Into Industry

While Sheffield, including Page Hall and Grimesthorpe, had been a site of industrial activity since the Roman period, such as coal mining and agriculture, it was the actions of Sir George Talbot, 6th Earl of Waterford, who was born in the 1522, which would begin to make the whole Sheffield region famous as a place of industry. Sir George brought in men from France to build charcoal blast furnaces and forges at Attercliffe (only a 15 minute walk from Grimesthorpe) and other areas in Sheffield. George also developed industries along the Sheffield rivers, and while these weren’t built in Page Hall or Grimesthorpe, the growth in population this caused did affect these areas.

While industry grew in the centre of Sheffield for the next 100 years, Grimesthorpe and Page Hall remained as farm land with large areas of woodland. The wood from these woodlands was often used to produce charcoal.

17th century charcoal making, as drawn in Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber in His Majesty’s Dominions by John Evelyn, 1662.

The map below, which dates back to 1855, shows you just how much of Grimesthorpe and Page Hall (in the purple circle) was still agriculture and farmland, with very little buildings.  One example of these early farms includes Bell House Farm which once stood where Henry’s Café is today. This farm lay north of the famous Page Hall, the hall which this area takes its name from.

The purple circle shows where Page Hall and Grimesthorpe are located. Just look how much of the area was fields, with no roads or houses back in 1855, and look at the difference between there and how built up the centre of Sheffield is!

In Grimesthorpe we see some tanning industries established by local families. Tanning is the process of treating skins and hides of animals to produce leather. This leather was then made into shoes, clothes, horse collars, saddles, bags, bellows (these blew air on to fires to help them grow), knife sheaths and much more!

In the late 1700’s Page Hall (now Abbey Grange Nursing Home) was built and was later bought by Mark Firth in the 1873. Mark Firth was an industrialist and philanthropist (this means he developed projects for the public good and which focused on quality of life).  Mark had been born in Sheffield and had worked in the steel industry when he was younger before starting his own business with his brother. The company was called Thomas Firth & Sons and were located at the Norfolk Works on Savile Street. Their company was famous for producing the 35 ton “Woolwich Infant” gun (pictured on the right). In 1875 they produced an 80 ton gun, which is about as heavy as 6 elephants!

Mark was not only elected to the office of the Master of Cutler in 1867, but in 1874 he also became the Mayor of Sheffield and in 1875 he presented a 36 acre estate to the town of Sheffield which is known as Firth Park.

The Grand Opening of Firth Park

The land had originally been part of the grounds of Page Hall. The park was opened on 16th August 1875 by Albert Edward, the then Prince of Wales, and Princess Alexander from Denmark. The day was filled with festivities and the royal couple were seated in a temporary pavilion designed to look like a Turkish minaret. 15,000 school children were assembled in front of them to sing the national anthem.

When the park first opened it had a pavilion, lodge, bandstand, drinking fountain and ornamental lake with ducks.  The park was very popular at this time with an estimated 1,000 people visiting daily in spring and summer and as many as 30,000 on Good Fridays. In 1908 the Firth Park Bowling Club was established. After the Second World War the lake was renovated and became a shallow paddling and boating pool, used extensively by the Sheffield Ship Model Society. The pool was eventually filled in and landscaped.

The LiDAR for Firth Park which shows off the band stand that used to be here very clearly. LiDAR works in a similar way to Radar and Sonar yet uses light waves from a laser, instead of radio or sound waves. If we use this imaging and compare it to the 1906 and 1934 mapping (see images below) it shows clearly the archaeology that lays beneath our feet! The University of Sheffield’s Archaeology department carried out an excavation here in 2016 and found lots of interesting things!

1906 Mapping of Firth Park’s Band Stand
1936 mapping of Firth Park’s Band Stand with LiDAR
LiDAR imaging of Firth Park and the Band stand

The pavilion and lodge and its clock tower still survive, and the land where the ponds were is now an outdoor theatre. Why not take a walk up to them to see for yourself?