Broomhill lies 2 miles west of Sheffield City centre, and has developed a reputation as a diverse and inviting suburb over the last two centuries. Steeped in a rich and engaging history; and with a unique and varied selection of retailers, dining and drinking venues, healthcare specialists and hair & beauty salons, there really is something for everyone.
Although there have been many changes over the years, Broomhill has managed to retain much of it's unique and charming character. Many original features still remain - impressive residential dwellings, shops (the nature of the business may have changed numerous times, but the buildings have stood the test of time), pubs, churches and the impressive Botanical Gardens which date back to 1836.
Although Broomhill is now an established suburb of Sheffield, the area has actually only been recognised by it's current name for a little over two hundred years. Prior to the buildings which were erected in the latter eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Broomhill was known as "Crooks Moor.' Crooks Moor in the early eighteenth century was precisely that, a moor. Sheffield itself was a small town with a population of fewer than 10,000 people. West Bar marked the western edge of the town and beyond that was just moors and common land. Crooks (or Crookes, as it is now recognised) itself was a small village quite separate from the town.
In 1711 a race course, known as The Crooks Moor Race Course, was established in an attempt by the Town Trustees (a then equivalent to a Town Council) to divert the public's attention from more blood-thirsty pastimes such as bear baiting, cock-fighting and dog fights (although the first officially recorded races were not until 1713). The course was one and a third miles long, and was a rough track wide enough for about 5 horses, with small bridges to cross streams. Races were run on 3 consecutive days a year in late May. According to a poem published by James Wills (1827) it was:
"A noble racecourse, formed of hill and dale,
Grandstand and starting post fenced round with rail."
The site of the old grandstand is marked by the aptly named residence 'Stand House Lodge' on Fulwood Road. The races were only discontinued when the commons of Ecclesall Bierlow were enclosed between 1778 and 1789.
Approximate route of the location of the Crooks Moor Race Course on a modern map
1777 Race Card for the Crooks Moor Race Course
As the race course was gradually dismantled and the grandstand taken down towards the end of the eighteenth century, only a sparse scattering of buildings existed in what was soon to become one of Sheffield's first major suburbs. There were a few houses within this area, some of them encroachments on the common land, and a huddle of cottages to the east of the present Botanical Gardens (still yet to be created), including an inn "The Ball in the Tree" which was demolished in 1870. One of the first houses of note built during this time (1792, to be precise) belonged to William Newbould. It was situated on land to the east of Newbould Lane. He named the house "Broomhill", for the simple reason that it was the first house above Broomhall, and was on a hill. Not so long afterwards, the suburb was to become known as 'Broomhill.'
With the advent of a new century, Broomhill began to develop into an important location in Sheffield. Further buildings were completed, including several large houses with considerable grounds and gardens (to which the clean air and expansive wooded areas and moorlands presented the perfect setting away from the industrialised town centre). These larger properties were populated by the town's (Sheffield did not obtain a City Charter until 1893) wealthier residents, such as factory owners, steel magnates, cutlery manufacturers and doctors. The growth of Broomhill became much more rapid when the turnpike road to Glossop (accessed via Manchester Road) was opened in 1821. This was to become a very busy route for trade into and out of the town. Terraces and larger houses followed the construction of the road, with the first back-to-back houses being built on Peel Street in 1827.
Botanical Gardens, Broomhill
By the early 1830's Broomhill had five public houses:- The Ball, The Broomhill Tavern, The Fox and Duck, The Southseas, and the Travellers Inn. As the area became more populated, shops opened along the main roads. In the same decade, sites of real architectural and cultural significance to the area were constructed. Local architect of national reknown, William Flockton, designed and built The Mount (1830-32) and Wesley College - now King Edward VII School (1836-38) - both of which are now Grade II listed buildings. The Botanical Gardens (off Clarkhouse Road), designed by Robert Marnock and initiated in 1833 , were originally intended solely for the recreation and education of the Sheffield Botanical and Horticultural Society. But in 1836, the Gardens were opened to a paying public. Perhaps the Garden's most famous, and from a present-day perspective, controversial feature is the Bear Pit. It is recognised as the finest surviving example in the UK, and it too shares Grade II listed status with the impressive glass pavilions. The Gardens are still a popular destination today, and regularly host concerts and events.
The Botanical Gardens Bear Pit, with Steel Bear Sculpture
Whilst growth in the area was now steady, the 1840's were times of depression. More rapid growth resumed in the 1850's, when the land along and above Fulwood Road was developed. Most of the former household names in the steel and cutlery industry now either lived in or passed through Broomhill, as did many founders of the stores in town, brewers, solicitors and medical practitioners. There was now a substantial population of artisans and small shopkeepers to service the growing community. As the suburb, which had really truly gained it's identity in the Victorian era, approached the end of the nineteenth century, Broomhill had established probably the most diverse selection of shops and businesses in the area.
As the population rapidly increased, so too did the need for comprehensive services, local amenities and educational establishments. St Mark's Church (originally founded as an Iron Church to serve the expanding suburb in 1859) re-established itself in a more permanent guise in 1871 as a fine stone neo-Gothic building designed by W H Crossland. The Church still stands today, but in a third incarnation after the building
was struck by an incendiary bomb in 1940 during the Second World War. Only the tower and spire survived. For 23 years, services were held in the Church Hall. Eventually, the distinguished architect, George Pace, designed a new St Mark’s which was consecrated in September 1963. Other places of worship were also erected to provide places of worship to the community, including the Broompark Congregational Church (1864) which has now been appropriated by the Sheffield Girls High School. The Girls School also has a rich history stemming from the Victorian age, and was designed and built in 1884 by architects Tanner and Smith, boasting three impressive big half-timbered gables with four chimneys flanking them - a significant departure in architectural style from the giant Corinthian stone-columned Wesley College (King Edward VII School) designed by Flockton earlier in the century. A plethora of other buildings from this time remain to this day, not least many shops, residential dwellings and pubs/hotels. One such specimen from the latter 1800's is the distinctive York Hotel on the corner of Fulwood and Glossop Road.
The York Hotel 1904
The York Hotel 1945
The York 1978
The York 2018
Although the York now serves solely as a pub and restaurant (the second and third floor rooms above the bar and dining area which were hired out in previous incarnations as a hotel are now flats); the distinctive character of the building has barely changed, as evidenced in the images above.
As the 1900's dawned, Broomhill saw many changes. In 1901, the suburb accomodated it's first electrified Tramways, with lines to Crookes and Fulwood welcomed by an enthusiastic public. This meant reaching other parts of the City was much easier, and, conversely, that Broomhill was now easier for other parts of the City to reach. Relating particularly to Broomhill, the tramlines along Fulwood Road ran at a minimal distance from the pavement edge. When the inevitable snowfalls came, along the came the tramway snow ploughs pushing all the snow from the road onto the narrow pavement. This left shopkeepers marooned behind a mountain of snow until the corporation workmen came along with shovels, tip-up carts and lorries to remove it. The snow was then either tipped into rivers, where these came close to the road, or into opened manholes. Some of the lines through the suburb remained active until they were finally closed in 1957.
By the nineteen twenties, motor vehicles were rapidly ousting the horse and carriage. It is not surprising that Broomhill had it's share of car sales agents and service garages. Hewson's was one of a number of garages situated on Turners lane, and was one of the local pioneers of the car hire business. Fuel for the rising number of motor vehicles was in supply at many of the local garages, and was typically dispensed from a drum of petrol on a wheeled trolley which would be wheeled out to the vehicle and hand-pumped via a length of house into the car. On the Turners Lane side of Whitham Road stood the car showroom of Allen & Binns (who also owned a service depot at the corner of Peel Street and Glossop Road). The car showroom displayed, among other makes, the famed locally manufactured Sheffield Simplex car.
235 Tram to Pitsmoor, climbing the road from Broomhill into Crookes, 1905
Destination Brightside, one of the last trams in Broomhill before lines closed, 1957
The new century also welcomed a revolution in communications technology. The Broomhill Telephone Exchange opened and spread out over Peel Street in the 1920's, which offered the chance for locals to talk without the need to leave the house. An intermediate operator would connect calls, and, in the event that a line was engaged, would even phone the caller back to make a successful connection. Some of the original buildings in Peel Street are still used by British Telecom to this day.
Not unlike today, pre WWII Broomhill was home to a diverse array of independent businesses. Many of their modern day equivalents still exist in the area, some in exactly the same location. The real difference, which is perhaps symptomatic of the times in which we now live, was that practically all of the shops were small independent
The Sheffield Simplex Car
concerns - chain stores were scarce and multinational high street shops had not yet come to be. In the first half of the twentieth century, supermarkets were a rarity. In 1920's and 30's Broomhill, they were non-existent. Their predecessors were an array of independent shops providing varied produce and services. Broomhill boasted many grocery and provision shops - Caters, Scarr & Gillam, Kesteven Grocers & Sweets, Gallons, Shentall's, Allcard, J. Nichols - all displaying their wares in attractive window displays to entice the discerning shopper. In these days other trades also thrived without the threat of the multinational. A number of butchers shops co-existed in the locale - Oates, Tutsbury, Elliotts, Brocksopps, and the aptly named R. Butcher (Pork Butcher). Alongside the butchers, Broomhill's impressive P G Hart's Wet Fish & Game Shop thrived; sadly fresh fish shops have now all but disappeared. Similarly, fresh fruit and vegetable shops were in abundance - Balmforth's, Woodhouse Fruit Shop, Morris Brothers Fruit and Vegetables (also selling newspapers), Coe Fruiterers. Bakers and pastry shops thrived, with Collins the Bakers, Broome's Bakers, Whittaker's Bread & Cakes, and the Pott's and Broughton Pastry Shops making up the mix. Dairy shops also found their niche, with Barker's and Tomlinson's the two local retailers offering up a selection of cheeses, butter (which invariably came in barrels, the sides of which had to be peeled away to leave the contents standing on a porcelain base ready to be carved up and weighed according to the needs of the customer), eggs and milk. Broomhill also catered to younger tastes, with Hodges Toy Shop, Flint's Sweet Shop and (as was commonplace in the early to mid twentieth century) a combined Sweet Shop and Tobacconist - Cavill's. Adult tastes were satisfied in the shape of Summer's Tobacconist and Hartley's Off Licence. The suburb also had something which has become something of a rarity in our times with the advent of all-things-under-one-roof supermarkets - Independent Newsagents Lambert's, and Goodyear's Newspaper Shop.
Junction of Whitham and Crookes Roads, 1890s
The same junction in the 1930s (note Wollerton's Paint/Decorating is now the site of B&B Office)
The junction seen from a different angle in the 60s
2018, shops have changed, but the buildings remain
The Broomhill of today boasts a number of reputable restaurants and take-aways, serving an array of international cuisine. Contrast this with pre-WWII Broomhill and the choice was much more limited, and solely food of the take-away variety was available - which is fine, if you like fish and chips. The suburb had five fried fish shops in total! Many other establishments offered a whole range of other items, such as hardware/D.I.Y. shops in the shape of Brown's (which, in 1959, became Williamson's Hardware at the junction of Crookes and Whitham Roads. Williamson's still exists to this day, although the premises have relocated to the shopping precinct on Fulwood Road, and can proudly claim to be Broomhill's oldest retailer) and Gatus D.I.Y., along with Wollerton's Painting and Decorating (now the site of B&B Office Supplies on Whitham Road, which has existed since 1972). Along with the hardware businesses, the area also had two plumber's shops, Southworth and Peets, and on Fulwood Road electrical retailer J. Brown & Co. Making up the compliment of tradesmen was Seward's Cabinet Makers. Other specialist trades also existed (some of which are all but obsolete today) - dyers and dry cleaners Johnson Brothers and Achille Seme, Clarissa's and Shinnah were gown shops, and Sene and Horswill were purveyors of gentlemans hats. Another local retailer whose type of business was quite unique to the earlier years of the twentieth century was Cooke's Watchmakers. More familiar establishments selling or mending/altering varities of apparel included tailors shops owned by Yelland's and Croxford's, Easyphit shoes were the only shoe shop in the area, but repairs could be made at a choice of either Alf Walkerdine & Son Shoe Repairs, or Hutchinson's the Cobblers. Cooper and Co. provided all manner of ladies clothes and lingerie.
J. Nichols Greengrocers, Whitham Road, 1910
As previously mentioned, the automotive trade was well represented in Broomhill in the earlier 1900's. As well as the car showrooms of W H Wilson and Allen & Binns, The Broomhill Motor Co. and Hewson's Garage provided the maintainence services necessary to keep your vehicle on the road. Most of these businesses were located on or near to Turners Lane. Whilst the motor car tradesmen of this era were commonplace, present day Broomhill now just has the one auto repair shop - Tarrant's Garage, also on Turners Lane.
Personal grooming was as relevant in the 1920's and 30's as it is today. Although there is no record of the existence of a ladies salon in the Broomhill, two barbers plied their trade in the suburb. Joe Ford's Gentlemans Hairdresser (Joe also walked to the local hospital to offer his services to patients) and J L Thompson Barber competed for a number of years. Healthcare needs were administered to by Dr Hallam's Surgery and Mr McDougall's Dentist practices.
The Post Office on Fulwood Road was owned by Miss Cartwright before the Second World War. Her official title was 'Post Mistress,' and she organised several telegraph boys who, with their distinctive red bicycles, could regularly be seen hanging around the passageway next to the Post Office awaiting their call to speed the news, good or bad, to all parts
Broomhill Post Office, 1908
Broomhill Post Office, 1970
Broomhill Post Office (now double-fronted), 2018
of the district. Miss Cartwright also ran, from the Post Office, a widespread delivery service for newspapers.
The London Blitz started in September 1940 and Hitler’s intention was to sap the morale of the nation. In November Coventry was severely damaged and bombing then followed in Southampton, Birmingham and Bristol. Local
people thought it inevitable that Sheffield would suffer, not least because it was thought the Germans would want to hit the munitions factories in the east end of the city. A prime target was the River Don Works, which manufactured crankshafts and other vital components for Spitfire and Hurricanes. The two air raids that devastated Sheffield were on Thursday, December 12 and Sunday December 15, 1940. In the first raid, Heinkel 111 bombers dropped flares and explosives. The bombing lasted for nine hours and around 300 aircraft took part. The toll of death and injuries was appalling. There were amost 700 dead, 500 seriously injured, and 3,000 houses and shops damaged beyond repair. Altogether, around 82,000 properties were damaged. Although the targets of the raid were the east end factories, worst hit was the city centre along with Sharrow, Nether Edge, Heeley, Pitsmoor, Millhouses, Meersbrook, Woodseats and Broomhill. The people of Sheffield would have sought protection in dug-out Anderson or Morrison air raid shelters (usually in the garden), which were often cold and damp, with fetid air and little ventilation. They were also prone to flooding because the bases were below ground level. But people made the best of them with interior decoration.
Bomb damage at Westbourne Road, Broomhill, from Sheffield Star and Telegraph archives
Broomhill suffered severe damage to homes and shops in the suburb. Of particular note was the extensive damage caused to Broomhill School (now Broomhill Infant School) and to St Mark's Chuch off St Mark's Place/Broomfield Road. An incendiary bomb raised most of the building to the ground, with only the tower and spire surviving the inferno. In the words of
a resident of Evelyn Road,
Extensive damage caused to St Mark's Church, Broomhill, by incendiary
bomb (images courtesy Picture Sheffield)
S10, who vividly recalls the aftermath of the blitz; 'The raid went on for many hours and as day was breaking, we were relieved to hear the all clear siren. As we climbed out of the shelter, I can still recollect the picture which greeted us and has been imprinted on my mind for over sixty years. Being on top of the highest hill and towering over the city, I looked down on a mass of fiercely burning buildings, the sky glowed with reds, oranges, and black bellowing smoke to produce an eerie mixture of many colours in the sky, Sheffield as we knew it was being destroyed.'
The Sheffield ARP (Air Raid Protection) Ambulance Service stand ready to be deployed
The aftermath of the blitz did indeed see a changed Sheffield. The demolition of bomb sites and rebuilding process would last for decades, and residents and business owners had to adapt. Several stores and shops which had been bombed out relocated to Broomhill, which had by now established itself as one of the best and most diverse suburban shopping centres in the region. Of particular note was reputable city centre department store John Walsh, whose central premises had been devasted. Walsh's relocated to The Mount in Broomhill, which had been formerly used for the purpose of staff accomodation. In 1946, Harrods aquired John Walsh's family-run business, which had originally been established in Sheffield in 1875 on High Street in the city centre. Harrods had the funds to rebuild the destroyed central store, and Walsh's finally left Broomhill in 1953 when the new High Street store opened to great acclaim.
The Mount, Broomhill, former location of John Walsh Department Store
Advancing into the post-war years, confidence grew as the city recovered. New businesses and residential redevelopment brought renewed optimism. The Broomhill Library was opened in 1957 on Taptonville Road (previously a residential address), and still exists, staffed and run by volunteers, in the same location today. One particular business opening in this decade still exists; and is a Broomhill institution owned by the same family to this day. Williamson's Hardware was opened at 4 Crookes Road (now re-located to Fulwood Road) in 1959 by Winifred Williamson, who was later to form a partnership with her husband Sidney when he lost his job. Winifred had purchased the previously run-down Brown's Hardware shop which she re-named and revamped, and was probably unaware of the dynasty she was realising - Williamson's can justly claim to be the oldest family run independent shop in Broomhill. The family link with the shop stemmed back to the 1920's, when, as a child, Sidney Williamson was sent there to purchase candles and gas mantles. In times of need, Sidney recalls that the then owners, Mr and Mrs Brown, were kind enough to supply such necessary items from the back door when the shop was closed.
Williamson's Hardware, opened in 1959 and still existing to this day
The rebuilding and redevelopment of Broomhill after the war gathered real pace in the 1960's, but most of the area's distinctive Victorian and Edwardian architecture remained intact and untouched. The peacefulness, elegance and charm of the leafy side roads set Broomhill aside as one of the most desirable suburbs in the region, if not the country. Sir John Betjeman, Great Britain's Poet Laureate (from 1972 until his death in 1984), spent much time in Broomhill, He lived in the suburb intermittently, whilst fanning the flames of an affair with Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, daughter of the tenth Duke of Devonshire. In 1961, Betjeman was quoted in the Telegraph and Morning Post as saying, "I thought of the leafy district of Broomhill on the western heights of Sheffield, where gabled black stone houses rise above the ponticums and holly, and private cast-iron lamp-posts light the gravelled drives. Greek, Italian, Gothic, they stand in winding tree-shaded roads, these handsome mansions of the Victorian industrialists who made their pile from steel and cutlery in the crowded mills below. They lived in what is still the prettiest suburb in England." Five years later, in 1966, Betjeman was to immortalise Broomhill his poem 'An Edwardian Sunday, Broomhill, Sheffield.'
High dormers are rising
So sharp and surprising,
And ponticum edges
The driveways of gravel;
Stone houses from ledges
Look down on ravines.
The vision can travel
From gable to gable,
And turretted stable,
A sylvan expansion
So varied and jolly
Where laurel and holly
Commingle their greens.
Serene on a Sunday
The sun glitters hotly
O'er mills that on Monday
With engines will hum.
By tramway excursion
To Dore and to Totley
In search of diversion
The millworkers come;
But in our arboreta
The sounds are discreeter
Of shoes upon stone -
The worshippers wending
To welcoming chapel,
Companioned or lone;
And over a pew there
See loveliness lean,
As Eve shows her apple
Through rich bombazine;
What love is born new there
In blushing eighteen!
Your prospects will please her,
The iron-king's daughter,
Up here on Broomhill;
Strange Hallamshire, County
Of dearth and of bounty,
Of brown tumbling water
And furnace and mill.
Your own Ebenezer
Looks down from his height
On back street and alley
And chemical valley
Laid out in the light;
On ugly and pretty
Where industry thrives
In this hill-shadowed city
Of razors and knives.
Sir John Betjeman in 1978