Once upon a time, the Sheffield construction company, George Longden and Son, might have been chosen to build a new park. From Victorian times, the company was the powerhouse behind many city landmarks. But it lost its way, and the name is all but forgotten.
Instead, the creation of a green space in the city centre will fall to another stalwart of Sheffield construction.
Henry Boot has been appointed to deliver Pound‘s Park, the landmark new public space, and work gets underway this month.
Sheffield City Council sees this as a key piece of the Heart of the City programme, and it is another project that Henry Boot has been involved with. The builder is underway with the residential development at Kangaroo Works, the Elshaw House office development and the Cambridge Street Collective – a food hall and restaurant destination.
Pound’s Park is named after Sheffield’s first Chief Fire Officer, Superintendent John Charles Pound, and is being built on the former fire station site between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street.
As we move forward, Pound’s Park probably won’t be the only new green space in the city centre.
Projects like this are seen as a critical tool in revitalising cities, regenerating poor areas, bringing nature into the city, rejuvenating neighbourhoods, creating a space for physical interaction in our increasingly digital world, and improving city sustainability.
“They are almost being viewed as like anchor stores, as a way of bringing people into a certain part of town,” says Dr Danielle Sinnett, director of the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments at the University of the West of England.
Previously, she reckons, there was some tendency for green space to be tagged onto the end of developments where land was left over. Not so much anymore. “Now it is being seen as key infrastructure in and of itself,” she says.
As well as being a green space, Pound’s Park will have a childrens’ play area, water features, and a new bus interchange. It will also provide an accessible new home for the William Mitchell frieze, which was removed from demolished Barker’s Pool House.
Afghanistan is a country that seems to be in perpetual turmoil. There have been those that attempted to modernise it, thwarted at every turn, and there was a time when Sheffield was going to play its part.
In March 1928, Sheffield welcomed the King and Queen of Afghanistan. People crowded the streets to welcome King Amanullah and Queen Souriya who had travelled at high speed in Rolls-Royce cars from Derby.
The visit was part of a European tour that began in late 1927, taking in Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain and finally Poland. Amidst the flag waving, it was clearly an attempt by western industries to gain a foothold in a new economy.
Ghazi Amanullah Khan (1892-1960) was the sovereign of Afghanistan from 1919, first as Emir and after 1926 as King. Having wrested control from colonial powers, King Amanullah had set about reforming Afghanistan along Western lines.
The King met the Lord Mayor at Sheffield Town Hall by taking off his hat, shaking hands, and saying “How do you do?” in English.
When King Amanullah entered the Town Hall he noticed Sergeant Harper, an ex-serviceman, in his invalid carriage. He was about to pass when the old soldier held out his autograph album and fountain pen. The King duly obliged by adding his name to the book.
After luncheon, the King and Queen went onto the balcony over the front entrance and waved to the cheering crowds outside.
When the royal party left the Town Hall, Sergeant Harper had hoped to get the Queen’s signature. He held out his autograph book, but she did not see him. However, King Amanullah did, and went over to him, shook his hand again, and placed what was thought to be a £1 note in his hand. Only afterwards did Sergeant Harper realise that it was a £100 note!
Afterwards, the King and Queen visited Vickers-Armstrong’s River Don Works where they witnessed steel production and visited the gun machine shops. They were shown a demonstration of caterpillar armoured cars, guns, and rifles.
Next it was to Hadfields East Hecla works, where the strength of its steel helmets and armour was demonstrated by shooting at the figure of an infantryman. Queen Souriya proved to be an accurate shot, hitting the helmet, and was presented with the bullet as a souvenir. On their departure, the King was presented with a Sheffield knife with golden haft, in a Morocco case. In exchange, the King paid the customary halfpenny, and laughed heartily at a quaint old Sheffield custom.
The next stop was a tour of Mappin and Webb on Queen’s Road, where they witnessed the depositing of gold and silver, and the shaping of nickel silver sheet metal using power presses and drop stamps. Here he was presented with a silver-gilt casket, with his crest enamelled on the cover.
The Royal Party then returned to the Town Hall for tea and was presented with a canteen of cutlery and a case of scissors as gifts from the city. The King accepted this, and through his interpreter said he would always remember the warm welcome they had received in Sheffield.
They left the city for Manchester by royal train, the King and Queen occupying the saloon used by British royalty.
Looking back, it was a day of celebration, and one that might have cemented a special relationship with Afghanistan. However, while the King toured Europe, opposition to his rule had increased back home culminating in a march on the capital where most of the army deserted rather than resist.
There were allegations of corruption, and within ten months of his visit to Sheffield, the King had abdicated and was forced into exile in India before seeking asylum in Italy. Many of the reforms were reversed and Afghanistan remained a troubled state.
Mahlon Stayce was born at Dore House on the family’s Ballifield estate, Handsworth, in 1638, and married Rebekah Ely in 1668. Both their families were English Quakers, a new religious movement that was treated with suspicion and hostility under the parliamentary rule of Oliver Cromwell following the English civil war. With the return of the monarchy by Charles II, Quakers were subject to persecution for their refusals to conform to the Church of England. Their refusal to pay mandatory tithes meant they faced crippling fines or imprisonment, and many decided to practice their faith in the American colonies.
Mahlon Stayce, a tanner, acquired, as a creditor, a large chunk of colonial soil in West Jersey, America, and his family sailed from Hull in 1678. He established his home on the south bank of the Assunpink Creek and called it Ballifield after his ancestral home at Handsworth.
Stacye was given permission to build a new settlement at the side of the Delaware River where he founded a church. The town was originally called The Falls, and later Stacye’s Mill.
Stacye held a large estate, had several business interests, and held many titles in public life. He died a wealthy and respected citizen in 1704.
By 1719, the town had adopted the name “Trent-towne”, after WilliamTrent, a Philadelphia merchant, who purchased much of the surrounding land from Stacye’s family
This humble settlement, with its Handsworth origins, grew into a big city – Trenton, New Jersey.
Back in Sheffield, Ballifield Hall has gone, the Ballifield housing estate built on its former parkland.
Sheffield is becoming an even greener city. The grey-to-green project around Castlegate has been well received, and other parts of the city centre are benefiting from a return to nature.
In these times of climate change the greening of public spaces – parks, squares, rooftops, and streets, can contribute to climate mitigation if they become green spaces. If a single healthy tree can have the cooling power of more than ten air-conditioning units, let’s rewild our public space and cool down our planet.
Outdoor spaces not only allow us to move more safely during the pandemic but are also linked to our well-being. Green urban areas facilitate physical activity, relaxation, recreation, and social interaction.
Time for me to be controversial.
If we are left with unwanted (and perhaps unloved) city centre buildings, might there be an argument to knock them down and start again? Might it be sensible to create green spaces from these footprints?
This photograph of Charter Square shows that redevelopment, and the introduction of greenery, can have a positive impact. The problem here is the shabby Debenhams building that will struggle to find an alternative use.
Continuing our look at places called Sheffield around the world.
In the United States there are fourteen locations named Sheffield. One of the smallest is a neighbourhood of Lynchburg, an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of the James River, there doesn’t appear to be any connection with our steel city, but Lynchburg is known as the “City of Seven Hills” or the “Hill City.” Sound familiar? Unfortunately, the Sheffield district looks incredibly flat.
Lynchburg was named for its founder, John Lynch, who at the age of 17 started a ferry service across the James River in 1757. Tobacco and iron were the chief products of early Lynchburg and extensive use of Lynch’s ferry system on the James River resulted in it becoming one of the largest tobacco markets in the US. In the 1860s, Lynchburg was the only city in Virginia that was not recaptured by the Union before the end of the American Civil War.
Houses, shops, and eating-houses line the roads of modern Sheffield and perhaps its most famous building is Sheffield Elementary School.
We’ve waited long enough to hear good news about Castlegate, and more importantly the site of old Sheffield Castle.
Sheffield has been successful in its bid to secure £20m of funding for Castlegate through the Government Levelling Up fund.
£15m of this will go towards further archaeological investigation and interpretation of the historic Castle remains for the public to view, quality open space, de-culverting of the River Sheaf and route-ways through the site. Targeted plots on the outer edges of the site will be made ‘developer ready’.
The remaining funding will go towards two other projects – Park Hill Art Space and Harmony Works.
Park Hill Art Space will deliver an arts, cultural and heritage destination at the Park Hill estate and it will aim to be one of the largest contemporary art galleries in the North, complemented by creative workspace and learning facilities, within a six-acre sculpture park.
Harmony Works is a partnership between Sheffield Music Academy and Sheffield Music Hub to create a new fit-for-purpose music academy by refurbishing Grade II listed Canada House on Commercial Street.
We are looking at our Sheffield namesakes around the globe, starting with the only other Sheffield to exist in the UK.
Sheffield, Cornwall, is a small village, near the village of Paul, about two miles from Newlyn. According to locals, unlike other namesakes, this Sheffield is nothing to do with us.
Not, according to Cornwall Live.
“Cornwall’s got its own Sheffield. The Sheffield up north is known for being a powerhouse of steel production, (had) a premier league football team (with another being named after a day of the week) and a population of just over half a million people.
“Only in Cornwall is Sheffield bigger than Barcelona (near the village of Pelynt). It’s near Penzance and is a series of houses built along the B3315.”
It was first known as Sheffield Terrace in 1841, probably named after the row of houses built by a group of Yorkshire quarrymen who came to work at the nearby quarry and surrounding farms.
“Sheffield has a festering pool in the midst of a foul waste before the doors of the larger village, and a disgusting drain running close to the entrances of the houses in the smaller,” said a Cornish newspaper afterwards.
The principal stone of the district was Land’s End granite, which was extensively mined at Sheffield Quarry until the late 1920s, when it was closed in favour of cheaper imports. At the time, Sheffield Granite was used to build the piers and streets and houses of some of the finest cities in the world.
Sheffield eventually acquired a Chapel and Sunday school. The Teetotal Wesleyan Chapel, built around 1845, was later a Wesleyan School and is now a house.
The most famous inhabitant was Australian-born artist Barbara Tribe (1913-2000) who moved into the old Sunday School after World War Two, and became a lecturer in Modelling and Sculpture at the Penzance School of Art.
By this time, “the summer sunshine, the fine stretch of country, and the sweet sound of children’s voices wafting on the breeze, gave it a fine setting,” said Herbert Richards in The Cornishman in 1947. Not unlike today.
Jean Lois Legrand, is a bit of an embarrassment to the village of Serre-lès-Puisieux, and he’s also a nuisance to the French police. The volatile farmer works land near Sheffield Memorial Park in northern France where there are memorials to the famous Pals Battalions of World War One.
To reach the Pals’ Battalions memorial, which is owned by Sheffield City Council, visitors must use an unmade public right of way that crosses land owned by Legrand. The path is owned by the town of Serre whilst the park itself is looked after and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
The fiery farmer has been threatening visitors who use a track that leads to it, shouting at them, starting fires – and even driving his van towards them at high speed.
The matter is yet to be resolved, the French aren’t happy about him, and it clouds this quiet place on the Somme battlefields.
On the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 men of the 12th battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment (“the Sheffield Pals”) were entrenched ready to launch an attack on the German position in the fortified hilltop hamlet of Serre. The troops met with devastating machine gun fire and by the end of the day, the Battalion reported 248 killed, 246 wounded and 18 missing.
In 1927, Alderman Wardley chaired the Sheffield-Serre Memorial Park committee which raised £978, part of the proceeds for which came from a friendly football match between Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town, and a gift of £60 from Sheffield Town Trustees.
The Park on land at Railway Hollow, near Serre, where the Pals had been entrenched on the 1 July 1916, contains a cemetery with the graves of 107 British and two French soldiers. Only some of the graves are of Sheffield soldiers because the practice was adopted of burying those who could be identified near where they had fallen, irrespective of their nationality or regiment.
Sheffield Memorial Park was opened in May 1931 by Mr J. Lawson, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who represented Sir Fabian Ware, Chief of the Imperial War Graves Commission, and the dedication service was conducted by the Rev. Edward Cattell, of Sheffield. Also present, was bugler Heber Joseph Revitt, the Sheffield man who sounded the ‘cease fire’ call in France on 11 November 1918, and who rang the Last Post and Reveille on the same bugle.
Sheffield’s greatest benefactor, J.G. Graves, presided over the ceremony:
“Let me say how grateful we all feel to the former owner of this land for his kindness in making its use for this noble purpose. So now we may count this little plot of ground ‘Forever Sheffield’.
“Well may we count this soil sacred and desire that it shall remain forever consecrated and apart as an altar on which was offered the greatest sacrifice our city has ever made in the cause of right and freedom.”
The memorial represented some 10,000 men whose names were inscribed in a roll of honour (4,898 from Sheffield) kept in a stainless-steel casket given by Sir Robert Hadfield and placed in a teak case with a glass front presented by Walker & Hall in a shelter, designed by Mr F. Ratcliffe, an original member of the Sheffield Battalion.
Observers will notice that the shelter we see today is different to the one unveiled in 1931.
During the Second World War, Sheffield Memorial Park didn’t suffer as badly as it might have. The Germans allowed a Commission gardener, Mr B.M. Leach, to maintain the grounds, and he hid the memorial casket and roll of honour in his tool shed and at the end of hostilities deposited it at the nearby Chapel of Notre Dame de Treile, Serre, but was found to be in damp condition. This casket is now in the Town Hall at Puisieux. However, the shelter didn’t fare so well, and was eventually replaced with a more modest structure.
The Sheffield Memorial Park is a wooded area where the original frontline trenches and the shell-holes in the ground have been preserved. There is an information tablet placed by Sheffield City Council near the front of the park. This has a coloured map, showing the positions of the various battalions here on July the 1st 1916, along with the German trenches and machine-gun positions they advanced against.
The memorial park slopes downhill, and the land still bears the scars of battle, with shell-holes and vague outlines of other trenches still visible today. Within the park are several memorials to the various “Pals” battalions that fought here or near here that day, including the Accrington Pals, the Barnsley Pals, and the Y (Chorley) and Z (Burnley and District) Companies of the 11th East Lancashire Regiment.
There are many war memorials and plaques located around Sheffield, including the City War Memorial in Barker’s Pool. All of these are cared for by Sheffield City Council, but did you know that it also maintains the Sheffield Battalion Memorial in Serre-lès-Puisieux, a village in northern France.
On the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 men of the 12th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment (“the Sheffield Pals”) were entrenched ready to launch an attack on the German position in the fortified hilltop hamlet of Serre. The troops met with devastating machine gun fire and by the end of the day, the Battalion reported 248 killed, 246 wounded and 18 missing.
This tiny village has been indelibly stamped on the pages of Sheffield history – stamped with the blood of city sons, for in a fruitless endeavour to take Serre, the Sheffield City Battalion suffered enormous losses.
In October 1920, the Lord Mayor of Sheffield received the following correspondence from the Mayor of Puisieux:
“I am happy to send you the resolution by which the Municipal Council of Puisieux has decided unanimously to offer to the City of Sheffield the ground necessary for the erection of a monument. This monument will perpetuate among the population of Puisieux a souvenir of your dear lost ones. Believe me sincerely, that even without this monument they will not be forgotten.”
After World War One, the area around Puisieux was one of the saddest and most desolate-looking heaps of ruins. It looked like it had been dead for many years! Very little signs of life or vegetation, the once beautiful, wooded country was just a collection of dead stumps and bits of trees—a few odd ones standing here and there, but all dead, as the asphyxiating gas used by the Germans killed every living thing.
Serre was really part of Puisieux, but had no inhabitants left. Puisieux had about 250 but before the war had a population of over 1,000. The reason they had not returned was the lack of money to work their devastated fields into order again. Sheffield had given a steam tractor, but it was at Arras because no one knew how to drive it, but a man had been sent from Puisieux to take lessons.
A Sheffield-Serre Memorial committee, chaired by Alderman Wardley, raised funds for the memorial, and Major C.B. Flockton, architect, offered a prize of five guineas for the best design, won by J.S. Brown, of Barnsley Road, an ex-serviceman studying in the Department of Architecture at Sheffield University.
The memorial, in Villebois stone, was erected on a slope overlooking the field where within an hour the battalion suffered 600 casualties. On its inscription, in English and French:
“To the memory of the officers and men of the 12th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Sheffield City Battalion) who fell before Serre 1916.”
Above were four bronze plaques, representative of Sheffield’s Coat of Arms, those of Serre, and the regimental badge of the York and Lancasters.
The memorial was unveiled on Monday 21 May 1923. The gathering of Frenchmen and Englishmen included about a hundred people from Sheffield, among them a company of survivors of the battalion, besides parents and friends, and citizens who occupied prominent positions during the war.
It was unveiled by Lieutenant-Colonel G.H. Wedgewood, D.S.O., commanding the 1st Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, and was dedicated by Dr H. Gresford Jones, Bishop of Kampala (who was Vicar of Sheffield from 1912 to 1920).
Perhaps the saddest moment of all was the sounding of the Last Post and the Reveille. As these well-known notes rang over the battlefields, thoughts fled back to the happy days at Redmires, and again to the long rows of little wooden crosses in the valley yonder, beside stinted, and blasted trees that had once been copses.
In 1926, a large wooden hut was erected nearby, much to the disappointment of survivors, and even the Mayor of Puisieux, who complained that it overshadowed the memorial. After months of negotiation, the owner of the land adjoining the memorial agreed to remove two huts after he was paid 3,000 francs, the cost met by the Sheffield ‘Twelfth Club’ (made up of ex-servicemen) on condition that the owner would not erect anything else of a similar nature.
Serre-lès-Puisieux was slowly rebuilt, but only as a hamlet of houses dotted along the road. The Sheffield Battalion Memorial survived World War Two and remains as a tribute to Sheffield’s lost sons – still honoured by the French who regularly lay flowers and wreaths around it.
In 2006, the memorial was restored and re-dedicated by the Right Rev. Jack Nicholls, Bishop of Sheffield.
(The Sheffield Battalion Memorial isn’t the only dedication to those lost in France, and in a future post we’ll look at the nearby park owned by the City of Sheffield).
The Heart of the City II programme moves forward, and this artist impression shows Pound’s Park, a new public space that will be created on the site of the demolished Wellington Street fire station.
It will be on the western side of the Heart of the City masterplan, located between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street, and will create another green space in the city centre, as well as creating children’s’ play areas, water features, and a new bus interchange.
The Park will also provide an accessible new home for the William Mitchell frieze, which was removed from Barker’s Pool House a few months ago in preparation for the construction of the new Radisson Blu hotel on Pinstone Street.
A lot has been written about Pound’s Park, but I’d like to focus on the man it is named after.
John Charles Pound (1834 -1918) was the city’s first Fire Superintendent, and responsible for laying the foundations of our modern fire service.
He was born at Sittingbourne in Kent and served for eight years in the Navy and Mercantile Marine Service, and as a man-of-war took part in operations in the Crimea.
Leaving the sea, he joined the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in its earliest days. He was engaged at the memorable Tooley Street fire in 1861, where his chief, Captain Braidwood, was killed by a falling wall just minutes after Pound had been talking to him. (It was referred to as ‘the greatest fire since the Great Fire of London,’ and occurred at Cotton Wharf where many warehouses were situated. It attracted a crowd of more than 30,000 spectators).
“This was in the early days of fire brigade work, and long before the extinguishing of fires had been the object of practical and scientific studies. The Metropolitan firemen learnt engineering by travelling on locomotives and receiving instruction from engine drivers. The scheme had been adopted by Captain Braidwood, and John Pound was one of those who familiarised himself in engineering. When proficient he was appointed to a responsible position on one of the brigade’s river floats.”
He applied for a position at Nottingham and was appointed as engineer of the first steam fire engine, staying two years before coming to Sheffield in 1869 to form the Corporation’s first fire brigade. The decision of the Corporation to take over and run the Fire Brigade was brought to a head by a series of large fires between 1865 and 1869.
Pound established the fire brigade over 26 years, with trained firemen, and the introduction of the best firefighting appliances. His biggest fires included Portland Street Confectionery Works (George Bassett and Co) and at G. H. Hovey and Sons (drapers and house furnishers) in Angel Street in the winter of 1893 in which six large shops were destroyed.
Superintendent Pound was injured at the Park Club fire, on Bernard Street, in February 1895 when he fell against a kerbstone whilst handling a jet. His injuries were at first thought to be bruising of the ribs, but later he suffered difficulty in breathing. He retired from the Fire Brigade shortly afterwards.
“He may now begin to feel the need of rest and relief from being in a state of incessant preparedness, and the Micawbian attitude of ‘waiting for something to turn up,’ and the good wishes of the citizens will follow him in retirement.”
John Charles Pound died from influenza at his home on Tullibardine Road in 1918. His coffin was shrouded in the Union Jack and conveyed on a horse-drawn fire brigade tender, with Indian Mutiny veterans, firemen and police taking part in the cortege. He was buried at Sheffield General Cemetery.
A fitting tribute that Sheffield’s first fire officer should be honoured with a park, and on the site of a former fire station.