There’s a reason Sheffield brought you the Full Monty, and there’s more to it than a unique blend of Yorkshire humour and good-natured dourness. For all the city’s good points, many parts of Sheffield remain extremely run down, with abandoned steel works, factories and other buildings blighting the urban landscape. In this article, we’ll explore a selection of Sheffield’s abandoned buildings from historic cemeteries to gloomy former workhouses, industrial spaces and rundown residential streets.
This grand but undeniably austere house looks out of place in the middle of the Northern General Hospital (one of the biggest teaching hospitals in Europe) complex, boarded-up and seemingly forgotten. The Northern, as locals call it, is definitely not a pleasant place to be stuck, but preferable from its past life as a Victorian workhouse – those grotty buildings popularised by Charles Dickens where poor people were forced to live and work, and doom and gloom went hand-in-hand. The buiding above was once an accomodation block for junior doctors. The Victorian stables behind are also derelict.
Sheffield lost more grand buildings than any other major British city in the post-war concrete movement, when decisions were taken to demolish buildings like “Coles Corner” in the name of modernisation (before and after). But the suburbs have been described as the finest in the country. The Ranmoor area boasts many fine Victorian streets, and the eponymous Ranmoor Annexe (above) is a true gem. Seen here boarded-up, Ranmoor Annexe – a former hospital – now lives on fully renovated in the heart of student land. (Coles Corner was immortalised in a 2005 album by Sheffield singer-songwriter Richard Hawley, nominated for the 2006 Mercury Music Prize for best album. Richard, we salute you!)
If you’re ever taken by the urge to track down Sheffield’s Victorian steel magnates, the General Cemetery is a good place to start, since many of them are in here somewhere. The General Cemetery opened in 1836 as a Nonconformist burial ground, one of the first landscape cemeteries marking a shift away from overcrowded chuchyards. Backing onto the ominously named Cemetery Road in the once prosperous, now run down, suburb of Sharrow, the overgrown cemetery is one of Sheffield’s finest historic sites. Today, the Friends of the General Cemetery do a fantastic job keeping this place for Sheffield’s Victorian dead alive. Read our full Sheffield General Cemetery feature here.
Back in its glory days, Sheffield’s industrial heartland, the Don Valley, produced a staggering amount of world steel. Few steel works remain today, with much of the area redeveloped to accomodate retail and the service sector that accounts for much of Sheffield’s modern economy. This abandoned works once housed Hillfoot Steel, a firm specialising in the production of precision carbon, alloy and stainless steel. Located adjacent to the block of flats where Robert Carlyle’s character Gaz lived in the Full Monty, the former Hillfoot Steel building represents a common site on Sheffield’s landscape.
Much of central Sheffield was dominated by a network of roads and alleyways lined with industrial mesters – small workshops often not much bigger than traditional terraced houses (or row houses), that produced steel, often in the form of cutlery. Despite their unique character, many were demolished over the last 30 years, or bombed during the “Sheffield Blitz” of World War Two. The abandoned building above may have housed the joinery firm in the photograph, which has hopefully found new premises elsewhere. Despite its abandonment, the mester is in reasonable condition and contains some interesting features.
Two world’s collide as Sheffield’s pleasant Victorian suburbs meet some of the toughest estates in Europe. Empty houses line many of the streets, either awaiting clearance or new occupants, boarded-up in order to keep out – often unsuccessfully – thieves, vandals and arsonists. Wall paper still clings to the inside (now outside) wall of a demolished house, the Colley Sports Centre has clearly seen better days, and locals have sought some amusement with a pair of their mate’s shoes.