Twentieth Century Transformations and Terrors

As we mentioned earlier, the population in 1086 in Sheffield had been between 150-200 people, but by the start of the 1900’s Sheffield’s population had grown to a huge 451,195 people, and was still on the rise! In Brightside alone, just next to Page Hall and Grimesthorpe, populations had grown from 12,042 in 1851, to 73,088 in 1901.

How had Sheffield’s population grown so quickly?

Well it was partially due to individuals who had lived In Sheffield all their lives, getting married and having children, but a lot of Sheffield’s population growth was also due to immigration, both from surrounding rural areas, and much further afield such as Ireland, Wales and Germany. This was due to the demand for individuals required to work in the collieries and factories. Simultaneously at this time we also see a lot of people who had lived in Sheffield all their lives emigrating to America.

But how did this growth in the centre of Sheffield affect the Page Hall and Grimesthorpe area?

Well, all these people needed somewhere to live. Industries needed spaces to expand, so people quickly started looking at the suburbs of Sheffield for the answers.

By 1906, in between the Sheffield Union Workhouse and Firth Park, new roads with housing had been built. These roads were called Wheldrake Road, Ellerton Road, Vivian Road, Hamilton Road, Vickers Road and Addison Road. Page Hall Farm had been demolished and its land partially used to build Pope Street, just behind Page Hall Road which already existed. It is also during this time the heart of Page Hall really begins to take shape and is very similar to what you see there today. Grimesthorpe, apart from the housing that existed next to the Cyclops Works was still mainly farmland, with The Grange being a major farm in the area, built where Beacon Croft Road and housing is today.

The housing in these areas was slightly nicer than that found on the north west. This is because by the time the houses in Page Hall and Grimesthorpe had been built, by law the cramped and unhygienic back-to-back housing had been banned, meaning the houses were bigger, more hygienic and the area was much cleaner.

To support the growing population and industry in the area new services were being built, such as a reservoir in Grimesthorpe to provide water for the people.

Watercolour painting of Wincobank Hill Reservoir

This reservoir is still in Grimesthorpe, why not take a walk up to it?

Other things built included a bandstand in Firth Park where musical concerts were once held and new tram routes to make travelling around Sheffield easier and more efficient. Why not take a look at what Firth Park used to look like in the 1960’s by clicking the picture below, this Sheffield Parks and Gardens video which takes a look at a few of the parks across Sheffield.

Sheffield Parks and Gardens (1964)

The First World War

During the First World War, the building of houses stopped and the local steelworks changed what they were making. A lot of the steel works in Sheffield, including those in Grimesthorpe, began to make armaments (weapons) for the war instead. They also built an anti-aircraft gun emplacement on the southern opening on Wincobank Hill. This was an attempt to counter potential Zeppelin raids on Sheffield. The emplacement was named the ‘West Position’ and was one of several that were built in the city. 

Example of a gun emplacement Photo taken by Bryn Pinzgauer

The German Zeppelin L-22 (a type of an airship) bombed Sheffield on the 25th September 1916. However, no shots were fired from Wincobank or any of the other anti-aircraft guns in the city, as the officers were all at a ball in the Grand Hotel.

Why not take a walk to up the hill and imagine how it would have felt to be waiting for the Germans to attack?

Luckily there was very little damage to Grimesthorpe and Page Hall during the First World War, though sadly many brave individuals who went to fight from the area, and from across Sheffield, never returned home.

After World War One, there was a huge drop in demand for steel, and recession hit Sheffield. To keep running a lot of the steel companies had to merge together, so we see Cammell’s Grimesthorpe Works and Vickers’ River Don Works join up and Thomas Firth and Sons and John Brown also joined together. Though there was a recession the need for housing was still great in Sheffield’s growing population and a further 25,000 houses were built by the council between World War One and World War Two.

Historic maps show us that by 1923 that the houses on Julian Way, Roman Ridge Road and Tyler Street in Grimesthorpe had been built and in Page Hall housing had boomed! Housing had filled the land between where the Northern General Hospital is now and Firth Park. New streets included Lloyd Street, Wade Street And Willoughby Street.

There was also a huge rise in two social activities in this area, the first being peoples love of the cinema. Page Hall gained its first cinema which was called the Roxy Picture Theatre on Idsworth Road in 1920, and this building is still there. Imagine the difference of this building now and then – when the cinema first opened it contained a café and billiard hall, and a ballroom was added in 1929. There was also the Sunbeam Picture House which opened on Saturday 23rd December 1922. The opening films were “The Love Special” and “The Right To Live”. Further cinemas nearby included the Coliseum, Pavilion, Victory (the Bug Hut), Regent and the Palace.

Along with cinemas, another great hobby of the area was keeping an allotment. This hobby was born out of a realisation that there was a general lack of food supplies, and some of these original allotments are still around today.

Have you ever visited the High Wincobank Allotments? These were laid out in the 1920’s. They originally extended further into Wincobank Hill, but have since been reduced in size.

Further allotments were laid out in Hinde Woods, but these have since grown over, and on Horndean Road, which now have housing built on them.

World War Two

Sadly all too soon the Second World War struck, and the anti-aircraft gun emplacement was brought back into service. More air defences were also built on the hill and these included a barrage balloon (which is a large unmanned kite balloon tied to the ground and used to defend ground targets against aircraft attack by making the planes fly higher than they wanted to).

Sheffield was frequently targeted by the Luftwaffe (the German air force). The Sheffield Blitz was the name given to the worst nights of bombing in Sheffield which took place on the 12th December and the 15th December 1940. In total over 660 people were killed, 1,500 injured and 40,000 made homeless. 3,000 homes were demolished and a further 3,000 badly damaged. In total 78,000 Sheffield homes received damage.

Many brave men in the Grimesthorpe and Page Hall area lost their lives fighting in this war as well and the list of honours for these can be found in the Grimesthorpe Wesleyan Reform Church and in the Trinity Methodist Church on Firth Park Road. Why not take a moment to visit here and remember those who lost their lives.