Sheffield - a beautiful city, but not quite Rome

I count myself lucky enough to have visited Rome a couple of times. It's a beautiful city – there’s no doubt – and I would recommend it to anyone.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 9:08 am

One of the things I noticed – and there is plenty to notice – was the number of fountains it has.

Every corner you walked round there was a beautiful fountain to see and enjoy.

The city’s ultimate fountain is the Trevi Fountain created in 1762.

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Sheffield Town Hall and Goodwin Fountain
Sheffield Town Hall and Goodwin Fountain

The clever Romans installed so many fountains as an early form of air conditioning, as Rome with many stone buildings and walkways can become uncomfortably hot during the summer months.

A welcome breeze would blow droplets of water into the air, cooling the air and passers-by alike.

Most of us know Sheffield is also a beautiful city with many leafy suburbs, great parks, and the beautiful Peak District on our doorstep.

Like Rome, Sheffield is also built on seven hills, although I’m not sure which ones as they are plenty.

Shefield city centre looking down Fargate from the relaunched Goodwin Fountain

Although we have many great features and history to be proud of in Sheffield, we can’t compete with Rome with regards to fountains.

As I understand, please correct me if I’m wrong, we have six fountains in Sheffield.

Two water features in Barkers Pool, one situated in the Peace Gardens, a fountain in Western Park as well as the large water features and fountains which greet people entering and leaving our railway station.

We’re behind Rome in the number of fountains, by a long way.

Christmas lights in Fargate and the Goodwin Fountain 1990

We did used to have one more fountain than we do now.

In 1961 we gained a new fountain at the top of Fargate close to the junction of Surrey Street.

The Lady Goodwin Fountain as it was named opened on October 31, 1961.

The fountain was financed by Sir Stuart and Lady Goodwin to the tune of £5,000.

A view of the Goodwin Fountain and flower beds at the top of Fargate, taken from Sheffield Town Hall - 10th August 1967 H.L. Brown Cantors Sheffield

Sir Stuart Goodwin was, at the time, an industrialist and philanthropist who donated many thousands of pounds to various charities over his lifetime.

He was the head of Neepsend Steel and Tool Corporation and died in 1969.

Sir Stuart was present, with his wife, the Lord Mayor and other dignitaries to open the fountain in 1961.

The fountain became a well-known landmark in the city centre and was a meeting point for shoppers, family and friends who were out in time.

But it was also much maligned, suffering from poor maintenance and numerous attacks by vandals.

Gordon Wragg, a Consevative councillor in April 1979 commented on its “continuous disgraceful condition”

A headline from the Sheffield Telegraph read “Joker pours soap flakes into fountain” – this caused hours of disruption to traffic in the city centre.

“These practical jokers are becoming a nuisance. Only a few weeks ago green dye was poured into the fountain, and we had to carry out the full cleansing procedure.

“It may look funny to some people, but it causes a lot of unnecessary work for the corporation workmen '' said the Corporation spokesperson.

An opportunity missed to beautify the busy through road in the city centre, rubbish often found its way into the large fountain along with some people's poor attempts at humor by pouring bubble producing liquids into the fountain contributed to its demise.

Sadly the fountain finally closed and was removed in 1998 with the subsequent opening of the new fountains in the Peace Gardens.