Hillsborough: Why locals love their suburb of Sheffield - the place they are proud to call home
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Chairs outside Depot Bakery are tipped up to drain the rain, there's no-one in the library, and only one hardy dog owner has braved a walk, past metal fences protecting grass still recovering from Tramlines in July.
But Molly's Cafe & Deli opposite is full of chat and laughter, and filling steadily with customers ordering all-day brunch, a focaccia bread sandwich, or an almond croissant and cup of tea.
Terry and Diane Wood, from Loxley, are here with their grandchildren, and said the cafe, on Middlewood Road, is their favourite. "It's such nice quality," said Diane.
The 60-year-old has been for a swim at Hillsborough Leisure Centre, as she does three times a week, and says she has watched Hillsborough change for the better in recent years.
"I think it's because of Tramlines," said retired firefighter Terry, 61. "Big events like that bring in investment. When things are going on, it brings investment to an area."
Lucy Poplawski, 36, who owns Molly's with husband Piotr, 41, isn't sure.
"For one weekend we have 40,000 people coming past, then for the whole summer afterwards the park has been pretty much closed," she said.
But she is sure that Hillsborough - at the park end of Middlewood Road, at least - is enjoying something of a renaissance.
Independent shops Annie Jude's, Luke Horton Art and the new Hillsborough Bookshop have all opened up alongside Molly's, Pangolin micropub, and Orange Bird restaurant, which was featured in The Good Food Guide's 100 Best Local Restaurants list of 2023.
"There's a regeneration, definitely," said mum-of-three Lucy, whose business is named after their seven-year-old middle daughter.
"When I first said we were opening here in 2020, people said, 'no, it's the quieter end of Hillsborough'. But it's a perfect location right by the park, with a steady stream of dog walkers coming past, and we work really closely with the other independent businesses to help each other."
Earlier this month Molly's - which hosts regular cheese and beer evenings with Pangolin - was shortlisted by Sheffield Chamber of Commerce for a 'collaboration excellence' gong in this year's Business Awards, and last month the deli knocked through into the shop next door to open the sit-down cafe.
"I live in Hillsborough, always have done, I was born and bred here," said Lucy. "It's the place we call home, and we want it to thrive."
Next door, it's the first day of trading for newbie shopkeeper Sophie Rowe, who has opened Hillsborough Bookshop in green-painted premises that used to be a podiatrist's.
The 27-year-old, who also works part-time in charity comms, moved to Hillsborough from Leeds in 2018 because it was more affordable than neighbouring Walkley and Crookes.
"But now it has such a thriving independent scene, and it's got such great amenities, and it's so well connected," said Sophie. "I love it here."
Her bookshop specialises in quality children's books, with a big non-fiction section and a free storytime on weekdays at 11am. There are books for older readers and grown-ups, too.
"I studied creative writing at university, and everybody says, 'One day I'd love to have a little bookshop!'" laughed Sophie. "Hopefully it will do well. There isn't anything else like it this side of the city."
Directly opposite is Annie Jude's, selling individual and handmade products from 160 small-business makers.
Owner Faith Nicholson, who lives in Hillsborough and whose two children attend Malin Bridge Primary, opened in December 2021 using money left to her by her beloved late mum, Judith Anne Baxter, the former headteacher of Bethany school in Netherthorpe."
My mum would have loved the shop, she would have been in here all the time!" said Faith, 35.
Faith moved to Hillsborough 11 years ago, and noticed that at the time "a lot of people similar to me were moving in - people getting married, starting families, who couldn't afford Crookes and Walkley, looking for good transport links to town".
"I thought, 'If so many people like me are here, they'll want the same things I want': a shop selling lovely, handmade things from smaller makers. I just knew the shop would work. Everybody round here is really passionate about the area."
With almost two years of trading under her belt, Faith is doing well - but has some way to go to match Jim Samworth.
The 58-year-old started working at traditional pork butcher F Funks 44 years ago, aged 15, in 1979, underwent a six-year apprenticeship to learn his trade, and bought the shop in 1988. Now his son Ben, 31, is the fifth generation of the extended family to run the business, started in 1890 by German immigrant Fredrick Funk.
"Our main customers are regulars, the older generation," said Jim, who like Lucy is Hillsborough born and bred.
"People who don't want to buy in bulk, who just want two slices of ham, not a big packet. We're famous for our sausages, black pudding and pies. Everything you see we make ourselves, on the premises, fresh - none of these cooked meats full of preservatives and water packed in plastic. All the butchery happens out the back, and Ben does the bulk of the baking."
Jim thinks Hillsborough is not what it used to be, and remembers the shop being so busy it could sustain 16 staff."
The tram killed it for years," he said. "And retail parks with free parking, after they made it pay to park around here."
But Ben, who draws in younger customers with barbecue packs and deli-style cold cuts, is more optimistic. "It used to be just charity shops, nail bars and empty units around here a few years ago," he said. "Now new businesses are filling shops that were empty, selling all the little things the younger end go for, and that brings more people to Hillsborough as a whole."
David and Jacqueline Price, aged 58 and 59, have seen some changes too. They took over their Hillsborough Road shop, Fishers Pet Store, in 1995, from Jacqueline's parents Eric and Connie Fisher who started the business in 1972.
Jacqueline has worked in the shop since she was eight, and remembers customers who are grandparents today coming in as children themselves.
"Back in the day Hillsborough was a fantastic place to shop," said David. "It had all the big names, Woollies, a Co-op, all the banks. Now there's a lot of charity shops, fooderies, not enough places selling useful things like clothes and shoes and electricals. Having said that, we are still here! We know our business, we are personable.
"So many shops now you walk in and you're ignored. And I think we have loyalty from customers who don't want to shop at a big name pet store, where everything costs twice as much and isn't as good."
Pam Linley, 74, has been dodging the rain with a browse around Wilko's closing down sale. She walks from Wadsley almost every day to shop in Hillsborough, and goes home on the 61 bus. She likes 'pottering' in Peacocks, Home Bargains and B&M, and is sad Wilko on Bradfield Road is shutting.
"It's pretty empty in there now, which is a shame," she said.
She likes Hillsborough because it is friendly. "The people are nice, there are a lot of good shops and cafes, and I love the tram," she said.
"And I really like the new shops up at the top end near the park. They're more like the sort of shops you get when you're away on holiday."
Saffron Berridge, 49, moved to Hillsborough from Crookes six months ago, with husband Jonny and sons Cameron, 18, and Blake, 14. They wanted a bigger house with three good sized bedrooms, and couldn't find it in Crookes or Walkley at a price they could afford.
"When we came to see this house, and loved it, we wondered why we hadn't looked in Hillsborough before," said Saffron, a Citizens' Advice Bureau advisor.
"We love living here so far. We love the park, we love that all the shops and cafes are nearby, and I really love the tram and being able to get to town so quickly.
"There are some great walks around here: I walk out to Wadsley and Loxley Common a lot, and to Wardsend Cemetery or along the river and out to Oughtibridge. And Hillsborough has so many great amenities: the leisure centre, parkrun, the football ground!
"It's also massively convenient, with so many useful, functional shops that have kept their original character, as well as the maybe more 'gentrified' ones. It's a real 15 minute neighbourhood - you can walk to almost everything you need within 15 minutes, and if you can't there's the tram."
Jayne Needham and Cheryl Westerman work for estate agents Reeds Rains on the corner of Middlewood Road and Roselle Street, and agree relocators from other suburbs account for several of the area's purchasers, as well as first-time buyers.
Cotswold Road, Leslie Road and Chiltern Road are the golden triangle, they said, where property is always in demand, but everywhere in Hillsborough benefits from great shops and excellent transport links.
"Everything you need is on your doorstep," said Cheryl, who lives in Hillsborough herself.
"You can be in the city centre in 10 minutes, or out in the Loxley and Bradfield countryside in the same time.
"It's a great place to live - just don't tell everybody or they'll all want to move here."