Thursday 23 July 2015

Urban Green Spaces – Peace Gardens, Sheffield

Sheffield Peace Gardens South Yorkshire fountains
Like many British cities Sheffield has a number of long streets filled with shops and offices which interconnect and run into each other. If you stroll up the pedestrianised Fargate you'll come to the fine Grade 1 listed Town Hall. This Gothic styled piece of Victorian architecture houses not only a collection of Sheffield silverware but also the city's Register Office. Originally St. Paul's Church stood next the Town Hall but after slum clearance in the city centre the congregation had diminished and it was closed in 1937. The plan was for it to be demolished in order for an extension to the Town Hall to be built. The church was demolished in 1938 but the onset of the Second World War meant the extension was never built and gardens were laid out on the site instead.
The gardens quite fittingly were called St. Paul's Gardens but were soon nicknamed the 'Peace Gardens' following the signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938. Finally in 1977 he new Town Hall extension was built at the back of the Peace Gardens. Such was outcry at the design of the building that it was rather derogatorily called the 'Egg-box'. The structure that was designed to last 500 years was pulled down after 25 years to make way for St. Paul's Hotel and the Winter Gardens.
Forty years after the end of the Second World War St. Paul's Gardens was officially renamed the 'Peace Gardens' on 6th August 1985 – Hiroshima Day. It was rededicated in the presence of three Hibaksha survivors. The term Hibaksha is used to describe survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic explosions in Japan near the end of the Second World War. In Japanese 'hibaksha' translates as 'explosion-affected people' and the term is used to describe those who suffered from the affects of radiation due to the bombs.
By the 1990s the Peace Gardens had started to suffer. The area had started to attract drunks, drug takers and was generally a no-go area for many despite its city centre location. However many people still wanted the Peace Gardens to remain but in a way that it was able to be used by everybody in a safe and friendly way. With the 'Egg-box' deemed an eyesore the area become the focus the of Sheffield City Council's 'Heart of the City' regeneration plans in the late 1990s. The original plans were criticised for the lack of 'garden' and the design was based on a large open area with water features. After public consultation the plans were re-jigged and a compromise scheme was put forward with the water features and open space remaining but also areas of grass, plenty of seating and flower borders.
In 1998 the new Peace Gardens were officially opened and have become a hit with the people of Sheffield and visitors from afar. In summer the 89 jets of The Goodwin Fountain shower children with streams of water as they run through. The fountain was dedicated to Sir Stuart and Lady Goodwin. Sir Stuart was the founder of Neepsend Ltd one of Sheffield's famous steel and tool making companies. In December the gardens are turned into a Christmas Market based on German versions selling crafts, gifts and of course Glühwein!
Another of the water features are the Holberry Cascades named after Samuel Holberry. In the 1830s the Chartist movement was growing in popularity with the passing of the Reform Act 1832. Holberry led a group of Chartists in Sheffield who had planned to take over the old Town Hall and other buildings as part of a 'Sheffield Rising'. The group was infiltrated by a Rotherham pub landlord who reported their plans to the police and Holberry was arrested and sentenced to four years imprisonment. He was transferred to York Jail where he died in 1842 of consumption aged just 27. He was later buried in Sheffield General Cemetery with over 50,000 attending his funeral. Some of the plinths are carved with fish and pond life. This is to represent the regeneration of the eight main rivers that run through Sheffield. The bronze water vessels are designed to show the importance of the river water as a means of power for the metal industries that dominated Sheffield for so long. The flowing water serves a dual symbol of flowing water and molten metal.

Surrounding the Peace Gardens are seven flower beds. There have been planted in order to provide interest throughout the four seasons. Plants have been sourced from around the world but obviously they still need to be able to deal with the great variations in temperature that occur in South Yorkshire. The eco-credentials are that no peat is used at all, all green waste is composted, chemical use is kept to a minimum and any timber is sourced from a sustainable source. Let's hope that the peace of these gardens remains for years to come.



  1. The waterscape design looks amazing. I love the balance between water and the blooms. I really wanted to know how the plants are striving in the weather thats different from their origin! #hdygg

  2. what a cool space! love the shot of all the flowers with the buildings in the background

  3. The fountain with the coloured steps is fantastic - the tiles remind me of Spain a little bit. Nice collection of plants and it's good that whatever time of year you visit, there will be something to see. Thumbs up on the peat and chemical use. Lovely!

  4. The cascade is amazing and what interesting history. Looks like a place to escape from the office for a while and enjoy some fresh air. I'll remember that there is a Christmas market there as I love going to different ones.

  5. Am I the only one who has never tried Glühwein ? I think I might be - I will rectify that this year, I know, I am so brave ;)

    Such fab green urban spaces, it's great when a council realizes the importance of the green spaces in their area, they make such a difference to the mental well being and fitness of so many people, not to mention the wildlife. I'm loving all the water features - quitte fancy running through the Goodwin fountain myself!
    I was driving through a town yesterday where all the roundabouts were full of wildflowers and it brought such a smile to my face.
    Thanks for sharing and joining in my Jibber Jabberz (getting a bit urban like those spaces)

  6. it's lovely to see a bit of nature in the middle of a city

  7. Love that cascade fountain and its pretty coloured tiles - looks a fab place to be #hdygg


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