Lost Landmarks of Sheffield

Iconic landmarks define a city, and many continue to enjoy a legacy long after they’ve gone or changed form. Here Elliot Lucas takes a closer look at the story behind some of Steel City’s most recognisable structures.

© Tim Herrick / Tinsley Cooling Towers 2, 2007 / CC by 2.0

The Tinsley Towers
The M1
Originally part of the coal-fired Blackburn Meadows power station, these towers were a relic of a bygone age. The power station had been built in 1921 to support the steel industry in the Lower Don Valley. For safety reasons, the two cooling towers proved difficult to demolish, and as a result were left standing for a full 30 years after the power station itself was closed down. Even younger readers are likely to remember idly gawking at the towers through their car window, on the way past Meadowhall.

What happened to it?
The inevitable. The towers were finally demolished by controlled explosion in 2008, with onlookers watching from Meadowhall parking lot. With that, another remnant of Sheffield’s history as an industrial powerhouse was destroyed.

Where is it now?
In 2014, E.ON UK opened a new power station on the site, this time running on biomass rather coal-power. There are also plans to erect a series of sculptures: 100ft red chimney stacks, cracked and illuminated from the inside, starting close to where the towers once stood.

© Andy Wright / Sheffield Ski Village, 2003 / CC by-SA 2.0

The Ski Village
Parkwood Springs
First opened in 1988, the site boasted a sports shop, bar, restaurant, a ten pin bowling alley, quad biking, laser tag and a downhill biking track, in addition to an extensive range of ski slopes. It was believed to be the largest artificial ski resort in Europe at the time. The village quickly became a very popular place for young people to hang out, including the ‘Sheffield Sharks Ski Club’ a group aimed at promoting children’s skiing, who met at Sheffield Ski Village on Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings.

What happened to it?
A run of bad luck. Between 2012 and 2018, the site was destroyed by a series of fires. The first fire, in April 2012, was ruled to have started accidentally, and destroyed the main building of the Ski Village. This was followed by a series of arson attacks (at least 50 by 2016) which destroyed the once-beloved village beyond recognition.

Where is it now?
Recently, Sheffield City Council announced plans to revamp the former slopes. The council has provisionally agreed a grant of over £300,000 for Skyline, a New Zealand-based extreme activity company to form of part of the revamped ‘Parkwood Leisure Complex’. Skyline’s New Zealand offerings include gondolas, luges, mountain biking and ziplining, and hopefully many of these options will be brought to Sheff when the construction is complete.

© S Dumpleton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Egg Box
Sheffield Town Hall
This extension to the Town Hall was built in 1977, and immediately divided public opinion, its unique appearance earning it the nickname ‘The Egg Box’. I trawled some internet forums to find out if nostalgia had warmed people on the Egg Box since it was demolished, and the answer was a resounding ‘no’.

What happened to it?
The extension was constructed to last at least 500 years, due to concerns about the integrity of other concrete structures put up earlier in the decade. Despite this, the extension was demolished in 2002, just 25 years after its construction, to make way for a new attraction.

Where is it now?
The former Egg Box has since been replaced with the more aesthetically pleasing and universally popular Winter Gardens.

Dave Pickersgill / Park Hill Flats, 1987 / CC BY-SA 2.0

Park Hill Flats
The post-war housing estate was groundbreaking for its time. Often derided by its critics as ugly, the values of post-war Britain are reflected in the architecture. Brutalist and practical, the organisation of the estate reflects the spirit of community and the desire to live together. The flats were built in a block formation, rather than vertically (like many flats at the time) with wide external hallways, known colloquially as ‘streets in the sky’, making it an easy environment for engaging socially with neighbours. It was hoped that the estate would be a model for a new way of living and organising communities in Britain.

What happened to it?
Over time, the flats became dilapidated and seen as an a undesirable place to live. The site was saved almost certain demolition when developer Urban Splash took over in 2004 and began the slow process of regenerating the estate. The site is now becoming a jumble of houses available for rent, private sale, and student accommodation. But with prices for the renovated flats starting at well above the cost of similar properties, some have criticised the renovation as defying the original spirit of the properties and as a form of ‘class-cleansing’.

The Hole in the Road
Castle Square
Underneath the roundabout in Castle Square, this network of underpasses and shops came to be known affectionately as ‘Oyl Int Road’. Each branch of the network was home to different kinds of stores, from little shops (GT News, Thorntons, Tobacconists) to entrances to street level department stores (Walsh’s/House of Fraser). One of the most unique features of the place was a large fish tank built into one of the walls, containing over 2000 gallons of water and over 20 kinds of fish including carp, goldfish, bream, rudds and roaches.

What happened to it?
Over time, the area became dilapidated. It became a less popular shopping destination and started to become a loitering spot for the homeless. In 1994, the hole was filled in to make way for the new Supertram network.

Where is it now?
The former site was filled in and is now part of the tram tracks in the city centre. If you weren’t alive to see the hole for yourself, you would never know there was anything there but concrete.

Don Valley Stadium during the 1991 World Student Games

Don Valley Stadium
Worksop road
For a long time, this iconic space was the largest athletics stadium in the UK, before the London Olympics Stadium nabbed its title in 2012. The stadium was first constructed to house the 1991 World Student Games, and since then has been home to all sorts of activities and events, from rugby and American football to athletic events and concerts. The stadium is also where Sheffield’s own Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill trained in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games. In the final years before its closure, the stadium served as a football ground, with Rotherham United hosting their ‘home’ league games there.

What happened to it?
The stadium started to struggle financially, and became a burden on the public budget. Despite strong opposition by many Sheffielders (there were over 6000 signatures against it), the stadium was closed down in 2013.

Where is it now?
The site has since been redeveloped into the Olympic Legacy Park: a sports hub which triples as a research centre, sports centre and educational facilities for local universities. It is currently the home of the Sheffield Eagles Rugby League Club.

The entrance to Gatecrasher One

Gatecrasher One
Matilda Street
Gatecrasher started life in 1996 as ‘The Republic’. The club developed a devoted cult following among ravers and trance fans, who developed a unique way of dressing (often in daring neon) and even their own slang, referring to themselves as ‘crashers’. For a long time, Gatecrasher was the number one trance nightclub in the country.

What happened to it?
Just like the iconic ski village, Gatecrasher was lost to fire. I’m starting to think that were it not for fires, Sheffield would be up there with New York and Tokyo as an international tourist hub by now. After the club set alight in 2007 (nobody was harmed, fortunately) structural engineers declared the nightclub to be beyond repair, and the building was demolished soon after. The demolition was met with outpourings of grief by the Sheffield clubbing community, who spray pained the words ‘Gatecrasher will never die’ on the wooden panels that fenced off the destroyed site. Another laid flowers with the message ‘The music, the lights, the spirit of the people. We will always remember you’.

Where is it now?
In 2010, there was a proposal to resurrect Gatecrasher at a new location, to the tune of £5 million, but this was nixed by Sheffield City Council, who felt it would threaten their plans for wider regeneration of the City Centre. The site where Gatecrasher once lived is now home to a block of student accommodation.

© Stephen Richards and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Sheaf Market and Castle Market
Park Square and Castlegate
Castle Market opened in 1959, while Sheaf Market Hall was constructed in the 1970s. Together these markets were the beating heart of the City Centre for a long time. Older readers may still remember the Sheaf Markets, which thrived in the 1970’s and 1980’s with stores like Copelands, or the Granelli’s sweet shop which lives on in a nearby location to this day. Almost all readers will remember the Castle Market, with its vibrant colours and sounds, and the smell of fresh meat and fish from the butcher’s and fishmonger’s stalls which seemed to dominate the entire place.

What happened to them?
Sheaf Market was the first to fall. The Market spent a few years as a dilapidated eyesore before being demolished in 2002. Castle Market closed down in 2013 as things moved to the newly opened Moor Markets instead.

Where are they now?
The former Sheaf Market has now been replaced by office blocks near park square. The former Castle Market site was excavated in 2018 in search of a castle where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner. Since the Market disappeared, the Castlegate area has been less popular and vibrant than much of the City Centre, home to few shops. However, the area is set to experience a transformation as part of the councils ‘Grey to Green’ scheme.


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