Sheffield’s hidden heritage gems are waiting to be discovered

Abbeydale Picture House, Abbeydale Road, Sheffield

Abbeydale Picture House, Abbeydale Road, Sheffield

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Nestled among Sheffield’s seven hills are a wealth of hidden gems that show off the city’s rich heritage through the years.

From intimate Victorian theatres to fascinating treasures of the natural world, there is plenty to explore away from the main attractions.

Claire Thornley, of Eleven Design Consultants Limited, with the Our Favourite Places guide to Sheffield.

Claire Thornley, of Eleven Design Consultants Limited, with the Our Favourite Places guide to Sheffield.

A great starting point is the Our Favourite Places guide, set up in 2010 by Sheffield creative company Eleven Design.

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Director Claire Thornley brought the idea back from Scarborough, where she was given a basic list of hidden gems and enjoyed a weekend of discovery despite being a regular visitor for the previous 20 years.

Our Favourite Places. Friday night ride - Gemma Thorpe

Our Favourite Places. Friday night ride - Gemma Thorpe

She then used the creative skills of her staff to come up with a beautiful book that is now in its fourth edition, after selling 12,000 copies.

“No-one pays to be in the book and there’s no advertising,” she said. “It’s a real labour of love for the studio.”

The book acts as a guide for culture, food and drink, retail and more, but also includes some lesser-known heritage sites.

One of Claire’s favourites is the Lantern Theatre, on Kenwood Park Road, Nether Edge. Initially built by wealthy cutler William Webster in 1886 as a private theatre for his daughters, it was restored after years of dereliction in the 1950s.

Alfred Denny Museum at Sheffield University...... Curator Prof Tim Birkhead with a cast of the skull of a Terror Bird  one of the exhibits 
  See Story Steve McClarence  Picture Chris Lawton   
02/04/13

Alfred Denny Museum at Sheffield University...... Curator Prof Tim Birkhead with a cast of the skull of a Terror Bird one of the exhibits See Story Steve McClarence Picture Chris Lawton 02/04/13

The cosy theatre now hosts amateur theatre groups and musicians in a setting that alone is worth the admission price. It gives visitors an unusual insight into the lives of a certain group of Sheffield people.

“It’s the most beautiful place,” said Claire. “It’s a theatre in miniature in this Victorian house. It’s such a charming building.”

Film lovers can also visit the Abbeydale Picture House, now open to the public for special screenings thanks to the hard work of volunteers.

Although there is still plenty of work to be done, the building now gives people the chance of a trip back to the 1920s to enjoy cinema like the people of Sheffield did almost a century ago.

Another favourite is the Alfred Denny Museum of Zoology, based in the University of Sheffield’s animal and plant sciences department on Western Bank.

Sheffield’s version of the Natural History Museum is full of specimens from all over the world, including fossils of extinct animals. It takes visitors back to the early 1900s, when collecting was at its peak.

Abbeydale Picture House under restoration

Abbeydale Picture House under restoration

And for a unique look at pockets of the city’s history, the Friday Night Ride is a great option. Once a month a themed, guided cycle tour takes in various aspects of Sheffield’s culture and heritage, from social housing to war memorials to Pulp lyrics.

Claire said: “Sheffield has so many interesting things people don’t know about. We are trying to be a home for that.”

Our Favourite Places is a bargain £7 – but it is not produced with profit in mind. The aim is to bring people into the city and to show people who already live here what is under their noses.

“I don’t think people in Sheffield realise what’s on their doorsteps,” said Claire.

Visit www.ourfaveplaces.co.uk for more of Sheffield’s hidden gems.