Sheffield Markets History - 20th Century
The Sheffield Corporation Act 1901 empowered the City Council to undertake a variety of schemes to upgrade the City Centre, including constructing a new market hall to replace Fitzalan Market, the erection of a new abattoir and the extension of Sheaf Market.
In addition to the Act, a Market committee was appointed by Council resolution on 10th November 1902 under the chairmanship of Alderman George Franklin. "to take charge of and manage the whole of the business connected with the Markets properties now in possession of the Corporation."
One of the first decisions of the Committee was to redesign the West front of Norfolk Market Hall, facing Haymarket. A competition for design was launched and won by A F Watson of the Sheffield firm Holmes & Watson.
In 1923 a new market was established at the Smithfield/fairground site, mainly to clear congested streets of stalls. Not all the traders were happy; some refused to turn up at the new site and continued trading from their old positions. Mr Humberstone, in a Council debate on the problem, in January 1925, stated: "Unless something is done, I am afraid these people will defy the law and sell on the street". In the same debate, Councillor Smith described Smithfield as a white elephant: "No-one goes there unless it is to catch a train or to commit suicide."
Despite the early optimism, the Market's new owners were slow to redevelop them. In July 1924 the Sheffield Telegraph claimed "… the Markets … are a grotesque waste of valuable sites … It is very likely, most probable indeed, that we shall go on drifting year after year, and that our great-grandchildren will be shopping in the Shambles and the Rag market just as our predecessors did."
In 1927 a further portion of the Castle site was purchased by the Brightside and Carbrook Co-operative Society. It was during building excavations that the ruins of the Castle were discovered. The following year, Sheffield Corporation began work on the adjoining site, constructing Castle Hill Market.
Two years later, a new abattoir was opened at Cricket Inn Road, allowing closure of the old Castlegate Slaughter-houses. The abattoir continued in operation until 1982 when, because of stringent new hygiene requirements it was forced to close.
A handbook, produced by the Markets Department in 1929, described Sheaf Market as follows: "The Sheaf Market is rather unique in its character, being a very large open market, and is chiefly used on Tuesdays and Saturdays by traders who bring their goods to market and expose them for sale on the stalls. It is a very popular market and if land was available could be considerably developed. Traders dealing in all classes of commodities attend, and the section used by the local fruit and vegetable growers, which is an early morning market, is let to Crockery sellers on the two market days. In the spring-time the market is crowded with plants and flowers, which find a ready sale amongst the suburban residents and allotment gardeners.
Formally the Live Poultry Market was held in the cellars under the Castlefolds Market, but this was found to be a very unsatisfactory situation, and it was transferred to a more suitable building in the Sheaf Market which had been used as a flour mill. Quite recently the interior has been fitted with up-to-date wire cages which entirely comply with requirement of the RSPCA. A very large business in live poultry is carried on here, also persons requiring defenders for their homes in the shape of canine friends are able to find their requirements in the market".
Fitzalan Market Hall closed on 24th April 1930, and business transferred to Castle Hill Market which opened the following day.
The market was officially opened in the Minister of Health. The Right Honourable Arthur Greenwood MP, on Friday 9th May 1930. The same year Smithfield Market closed and in 1940 the site ceased to be used as a fairground.
December 1940 also saw the Sheffield blitz. The Co-op building received a direct hit and was destroyed. Bailey bridges (mobile temporary structure) were used to enable Castle Hill Market to continue trading.
In 1947 the Corn Exchange was badly damaged by fire which completely gutted the interior of the building; only the shops on the frontage remained open. The building was finally demolished in 1964.
A handbook produced by the Markets Department to celebrate the golden jubilee of the City Council acquiring the markets described the facilities in Castle Hill Market as follows:
"The butchers' shops were fitted with sycamore display slabs, stainless steel rails and mechanically operated refrigerators, and equipped with chopping blocks and utility tables. Each shop had water laid on, also electric lighting and power cables.
The fishmongers stalls were built wholly of marble terrazzo and fitted with galvanised steel hanging rails, also chopping blocks, cash tables and duck boards."
Castle Market was opened in 1959. The project had been primarily designed to re-house traders from the Norfolk Market Hall, which had already celebrated its centenary, but in addition extensive office and shop accommodation was provided. Following the transfer of traders, the old hall was demolished. An extension to the new market was completed in 1964.
Redevelopment continued through the 1960's and 70's with the demolition of Castlefolds Market, following the opening of Parkway Wholesale Market in 1961; and the opening in 1973 of Sheaf Market Hall. This replaced the adjoining Rag and Tag Market - the last surviving relie of the original 19th century undertaking purchased from the Duke of Norfolk in 1899.
The Rag and Tag Market was a great source of anecdotes concerning market life in Sheffield. John Coates, a former trader, recalled "the trader who sold miniature candlesticks made from gold, reportedly given him by an Afghan chief whose life he had saved in the Khyber Pass area." It appears to have been untrue. He also recalled the activities of the medicine men or "crocus workers" selling fake potions and cures to a sometimes gullible public.
The Setts open market was opened in 1974 adjacent to the Sheaf Market Hall. With local government re-organisation the same year, which extended the city boundary to include Stockbridge, the local open air market became part of Sheffield Markets.
An open market was established at Moorfoot in 1976 and, with the pedestrianisation of The Moor, the market was transferred to its present location in front of Atkinsons and further extended in 1986. In 1988 the Market Place was opened in the Crystal Peaks shopping centre, at Waterthorpe.
The City Council announced early in 1996, the 700th anniversary year, a multi-million pound scheme to transform Castlegate Markets. A new market hall is to be built on the site of Sheaf Market, in line with the latest European Union food hygiene requirements. Castle Market will transfer to the new hall and that site will then be redeveloped to include shops, leisure facilities, riverside housing and the opening up of Castle ruins. A multi-storey car park will also be built between Commercial Street and Broad Street with a roof top market square linking Commercial Street and the new market hall.
Sheffield City Council Leader, Mike Bower has stated:
"Sheffield Markets are the economic heart of the Castlegate area. The redevelopment of the markets provides an exciting opportunity to create a landmark attraction that will reinvigorate the social and economic welfare of the city centre."