Retro - slideshow: Sheffield suburb ‘prettiest in England’

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Our Retro A to Z look at Sheffield meanders on through the Bs with a visit to Broomhill.

This area was described by the poet John Betjeman in July 1961 as “still the prettiest suburb in England”.

He admired the “handsome mansions of the Victorian industrialists who made their pile from steel and cutlery in the crowded mills below”.

Like Broomhall, featured last week, this area was developed in Victorian times as a suburb for wealthy families.

Broomhill Local History Group’s website ( records that most of the area was part of Crookesmoor Racecourse from 1711 to 1781. It adds that the races finished when the Ecclesall Bierlow commons were enclosed between 1778 and 1789.

The name apparently comes from a house built on land near Newbould Lane in 1792, which the owner called Broomhill simply because it lay on a hill above Broomhall.

Roads like Taptonville Road and Crescent were developed in the mid-19th century as homes for prominent city families in manufacturing and professions.

The Broomhill history website features reminiscences from Lenie Freer-Smith, who was born in 1857 in the grand home called The Mount on Glossop Road.

Her father, George Wilson, was one of the family who ran Wilson’s Snuff Mill.

She said that when her parents moved there as newlyweds, everyone considered it too far out of town.

Neighbours included hymnwriter and radical journalist James Montgomery.

Mrs Freer-Smith’s memoirs are well worth a read to get a taste of how the rich of Broomhill lived then, harking back to the days of coachmen, nannies, cooks, cotillions and croquet lawns.

As families like the Wilsons moved into Broomhill, so did small shopkeepers and businesses that served their needs.

In more recent years, the area’s population has swelled with an influx of students at the University of Sheffield.

Inevitably, that causes tensions with the resident population but also adds to the vitality of the suburb.

The main shopping area has always been popular and is still the home of independent traders.

After the Blitz of December 1940 laid waste much of the city centre, Walsh’s department store moved temporarily into Broomhill.

St Mark’s Church, which dates back to 1859, helped to set up Broomhill Festival, which has been held every June since 1975. This year it takes place from June 5 to 21.