Kelham Island Museum
As befits a city so proud of its industrial past, the Kelham Island Museum takes visitors back in time on a walk...Kelham Island Museum
Grim up north? Not any more. Sheffield’s done a sterling job of reinventing itself since the demise of British industry, turning shut-down steelworks and a depressed economy into a city of restaurants, re-conditioned central beauty and a plethora of student-friendly bars. The city that gave us The Full Monty has turned its hand to worldwide musical fame and a thriving home-grown spirit of regeneration, proving the truth of an age-old adage. If you want something doing properly, you’d better do it yourself, and that’s exactly how Sheffield’s been pulled up by the bootstraps. Local and imported youth has been the engine driving the city’s resurgence, in the University, in local business and in dozens of nightlife spots.
This DIY attitude catapulted Sheffield’s most successful musical exports, the Arctic Monkeys, to stardom in 2006, following a fan driven internet campaign. This is no hopeless post-industrial wasteland, but a young and thriving city.Read more
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Not content to lead the way in finance and green technology, Reading’s also become something of a byword for business travel in general. As one of the UK’s most important centres for commerce and technology outside of London, the town is rated highly for investment and economic success.
When you’re done with meetings for the day, head out to the riverbanks for some quiet reflection. Catch a movie at the Oracle’s monumental cinema complex. Or go for a pint in a village boozer. Gastro-pub legends Michel Roux Jr and Heston Blumenthal are both within hailing distance, but if the upmarket pub dining crowd isn’t your thing you’ll find plenty of locally brewed ale in more down to earth establishments.
Close enough to London to make getting in and out of the big smoke a doddle, but bang in the heart of rural Berkshire, Reading’s a smart choice for foreign investors. Heathrow airport is easier to get to from the town than from London itself, and the motorway connections with the M4, M25 and M3 make logistics equally simple. As a result, swanky rural business parks away from the town centre have spring up in mushroom-like numbers, offering a genuinely pleasant alternative to the urban office environment.
Reading’s countryside is incorporated into the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and there are plenty of outstanding walks and cycle rides within a short distance of the town itself.
The history of the area is visibly Tudor and Victorian, with plenty of surviving buildings and landscaped public spaces reminding the traveller of times past. Incidentally, the old Gaol (which is now closed) was the place where legendarily snippy wit and writer Oscar Wilde was confined for his sexuality. The Ballad of Reading Gaol was composed after his release from the prison, in 1897.
If you ever foment a successful rebellion in London, Reading is decreed by royal charter as the place where parliament will be moved. In the meantime, the continually evolving town centre serves as a national Business Improvement District, and the wealth of the area continues to grow. Come join the party.
Sheffield is served by Robin Hood Doncaster Airport. Nottingham’s East Midlands Airport, and Manchester Airport, are also within easy travelling distance, making it easy to get to the city from anywhere in the world.
There are two stations: the main Sheffield station, and Meadowhall. The city is connected by rail to London, Manchester, Birmingham, the Southwest, Nottinghamshire, Wales, Derbyshire and Scotland.
Sheffield is on the M1, at junction 33. Visitors can leave their cars at a park and ride station on the Sheffield Parkway (the adjoining road from the M1) for a quick and easy way into the city.
Sheffield is on the national bus service routes. Buses stop at the Sheffield Interchange.
There are what feels like hundreds of bus routes serving the centre and suburban areas of Sheffield. Bus travel is frequent and reliable, but can be expensive compared to other modes of transport. There are usually buses running at a frequency of more than one every 10 minutes. Of particular note is the FreeBee bus service, which goes in a loop through the city centre at a breakneck pace: there’s one every seven minutes. The bus, as its name suggest, is free to all users. When paying for buses, you can buy a Yorkshire Day Tripper ticket, which allows you on all services no matter what operator is running them.
Thanks to its position in the confluence of valleys and hills, Sheffield’s city centre is small and easy to walk around. There has been considerable remodelling of the city centre, to make it even more amenable to the walker: now almost every attraction and place of interest can be reached without hailing a bus.
There’s a superb tram network serving Sheffield, both suburban and central. There are three colour coded lines: yellow, blue and purple. Yellow goes from Middlewood, through the city centre to Meadowhall. Blue runs from Halfway and the Railway Station trough the centre to Malin Bridge. The purple line forms a link between the two eastern arms of the yellow and blue lines.
In the Iron Age, tribal hill forts were constructed on the seven hills surrounding Sheffield. The now-vanished Sheffield Castle was built shortly after the Norman invasion, and the town that was to become the city grew up around it..
Sheffield’s steel industry started early: the then market town’s cutlery is mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Steel manufacture became central to the city’s fortunes in the 18th century, when a new method of crucible steel making was discovered (hence the name of the famous snooker venue, the Crucible Theatre). Silver plating using the Sheffield plate process was developed at roughly the same time, and for the next 200 years the expanding city knew only prosperity.
World War Two
The same fate that befell other key industrial towns in the north was visited on Sheffield during World War Two, when the Luftwaffe bombed it relentlessly. A massive amount of the city’s infrastructure was lost, particularly in December 1940 when the Sheffield Blitz took place. The reason for the intensity of the bombing was simple: of all the industrial locations in Britain, Sheffield’s contribution to the war effort (arms and munitions) was the most deadly.
Paid in kind by the Nazi war machine, Sheffield struggled on to the end of WWII and sank into a decline, punctuated by a number of ambitious but mainly disastrously misguided housing estate development projects. In the 60s and 70s particularly, a series of visionary architects did great damage to the Sheffield skyline, creating infamous areas like the Park Hill flats, which are now Grade II listed. It is typical of the city’s fortitude that these developments have somehow become part of its unique character and heritage.
Modern development has redressed the balance, and restored many of Sheffield’s oldest attractions to a new glory. The Peace Gardens have been reconditioned, Sheaf Square has been redesigned, and a number of new public spaces (including the Millennium Gallery and the Winter Gardens) have been opened in the centre.
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