Sheaf sparked suburb

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The next part of our A to Z wander through Sheffield and South Yorkshire focuses on Abbeydale and Abbeydale Road.

The abbey in question is of Beauchief and this one-time rural area grew up around the River Sheaf, used to power mills and early factories.

Legal permission was given to build Abbeydale Road, the major thoroughfare through the area, in 1802 and it was a turnpike road at first.

As industry grew in the area, it became a popular place to live.

In the mid-1970s, Abbeydale Road was described as “Sheffield’s own Portobello”, as an increasing number of antique and junk shops were attracted to the area.

Apparently traders from the Continent and even the US had cottoned on to this and were busily loading up finds and shipping them off.

In 1989, The Star described the area as “one of the city’s most popular residential areas and also one of its most diverse. “Large Victorian properties have made the suburb increasingly attractive to middle class homeowners”, said the paper, but lots of houses had been converted into flats and bedsits, attracting young people.

Increasingly, the area also became home to an Asian community.

In 1982 a residents’ group called Abbeydale Community Concern joined forces with the Asian Welfare Association to take over the old steam and slipper baths on Broadfield Road to create a community centre.

Lots of rows over the years have been about the fate of the area’s historic buildings. In 1998, Sheffield City Council were dubbed vandals for agreeing to the demolition of Old Holt House on Abbeydale Road, built in 1850.

The Victorian gentleman’s residence had been used as a girls’ school but was sold on and allowed to fall into disrepair.

In 1995 there was anger at proposals to sell land that housed Abbeydale Grange School’s sixth form and ancient Spring Wood.

Back in 1963 the derelict Abbeydale Works, as Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet was originally called, was one of only three buildings in the country recommended for immediate Government preservation grants.

Abbeydale Works was one of the largest water-powered works on the River Sheaf. Tilt hammers were used to make scythes and other agricultural tools in the early 18th century.

By 1830 the site included a crucible steel furnace.

Thankfully this gem of Sheffield’s early Industrial Revolution was preserved for the future and is now open to the public.