From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present


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Sheffield is a city located in South Yorkshire and was crucial in the Industrial Revolution, many significant inventions and technologies were developed in the city including stainless and crucible steel. It takes its name from the River Sheaf which runs through the city.

The city is in the eastern foothills of the Pennines, in the valleys of the River Don as well as its four tributaries, the Loxley, the Porter Brook, the Rivelin and the Sheaf. A third of the city lies within the Peak District national park.

It is thought that the earliest inhabitants occupied the area in the late Upper Paleolithic, about 12,800 years ago. During the Iron Age, the area was the southernmost territory of the Brigantes constructing several hill forts in and around Sheffield.

Once the Romans left England, it is thought that the area was part of the boundary between the kingdom of Elmet and Mercia. Gradually settlers pushed west from the kingdom of Deira living in two settlements called Wales and Waleswood. The settlements grew and merged to form Sheffield. During the Anglo-Saxon period, the Sheffield area was part of the border between the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria.

Sheffield Castle was built after the Norman conquest to control the local settlements, a small town developed that became that grew into the modern city. A market was established in 1296, which became known as Castle Square, and Sheffield subsequently grew into a small market town.

In the 14th century, Sheffield was noted for the production of knives, as mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, by the early 1600s it had become the main centre of cutlery manufacture in England outside London, overseen by the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire. From 1570 to 1584, Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned in Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor.

A crucible steel process was discovered in the 1740's, that allowed the manufacture of a better quality of steel than had previously been possible. Sheffield plate, a fusion of silver onto copper, became popular at about the same time. Sheffield grew as an industrial town, but due to the loss of some important export markets created a recession in the late 18th and early 19th century. The resulting poor conditions culminated in a cholera epidemic that killed 402 people in 1832.

The collapse of the dam wall on one of the reservoirs supplying water to Sheffield in1864, resulted in the Great Sheffield Flood, which killed 270 people and devastated large parts of the town.

The Great Depression hit the city in the 1930s, but as international tensions increased and with the Second World War becoming imminent, Sheffield's steel factories were put on a war footing to manufacture weapons and ammunition. 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. The city was protected by barrage balloons managed from RAF Norton. More than 660 lives were lost and many buildings were destroyed or left badly damaged, including the Marples Hotel, which was hit directly by a 500lb bomb, killing over 70 people.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many of the city's 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 of the UK.

Sheffield was hard hit during the 2007 floods and then the 2010 freeze. Many landmark buildings such as Meadowhall and the Hillsborough Stadium flooded due to being close to rivers that flow through the city. In 2010, 5,000 properties in Sheffield were identified as still being at risk of flooding. In 2012 the city narrowly escaped another flood, despite extensive work by the Environment Agency to clear local river channels since the 2007 event. In 2014 Sheffield Council's cabinet approved plans to further reduce the possibility of flooding by adopting plans to increase water catchment on tributaries of the River Don. Another flood hit the city in 2019, resulting in shoppers being contained in Shopping Centre.