Places Sculpture Streets

Grey to Green

The recent post about Castlegate failed to mention that it is in the process of being part-pedestrianised, Phase 2 of Sheffield’s ‘Grey to Green’ project. Unless you visit this forgotten part of the city centre the relevance of the initiative might escape you.

It is part of an approach to transform ‘redundant’ road space into a network of public spaces, sustainable drainage and urban rain gardens, which aims to improve the setting of the Riverside Business District, Castlegate and the rest of the city centre and then on to Kelham Island and Victoria Quays, as a place to work, live and enjoy, whilst also dealing with the effects of climate change.

Phase 1 (West Bar/Bridge Street/Snig Hill) was completed in Spring 2016 and was funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Sheffield City Region Infrastructure Fund and Sheffield City Council.

The area suffered catastrophic river floods in 2007. With the completion of the Inner Relief Road in 2008, traffic was diverted away from West Bar. The opportunity was seized to replace the ‘grey’ impermeable ‘redundant’ roads into ‘green’ permeable beds, transforming the space with colourful meadow-like planting and significantly increasing surface water storage.

With advice on plant selection from the University of Sheffield Landscape Department this has created a new townscape that is different to anything done in Sheffield before. Over 40,000 bulbs, 40 new trees, 600 evergreen shrubs and 26,000 herbaceous plants were introduced to form a seasonal urban meadow.

The new road layout was designed to slow vehicle speeds and make walking and cycling more attractive. New paving, street furniture, colourful seating and five eye-catching  public art ‘totems’ celebrate the local history of the West Bar area including its Victorian music halls and theatres, its lively street life, its complex relationship to the river and its legacy of industry and brewing.

Phase 2 (Castlegate to Exchange Place) is nearing completion, and Phase 3 (Gibraltar Street  to Shalesmoor) will eventually transform 1.2km of ‘redundant’ road-space into an attractive new linear green public space.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Sheffield Simplex

In the early part of the twentieth century, the World’s best car was unquestionably the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.

But a legion of fresh luxury cars soon appeared, and the Rolls-Royce revolution was challenged by Lanchester, Leyland Eight, Hispano-Suiza, Ensign, Farman… and the Sheffield-Simplex.

And yes, for loyal younger readers… Sheffield could and should have been a centre for car production.

The Sheffield-Simplex owed its success to Earl Fitzwilliam, from Wentworth Woodhouse, whose attempt at the Templeborough works to make the finest motor car in the world very nearly succeeded.

The company received financial backing from the Earl, the first few cars called Brotherhoods, and were a continuation of the Brotherhood-Crocker cars made in London in which he had been an investor.

Brotherhood sold the London site in 1905 and moved to Peterborough but could not get permission to build a car factory, so the Earl suggested a move to Sheffield where he built a new factory in Tinsley.

In 1908, the first cars to bear the Sheffield-Simplex name appeared designed by Percy Richardson, ex Daimler and Brotherhood. The LA1 had a six cylinder 6,978 cc engine and three speed gearbox.

It was joined in 1908 by the LA2, intended for lighter open bodies which did without a conventional gear system.

Four smaller cars joined the line-up in 1910 but lasted only one year, and in 1911 were replaced by the LA7 with a six cylinder 4,740 cc engine.

Sheffield-Simplex considered their only rival to be Rolls-Royce and even opened a London showroom in Conduit Street very close to theirs.

During World War One, the company made armoured cars which were supplied to the Belgian and Russian armies, as well as making ABC Wasp and Dragonfly aircraft engines and munitions.

Car production resumed in 1919, and judged by pre-war standards, the Simplex was a very fine car indeed. But it was also very costly, and it never again captured the exclusive market.

Sheffield-Simplex went into steep decline, building a few Shefflex trucks and the Ner-a-Car fully enclosed motorcycle to the designs of the American, Carl A. Neracher. When the doors finally closed, around 1500 cars had been made during the company’s history… and it seems that only three survive, two of which are at Kelham Island Museum.