Sheffield is a major city and metropolitan borough in the north of England. It is so named because of its origins in a field on the River Sheaf that runs through the city. The city has grown from its largely industrial roots to encompass a wide economic base. The population of the City of Sheffield is estimated at 520,700 people (2005), and it is one of the eight largest English cities outside London that form the English Core Cities Group.

The city became world famous in the nineteenth century for its production of steel. Many innovations in the industry were developed locally, including crucible and stainless steel. This fuelled an almost tenfold increase in the population during the Industrial Revolution. It gained its city charter in 1893 and became officially titled the City of Sheffield. International competition caused a decline in local industry during the 1970s and 1980s, and at the same time the national coal industry collapsed, affecting Sheffield's population. In recent years the city has reinvented itself as a sporting and technology city.

Sheffield is located at 53°23′N 1°28′W. It lies directly beside Rotherham, from which it is separated by the M1 motorway. Although Barnsley Metropolitan Borough also borders Sheffield to the north, the town itself is a few miles further. The southern and western borders of the city are shared with Derbyshire; in the first half of the 20th century Sheffield extended its borders south into Derbyshire, annexing a number of villages. Directly to the west of the city is the Peak District National Park and the Pennine hill range.

Sheffield is a geographically diverse city. The city nestles in a natural amphitheatre created by several hills and the confluence of five rivers: Don, Sheaf, Rivelin, Loxley and Porter. As such, much of the city is built on hillsides with views into the city centre or out to the countryside. The city's lowest point is just 10 m above sea level, while some parts of the city are at over 500 metres (1,640 ft). However, 89% of the housing in the city is between 100 and 200 metres (330 & 660 ft) above sea level.

View of Sheffield City Centre from Norfolk Park
View of Sheffield City Centre from Norfolk Park

With an estimated total of over two million trees, Sheffield has more trees per person than any other city in Europe. It has over 170 woodlands (covering 28.27 km² / 10.9 mi²), 78 public parks (covering 18.30 km² / 7.1 mi²) and 10 public gardens. Added to the 134.66 km² (52 mi²) of national park and 10.87 km² (4.2 mi²) of water this means that 61% of the city is greenspace.

Sheffield also has a very wide variety of habitat, comparing favourably with any city in the United Kingdom: urban, parkland and woodland, agricultural and arable land, moors, meadows and freshwater-based habitats. Large parts of the city are designated as sites of special scientific interest including several urban areas.

The present city boundaries were set in 1974, when the former county borough of Sheffield merged with Stocksbridge Urban District and two parishes from the Wortley Rural District. This area includes a significant part of the countryside surrounding the main urban region. Roughly a third of Sheffield lies in the Peak District National Park (no other English city includes parts of a national park within its boundary), and Sheffield is officially Europe's greenest city, having won the 2005 Entente Florale competition. This was helped by the fact that Sheffield contains over 150 woodland spaces and 50 public parks.

People from Sheffield are called Sheffielders. They are also colloquially known to people in the surrounding towns of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Chesterfield as "dee-dars" (which derives from their pronunciation of the "th" in the dialectal words "thee" and "thou"). Many Yorkshire dialect words and aspects of pronunciation derive from old Norse due to the Viking influence in this region.


At the time of the 2001 UK census, the ethnic make-up of Sheffield's population was 91.2% White, 4.6% Asian, 1.6 mixed and 1.8% Black. Sheffield also has large Polish, Somali, Slovak, Yemeni and Kosovar populations. In terms of religion, 68.6% of the population are Christian and 4.6% Muslim. Other religions represent less than 1% each. The number of people without a religion is above the national average at 17.9%, with 7.8% not stating their religion. The largest quinary group is 20- to 24-year-olds (9.2%), mainly because of the large university population (45,000+).


Main article: Districts of Sheffield
Sheffield is made up of numerous districts that vary widely in size and history. Many of these districts developed from villages or hamlets that were absorbed into Sheffield as the city grew The districts are largely ignored by the administrative and political divisions of the city; instead it is divided into 28 electoral wards, with each ward generally covering 4–6 districts. The electoral wards are grouped into six parliamentary constituencies, although because of a different review cycle, the ward and constituency boundaries are currently not all conterminous. Sheffield is largely unparished, but Bradfield and Ecclesfield have parish councils, and Stocksbridge has a town council.

Panorama from Meersbrook Park.  Note the new Heeley Mosque (centre), and the Arts Tower and Royal Hallamshire Hospital in the background (left)
Panorama from Meersbrook Park. Note the new Heeley Mosque (centre), and the Arts Tower and Royal Hallamshire Hospital in the background (left)


Main article: History of Sheffield
The area that is now the City of Sheffield has been occupied since at least the last ice age, but the settlements that grew to form Sheffield 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. This event made Egbert the first Saxon to claim to be king of all of England. After the Norman conquest, Sheffield Castle was built to control 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 1600 it had become the main centre of cutlery production in England, overseen by The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire. From 1570 to 1584 Mary, Queen of Scots was held as a prisoner in Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor.

Portrait of Chaucer as a Canterbury pilgrim in the Ellesmere manuscript of The Canterbury Tales
Portrait of Chaucer as a Canterbury pilgrim in the Ellesmere manuscript of The Canterbury Tales

In the 1740s a form of the crucible steel process was discovered that allowed the manufacture of a better quality of steel than had previously been available. At about the same time a technique for fusing a thin sheet of silver onto a copper ingot to produce silver plating was invented and became widely known as Sheffield plate. These innovations spurred the growth of Sheffield as an industrial town. However, the loss of some important export markets led to a recession in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The resulting poor conditions culminated in a cholera epidemic that killed 402 people in 1832. The industrial revolution saw a resurgence of Sheffield through the 19th century. As a result of its growing population, the town was incorporated as a borough in 1842 and 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 also led to the construction of a large number of back-to-back slums, which, along with severe pollution from the factories, inspired George Orwell, writing in 1937, to declare, "Sheffield, I suppose, could justly claim to be called the ugliest town in the Old World".

A recession in the 1930s was only halted by the increasing international tension as World War II loomed. The steel factories of Sheffield were set to work making weapons and ammunition for the war. As a result, once war was declared, the city became a target for bombing raids, the heaviest of which occurred over the nights of 12 December and 15 December 1940 (now known as the Sheffield Blitz). More than 660 lives were lost and numerous buildings were destroyed.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many of the slums were demolished and replaced with housing schemes such as the Park Hill flats. Large parts of the city centre were also cleared to make way for a new system of roads. 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 in the UK), culminating in the 1984/5 miners' strike. The building of the Meadowhall shopping centre on the site of a former steelworks in 1990 was a mixed blessing, creating much needed jobs but speeding the decline of the city centre. Attempts to regenerate the city were kick-started when the city hosted the 1991 World Student Games, which saw the construction of new sporting facilities such as the Sheffield Arena, Don Valley Stadium and the Ponds Forge complex. The city is now changing rapidly as new projects aim to regenerate run-down parts of the city. One such project, the Heart of the City Project, has seen a number of public works in the city centre: the Peace Gardens were renovated in 1998, the Millennium Galleries opened in April 2001, the Winter Gardens were opened on 22 May 2003, and a public space to link these two areas, the Millennium Square, was opened in May 2006. In December 2006 Sheaf Square was opened, its aim to act as a 21st century gateway to the city. It contains The Cutting Edge scultpture made of Sheffield steel, which has water cascading down it and another large water feature which also pays homage to Sheffield's steel-centered past. It was opened on December 22 with street entertainment and a fireworks display. A number of other projects grouped under the title Sheffield One aim to regenerate the whole of the city centre, with ambitious plans for a split-level high street shopping area due to be finalised at the end of 2006.

Economy and industry

Labour Profile
Total employee jobs239,941
Distribution, hotels & restaurants57,92424.1%
Transport & communications11,5754.8%
Finance, IT, other business activities43,69418.2%
Public admin, education & health70,44229.4%
Other services13,0115.4%

See also: Economy of Sheffield and List of hi-tech companies in Sheffield
After many years of decline, there are now signs that the Sheffield economy is seeing a revival. The 2004 Barclays Bank Financial Planning study revealed that, in 2003, the Sheffield district of Hallam was the highest ranking area outside London for overall wealth, the proportion of people earning over £60,000 a year standing at almost 12%. A survey by Knight Frank revealed that Sheffield was the fastest-growing city outside of London for office and residential space and rents during the second half of 2004. Some £250 million has also been invested in the city during 2005. The Sheffield economy is worth £7.4 billion (2003 GVA). This can be seen by the current surge of redevelopments, including the City Lofts Tower and accompanying St. Pauls Place, Velocity Living, and the Moor redevelopment, the forthcoming NRQ and the recently completed Winter Gardens, Peace Gardens, Millennium Galleries, many project under the Sheffield One redevelopment agency.

Sheffield has an international reputation for metallurgy and steel-making. Many innovations in these fields have been made in Sheffield. Benjamin Huntsman discovered the crucible technique in the 1740s at his workshop in Handsworth. This process was made obsolete in 1856 by Henry Bessemer's invention of the Bessemer converter. Thomas Boulsover invented Sheffield Plate (silver-plated copper) in the early 18th century. Stainless steel was invented by Harry Brearley in 1912, and the work of F. B. Pickering and T. Gladman throughout the 1960s, '70s, and '80s was fundamental to the development of modern high-strength low-alloy steels. Further innovations continue, with new manufacturing technologies and techniques being developed by the Sheffield universities and the organisations on the Advanced Manufacturing Park.

While iron and steel have long been the main industries of Sheffield, coal mining has also been a major industry, particularly in the outlying areas, and the Palace of Westminster in London was built using limestone from quarries in the nearby village of Anston. Other areas of employment include call centres, the City Council, universities and hospitals. Sheffield currently produces more steel per year than at any other time in its history. However, the industry is now less noticeable as it has become highly automated and employs far fewer staff than in the past.

High Street, Central Sheffield.
High Street, Central Sheffield.

Sheffield is also a major retail centre, although it compares unfavourably with other major cities, it is home to many High Street and department stores as well as designer boutiques. The main city centre shopping areas are on The Moor precinct, Fargate, Orchard Square and the Devonshire Quarter. Department stores in Sheffield City centre include John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Atkinsons, Castle House Co-op and Debenhams. Sheffield's main market is the Castle Market, built above the remains of the castle. Shopping areas outside the city centre include the Meadowhall shopping centre and retail park, Ecclesall Road, London Road, Hillsborough and the Crystal Peaks shopping centre. There are also several retail parks around Crystal Peaks.

Orchard Square
Orchard Square

In a 2005 survey on spending potential, Meadowhall came 16th (third in out-of-town shopping centres behind Bluewater(7th) and The Trafford Centre(15th)) with £977 million while Sheffield city centre came 18th with £953 million. In a 2004 survey on the top retail destinations, Meadowhall was 20th while Sheffield was 35th. In both cases Sheffield is unique in being the only major city to have a shopping centre above the city centre in the lists. It is hoped that this problem can be rectified by the creation of the £500 million New Retail Quarter project.

Government and politics

Sheffield Town Hall and the Peace Gardens
Sheffield Town Hall and the Peace Gardens

Sheffield is governed by the elected Sheffield City Council. For most of the council's history it has been controlled by the Labour Party. There was, however, a brief period of Liberal Democrat control at the turn of the century. There are 84 councillors; the current council leader is Jan Wilson. The city also has a Lord Mayor. In the past the Office of Mayor had considerable authority, and carried with it executive powers over the finances and affairs of the city council. Today it is simply a ceremonial role. The current Lord Mayor is Jackie Drayton.

The majority of council-owned facilities are now operated by independent charitable trusts. Sheffield International Venues runs many of the cities sporting and leisure facilities, including Sheffield Arena and Don Valley Stadium. Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust and the Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust take care of galleries and museums owned by the council. These include the Millennium Galleries, Lyceum Theatre and the Crucible Theatre.

In 2004/5, the Gross Revenue Expenditure of £1,229 million was distributed as follows:

  • Education 33%
  • Housing 25%
  • Social Services 17%
  • Other Services 11%
  • Highways, Transportation and Planning 6%
  • Leisure and Tourism 5%
  • Refuse Collection and Disposal 2%
  • Environmental Health 1%
The city currently returns six Members of Parliament to the House of Commons, but this will be reduced to five at the next election as one constituency is shared with Barnsley.

 International links

Sheffield is formally twinned with:

  • Flag of People's Republic of China Anshan, China
  • Flag of Germany Bochum, Germany
  • Flag of Ukraine Donetsk, Ukraine
  • Flag of Nicaragua Esteli, Nicaragua
There are more informal links with:

  • Flag of Japan Kawasaki, Japan
  • Flag of Zambia Kitwe, Zambia
  • Flag of United States Pittsburgh, United States.
Sheffield has also had close links with Poland, since Polish ex-servicemen who had fought alongside British forces during the Second World War settled in the city. As a result a Polish consulate was opened in the City in 1997, the first new Polish consulate to open in the UK for over 60 years.

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