, the plans are still on the table, but the council is committed to delivering the project.

Sheffield Council wants to take the roof off the underground culvert, which the river currently runs through and is in a poor state of repair, and bring the waterway back into the open, surrounded by grass, flowers, trees, seating and other landscaping. The aim is to make the area more attractive to visitors, bring in new investment and reduce the risk of flooding.

The scheme would also complement the proposed Castlegate development on the site of the former market, which the council and its partners are still pursuing, and which will feature the exposed ruins of Sheffield Castle.

The park has the working title of Sheaf Field.

A waterside meadow and an elevated viewpoint would be created at the waterside and low stone walls built overlooking the river. The weir within the Sheaf culvert will be lowered, and the river channel remodelled, to improve natural habitats.

The plans also involve using way markers or pavement art to follow the River Sheaf’s course where it remains in a tunnel under Castle Square, Sheaf Street, the railway station and through Granville Square. Also, temporary art installations and ‘interactive sound experiences’ could be set up in the Megatron.

In 2019, the Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust was set up to promote and support the deculverting and improve the environment of the River Sheaf and Porter Brook. The group’s founders aim to open the waterways and are trying to recruit as many members as possible to help make that happen. One of their hopes is to make sure that Sheaf Field comes to fruition.