A the History of Sheffield and its Cathedral
A Saxon Cross marks the earliest Christian worship in Sheffield, thought to have stood on the site of the present Sheffield Cathedral. Known as the Sheffield Cross, it is now displayed in the British Museum.
The first written record of Sheffield is found in the Domesday book, compiled after the Norman Conquest. Earl Waltheof is the last Saxon Lord of the Manor of Hallamshire.
William de Lovetot builds a Norman church on the site of the present Cathedral. He also builds a motte and bailey castle where the rivers Don and Sheaf converge. He is regarded as the founder of the township of Sheffield.
The Lordship of the Manor passes to the de Furnival family. Gerard de Furnival dies on the Crusades in 1219.
The old castle is burned down in the Barons’ War. Thomas de Furnival rebuilds the castle and a new church is blessed by Archbishop Wickwane of York in 1280
Chaucer mentions a Sheffield ‘thwitel’ (knife) in the Canterbury Tales; Sheffield is becoming well-known for its cutlery. The lordship of Hallamshire passes to Sir Thomas Nevill.
John Talbot inherits the Lordship. He serves under Henry IV, V and VI and is made Earl of Shrewsbury due to his military achievements.
Sheffield Parish Church is demolished and replaced by a church built in the perpendicular style with the central tower and spire which we still see today. Some of the Norman stones are reused and can be seen high in the sanctuary wall.
George the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury makes Sheffield his principal seat. He upgrades the old Manor Lodge in the deer park into a large country house. He serves under Henry VIII and becomes very powerful.
The Shrewsbury chapel is built in the south-east corner of Sheffield Parish church together with a family burial vault beneath. George’s first wife Lady Anne Hastings is the first to be buried there around 1520.
The Act of Supremacy establishes Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England. He dissolves monasteries, priories and convents and plunders their wealth.
George the 4th Earl dies and is buried in the Shrewsbury vault.
Edward VI confiscates land and bequests from the cathedrals and parish churches of England. Sheffield loses its source of income for maintaining the town’s services.
Mary Tudor returns the confiscated lands and income by means of a Royal Charter; the Twelve Capital Burgesses and Commonality of the Town and Parish of Sheffield in the County of York is established.
George Talbot becomes the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. He is the richest nobleman in the north of England, a member of Queen Elizabeth I’s Privy Council and Earl Marshal of all England.
George the 6th Earl marries Bess of Hardwick; his second marriage and her fourth.
1569 - 1584
Elizabeth I considers Mary Queen of Scots to have designs on the English throne; the threat is so great that Mary is placed in the custody of the 6th Earl as the most senior and trusted member of the Queen’s court. Mary spends much of the next 14 years being held at Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor Lodge at great expense to Shrewsbury until her execution for treason in 1587.
George the 6th Earl dies; the years of supervising the Captive Queen have taken their toll and the marriage of George and Bess has broken down. George oversees the construction of a magnificent and ornate memorial in the Shrewsbury Chapel and supervises the writing of a lengthy and detailed tribute to his years of faithful service to the Queen.
Gilbert the 7th Earl dies and leaves money for the building of the Shrewsbury Hospital in Sheffield for ‘the perpetual maintenance of twenty poor persons’.
A Company of Cutlers is founded on Church Street.
Picture of John Bright
The English Civil War – Sheffield Castle was taken by Royalist forces but retaken by Parliamentary forces in 1644; Colonel John Bright of Carbrook Hall is left in charge.
Sheffield Castle is demolished by resolution of the House of Commons.
The first surviving map of Sheffield shows the Parish Church clearly at the centre of a town surrounded by pasture and arable land.
Benjamin Huntsman invents crucible steel; the town begins to fill with domestic and industrial buildings.
1743 – 1801
Thomas Boulsover invents Sheffield Plate by fusing a thin layer of silver onto copper. Sheffield’s population grows from 15,000 to 45,000
Sheffield is given its own Assay Office
A new vestry chapel is built on the site of a former shed which housed the local fire engine; this later becomes St Katharine’s Chapel.
John Wesley comes to preach in Sheffield and is denied the pulpit by Vicar James Wilkinson. Wesley addresses ‘the largest congregation I ever saw on a weekday’ in the open air at nearby Paradise Square instead.
James Montgomery moves to Sheffield as Editor of the Sheffield Register. Writer, poet, hymn-writer and political activist he is best remembered for his most famous hymn, ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’.
Major building work and renovation is undertaken as the church has become dilapidated. The north and south walls of the nave are pulled down and rebuilt, the old galleries and pews are taken out The nave is extended, the north and south transepts are added and oak benches are installed. The church can now cater better for the rapidly expanding population of Sheffield.
The first census is taken. Sheffield has a population of over 31,000.
Sheffield is granted Parliamentary representation. A cholera epidemic in Sheffield kills 402 people.
Sheffield’s first cemetery opens, the General Cemetery. Its first burial is a victim of tuberculosis.
Victoria becomes Queen
Sheffield’s population is over 135,000
Henry Bessemer invents the Bessemer Converter, greatly increasing the amount of steel production. Living and working conditions worsen, many people end up in the workhouse which have been built to house the poor and destitute. Adult life expectancy in Sheffield is just 27.
The Dale Dyke Dam at Bradfield, built to try to meet the increased demand for water in Sheffield, bursts its walls causing millions of gallons of water to sweep down into Sheffield claiming over 200 lives.
Sheffield is granted its municipal charter and becomes a city
Sheffield Town Hall is built
Sheffield University is founded
Sheffielder Harry Brearley invents Stainless Steel.
The Diocese of Sheffield is created and Sheffield Parish Church is granted Cathedral status. The first Bishop of Sheffield is Bishop Leonard Hedley Burrows.
1914 – 1918
The Great War, later known as World War I, leaves over 16 million dead and 20 million wounded. In 1916 Sheffield is bombarded by German Zeppelins, killing 28 people. Over 500 officers and men of the ‘Sheffield Pals’ Battalion are killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916.
Plans are drawn up by architect Charles Nicholson to rotate the Cathedral through its axis 90° and to build a new tower, spire, chancel and sanctuary on the north side and to build the nave out on the south side towards Church Street.
The Shrewsbury Chapel is handed over to Sheffield Cathedral by the Duke of Norfolk into whose family is has now passed.
Work on the north side is completed and opened by Princess Mary; however work is halted by the outbreak of WW2.
The Sheffield Blitz – over 660 lives are lost during heavy bombing on the nights of 12 and 15 December. The Cathedral survives with minor damage to the West End.
The Nicholson plans are abandoned at the end of the war.
Sheffield is becoming an internationally recognised industrial city. The population continues to grow, slums are cleared and new progressive housing is built such as the Park Hill flats. New plans are drawn up by Arthur Bailey for a new Narthex entrance to the Cathedral, leading to an extended west end with a Lantern Tower.
Following the closure of the General Cemetery, James Montgomery’s grave and monument are relocated to the Cathedral precincts.
The glass in the Lantern Tower is replaced with an abstract design by Amber Hiscott
The Community Resource Centre is opened by HRH Princess Anne. It offers practical support to homeless and vulnerable people from the local area together with resources for local businesses, community groups and arts organisations across the region.
The population of Sheffield reaches 547,000
The Gateway Project begins, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Church Burgesses, transforming Sheffield Cathedral into an accessible and flexible space with improved heating, lighting and new flooring and seating. New heritage interpretation resources and learning programmes mean that the story of Sheffield’s Cathedral can be better told to children, families and visitors of all ages.
The Gateway Project is completed. Sheffield Cathedral is better equipped to play its role in the life of Sheffield as a Place for all People.