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Like many cities across the world, the presence of slums in Sheffield has presented challenges to the authorities and different efforts have been made to address the situation in different ways. The slum menace began in Sheffield in the middle of the 18th Century as the city’s population expanded and reached 10,000 people (Greenwood, 2010, para 1).
Several slum regeneration programmes have been generated since the 18th century in order to eliminate the slums from the within the city’s jurisdiction. The first slum regeneration plan was adopted in 1860 (Greenwood, 2010, para 1), with its main target being to improve the life of the city’s inhabitants who had been living under the squalid conditions.
Sheffield City, however, suffered subsequent challenges following increase in its population, especially following the industrialisation era of the 19th century. This paper seeks to elaborately analyse and report on the series of slum regeneration programmes that have been held in the city of Sheffield since the early 20th century to the present date.
First Phase of Development
Sheffield’s expansion towards the end of the 18th century saw the city encroach outside the township boundary. This resulted into previous open fields being turned into residential areas. These open fields were referred to as crofts. The total population had risen to more than 30,000 inhabitants (Greenworld, 2010, para 1), with the crofts being turned into both residential, as well as industrial activity areas where cutlery manufacturing was the predominant practice.
Pressure began to mount as the crofts were singled out as dens of immorality, especially involving the young people. Death rates among the inhabitants soured as the living conditions and general hygiene deteriorated, with every four children born in the area failing to see their first birthdays. This prompted reformers to identify the need for improving the slum conditions as a remedy for the poor conditions of living.
Demolitions were sanctioned and began from 1898, lasting through to 1899. Three crofts were singled out for demolition during the first phase. These included Hawley Croft, School Croft, and Sims Croft. The first slum regeneration programme saw the introduction of three-storey modern housing.
The new project began in 1903/1904, and is what is presently known as Hawley and Townhead Street housing. The housing project was the first rental property that were developed by the local council (Greenworld, 2010, para 1).
Second Phase of Demolition
The second phase of the demolitions affected the remaining slum areas, mainly Lee Croft. The demolitions continued up to 1907. A section of the area that was previously Lee Croft was developed into present day northern Hawley Street junction with both Lee Croft and Campo Lane.
The original Lee Croft area was never fully developed following the demolition, with a significant section of the area remaining under developed (Greenworld, 2010, para 3). The Alexandra Skating Rink was developed in 1909 on the area that remained underdeveloped following Lee Croft’s demolitions.
The 19th and 20th Centuries
The 19th century brought with it new challenges to Sheffield authorities and the inhabitants of the city. The increased pace of industrialisation that peaked particularly during the second half of the 19th century saw an increase in population as workers moved into the city in search of job opportunities. The rapidly growing population was putting pressure on the available housing units, thereby increasing demand for accommodation units.
The population pressure led to a deterioration of the existing housing conditions, particularly the sanitary provisions as well as the general health situation. Similar challenges that had faced the first slum settlements in the city emerged, with death rates increasing to between 20 and 26 for every 1,000 inhabitants. Equally, the infant mortality rate soured to between 153 and 179 deaths for every 1,000 deaths.
The population density, particularly in the lower Park district, rose to between 100 and 400 people on every acre of land. This prompted plans to demolish buildings around the lower Park district in order to address the deteriorating situation. Sheffield City’s population had surpassed the 400,000 mark by the turn of the 20th century (Lambert, n.d., para 20).
Growth in population was further influenced by the extension of the city’s boundaries to include Wadsley and Handsworth. Further boundary alterations in 1935 included the addition of Beauchief, Greenhill, Totley, and Dore to be included under the city’s jurisdiction (Lambert, n.d., para 23).
A new challenge was once again faced by the authorities in the city as growth of slums became a menace. The 1920’s and 1930’s witnessed difficult moments for the city, with Sheffield being a heavily industrialised centre and a significant section of the population being workers employed in the industries. The end of the First World War in 1918 affected the city’s and indeed the entire country’s economy negatively (Mearns, n.d., para 8).
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The economy entered into a recession, with the industries lacking business to sustain their activities. The unemployment rate soured, meaning that many residents lacked sufficient income to afford decent lifestyles and accommodation.
However, Sheffield City authorities also begun a massive programme in 1934 that aimed at conducting large-scale slum clearance. The era witnessed the building of decent and modernised council houses to replace the slum areas that had been cleared (Lambert, n.d., para 23).
The period between the First and Second World Wars was short-lived and Sheffield was to suffer the consequences yet again. As the council worked towards establishing modern housing and eliminating slum areas, up to 3,000 housing units were destroyed following a bombardment of the city by German forces (Visitor UK 2013, para 8). The housing situation was affected significantly as the council still struggled with the pressure on housing units.
Slum clearance started after the end of the Second World War, with the actual programme beginning in the 1950s through to the 1960s. The council built new houses in estates such as Gleadless Valley, council flats at Hyde Park and Park Hill (Yorkshire Film Archive, 2011, para 1).
The problem of population growth between the 1950s and 1960s persisted with the entry of immigrants from Western India and other Asian communities into Sheffield. A 1937 Development Plan that included the development of flats was later in the year abandoned after the authorities thought that this kind of housing would not be probable as a normal housing method (Lambert, n.d., para 24).
A second interim report in 1941 on the city’s planning by the Town Planning Assembly identified the need to undertake a redevelopment scheme of the areas including Duke Street, as well as the City Road. However, the plan did not mention the particular form that the redevelopment would adopt (Lambert, n.d., para 25).
Response from the Council
In 1930, the council authorities agreed to the fact that the worsening living conditions in the city were being influenced by limited housing units that could not accommodate the population demand. The Estates Committee issued a report in September 1930, promising to increase up to 1,250 new housing units annually.
The report also suggested the introduction of a Clearance and Improvement proposal whose main objective would be to eliminate at least 500 housing units that were declared as unfit. This was in accordance with the Housing Act of 1930 (Parliament n.d., para 3). Up to 500 new housing units would be provided to accommodate the people who had been displaced.
Recommendations in the report involved adoption of new practices that had been included in the new Housing Act. The Sheffield Council committed itself to considering housing conditions that existed in the area, with plans to issue proposals to the Ministry of Health after every five years beginning in 1930.
The Council consequently established clearance schemes, where property would be compulsorily purchased and demolished for purposes of creating room for the development of new buildings. An example of the scheme includes the present day flats and maisonettes that sit on the piece of land bounded by Bernard Street, Broad Street, Duke Street, as well as Old Street and Bard Street.
The scheme targeted housing up to 290 families, following its recommendation to the Estates Committee (Sheffield City Council 2010, p 5). The new projects introduced in Sheffield had been copied from other similar projects in London and Liverpool.
Sheffield authority officials, including the mayor and the chief architecture, made visits to London in mid 1934 as part of a fact-finding mission to inspect buildings that had been developed under the 1923, 1924, as well as 1930 Housing Acts (Sheffield City Council 2010, p. 7).
John Rennie, Sheffield’s City Council Medical Officer of Health influenced the compulsory acquisition and demolition program. In November 1933, the officer recommended that the council should demolish buildings to pave way for the Duke/Bard/Benard Street scheme.
In 1935, John Rennie made further Representations to the council, which would later influence the reconstructions of properties on Long Henry Street, South Street, Colliers Row, Stafford Street, Lord Street, Hague Lane, Anson Street, as well as Gilbert Street and Norwich Street. The Park Hill flats, as they stand today, occupy the areas that these streets criss-crossed in the past.
G. C. Craven, Sheffield City Planning Officer prepared a report in November 1936 that further pointed at the problem of housing density around Central Scheme (Sheffield City Council 2010, p. 6). This particular report specifically noted other challenges, including width of streets, existing services, adequate air and light, open spaces, as well as the height above the sea level in the case of residential buildings, as some of the immediate issues that needed redress.
The planning officer emphasised on the need to undertake wholesale redevelopment in order to finish a single complete scheme. The idea did not favour the establishment of storey buildings that exceeded 5 storeys (Sheffield City Council 2010, p. 6).
Multi-Story Building Option
Subsequent reports and minutes by the Sheffield City Council immediately after the Second World War identify a gradual focus on multi-storey form of housing. The authorities had banked on the experience witnessed in other cities’ architectural forms both within and outside the country.
On the 28th of April 1949, the committee on housing at the council decided to build multi-story flats that would require to be serviced by lifts. Sheffield’s authority representatives sought to carry inspections in other cities, mainly in London and the Scandinavian countries, to ascertain how similar programmes could be replicated in the city.
The multi-storey building project gathered momentum at the beginning of the 1950’s as a report by the Planning Committee of the town identified the need for the city to have an addition of 79,000 new houses (Sheffield City Council 2010, p. 10). The new inclusion, however, would still leave Sheffield City with a requirement of 55,000 more houses to cater fully for the population.
The report took note of the over 12,000 housing units that had suffered destruction following the World War II, as well as an additional 7,000 units that had been declared unfit for occupation by the Medical Officer of Health during the period between 1939 and 1947 (Sheffield City Council 2010, p. 10). The report, taken as an Extension Bill for Sheffield, suggested the need to have good and consistent planning in order to address the huge overspill.
The plan was to take place in the areas within the city centre, as well as the industrial areas in order to retain the city’s initial population figure. The plan to establish multi-storey buildings continued further as city representatives and officials visited several other European countries to establish the measures they had put into place after the World War II.
Compulsory Purchase Orders were recommended in a bid by the authorities in the city to repossess the entire areas that were bounded by Duke Street lane, Anson Street, South Street, as well as Henry Street. This measure aimed at providing new modernised housing accommodation for the city’s inhabitants.
The Housing Committee eventually approved the multi-storey building scheme in March 1955, further approving a recommendation to redevelop the Park Hill area. Early estimates at the time indicated that the Park Hill redevelopment scheme, previously known as Duke Street area, would result in 2,000 new housing units.
This would have provided an extra 1,200 new housing units that would comfortably allow the city authorities to demolish another 800 units that had been earmarked for demolition to pave way for further regeneration (Sheffield City Council 2010, p. 11). The report emphasised on the need for the multi-storey development project to be pursued towards realising the council’s goal basing on the figures that the planning department had availed.
The Park Hill redevelopment project became the first to benefit from the report’s findings following its approval in August 1955 (Sheffield City Council 2010, p. 8). Other areas that were developed include Netherthorpe, Burngreave, as well as Pitmoor. These areas comprise of Woodslide Lane. Park Hill redevelopment targeted a demolition of up to 369 housing units, among them 271 redhouses.
The demolitions were intended to pave room for the establishment of public open space. The council earmarked an additional 282 units that were identified as being unfit for habitation together with another 63 fit units, all of which were to be acquired under Compulsory Purchase Orders.
The building scheme was undertaken in three phases, with the first two programmes having their planning permission issued within the first half of 1956. The first phase was planned to have 990 dwellings that would be developed in four blocks of between four and thirteen storeys. The area under which this development was to be undertaken included the section bounded by Duke Street, Anson Street, and the Southern Street that overlooks Sheffield’s railway station.
The second phase was to be completed in two stages, where two three-storey terraces were to be built amounting to 152 units. The project was to stretch from the eastern side of Bernard Street all the way to covering the northern part. The second section of the second phase involved 1,160 units housed in four blocks, with the least containing five storeys while the highest having up to nineteen storeys.
The new redevelopment programmed was officially referred to as the Park Hill Redevelopment Scheme. However, this later changed in May 1961 following the City Council of Sheffield’s decision to rename it as Hyde Park Estate. Sections of the development that were terraced were officially renamed as Hyde Park Terrace and Hyde Park Walk respectively.
Refurbishment and Rebirth
Demolitions were executed on the largest Hyde Park blocks in the beginning of the 1990’s (Meinhold, 2011, para 1). The remaining sections of the block were refurbished in order to be used to offer accommodation for participants who took part in the 1991 edition of the World Student Games. Sheffield City Council further formulated a plan that aimed at refurbishing Park Hill estate.
The authorities were to undertake the program in cooperation with English Partnerships. The thirteen-storey block had its tenants evacuated by the end of 2003 to enable the refurbishments to take place. In October 2007, an artist’s plan to undertake the refurbishment was approved. The plan included a proposal to have 257 flats available for sale. Up to 56 flats were to be rented out, with 12 others being prepared for a sharing project.
Urban centres and cities across the world have traditionally grappled with an upsurge of slum areas, which are mainly characterised by overpopulation, poor sanitation services, and lack of modernised amenities. Sheffield City experienced the first existence of slum houses towards the end of the 17th century as the city grew gradually.
Population growth forced the city’s expansion to exceed its initial boundaries, with areas that remained plain fields in the past experiencing an upsurge of informal settlements. These areas included Hawley Croft, School Croft, and Sims Croft. The worsening conditions of living prompted authorities in the city to schedule plans for the first ever slum regeneration in the city.
However, the 19th and 20th centuries posed more challenges to the city authorities as growth in population was hastened by industrialisation during the time. The pressure and demand for housing made the city authorities sanction for more slum regeneration programmes to eliminate the sub-standard housing, while at the same time replacing them with modernised housing units.
The World War I affected the program by creating a recession that affected industries in the city, causing unemployment amongst its residents. The unemployment denied residents the financial power to afford decent housing, thus creating room for growth and expansion of slums. In World War II, the Sheffield housing suffered greater consequences as up to 3,000 housing units were destroyed following bombardments by the German forces.
List of References
Greenwood, A. 2010, Local history: Clearing the slums and the start of the Sheffield jungle. Web.
Lambert, T., A brief history of Sheffield, England. Web.
Mearns, N., Rural village to Suburbia. Web.
Meinhold, B. 2011, Massive Park Hill Post-War project being regenerated into a colorful and bright housing complex. Web.
Parliament. Living heritage: Improving towns. Web.
Sheffield City Council 2010, Sources for the study of Park Hill and Hyde Park Flats, pp 4-48. Web.
Sheffield City Council 2013, Compulsory Purchase Orders. Web.
Visitor UK 2013, Timeline history of Sheffield.
Yorkshire Film Archive 2011, Park Hill Housing Project. Web.