The River Don Corridor, Sheffield’s Twin Religions

Here are some thoughts and development images from my trip to Sheffield in January

Across Britain new marina developments are springing up and waterfront flats have tempted ‘urban professional’ to move back to the heart of their hometowns. I’d seen on my journey how from Glasgow to Plymouth, cities have begun to fall back in love with their once neglected riversides. Regeneration of the waterfront has undoubtedly been one of the major changes to our cities.
Concretopia, by John Grindrod (2013)

This is only partly true for Sheffield, once you leave the confines of the city centre with it’s new hotels and cladding covered flats. You are confronted by a still inhabited industrial belt, complete with steel works, gently hugging the course of the River Don.

Sheffield River Don 01, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 01, Simon Robinson 2014

From the twelfth floor of Sheffield University’s ‘Arts Tower’, the tight corridor of warehouses, recycling works, scaffolders, and the inevitable dodgy car body shop, is clear to see snaking through the cities heart. All the way to the pinnacle of man existence, Meadowhall Shopping Centre. Which like all true regenerative cathedrals of commerce can hold the claim to have once been the largest in the country, and far grander than Sheffield’s true centre of religion, the Cathedral, tucked between shops on the city centres main concourse.

Sheffield River Don 04, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 04, Simon Robinson 2014

An excellent book on the regeneration of Sheffield, including the building of Meadowhall is by John Darwell and is available from Café Royal Books.

Cover of Sheffield Meadowhall, Hyde Park, Ponds Forge, by John Darwell published by Cafe Royal Books (2013)
Cover of Sheffield Meadowhall, Hyde Park, Ponds Forge, by John Darwell published by Cafe Royal Books (2013)
Double page spread from Sheffield Meadowhall, Hyde Park, Ponds Forge, by John Darwell published by Cafe Royal Books (2013)
Double page spread from Sheffield Meadowhall, Hyde Park, Ponds Forge, by John Darwell published by Cafe Royal Books (2013)
Regeneration 01, by John Darwell, the closure of one of Sheffield's largest steel works and the redevelopment of the surrounding area. Commissioned by Untitled Gallery, Sheffield (1988-90)
Regeneration 01, by John Darwell, the closure of one of Sheffield’s largest steel works and the redevelopment of the surrounding area.
Commissioned by Untitled Gallery, Sheffield (1988-90)
Regeneration 05, by John Darwell, the closure of one of Sheffield's largest steel works and the redevelopment of the surrounding area. Commissioned by Untitled Gallery, Sheffield (1988-90)
Regeneration 05, by John Darwell, the closure of one of Sheffield’s largest steel works and the redevelopment of the surrounding area.
Commissioned by Untitled Gallery, Sheffield (1988-90)

The reason for Sheffield’s reluctance to embrace the waterfront may have to do with the floods of 2007, when a large section of the Rive Don Burst it’s banks, leaving part of the city underwater. This lead to a hug amount of tidy of the river by the environment agency to alleviate the risk of future flooding and creating an area on calmness at the heart of the city.

2007 Flood
2007 Flood

The week from Monday 25th of June 2007 will be forever remembered by the People of the Sheffield and Rotherham. Two People sadly died and many had the stress of getting home, worrying about loved ones that were stranded or just late in returning home. RAF air crews were scrambled to winch stranded workers of Factory roofs as the River Don burst it’s banks and reclaiming it’s flood Plain. Meadowhall became flooded, Railways flooded and public transport suspended. In Brightside, a rescue boat was used to rescue stranded workers. Steering past abandoned cars that were being washed away during it’s journey.

2007 Flood
2007 Flood

Up Market Apartments on Nursery Street and Corporation Street became down market in a matter of hours as flood water swept through them. The journey home for some took hours if it could be completed at all. If not, emergency accommodation was set up in places like Hallam University. Hillsborough flooded and a substation blew plunging the area into darkness. Over night the Ulley Reservoir wall was damaged. The flood waters leading to fears of collapse and people having to be rushed to safety. The nearby Motorway the M1 had to closed while the nearby Power cables meant Sheffield and the local area could plunge into darkness. As the flood waters moved downstream other rivers burst their banks possibly claiming another life in Doncaster.
press quote about the 2007 flood

Hillsborough 2007 Flood
Hillsborough 2007 Flood

At two other ends of the cities river network stand Sheffield’s other two religious icons, Bramall Lane, Hillsbury.

OS map detial of sheffield, with Hillsborough, Bramall Lane and Meadowhall
OS map detial of sheffield, with Hillsborough, Bramall Lane and Meadowhall

Football is Sheffield’s true religion as I have been reminded by films like When Saturday Comes (1996) and from my trip into the Millennium Museum, which proudly sold a range of t-shirts displaying Sheffield importance to the beautiful game.

Sheffield, Football’s First City
Sheffield, Football’s First City
Sheffield Football Club, The Original Rules and Innovations
Sheffield Football Club, The Original Rules and Innovations

Sheffield is home to the two oldest clubs in the world, the home of the first derby, and the home to the original rules to the sport.

Sheffield FC’s contribution to the modern game cannot be overstated. It is the first and oldest football club that sought to bring order from chaos. The original rules for the world’s most popular sport were written by ‘The Club’ at the height of the industrial revolution. The City of Sheffield’s backdrop was that of forges, smoke and molten steel.

Established on October 24th 1857 in the industrial north of England, Sheffield FC is the birth place of the most popular game in the world.

Not only are SFC recognised by the English FA as the oldest football club in the world, they are also one of only two clubs to be honoured,  along with Real Madrid, by FIFA with an Order of Merit Award. Both clubs received this recognition as part of FIFA’s Centennial Celebrations in Paris 2004.

‘Sheffield FC is a symbol of the role of football as a common denominator in the community and society.’
FIFA 

Hallam FC founded in 1860 (the world’s second oldest club). Hallam still play on their original ground, Sandygate Road, which is officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as ‘The Oldest Ground in the World’.

In 1860, Hallam first played Sheffield in a local derby which is still contested today. This ‘Rules Derby’ is considered the oldest, still-contested derby of any football code in the world, and is probably one of the oldest organised team-sport derbies in the world (besides those found in cricket).

Bramall Lane is the oldest stadium in the world which still hosts professional football matches. It opened on the 30th of April 1855 as a cricket ground and was, in its first 7 years, only used for cricket purposes. The first football match at the ground was played on the 29th of December 1862 when Sheffield FC took on Hallam FC (the match lasted three hours and resulted in a goalless draw). As Sheffield’s main sporting stadium of the time, it held all the most important local matches.

Bramall Lane
Bramall Lane

In 1867, Hallam FC made football history when they won The Youdan Cup; the world’s first ever organised football tournament, beating fellow Sheffield club Norfolk in the final at Bramall Lane. They still possess this historic trophy.

This was followed by the Cromwell Cup a year later, which was won by a newly formed team called ‘The Wednesday’. By 1877, a crowd of 8,000 watched The Wednesday beat Hallam FC in the Sheffield Challenge Cup. Bramall Lane effectively became The Wednesday’s permanent home between 1880 and the opening of their new stadium at Olive Grove in 1887, but since 1889 it has been the home of Sheffield United FC.

The following images were taken in January on a Canon DSLR as development images. I walked the River Don path from the city centre to Meadowhall, while killing time waiting for my train back to Norwich (as a student I’m too cheap to buy a ticket to travel during normal hours, so spend my life waiting till after 7pm to get a cheap fare).

one of the things that really struck me was how alive the city was in terms of small industry, the big steel works might be all but gone but it has open the way for smaller enterprises. One of the things I’m intrigued about is exploring some of these businesses and the people that work there.

Another thing I spotted is how many of these business seem to be built on the foundation of previous establishments, recycling building fragments into parts of their properties.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as you can see from the earlier OS map the industrial corridor covers a wide area between the Don and the canal on the other side of the Don Valley Stadium complex and entertainment park. I look forward to returning in the future with my large format camera to really get to know the area. As well as hopefully spending less time swearing about out of focus images (I didn’t have my tripod with me).

Sheffield River Don 03, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 03, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 02, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 02, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 05, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 05, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 06, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 06, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 07, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 07, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 08, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 08, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 09, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 09, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 10, Simon Robinson 2014
Sheffield River Don 10, Simon Robinson 2014
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