Steel is everywhere in Sheffield. Today, however, it’s not the steel of the foundries, mills and forges that made the city’s fortune, nor the canteens of cutlery that made ‘Sheffield Steel’ a household name, but the steel of scaffolding and cranes, of modern sculptures and supertrams, and of new steel-framed buildings rising against the skyline.
The steel industry that made the city famous is long since gone, but after many years of decline Sheffield is on the up again – like many of northern England’s cities, it has grabbed the opportunities presented by urban renewal with both hands and is working hard to reinvent itself. The new economy is based on services, shopping and the ‘knowledge industry’ that flows from the city’s universities.
Top Things to See in Sheffield
Since 2000 the city centre has been in the throes of a massive redevelopment that will continue into 2020 and beyond, so expect building sites and roadworks for several years to come.
Pride of place in Sheffield’s city centre goes to this wonderfully ambitious public space with a soaring glass roof supported by graceful arches of laminated timber. The 21st-century architecture contrasts sharply with the Victorian town hall nearby, and is further enhanced by the Peace Gardens – complete with fountains, sculptures, and lawns full of lunching office workers whenever there’s a bit of sun.
Sheffield’s cultural revival is spearheaded by the Millennium Gallery, a collection of four galleries under one roof. Inside, the Ruskin Gallery houses an eclectic collection of paintings, drawings and manuscripts established and inspired by Victorian artist, writer, critic and philosopher John Ruskin, while the Metalwork Gallery charts the transformation of Sheffield’s steel industry into craft and design – the ‘Sheffield steel’ stamp on locally made cutlery and tableware now has the cachet of designer chic.
This gallery has a neat and accessible display of British and European modern art. The big names represented include Cézanne, Gaugin, Miró, Klee and Picasso.
Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet
In the days before steel mills, metalworking was a cottage industry (just like wool and cotton). For a glimpse of that earlier, more innocent era, explore the restored 18thcentury forges, workshops and machines at the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, 4 miles southwest of the centre on the A621 (towards the Peak District).