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Streets

The people lined the street to catch a glimpse of Queen Victoria

Hereford Street, Sheffield. The road was one much wider, lined with shops, houses, and factories. Photograph: DJP/2021

Hereford Street’s greatest moment was when Queen Victoria officially opened Sheffield Town Hall in May 1897 and travelled down here on her way to Norfolk Park. It might be hard to believe now, but let your imagination do the rest.

“To stand on The Moor, at the top of Hereford Street, and look down the latter thoroughfare affords the spectator a great amount of pleasure. A scene is presented of bright flags of dainty and artistic colours, fancy streamers of every description, while other kinds of bunting and bannerettes float out gaily in every direction.

“Venetian masts are erected on either side of the street, 15 yards apart, and are surmounted by large gilt spearheads, while banners, shields, and trophies of flags are fixed to each mast. Every alternate mast has a pedestal covered with crimson cloth and gilt ornamentation, and at the summit of each pedestal is a group of real plants.

“Across the street at intervals are fixed canopies of handsome floral work, and streamer flags of harmonious colours and flower baskets are suspended from the centre of each floral canopy, with lines of streamer flags along the street at either side connecting the masts with the whole design.

“The buildings, too, in Hereford Street have been dealt with in the most artistic manner. Flags float out bravely from the tops of the principal works and houses, and on the fronts are displayed handsome shields, backed up with designs of small flags and other similar trophies.

“As the time arrived for the stopping of traffic, the corner where Hereford Street joins the Moor became so blocked with cars, cabs, and buses that the Derbyshire police, who extended from the top of Hereford Street along part of St Mary’s Road were hard put to it to prevent serious accidents.

“People would still insist on leaving the shelter of the barriers and coming across the road, and then, as likely as not, they were stranded amongst the horses and vehicles, who, being unused to the terrible commotion, were almost frantic and the drivers, but for the efforts of the police, could not possibly have helped running down some of these belated wayfarers.

“However, this was soon cleared, the arrival of the 1st Battalion of the Hallamshire Rifles having a great deal to do with the transformation.

“The men were placed eight paces apart and covered the entire length of Hereford Street and part of St Mary’s Road.

The visit of Queen Victoria. Pictured here on The Moor. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

“The crowd was very orderly, only a few attempting to elude the vigilant eye of the constables, and those that attempted this being in most cases drunk.

“As the time wore on, however, getting tired, perhaps, and some of them thirsty, occasional rows occurred. People attempted to change their positions and their neighbours’ mild remonstrations gradually developed into what may be styled ‘words,’ and again, in some cases, where the sum was particularly irritating, into blows.

“The few fights, however, that did take place soon raised cries of ‘Police!’ and the guardians of the peace immediately quelled the disorder and left the combatants to sing and shout once more with the rest.

“Several cases of fainting occurred, and it was rather unfortunate that at this point of the route there was no ambulance corps, but the gallantry to the ladies of the rough and ready grinders was quite touching, and these were immediately made room for even in the thickest crushes.

“Of course, skits and jokes passed amongst the members of the crowd, but, as a rule, the language was ‘fit for the Queen.’

“Stands, windows, and roofs were all crowded, and the number of people in the street was, as far as can be judged, above the average.

“The procession passed, the military lined up, and the crowd in one huge migration, made tracks, some for the park, and others in order to get another view, if possible, along South Street, Park.”

Looking towards The Moor from Hereford Street. Today, this part of the road is pedestrianised and is occupied by Dempseys, bar and Club and QJ (the former Yorkshire Bank). Photograph: Picture Sheffield

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Sculpture Streets

King Edward VII Memorial

Photograph © 2020 David Poole

Despite the mixed fortunes of Fitzalan Square, one structure has stood proudly for well over a hundred years. The King Edward VII Memorial in the centre of the square was erected in October 1913, Sheffield’s commemoration of the King who had died three years before. The bronze statue has seen out two World Wars, surviving the destruction of the immediate area during the Blitz.

It might seem hard to believe now, but Edward was a popular King with Sheffield people. His mother, Queen Victoria, had been a relative stranger to the city, but as the Prince of Wales, he had opened Firth Park in 1875, and attended the opening of an industrial exhibition by the Cutlers’ Company in 1885. There were also stories of Edward’s incognito visits, including those to friends in the suburbs and a town centre hostelry.

He visited again in 1905, this time as Monarch, to open the University of Sheffield and to unveil the Boer Monument to the York and Lancaster Regiment outside Sheffield Parish Church (now the Cathedral).

After his death in 1910, it seemed appropriate that Sheffield should honour him with a statue. As always,  the proposal sparked debate amongst its people.

Photograph by The British Newspaper Archive

Sheffield Corporation made it known it intended to add an equestrian statue and fountains at both end of Fitzalan Square, already upgraded in 1909. However, opinion was divided because of the poor reputation the square had long held.

A grander scheme had also been proposed for a new King Edward Square nearby, on the site of the Fitzalan Market (where the easyHotel stands today). This scheme would have cost excess of £100,000 and after much deliberation was abandoned.

Any memorial to King Edward had to be funded through voluntary public subscription, and so Fitzalan Square was deemed more suitable as the cheaper option.

Sheffield Corporation had already been solicited by artists keen to work on the memorial, including Benjamin Creswick, Albert Bruce-Joy, Frederick Pomeroy, and Adrian Jones.

In March 1911, the city architect, Mr Edwards, invited artists to submit designs for both an equestrian statue and a standing figure. As well as those proposals already received, there were others from Alfred Drury, Francis Derwent Wood, William Goscombe John, Henry Alfred Pegram, Paul Raphael Montford, Thomas Brock and Charles John Allen.

It became known that King George preferred non-equestrian statues of his late father, and Sheffield respected those wishes with its choice.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

The winning design was by Alfred Drury (1856-1944), a sculptor with a fine reputation in London. He quoted between £1600 and £2000 for the design, and £2000 as his fee, although he eventually received 2000 guineas.

A photograph of the design was published in December 1911, and the following month Fitzalan Square was officially announced as the chosen site.

Fundraising was slow, and the project might have faltered, had it not been for a £5,000 donation from Samuel Meggitt Johnson, of George Bassett and Co, on the condition that a home and school for ‘crippled’ children also be built in the city.

The statue was winched into place in October 1913, quickly covered, and officially unveiled by the Duke of Norfolk at a high-profile ceremony on 28 October, the same day that the Duchess of Norfolk laid the foundation stone of the ‘Cripples’ home in the Rivelin Valley.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

Thousands of people turned up for the ceremony, curious to see the uncovering of a statue, something that was not commonplace in Sheffield. At the time, there were only three other statues on display – Queen Victoria opposite the Town Hall (now at Endcliffe Park), James Montgomery and Ebenezer Elliot. Sheffield had only recently possessed wider streets, and the old narrow congested roads had always been unsuitable for statuary.

Before the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, the vast crowd was entertained by the bands of the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters and the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons, playing in turn, while troops lined the enclosure around Fitzalan Square.

At 3.30pm there were speeches by Samuel Osborn (Lord Mayor), Colonel Henry Kenyon Stephenson (Chairman of the Memorial Committee), Thomas W. Ward (Master Cutler), Alderman William Henry Brittain (Town Collector), and Alderman John Hobson (Deputy-Lord Mayor).

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

The Duke of Norfolk drew the cord which allowed the covering to fall from the statue, to an outburst of cheering and the playing of the National Anthem.

“I highly esteem the honour of being allowed to unveil in this great city the statue of a great King. We have assembled to place a lasting remembrance in the centre of the city which will bring home to the minds of other generations who will only hear of him as a memory of the past, and as a historical character, the personality of their late King.”

The King Edward VII statue (2.9 metres high) was made of bronze, situated on top of an Aberdeen Kemnay Granite plinth (4.27 metres high), designed by a local architect, similar to one Drury had designed in Aberdeen, but also thought better to withstand Sheffield’s industrial pollution.

There are four panels in stone on all four sides of the plinth – ‘Fame and Truth’, ‘Philanthropy, ‘Unity’ and ‘Peace’, with the word ‘Peacemaker’ incorporated into a banner across one of the bronze reliefs.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Photograph of the King Edward VII Memorial in 1918 by Picture Sheffield
Photograph © 2020 David Poole