For Sheffield, we resumed our travels from Manchester and started from the main station, Manchester Piccadilly, and headed off towards Sheffield. Its only about an hour away so it didn’t take long, and we got to go through the beautiful peak district across Derbyshire, into South Yorkshire.
Status: Sheffield District, South Yorkshire, Town, England
Travel: First Transpennine Express (Manchester Piccadilly – Sheffield)
Eating & Sleeping: Costa Coffee
Attractions: Town Hall, Station Fountain, Town Hall Fountains, Sheffield Trams, Kelham Island Museum, Millennium Gallery, Dore Stone, St Marie Cathedral, Sheffield Cathedral, Peace Gardens, Botanical Gardens, Winter Garden etc
The thing that struck us most as we arrived, and exited through the stations main entrance was the enormous curved fountain that dominated the square directly outside.
It has five levels, and is very very long, and to go with that there is a wall with water running down it behind the main fountain, making it a very interesting discovery. Apologies for all the dark photographs from this trip as the weather was a little off, but if Sheffield looked this amazing in these conditions then it must look fantastic in the sun! The fountain runs the whole length of the square, and is the first of a number of water features we discovered throughout the day.
We set off to explore the city, and made our way through the various streets towards the main city centre.
The first place we came across was the Graves Art Gallery, shown here on the right. The building is split into a few parts, with the bottom floor consisting of the Central Library, and the third being the Art Gallery.
The Library building was opened in 1934 by the then Duchess of York, Queen Elizabeth – The Queen Mother (1900 – 2002, Mother of Elizabeth II). The architect for the project was called W. G. Davies, and was conceived as being part of a large square here, however only the Library was built and the plans shelved. The outside is made of Portland Stone, and has been kept beautifully clean.
The Art Gallery was a feature included in the building from its opening, and has had a number of directors since. Various famous artists had their works put on show here, including L S Lowry (1887 – 1976, from Stretford in Lancashire). A major refurbishment was carried out in 2009 and some temporary exhibits included one of Andy Warhol. Throughout the rest of the building you will find a Theatre in the basement, as well as a World Metal Index and various sections of the main library covering all topics, spread out over a few floors.
We kept moving and arrived in a very small square outside a building called “Upper Chapel” which was built in 1700 as the “First Non-Conformist” chapel in the city. This means that this church didn’t conform to governance by the Church of England. The whole building was turned round in the 1840’s and inside it was rebuilt, with all of this completed by 1848.
In the square are a selection of bronze statues, created by George Fullard (1923 – 1973, Sculptor from Sheffield). There are three of them, all depicting women:
1) Running Woman (left)
2) Mother and Child (right)
3) Angry Woman (centre)
The originals were made out of plaster and completed in the 1950’s, and bought by Sheffield City Council in 1983 and then cast in bronze in 1985.
Obviously the most striking feature in the square is the tall spire of the Cathedral Church of St Marie, situated on the next street along. We headed hear next, and it was open so we had a look round inside. The interior is beautifully decorated, with a cavernous curved ceiling and fantastic stain glass windows all around the outside.
It was designed by Matthew Ellison (1812 – 1885) after the existing Roman Catholic Chapel became too small for the growing congregation. His inspiration came from a 14th century church in the village of Heckington, Lincolnshire. The brand new church opened in 1850, with a debt of £10,500 which was an enormous amount back then. It wasn’t until 1889 that this was fully paid off. World War II brought misery to the Cathedral when a bomb hit it and destroyed some of the windows. The rest were taken out for safe keeping and stored in a mine but this flooded and they were lost, so new ones were created after the war. Various renovations since have left the Cathedral looking fantastic and well ordered. It was in 1980 that the Diocese of Hallam (Covering Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley, Chesterfield and the Peak District) was created, elevation St Marie’s to the status of Cathedral and it gained it’s first Bishop.
Moving through to the pedestrianised streets of the city centre, the architecture really stood out, all the old style buildings, which were grand yet modest. There are many shopping streets around here along with a few shopping centres, including Meadowhall, Orchard Square and the Forum all located in and around the City Centre.
On the left is the clock tower of Sheffield Town Hall, which stands at a staggering 64 metres tall. Between 1896 and 1965 this was sufficient for the building to be the tallest in the city!
At the very top, stood on the dome, is a statue of Vulcan, the God of Fire. No bells were ever installed in the tower, however since 2002 and electronic system has Quarter Hourly and Hourly chimes.
By this time, having come from Manchester and endured the drizzle, it was definitely time for a drink so we stopped in Costa for a cup of tea, before exploring the rest of this fantastic building.
Costa was outside the main side of the Town Hall, so we started here. The building is the fourth Town Hall to be used in Sheffield:
1) Built before at least 1637 and located on Pinfold Street
2) 1700 – 1808, old brick built community hall in a churchyard
3) Sheffield Old Town, built between 1807 and 1808. It still exists, on Waingate, but is currently disused.
The current building was constructed between 1890 and 1897, and was opened by Queen Victoria herself that same year. She didn’t open it by hand, but used a “Remote Control” from her carriage which activated alight on the carriage as a signal for three men out of sight to open the gates. One of the most notable feature inside is the marble staircase in the entrance hall, and there is also an original feature of the building still in place, an electric chandelier. It truly is a beautiful building, and certainly one of the grandest we have seen in a while.
After marvelling at the giant structure in front of us, we entered the square outside it known as the Peace Gardens, which was added in 1938. In the centre is a multi layered fountain, and you can see paths radiating off in different directions.
Each of these has a set of steps at the end with a fountain on either side tipping water down a separate set of steps and they run down channels towards the centre of the square. The architecture here is amazing and the whole design is beautifully realised.
Sheffield has a tram network similar to Manchester, called Supertram, that runs through the city centre, but it is not quite as vast. The trams are operated by the bus company Stagecoach, and were introduced in 1994 and in to 1995 , replacing the original tram network in the city that had already been closed and transport moved to buses as with most places in the UK. There are three lines with a total of 48 stations, and there is one main stop on the network where the three cross, which we will get to in a moment.
A new line is currently in production to connect with a new station that will be built as part of the new High Speed Rail system the UK Government is working to introduce.
There are two cathedrals in Sheffield, with the second being the main Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul (Church of England). St Peter’s is near the tramway, and is currently undergoing restoration, but was still open. When we went in we met a very nice chap who took us on a tour and went through a fascinating history about the building and the local area. The cathedral itself is vast, with a towering interior, and a fantastic multi coloured ceiling at the base of the main tower inside.
The site has been used for Christianity since at least the 9th century, when the Sheffield Cross was constructed. It is now held by the British Museum in London. A priory was then built in the 2th century, but burnt down in 1266. The next church was then completed by 1280 but rebuilt by 1430. Since then, this small church grew and grew, with the Shrewsbury Chapel (a feature of the current Cathedral) being added in 1777, along with the Nave in the 1790’s and the North/South Transepts in 1880. The building was granted Cathedral status in 1914. The detail is fantastic and it looks very medieval.
The tram stop outside is interesting as it is one of only three stops on the whole tram network that is served by all the lines, making the cathedral accessible from any single stop on the entire network. There are various major cities in the UK with more than one Cathedral, including Cardiff, London, Glasgow, Belfast, Edinburgh and many more.
Moving back towards the Town Hall, we passed it to explore the various attractions located in the warren of streets just next to it. To start with we found this beautiful old building, called the Lyceum Theatre, from 1897. It contains a 1068 seat theatre, and since it’s original opening it has been used as a Theatre, Bingo Hall, Concert Venue and many more. It shut in the 1980’s but after a thorough restoration in 1990 it now reopen for visitors to enjoy, and the are regular productions held here.
The design of the Lyceum is fantastic, and the building stands out as a beautiful example of 19th century styles.
The second place we came across was the Winter Gardens, one of the largest temperate glasshouses in the entire country. As you can see, this long, curved building contains various species of plant (totalling over 2000) and is the largest urban glasshouse in the whole of Europe.
Queen Elizabeth II opened the building in 2003, and all the plants are watered by hand to make sure each one gets the correct amount of water, as using sprinklers would give some too much and some too little. Frost protection covers the building up to 4 degrees and is uses Glulam in the overall structure, where sections of timber are glued together. This also means it is one of the largest Glulam buildings in the UK.
We stopped to explore the building for a while, and found so many species of plant that we have never heard of that it was a genuinely interesting experience. The Winter Gardens are joined directly into the Millennium Gallery next door, which opened in 2001, and because of it’s proximity we had a quick look round in here as well. There are various exhibitions, a shop and a cafe, with a lot of the artworks being made out of metal to showcase Sheffield’s extensive metalwork history.
All over Sheffield are these large metal ball fountains, with water coming out of the top and running around the outside. They can be found outside some of the museums and in most of the squares and a key part of the new modern designs being implement throughout the city, and I rather like them.
We started heading back towards the station, and the last major building we found was the Hallam Union Building that is part of Sheffield Hallam University. The building opened in 1999 as the National Centre for Popular Music, and consists of four large stainless steel drums, designed by Nigel Coates Architects. The drums certainly stand out from the surrounding buildings, and almost look like a series of old style kettles. Visitor numbers to the new building were a lot lower than expected, and the museum shut just one year later, in 2000. Between 2001 and 2003 it became a live music venue, until the University took it over and turn it into the Student’s Union.
After marvelling at the ingenious design, we soon arrived back at the station and got the first train bound for Manchester, and reflected on another enjoyable day out to a new city.
Sheffield is a lovely city, and we have been back through it on the train a few times, heading to Lincoln and Kingston-upon-Hull, and the sun was shining both of those days, making it look even more amazing. There is lots of brilliant architecture, and interesting museums to look through as well as other sights, including the Botanical Gardens (Over 5000 species of plants across a 19 acre site) and the Kelham Island Museum (Industrial Museum)
Sheffield is also a very green city, with over 2 million trees, which means the city has the highest ratio of trees to people of any city in the whole of Europe. Sheffield has a large university located near the station, as well as being on five rivers, being where the Don and its four tributaries (Loxley, Peter Brook, Rivelin, Sheaf) meet. One of the UK’s best athletes, Jessica Ennis also hails from the city, who holds various British athletics records, and won gold in Heptathlon at the London 2012 Olympics.
So I urge you to visit Sheffield, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.