In 2009, singer-songwriter Richard Hawley released a dark album called Truelove’s Gutter, said to refer to an ancient Sheffield street which was allegedly named after 18th century innkeeper Thomas Truelove, who used to charge people to dump rubbish in the gutter in the street that then flowed down into the River Don.
Thomas Truelove may have existed, I can’t find any evidence, but the Truelove family did own houses and land nearby.
The album reawakened interest in a long forgotten street.
In the 15th century no proper drainage existed, so as an aid to cleaning the streets a pool was constructed to make a reservoir for the storage of water supplied by springs on the hills above West Bar. This came to be known as Barker’s Pool and had a pair of sluice gates that could be opened to allow water to escape when required.
All the streets had an open drain or gutter which ran down the middle of the narrow road and into this, all the refuse and filth of the town were thrown.
To cleanse the town, bells would be rung about once a month to warn people and the water would be allowed to escape from the pool to rush down the sloping streets until it joined the River Don at Lady’s Bridge.
The drains also carried rainwater and after very heavy storms they became rushing torrents. Rails or fences were erected at the side of parts of the drain and in places bridges were put across the gap.
It was upon one of these small bridges that a courting couple were seated when they were washed away in 1690.
This inspired James Wills, a local writer, to pen a poem in 1827 called ‘The Contrast: or the Improvements of Sheffield’ and referred to a town about sixty years previous.
“You remember the sinks in the midst of the streets –
And when rain pours down each passenger greets
His fellow with ‘What a wide channel is here!
We all shall be drowned I greatly do fear’;
For lately two lovers sat here on a rail,
On the side of the ditch, fondly telling their tale,
When the flood washed them down in each other’s embrace,
For no longer could they keep their seat in the place;
And hence, True-Love’s Gutter, it’s old name was given,
Because by the flood these two lovers were driven!”
The historian Robert Eadon Leader destroyed this sad and romantic tale, and said the name really derived from the family of Truelove who lived for many generations in the vicinity.
The gutter exists in old deeds and in 1677 True Love’s Gutter Bridge is said to have been repaired by the Burgess. Also, in a Directory of Sheffield (1787), many tradesmen are living in this street – a grocer, baker, victualler, butcher, inkpot maker, linen draper, shoemaker, saddler, and hairdresser – as well as William Staniforth, surgeon, and man midwife.
Truelove’s Gutter, a narrow street, was renamed Castle Street in the early 1800s and widened a century later. It extended into what became Exchange Street and there have been recent suggestions that the name should be revived.
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