Sheffield
Population:
520,700
Area: 367.94 kmē 

Sheffield is a major city and metropolitan borough in South Yorkshire in the north of England. It is so named because of its origins in a field on the River Sheaf that runs through the city. The city has grown from its largely industrial roots to encompass a wide economic base.

The population of the City of Sheffield is estimated at 520,700 people (2005), and it is one of the eight largest English cities outside London that form the English Core Cities Group.

Eurostat figures show that Sheffield is the UK's fifth biggest Metropolitan area with a population of 1,811,700 (2003).

The city became world famous in the nineteenth century for its production of steel. Many innovations in the industry were developed locally, including crucible and stainless steel. This fuelled an almost tenfold increase in the population during the Industrial Revolution. It gained its city charter in 1893 and became officially titled the City of Sheffield. International competition caused a decline in local industry during the 1970s and 1980s, and at the same time the national coal industry collapsed, affecting Sheffield's population. In recent years the city has attempted to reinvent itself as a sporting and technology city; there are signs that this is reversing its fortunes.

The area that is now the City of Sheffield has been occupied since at least the last ice age,[13] but the settlements that grew to form Sheffield date from the second half of the 1st millennium, and are of Anglo-Saxon and Danish origin.[14] In Anglo-Saxon times the Sheffield area straddled the border between the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that King Eanred of Northumbria submitted to King Egbert of Wessex at the hamlet of Dore (now a suburb of Sheffield) in 829.[15] This event made Egbert the first Saxon to claim to be king of all of England. After the Norman conquest, Sheffield Castle was built to control the local settlements, and a small town developed that is the nucleus of the modern city.

By 1296 a market had been established at what is now known as Castle Square, and Sheffield subsequently grew into a small market town. In the 14th century Sheffield was already noted for the production of knives, as mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales ("Ther was no man, for peril, dorste hym touche. A Sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose. Round was his face, and camus was his nose"), and by 1600 it had become the main centre of cutlery production in England, overseen by The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire. From 1570 to 1584 Mary, Queen of Scots was held as a prisoner in Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor.

Portrait of Chaucer as a Canterbury pilgrim in the Ellesmere manuscript of The Canterbury TalesIn the 1740s a form of the crucible steel process was discovered that allowed the manufacture of a better quality of steel than had previously been available. At about the same time a technique for fusing a thin sheet of silver onto a copper ingot to produce silver plating was invented and became widely known as Sheffield plate. These innovations spurred the growth of Sheffield as an industrial town. However, the loss of some important export markets led to a recession in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The resulting poor conditions culminated in a cholera epidemic that killed 402 people in 1832. The industrial revolution saw a resurgence of Sheffield through the 19th century. As a result of its growing population, the town was incorporated as a Borough in 1842 and granted a city charter in 1893. The influx of people also led to demand for better water supplies, and a number of new reservoirs were constructed on the outskirts of the town. The collapse of the dam wall of one of these reservoirs in 1864 resulted in the Great Sheffield flood, which killed 270 people and devastated large parts of the town. The growing population also led to the construction of a large number of back-to-back slums, which, along with severe pollution from the factories, inspired George Orwell, writing in 1937, to declare, "Sheffield, I suppose, could justly claim to be called the ugliest town in the Old World".

A recession in the 1930s was only halted by the increasing international tension as World War II loomed. The steel factories of Sheffield were set to work making weapons and ammunition for the war. As a result, once war was declared, the city became a target for bombing raids, the heaviest of which occurred over the nights of 12 December and 15 December 1940 (now known as the Sheffield Blitz). More than 660 lives were lost and numerous buildings were destroyed.

A flight of Stuka dive-bombers prepares to attack.Following the war, in the 1950s and 1960s, many of the slums were demolished and replaced with housing schemes such as the Park Hill flats. Large parts of the city centre were also cleared to make way for a new system of roads. Increased automation and competition from abroad resulted in the closure of many steel mills. The 1980s saw the worst of this run-down of Sheffield's industries (along with those of many other areas in the UK), culminating in the 1984/5 miners' strike. The building of the Meadowhall shopping centre on the site of a former steelworks in 1990 was a mixed blessing, creating much needed jobs but speeding the decline of the city centre. Attempts to regenerate the city were kick-started when the city hosted the 1991 World Student Games, which saw the construction of new sporting facilities such as the Sheffield Arena, Don Valley Stadium and the Ponds Forge complex.The city is now changing rapidly as new projects aim to regenerate run-down parts of the city. One such project, the Heart of the City Project, has seen a number of public works in the city centre: the Peace Gardens were renovated in 1998, the Millennium Galleries opened in April 2001, the Winter Gardens were opened on 22 May 2003, and most recently a public space to link these two areas, the Millennium Square, was opened in May 2006. A number of other projects grouped under the title Sheffield One aim to regenerate the whole of the city centre, with ambitious plans for a split-level high street shopping area due to be finalised at the end of 2006.