New plaque honours Sheffield’s Italian heritage

Leonard Franchetti, centre, of the West Bar Italians group
Leonard Franchetti, centre, of the West Bar Italians group
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Proud Sheffielders spoke of their joy as a plaque honouring Sheffield’s Italian heritage was unveiled in the ‘Little Italy’ area of the city.

The sign – which reads Little Italy in the Heart of Sheffield – is dedicated to the Italian immigrants who settled in the West Bar area of Sheffield between 1860 and 1905.

Leonard Franchetti’s grandfather Michele came to England in the 1890s from Santa Maria Oliveto in Italy.

He set up shop in Sheffield, in the Italian district, working with terrazzo, mosaic and marble, and lived in the city until his death in 1976.

Leonard, aged 73, told The Star: “We’re so proud of the influence our families had on the city’s history and heritage.

“They came to Sheffield and opened ice cream shops, cafes and restaurants – they were an integral part of the city’s development.”

The plaque was organised by the West Bar Italians, a group of about 100 Sheffielders who are descended from some of Sheffield’s oldest Italian families - the Granellis, the Buccieris, the Reboris and the Spinas.

Rosita Granelli is the great-grandaughter of Luigi Granelli, who moved to Sheffield in the 1870s with his brother and started their now famous ice cream business.

Rosita, the last of the Granellis, still runs the family’s sweet shop on Broad Street and attended the plaque unveiling.

She said: “The old Italian community was so staunch and together and I’ve always thought it’s a pity there was nothing in the West Bar area to remember them by.”

The plaque was unveiled in stonework outside St Vincent’s Church, between Solly Street and Hollis Croft, by Vice Consul of Nottingham Dr Valeria Passetti.

Leonard, who now lives in Northumberland, but returns to Sheffield every chance he gets, added: “It was wonderful to grow up in such a vibrant community – our grandparents and great-grandparents were all such characters!

“That area of the city is rundown now, but there’s talk of it being revamped, which would be wonderful.

“But no matter what becomes of the area next, this plaque will always be here, standing as a reminder of what came before it.”