Pound’s Park – The sun shone and it finally felt like spring

The sun shone and it finally felt like spring. A handful of people sat on contemporary seating, mostly looking at their mobile phones, and two down-at-heel men basked in the sunshine and said what a lovely place it was. A City Centre Ambassador joked with them, but warned that she wouldn’t tolerate street drinking, or ‘needles,’ under any circumstances.

The sound of children filled the air. They excitedly climbed the three-by-eight metre climbing boulder, reminiscent of a Peak District rockface, and played on two large pyramids, stainless steel slides, climbing structures, playhouses, a seesaw, and wheelchair-accessible play equipment.

Sheffield’s latest green space has opened in time for Easter. Pounds Park, on the site of the old Wellington Street Fire Station and Headquarters, is named after John Charles Pound (1834 -1918) who was the city’s first Fire Superintendent responsible for laying the foundations of Sheffield’s modern fire service.

It may have to temporarily close later this month to allow for power and water connectivity that will allow new public toilets to open and for water play features to be turned on.

Pounds Park – Day and Night. All images: DJP/2023

©2023 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


The Big Wheel – from Llandudno to Sheffield

Sheffield’s ‘Big Wheel’ on The Moor. Image/DJP/2022

When it was located on Fargate, we called it the ‘Sheffield Eye’. But this year’s big wheel was relocated to The Moor because the ill-fated Container Park had stolen its place.

It is 21 metres high with 18 fibre-glass gondolas capable of holding up to 108 people, with six passengers to a gondola, and fits snugly between buildings.

For the second year running, the Ferris wheel has been loaned from Llandudno Pier, where it has been dubbed the ‘Llandudno Eye’.

It was commissioned by the pier owner, Adam Williams, at a cost of £1m, built by Italian manufacturer Lamborghini, and was initially unveiled in August 2021.

The wheel looks impressive by day, but after dark, things get even better with over 10,000 lights on the wheel.

During the winter months, the wheel goes on tour. It can be seen, and ridden, at Sheffield Christmas Market until January, before returning to Llandudno Pier in early Spring.

“We’re trying to pump North Wales and Llandudno so that people in Yorkshire who would normally go to Skegness will come here instead,” says Mr Williams.

“Even if we can get 10 per cent of people at the Sheffield market to come, that is a lot of people.”

While some shoppers are pleased about the move from Fargate, many have said they now have a “brick wall view” while on the attraction. Image/DJP/2022
Back home. The ‘Big Wheel’ seen at its Llandudno home. Image/North Wales Live

Sheffield Deer Park – ‘the avenue of walnut trees that stretched from the Lodge to the Castle.’

Sheffield Deer Park. Image: Friends of Manor Lodge

Once upon a time, in medieval England, there were deer parks that stretched across the country. These enclosed areas were bounded by a ditch with a wooden, stone, or brick wall to keep the deer in.

To establish a deer park a royal licence was required, and they quickly became status symbols for the lord of the manor.

At the end of the 15th century there were about 2000 deer parks with most having a range of about one to two miles.

One of the biggest was Sheffield Deer Park, spanning a circumference of eight miles, 2500 acres, established in Norman times by Thomas de Furnival, but is believed to have Anglo-Saxon origins.

At its zenith it contained about three thousand deer (mainly fallow) and some of the largest oak trees ever recorded in England

Turret House, Manor Lodge, Sheffield. Image/Friends of Manor Lodge

According to Friends of Manor Lodge, which provided much of this information, Sheffield Deer Park was a Baronial Castle Park, with the castle located at the edge of the park and extended away like a large balloon

It was referred to as ‘Ye Greate Park,’ and was a place of recreation, somewhere to ride, joust, practise archery, to fish and to boat, and to engage in falconry. It is thought by most scholars that it was not primarily for hunting, but to provide food for the lord of the manor.

The deer were often chased, but the ‘drive’ or ‘bow and stable’ method was used which involved driving the deer into nets or towards archers. The deer were pickled for the winter, because fresh meat was unavailable between November and April.

A forgotten part in Sheffield’s history. Sheffield Deer Park was one of the largest in England. Even now, deer are sometimes seen in parts of the old park, and people are shocked to see them. But this was once their habitat. Image/Shutterstock

“Sheffield Park commenced below the Castle entrance where the Park gates were situated and followed a northerly direction tracing the river Don before turning eastwards towards Attercliffe. After several miles, it ceased following the river Don and turned in a southwards direction tracing a line close to and parallel with what is now the modern Sheffield Parkway.

“On reaching Bowden Housted woods at Darnall, it then turned in a westerly direction following the Car Brook and parallel to what is now the modern Sheffield Ring Road (Prince of Wales Road). On reaching its highest point at what is now called Manor Top, we come across the other main gates, called the Intake gate. Entry through here (private by invitation only) would have led direct to the Park gate. It followed a line parallel to the present City Road and was a superb walnut avenue of trees creating a major landmark in the town.

“From the Intake gate, the edge of the park continued in a southerly direction until reaching what is now referred to as Gleadless Valley and a wooded area called Buck Wood (named Berrysforth Wood in earlier times.)

“This is the most southerly point and then continuing through Buck Wood in a westerly direction we reach Heeley and then on to the outer reaches of the town (as it was then) through to the present Bramall Lane, The Moor, Union Street, Norfolk Street and finishing at the starting point of the Park Gate.”

The Manor Lodge was at the heart of the Deer Park, and it was said that it was possible to travel under the avenue of walnut trees that stretched from the Lodge to the Castle without getting wet.

Sheffield Deer Park provided food in days when most of the land was unenclosed. Deer lived, and thrived, upon the land, but it was said that most of Sheffield’s shops were supplied with venison stolen from the park.

There is a curious record that the Earl of Shrewsbury, who once had a thousand fallow deer in Sheffield Park, graciously allowed ‘a holiday once every year to the apron-men or smiths of the parish, when a number of bucks were turned into a meadow near town, and the men were sent into it to kill and carry away as many as they could with their hands, and would sometimes slaughter about twenty, on which they feasted. Money was given to them for wine. Such is said to have been the origin of the famous Cutlers’ Feast, but it was not until 1624 that the Cutlers’ Company of Hallamshire was incorporated by an act passed ‘for the good order and government of the makers of knives, sickles, shears, scissors, and other cutlery ware.’

Medieval deer hunting. Image/Medievalists

From around the 16th century and into the seventeenth century it ceased to be totally a deer park. Large parts were converted into pasture and arable land with tenants renting strips of land to grow crops. Isolated farmsteads sprang up with other parts for quarrying and a coal mine.

By 1637, Harrison’s survey indicated 1,200 deer in total with the deer park only about 40% of its original size.

“The common people would trespass this park and were allowed certain privileges of coming and going but insisted on taking more. In 1692, the Duke of Norfolk, then Lord of the Manor, brought an action against certain people because of their use of a road between Intacke and Parke Hill and then into Sheffield, pretending that it was a public highway.”

It was a problem that recurred over the centuries.

In 1822, Michael Ellison, Agent to the Duke of Norfolk placed an advertisement in local newspapers warning locals after tenants complained that people had been going over their lands in pursuit of game, or other idle purposes, and had thrown down walls and fences.

“That, with a view to preventing the continuance of such Trespasses, proper Persons have been appointed for the purpose of detecting those who may commit them after this Notice, and all Persons so detected will be proceeded against in the manner prescribed by the Law.”

In 1913, the deer park had long disappeared, and Thomas Wilder gave a lecture in Sheffield:-

“The venerable trees of the Park had gone to build the country’s ‘wooden walls,’ to make charcoal for the melting of iron and steel, to supply ‘kidds of wood’ to the town bakery on Baker’s Hill, and their very roots had been grubbed up for fuel for the blast furnaces. The numerous streams and fishponds had disappeared into the wastes, gobbs and grafs of the ancient coal and ironstone workings with which the Park was honeycombed.”

What made the deer park so special were the thousands of veteran oak trees with some listed in John Evelyn’s 18th-century book ‘Silva.’ Several were mentioned, including the great oak tree situated in the Conduit plain, located above City Road Cemetery in modern times. This tree, its arms stretching 45 feet or more from the trunk, could shelter more than 250 horses under its foliage and there were many other trees with similar magnitude.

All these years later, there is still evidence of the old deer park. Norfolk Park, Buck Wood, Manor Fields Park, and other wooded areas are all remnants of the deer park, and small sections of the wall remain in the most unlikely places.

One of the most unusual sections, virtually unnoticed, is at Manor Top, where old stonework can be seen under a later brick one, beside the road opposite the TA Centre.

Remains of Deer Park wall at Manor Top. Image/David Templeman/Ecclesall Design

Manor Lodge survives and was a ‘standing’ or ‘prospect house’ from which the park could be viewed. An inventory of 1582 suggests that the Hall in the Ponds (The Queen’s Head) was a park banqueting house.

“This great house stood near the middle of Sheffield Park; part of it is very ancient; but one part being brick, with stone corners, is not older than 1500. The Duke of Norfolk, in 1609, destroyed it. This is the place where Cardinal Wolsey, that proud Prelate, when under house arrest for high treason, took the fatal draught whereof he died at Leicester Abbey; and here also Mary Queen of Scots was kept prisoner at large more than sixteen years.” – Extract from a manuscript, written in 1647.

If you discount the Manor Lodge itself there were at least 4 lodges, plus a hunting stand. There’s nothing left of any of them, but some later became farms, the most obvious being Park Farm at Gleadless.

And there is evidence of the old ‘Intacke gate’ that stood at the entrance to the park. This would have been near where the stretch of wall remains at Manor Top. Old wooden gates were replaced with stone ones in 1685 and were later bought by Burrows Trippet from the Duke of Norfolk who moved them to his farmhouse where they stand to this day at Richmond.

See also: Friends of Manor Lodge

Intake Gates. Now positioned at Richmond. Image/HistoryDude/Sheffield History

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Tales of the riverbank. Where does your water come from?

River Derwent, North Yorkshire

Water has been a big topic this summer. We haven’t got enough of it. But things might have been worse if it hadn’t been for a pioneering scheme in the 1960s that allowed Sheffield to source water from an unlikely source.

South Yorkshire has at least fifteen reservoirs and more minor ones, but according to Dr Jenny Stephenson in her book ‘The History of Water – the Sheffield reflection’ (2019) not all these service water to the area. Some act as ‘balancing’ or ‘service reservoirs’ which receive water, pumped, or channelled into them, their purpose being to balance supply with demand. Others are ‘impounding’ reservoirs into which a river flows naturally.

The biggest shock is that Sheffield’s water is mainly from the River Ouse and River Derwent, in North Yorkshire, only in part being from the reservoirs on high ground above Sheffield.

The water from rivers is typically classed as hard water because the water gathers minerals (mainly calcium and magnesium) as it runs through and over rocks. Water from reservoirs is normally softer as it comes from high ground and moorlands.

Increasing demand in the 1960s, in which Sheffield used nearly 38 million gallons of water daily for industry and domestic use, meant that the city’s water supply from the Pennine hills had reached its limit.

In 1965, it was supplemented with the Yorkshire Derwent Scheme, which involved river water being treated at Elvington, near York, and delivered along 37 miles of pipeline to an underground service reservoir at Hoober Stand near Rotherham.

You might be surprised that the scheme was instigated by Sheffield Corporation, because of the Sheffield Water Order 1961, and it designed and executed the work at a cost of over £8m. It was cleverly designed so that Leeds, Barnsley, and Rotherham, also received a share of the water and paid contributions to Sheffield.

The treatment works at Elvington softened, clarified, and filtered water to remove impurities and sterilise it.

The first pipe was laid in May 1962, built by John Brown Ltd, land and marine constructors, and used bitumen lined welded steel pipes, involving four river crossings, including the Ouse and Aire,  13 railways crossings, and 53 road crossings. Once completed it allowed 15 million gallons of water to be pumped into the city daily.

The first water arrived in Sheffield in December 1964 and was celebrated at a Town Hall luncheon hosted by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Albert Smith, who toasted his 80 guests with water mixed with wine and brandy.

It was inaugurated in September 1965, eight months ahead of schedule, and the last weld was made by Alderman Charles Ronald Ironmonger, chairman of the Sheffield Corporation Water Committee and John Staniforth, managing director of John Brown Ltd.

The last section of the 37-mile all-welded pipeline linking the river Derwent at Elvington, seven miles east of York, with the Sheffield Corporation reservoir at Hoober. Picture Sheffield

At the official opening of the Elvington treatment works, Sir William Goode, chairman of the Water Resources Board, referred to Sheffield needing to increase water flow to 25 million gallons a day and suggested that a reservoir might be built on land owned by Hull Corporation at Farndale on the North Yorkshire Moors. This would have meant flooding the valley, like previous schemes at Ladybower, Derwent, and Howden, in Derbyshire, and provide water for Hull and Sheffield.

However, the scheme was derailed in the 1970s, and Sheffield’s municipal water company was amalgamated into a regional board in 1974 and privatised in 1989 and is now part of Yorkshire Water PLC.

The Yorkshire Derwent Scheme subsequently became a segment in the Yorkshire Water Grid which allows transfer of water around the region to balance supply and demand.

By the way, water from the Ladybower dams, is largely used in the East Midlands.

Hoober Stand Reservoir, Rotherham. Image: Google

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Sheffield’s clean air programme to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary

There is an important anniversary coming up in Sheffield’s story.

In 1972, Sheffield completed its clean air programme, and one person who had cause to feel proud was Joseph Batey, nicknamed ‘Smokey Joe,’ who had just retired as the city’s smoke control officer.

Fifty years on, many of us won’t appreciate the importance of this milestone. We are used to clear skies, (mostly) fresh air, and spectacular views across the city.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Concern over Sheffield’s air quality stretched back at least 400 years. As early as 1608 Sir John Bentley expected to be ‘half choked with town smoke’ while visiting Sheffield.

A traveller’s diary of 1798 said: “We had an excellent view of the town of Sheffield enveloped in smoke.” ; and in 1828: “Others have become so accustomed to regard an increase in smoke as an indication of improving trade that they can see nothing in a clear sky but ruin.”

By the 19th century it was apparent that measures were necessary to reduce atmospheric pollution in urban areas.

In 1819, industrial firms were being fined for undue smoke emissions. And in 1843, the Select Committee on Smoke Prevention issued its report, and locally, the Borough Council’s Watch Committee directed the police to enforce Smoke Byelaws.

“The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council’ disallowed the city’s smoke byelaws in 1852, but the council tried again the following year and were successful.

The Sanitary Act of 1866 permitted local sanitary authorities to act against smoke nuisances. It was not until 1875 however, with the passing of the Public Health Act, that attempts were made to control air pollution across the whole country.

In 1890, Sheffield’s first chief smoke inspector noted that the average smoke emission of all chimneys observed by his staff was ‘80 minutes smoke an hour.’

The real break-through came with the Clean Air Act of 1956 which established ‘smokeless zones’ in which only smokeless fuels could be burned. Here was a piece of legislation (and the city’s representatives were consulted when it was being drafted) which swept away the old, misconceived notions and gave any city that cared to have a go the chance for clean air for all.

The citizens proved worthy of their heritage. With power to prohibit smoke from domestic premises, now recognised as the biggest smoke producer, and a 40 per cent grant from the Government towards the cost of domestic conversions to smokelessness (a bonus that few Yorkshiremen could resist) the first area, in the city centre, became smokeless on December 1, 1959.

There was a clean wind blowing into the city from the Derbyshire moors, and the strategy adopted was to work for smoke elimination into this clean wind direction, namely into the south-west sector of the city, but there was not a large volume of heavy industry in the south-west, and smoke gauges in the north east sector, where heavy industry was located, only started to show a steady decline in the early sixties as the programme gained momentum in the south west.

Another advantage which accrued from working in what was largely the ‘domestic’ area was that industry was being alerted to the necessity of ‘getting it clean’ and ‘keeping it clean.’ There was little hope of clearing smoke from a house in the industrial belt if an adjacent factory chimney was pouring out smoke. The Clean Air Act of 1968 forced certain industries to use tall chimneys, and the cooperation of most managements was positive.

A final programme of complete domestic smoke control was forwarded to the then Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1960, showing the completion date as 1972. This programme was adhered to, and the promise kept.

By turning over to smokeless fuels there was a welcome reduction in the sulphur dioxide measurements, using measuring stations.

Fog or smog days disappeared by the late 1960s and Sheffield Transport’s manager stated, in reply to a query regarding bus time-keeping – “I can say that it is the opinion of all my staff that over the years with the introduction of smokeless zones, the problem has almost entirely disappeared.”

The effect on health was carried out at Sheffield University, but few needed convincing that cleaner air, more sunshine, and less dirt, was conductive to good health.

By 1972, the city of 71 square miles with over half a million population, and 186,000 houses, had tamed air pollution in 12 years, even though its basic industry, producing three million tons of steel, was notorious for its pollution problems.

The creation of smoke control areas was so successful that by the early 1980s they covered the whole of the urban parts of the city, and the transformation of Sheffield’s air was thought to have been complete. The 1956 and 1968 Clean Air Acts were repealed by the Clean Air Act 1993, which consolidated and extended the provisions of the earlier legislation.

However, the new threats from traffic emissions became the next clean air challenge.

In early 2023 Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone is due to start. This is a class C chargeable zone for the most polluting large goods vehicles, vans, buses, and taxis that drive within the inner ring road and city centre.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


County lines – the fight to keep Sheffield out

It was 1990, and the Boundary Commission was blitzed by worried Derbyshire ratepayers who feared a big part of their county could be gobbled by Sheffield.

Thousands of householders were issued with specially printed postcards by North-East Derbyshire District Council to send to the commission urging them not to make more than 100 square miles of territory part of Sheffield.

A bid by the city to grab Killamarsh, Eckington, and Dronfield, as well as parts of the Hope Valley in the Peak District, had been withdrawn after a high profile campaign by residents and neighbouring Derbyshire councils.

But despite the climbdown, the commission was still duty bound to examine the possibility of changing the boundary.

The story had begun in 1987 when the Boundary Commission wrote to Sheffield City Council announcing its intention to undertake a review of Sheffield as part of its review of the Metropolitan County of South Yorkshire.

Sheffield City Council made it known that there was a substantial case for extension of its boundary by absorbing the Hope Valley and Dronfield, Eckington, and Killamarsh. It resulted in a petition bearing 16,000 signatures, 800 postcards and 1,500 letters from people living in the areas concerned, opposing any transfer into Sheffield.

The three parishes of Dronfield, Eckington and Killamarsh had strong links with the city and despite Sheffield’s withdrawal, the Boundary Commission felt obliged to consider the proposal.

However, the Hope Valley, although falling within Sheffield’s travel to work area, and favouring Sheffield for shopping visits, had a large moorland divide, and the Boundary Commission dismissed the investigation.

Historical boundary changes had allowed Sheffield to expand in former years, and some districts that had once been part of Derbyshire, included Dore, Totley, Frecheville, Meersbrook, Hackenthorpe, Norton, Woodseats, and Beighton.

In 1991, the Boundary Commission published its findings, and the three Derbyshire parishes escaped becoming part of Yorkshire.

However, there were minor changes, including the former Lightwood Traffic Training Ground at Norton being transferred to Sheffield and using Bochum Parkway as the identifiable boundary.

It also transferred Birley Wood Golf Course to Sheffield, mainly because it was owned by Sheffield City Council and used by city’s residents.

And there was a stumbling block over land between White Lane and Birley Lane, in which Sheffield Supertram would later travel.  It was argued that the tramway should fall within Sheffield, and unless somebody corrects me, this section of tramway still runs across a tiny part of Derbyshire.  

This might have happened 32 years ago, but as one academic recently said to me, it is only a matter of time before Sheffield expands further into Derbyshire.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Castlegate – Geoarchaeological work begins on Sheffield Castle site

The next major phase in Sheffield City Council’s plans to regenerate the historic area of Castlegate is underway as essential geoarchaeological work begins.

Geoarchaeological investigations will be carried out by archaeology and heritage specialists, Wessex Archaeology, as they conduct 33 borehole surveys across the site of Sheffield Castle to examine the characteristics and conditions of the site’s underlying groundworks. The findings will then be analysed to give insights into what is underground and in turn inform the council’s redevelopment proposals for the area.

It marks a significant step in propelling the council’s plans to revitalise Castlegate after securing £20m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund last year.

Plans include the de-culverting of the River Sheaf, interpretation of the castle remains and the creation of attractive green public spaces; the creation of a cultural destination providing S1 Artspace and Sheffield Music Academy and Sheffield Music Hub with new state-of-the-art facilities; the preparation of land for future uses and investment; better connectivity and improved infrastructure for active travel.

In consultation with South Yorkshire Archaeology and Historic England, each borehole’s location has been carefully planned based on a need to further investigate the site, in order to add the information to the previously conducted archaeological evaluations, including the one carried out by Wessex Archaeology in 2018, after the Castle Markets were demolished.

This phase will supplement the information gathered from earlier assessments to produce a report, a detailed deposit model and archaeological sensitivity map to feed into a constraints plan for the area. The drilling is expected to last 6 weeks.

Castle Market Site. Illustration of the proposed mixed use development and open space from Sheffield City Council.


Happy Yorkshire Day

Map of the old Yorkshire Ridings

Happy Yorkshire Day. A celebration of the United Kingdom’s largest county.

Named after the old county town of York, we are familiar with its sub-division into North, West, South Yorkshire (the best of the lot), and Humberside.

But these are modern creations, and until 1974, the county was split into three ‘Ridings,’ derived from the Old Norse Þriding or Þriðing, meaning a “thirding”.

Yorkshire was divided into three ridings and surrounded the city of York, their boundaries meeting at the walls of the city: thus, York within the walls was the only part of Yorkshire outside any of the ridings.

East Riding, was the smallest and least hilly of the three, much of it in the plains extending from the north bank of the Humber and containing the seaport city of Kingston upon Hull.

The North Riding, extending from the Pennines to the North Sea, was the most rural but still contained Middlesbrough on industrial Teesside.

The West Riding, the largest and most urbanised as the southern part, contained the great industrial cities of Yorkshire, the largest being Sheffield and Leeds, though in its north it encompassed some of the finest of the Yorkshire Dales.

And each riding was divided into wapentakes, the Danelaw equivalent of an Anglo-Saxon Hundred in most other counties. The word derived from an assembly or meeting place, usually at cross-roads or near a river, where literally one’s presence or a vote was taken by a show of weapons.

And Sheffield was in the southern most wapentake of Strafforth and Tickhill, the original meeting place unknown, but may have been the future site of Conisbrough Castle, near Doncaster.

Map of Yorkshire wapentakes

And to add further confusion, there are portions of the great county which retain, from old feudal times, names unrecognised by the geographer, but well known and adopted by Yorkshiremen themselves. You may look in vain on a map for Cleveland, Richmondshire, Hallamshire, Craven, or Holderness, but you will hear of them spoken in each area.

Hallamshire, a large manor at the time of the Conquest was the southern most part of the West Riding, including Sheffield.

South Yorkshire was created on 1 April 1974 because of the Local Government Act 1972. It was created from 32 local government districts of the West Riding of Yorkshire (the administrative county and four independent county boroughs), with small areas from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. South Yorkshire County Council was abolished in 1986 and its four metropolitan boroughs (Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, and Doncaster) effectively becoming unitary authorities, although the metropolitan county continues to exist in law.

And while we are left with North, West, and South Yorkshire, Humberside reverted to its original name of the East Riding of Yorkshire in 1996.

If you’ve stuck with it so far, I’ll confuse you further by throwing in the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (formerly Sheffield City Region), led by Oliver Coppard, Mayor of South Yorkshire.

He has powers over transport, economic development and regeneration, and includes the metropolitan county of South Yorkshire as full members, with North East Derbyshire, Derbyshire Dales, Bassetlaw, Chesterfield and Bolsover, non-metropolitan Districts, as non-constituent members.

Be proud!

Modern-day flag of the West Riding of Yorkshire


“That’s not silver. It’s stainless steel, and it’s made in Sheffield.”

Savoy Theatre, alongside the Savoy Theatre, Strand, London

I had to make a hurried and brief visit to London. There is somebody you need to meet, said my friend. Come straightaway. The fact I heard this at 9am, and had only been asleep for four hours, made it an interesting journey. And so, hungover, I found myself waiting outside the world famous Savoy Hotel in The Strand. I would like to say the meeting was in the hotel, but it would take place in a nearby Costa Coffee.

I watched London rush by and looked up at the hotel entrance. “Fantastic engineering, isn’t it?” said a voice behind me. “It’s stainless steel,” said the member of staff. “Do you know they once found a dead body on top of the glass canopy?” I didn’t, and later found out it was true. In 1935, a down-and-out, one of the unemployed, exhausted, and defeated, had painfully climbed on to the shining stainless steel canopy over the entrance to the hotel to die of starvation.

And this got me thinking. Stainless steel. Was there a Sheffield connection? On my way home, I found out that there was.

“Isn’t it lovely?” exclaimed a girl gazing at the entrance to the adjacent Savoy Theatre. “Fancy a theatre front made of silver!” The year was 1931, and her boyfriend knew better. “That’s not silver. It’s stainless steel, and it’s made in Sheffield.”

But he was only partly right. The famous Sheffield product was not, strictly speaking, stainless steel, but a development of it – chromium nickel steel – which could be polished up to a degree that eclipsed the brilliance of polished silver and retained its sheen in any atmosphere.

‘Staybrite’ was a product of Thomas Firth and Sons, and in the 1920s and 1930s was making its mark in London. It was used for the imposing entrance to the Oxford Street Corner House, and combined with glass, there were the massive entrances to the Savoy Hotel and Savoy Taylor’s Guild, the beautiful rotating doors of the Strand Palace Hotel, and glittering turnstiles at the Olympia.

And there were examples abroad. Including the main entrance and ticket barriers of Geneva railway station, ornamental gates at Berne, and the doors of the Palais de Justice at Lausanne.

It was all manufactured in Sheffield.

Harry Brearley was the man credited with the invention of ‘rustless steel,’ but he left Brown Firth Laboratories in 1915 after a disagreement. It was his successor, Dr W.H. Hatfield who created the so-called “18/8” – Staybrite, still the most widely used alloy of this type.

The testing of it was rigorous. It was buried in a garden for six months and came up gleaming as new. It was attached to a vessel bound on a nine months’ voyage and dragged through the waves for that long period, hauled aboard, and found to be bright as polished silver.

Its use is ubiquitous now, but how did the Savoy Hotel come to get this Sheffield product? It was all about art-deco. A young architect, Howard Robertson, wrote to the hotel pitching for work, and in 1929 he revealed his most famous and prominent design – The Savoy’s iconic ‘Staybrite’ sign which runs the width of Savoy Court.

Sheffield-made ‘Staybrite’ canopy, and the figure of Count Peter of Savoy

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Endcliffe Bathing Pool – “The water is almost stagnant, in some parts the floor is quite a foot thick with mud and refuse.”

Sheffield Water Rats. In the water – Walpole Hiller, G. Wilson, F.G. Dixon. Seated on bank – W.H. Flint. Standing-rear – A.H. Cooper, C.H. Foster, T. Smith, E. Watson. In front – Albert Flint, M. Parker, W.M. Parker. This photograph appeared in The Swimming Magazine in 1914

During research into the recent story on William Henry Babington, the Sheffield photographer, this grainy image from a copy of The Swimming Magazine in May 1916 came to light.

This intriguing photograph features members of Sheffield Water Rats, an ‘all the year round bathing club’, whose members enjoyed themselves in the “fine open-air pool in Endcliffe Woods, about a couple of miles from the centre of town.”

The Water Rats were an all-male club and to qualify for entry into this select family of ‘rats of the pool’ one had to swim winter and summer in Endcliffe Bathing Pool for a period of six years. The ‘King Rat’ was Mr Walpole Hiller who had started about 1894, although he was surpassed by Mr C Foster who taken his first all-year round dip in 1891.

Bathing on New Year’s morn. A cold dip in the Endcliffe Bathing Pool. From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph. 2 January, 1907. Image: British Newspaper Archive

“How many persons would come down to the pool on a foggy autumn morning almost before it was light, plunge into the water, only to find they had a companion in the way of some poor suicide, and yet turn up the next morning as if nothing had happened?”

A tradition for the Water Rats was to take a plunge on Christmas morning, often reported by local newspapers. The custom was to take a dip at 9.30am and afterwards indulge in mince-pies, rum, and coffee.

“They quickly undressed, posed for a ‘snap’ on the edge of the pool, and then plunged in and swam their morning round, coming out glowing with health to dress leisurely and have their customary ‘constitutional ‘swallow.’ There was no shivering or trembling; they behaved with the aplomb of the summer girl basking in the sunshine on some seashore.” – Sheffield Daily Telegraph – 2 January 1923.

From the Sheffield Daily Independent, 27 December, 1930. Image: British Newspaper Archive

Members became older and more ‘youthful’ ones couldn’t make up the numbers. By 1937, the Water Rats tended to only venture out at Christmas, unlike the newer Spartan Swimming Club that had started taking to the open-air Millhouses Bathing Pool every morning.

Endcliffe Bathing Pool had opened after Sheffield Corporation purchased 20 acres of Endcliffe Wood from the trustees of Robert Younge of Greystones. William Goldring was commissioned to adapt the land for public use in 1886, part of which was converting Endcliffe Wheel mill dam as a place for boys and men to bathe.

Endcliffe Wheel Bathing Dam, Endcliffe Park. Picture Sheffield
Bathing Dam, previously the dam belonging to Endcliffe Wheel, Endcliffe Woods. Image: Picture Sheffield

However, the bathing pool always attracted unwanted attention due to mud and debris washing into it from the adjacent banking.

“I think it is most disgusting,” said one correspondent in 1896, “the water is almost stagnant, in some parts the floor is quite a foot thick with mud and refuse, whilst in other places there is nothing but glass and stones.”

“This pool would be a source of health-giving pleasure to hundreds of men and boys, were it only made clean and wholesome, and the supply kept free from the rubbish which now pollutes it,” said another in 1904.

“A type of woman, and also girls, whose idea of modesty seems to be at a low ebb, persistently come behind railings on the far bank, and also into the enclosure itself. Many of the men are nearly naked, and some of the boys quite so. A park keeper reports coarse language at times,” reported somebody else in 1909.

Youths disporting themselves in Endcliffe Bathing Pool. July 1914. Image: British Newspaper Archive

Endcliffe Bathing Pool closed for cleaning in 1938 and appears never to have reopened. It was filled in and today is understood to be the site of the children’s’ playground.

Endcliffe Park playground, once the site of Endcliffe Bathing Pool

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