Why we should all look up and admire Sheffield’s fine architecture

Phil Henshaw came to Sheffield in 1990 to do a course at Sheffield City Polytechnic, and has stayed for over 30 years.He has written a special Favourite Things piece for the Sheffield Telegraph as he prepares to move on to pastures new...

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 6:00 am
Phil Henshaw.

Countryside and Nature

The road that leads from Stannington to the Peak District, its proper name the High Riggs Road but known to me as the Magic Road, runs along a ridge with stunning views of both Loxley and Rivelin valleys. Walking the fields and paths near the Magic Road kept me going during lockdown. A little further afield is higher Bradfield. Carry on up the hill from High Bradfield to an upland plateau 1,200 feet above sea level, and you are rewarded with a vista out towards Strines and the Pennine foothills. Here the silence is punctuated only by the cries of lapwing as they perform their joyous aerobatics, and the haunting call of the curlew.

Architecture

The White Building.

Sheffield has some fine examples of both civic and industrial architecture. My favourite is the White Building in Fitzalan Square, built in 1908 by Flockton and Gibbs. Not only is it beautifully designed, with its white faience cladding enabling it to stand out from neighbouring buildings, it has 10 carved reliefs of Sheffield trades positioned above the ground floor archways. Figures of, among others, grinder, buffer, silversmith, and file cutter remind us of the city’s industrial past. Look up when you next go by, admire the building’s detail and see if you can identify the skills depicted.

City of beer

The city has some of the best pubs and the finest beer available anywhere. We might mourn the demise of old breweries such as Wards and Stones, but the proliferation of new ones in recent years is a cause for celebration among beer lovers. There are pubs and beers to suit all tastes in the city centre and Kelham Island. Simple pleasures like a few pints followed by a curry have been cruelly halted by the pandemic, but should soon be back on the agenda.

Museums and galleries

The importance of museums to a city like Sheffield cannot be overstated. I’ve been in all of them over the years, either through personal interest or to help educate my children. From the River Don engine at Kelham Island to classical art at the Graves Gallery, there is food for the soul across the city. One of the best is the Ruskin Collection, originally sited in Walkley and now housed in the Millennium Galleries. The collection stemmed from Ruskin’s passion to inspire the working classes of Sheffield with beautiful things, and may it continue to delight all for many years to come.

Sheffield’s radical tradition

The city has a proud history of troublemakers, dissidents and dissenters, who fought for our rights and democracy. George III believed Sheffield was ‘a damned bad place’, where radicals and reformers found a receptive audience. The first petition for women’s suffrage was sent from Sheffield in 1851, and the city was a stronghold of Chartist agitation. I have no doubt that Sheffield’s radical and independent spirit will endure and continue to challenge unfairness and injustice.