Until 1974 Sheffield was a city in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. Its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through it. The city grew from its largely industrial roots to encompass a wider economic base with a population of over 500,000 today.
During the 19th century, Sheffield gained an international reputation for steel production. Many innovations were developed locally, including crucible and stainless steel, fuelling an almost tenfold increase in the population during the Industrial Revolution. Sheffield received its municipal charter in 1843, becoming the "City of Sheffield" in 1893. The requirements of socio-economic improvements plus those of two world wars maintained the demand for the quality steel produced by Sheffield for the first three-quarters of the 20th century. However, during the 1970s and 1980s international competition grew, causing a decline in traditional local industries. This coincided with the collapse of coal mining in the area.
The city is located within the valleys of the River Don and its four tributaries, the Loxley, the Porter Brook, the Rivelin, and the Sheaf. 61% of Sheffield's entire area is green space, and a third of the city lies within the Peak District National Park.
The settlements that grew and merged to form Sheffield, however, date from the second half of the 1st millennium, and are of Anglo-Saxon and Danish origin. In Anglo-Saxon times, the Sheffield area straddled the border between the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that King Eanred of Northumbria submitted to King Egbert of Wessex at the hamlet of Dore (now a suburb of Sheffield) in 829, a key event in the unification of the kingdom of England under the House of Wessex. After the Norman conquest, Sheffield Castle was built to protect the local settlements, and a small town developed that is the nucleus of the modern city.
By 1296, a market had been established at what is now known as Castle Square, and Sheffield subsequently grew into a small market town. In the 14th century, Sheffield was already noted for the production of knives, as mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, and by the early 1600s it had become the main centre of cutlery manufacture in England outside of London.
During the 1740s, a form of the crucible steel process was discovered that allowed the manufacture of a better quality of steel than previously possible. In about the same period, a technique was developed for fusing a thin sheet of silver onto a copper ingot to produce silver plating, which became widely known as Sheffield plate. The population of the town grew rapidly throughout the 19th century; increasing from 60,095 in 1801 to 451,195 by 1901. The town was incorporated as a borough in 1842 and was granted a city charter in 1893. The influx of people also led to demand for better water supplies, and a number of new reservoirs were constructed on the outskirts of the town. The collapse of the dam wall of one of these reservoirs in 1864 resulted in the Great Sheffield Flood, which killed 270 people and devastated large parts of the town. The growing population led to the construction of many back-to-back dwellings that, along with severe pollution from the factories, inspired George Orwell to write in 1937: "Sheffield, I suppose, could justly claim to be called the ugliest town in the Old World".
Wikipedia lists some of the men responsible for inventions related to the progress of the steel-making process during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
A recession in the 1930s was halted by increasing international tensions as the Second World War loomed; Sheffield's steel factories were set to work manufacturing weapons and ammunition for the war effort. As a result, the city became a target for bombing raids, the heaviest of which occurred on the nights of 12 and 15 December 1940, now known as the Sheffield Blitz. More than 660 lives were lost and many buildings destroyed.
In the 1950s and 1960s, increased automation and competition from abroad resulted in the closure of many steel mills. The 1980s saw the worst of this run-down of Sheffield's industries, along with those of many other areas of the UK.
Areas of Sheffield
The areas of Sheffield, a city and metropolitan borough in the north of England, vary widely in size and history. Some of the areas developed from villages or hamlets, that were absorbed into Sheffield as the city grew, and thus their centres are well defined, but the boundaries of many areas are ambiguous. The areas of Sheffield do not play a significant administrative role, but the city is divided into 28 electoral wards for local elections and 6 parliamentary constituencies for national elections.
History and Growth
Prior to 1848 the parish of Sheffield was divided into six townships:
In 1832 the new borough constituency of Sheffield was formed from these townships with the exception of most of Upper Hallam and parts of Ecclesall Bierlow. In 1843 the Municipal Borough of Sheffield was created from the whole of the six townships, becoming the County Borough or City of Sheffield in 1893.
The following townships, all to the south and east of central Sheffield, were absorbed slightly later. Dates are taken from the second map of Sheffield referenced below.
The following suburbs and estates are within Sheffield and may be found as places of birth, marriage and death of former residents. Some are also census registration districts.
Finding maps of the Sheffield area has been difficult. The town of Sheffield covered a very large area very early. Whereas in other places settlements became individual parishes, around Sheffield the settlements were all merged into a single urban area. A website produced by the Rootsweb part of Ancestry has a couple of maps that may help.
Wikipedia has produced a "book" which is a compilation of all its articles about Sheffield.