History of Sheffield

History of Sheffield

This South Yorkshire city in England is well known for its rich history in cutlery and steel. Taking its name from River Sheaf, the city of Sheffield has humble beginnings as a clearing on the edge of River Sheaf in the 12th century. In fact, the city was once called Sceaf, which means border, and grew on the backbone of the industrial revolution.

Sheffield was founded by the Lord of the Manor, Lord William de Lovetot who built the Sheffield Castle. The castle was built to control the Saxon population and slowly blossomed into a small town. Lord De Lovetot also built a church on the site of the now Sheffield cathedral. The few inhabitants of the town traded with the castle garrison and slowly turned the town into a trading center.

It was recognized as a city in 1893 but has a rich history as the crucible of the production of knives and other pieces of cutlery since the 14th century. So popular were the Sheffield knives that in 1340 the King found a knife from Sheffield in the inventory of his possessions and the famous Chaucer mentioned a Sheffield knife in his Canterbury Tales in 1380.The town became synonymous with knife production and by the 1600s the company of cutlers in Hampshire had taken over the industry and grown it to the 2nd largest centre of cutlery in England, after London.

In the 1740s, Sheffield was noted for its iron industry. Owing to the efforts of a man by the name of Benjamin Huntsman who invented a process known as the crucible steel which made better quality steel.

Another equally innovative gentleman by the name of Thomas Bolsover found a way to plate copper with silver. These inventions led to the economic expansion of Sheffield as it was given its own silver assay, built a lead mill and an infirmary.

Because of the iron and steel industries in Sheffield, the city was unsanitary and prone to outbreaks of cholera. A charter given to the city allowed it to have an elected town council. The council became responsible for the water supply by 1887 after having built sewers and a sewerage treatment plants. With these improvements, the health of Sheffield’s citizens improved drastically.

The 1900s saw the expansion of the Sheffield city’s boundaries to include Handsworth, Wadsley, Totley, Dore, Greenhill and Beauchief. Amenities like the cinema started appearing around the town with the first cinema being built in 1910 just five years after the building of the Sheffield University.

Both the first and second World Wars greatly affected Sheffield’s industries entering them into great recessions. German fighter planes bombed the city and left many people out of jobs for the better part of the 1920s – 1930s. The population of Sheffield grew exponentially in the 1950s as immigrants flocked to the city because of the presence of council flats built in Park Hill and Hyde Park.

Traditional industries like iron and steel saw a steep decline in Sheffield in the 20th century although it still is the bedrock of making surgical instruments.

The city is now the fourth largest city in England and is host to two outstanding football teams. It is also home to musical greats like Jarvis Cocker among others. Sheffield seems bent on becoming one of the most successful cities in England’s future.