Take a stroll through the leafy streets of Nether Edge and you may get the feeling you are rambling through the roads of Boston, Massachusetts in the United States.
OK, it might seem unlikely drawing the comparison between one of Sheffield’s western suburbs and one of America’s oldest cities, but there’s a reason the parallels are there.
And that’s because much of the area was deliberately modelled on the US city, which was founded on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630 by Puritan settlers from England.
As our regular stroll around the city this week reaches the letter N, we discover that a local developer was given the task of giving the Nether Edge area its distinctive feel.
Nether Edge, which includes the districts of Brincliffe, Carter Knowle, Nether Edge, Sharrow Vale, and most of Banner Cross, is located in the south western part of the city and covers an area of 3.4 km2.
In 2011, the population of the Nether Edge ward was 18,890 people in 7,592 households - but that’s a a far cry from how things used to be.
Before the 19th century the area that is now Nether Edge was largely rural, the only clusters of cottages being the small medieval hamlet of Cherry Tree Hill and a small hamlet at Machon Bank.
Much of the development of the area was undertaken by George Wostenholm, a local cutler who from 1836 onward purchased a large area of land east of Brincliffe Edge.
Wostenholm modelled the estate on the town of Boston, Massachusetts and lined all of the roads with trees.
Wostenholm’s home, Kenwood House, and the surrounding park (now the Kenwood Hall Hotel) took up a large portion of the land and the remaining portions were sold off for development. As a result many of the homes in the area are spacious Victorian houses that were owned by local cutlers and business men.
The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 allowed parishes to form unions, jointly responsible for the administration and funding of Poor Law in their area.
By 1831 the population of the area had increased considerably and in 1837 the ‘Ecclesall Bierlow Poor Law Union’ was founded and Ecclesall Bierlow Workhouse, Cherry Tree Hill, Nether Edge was built. In 1929 the workhouse was renamed Nether Edge Hospital housing a Gynaecology Unit established to serve the whole of Sheffield.
Many well-to-do people bought individual plots and had houses specially built but a great deal of the building in Nether Edge was speculative. Such men as John Firth, Thomas Steade and John Law were not builders by trade but made a significant contribution to the character of the area. Local builders James Sivil, Henry and Robert Brumby and John Thomas Johnson also helped turn this area from open fields to a very desirable locality for middle-class and self-made men. Improved transport, particularly the trams, made it possible for the better off to move their home out of the town centre and, for the first time for many, away from their place of business.
Much of tree-lined Nether Edge became designated a conservation area in September 2002.
Two small theatres (the Merlin and the Lantern) also exist in the area. A farmers market selling local food produce and craft goods is held four times a year in the central area on dates roughly coinciding with the equinoxes and solstice dates.
So next time you set foot on the streets of Nether Edge to set off to work on a cold, wet and windy winter’s morning, remember you’re actually taking a wander through downton Boston in the good old US of A!