RETRO: So many changes and so much Moor

The Punch Bowl Hotel, The Moor, date unknown
The Punch Bowl Hotel, The Moor, date unknown
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Monorails, revolving tower-top restaurants, street escalators and a specially built central garden boulevard...

The Moor may have changed dramatically down the decades – but it’s nothing to what it could have been like if some of these more, er, unusual proposals had come to light.

The first tram on The Moor, September 5 1899

The first tram on The Moor, September 5 1899

Sheffield’s most famous shopping thoroughfare is, in 2014, undergoing a multimillion pound regeneration with the opening of the city’s new market and plans for a multiplex cinema and mini retail quarter. Now, to celebrate the transformation, Midweek Retro brings you these images showing the street down the decades.

But if you think it’s altered a lot – vehicles have been banned, a pedestrian subway has come and gone, and the Blitz bomb craters have been filled – it could have been radically different again.

“In some of the old pictures it’s virtually unrecognisable to today,” says Sandra Barley, centre liaison manager for The Moor with owners Scottish Widows.

“We’ve said we want this to be the Champs-Élysées of Sheffield. That’s ambitious but in fact, for much of its history, that’s exactly what it was. The big department stores – Atkinsons, Debenhams, BHS – all wanted to be here.

The Moor, Sheffield'21st May 1976

The Moor, Sheffield'21st May 1976

“These new plans are just the latest in a line of grand ambitions. The only difference is these are definitely going to happen, whereas a lot didn’t.”

Among ideas which fell through were proposals for a raised monorail between Moorhead and Town Hall as suggested by the government in 1973; a scheme the same decade for a revolving restaurant built atop a tower at the top of the boulevard; and plans in 1968 for a tree-lined garden walkway running down the centre of the road – with traffic still motoring along on either side.

Other spiked suggestions included escalator-like moving walkways and a series of penthouse apartments lining the thoroughfare.

Yet, perhaps just as bizarre at the time were the ideas that did come to fruition.

When pedestrianisation was first mooted in 1978, it caused furious controversy. Conservative critics said access to the city centre would become “a mad maze” and argued 16 million bus passengers a year would be disrupted. It went ahead anyway a year later, and has stayed the same since.

Equally unusual was the idea of digging a pedestrian subway almost two decades earlier. The underground walkway opened in 1962, and was a hit with shoppers for more than two decades.

And the mini skyscraper at Moorfoot – the Manpower Services Commission Building to you and me – was not without opposition. The building, which opened in 1981, was considered too big and daunting by many. Today, many architects consider it a city jewel.

Even the name, The Moor, has not stayed the same.

The street is thought to have been built in the 17th or 18th century and was named Sheffield Moor. In the early 19th century it became South Street before being changed to simply The Moor.

“Every street is packed with history,” says Sandra. “But The Moor more than most. Both the changes which have happened and those which haven’t offer a fascinating glimpse of our city down the years.”