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   Sheffield in the 19th Century


In 1801. at the time of the first census Sheffield had a population of over 31,000. By the standards of the time it was a large town. By 1851 it had grown to over 135,000. Like all Victorians towns Sheffield was dirty and unsanitary. However even for the time Sheffield had a reputation as a grimy and dirty town (not surprising considering its heavy industries). In 1832 there was an outbreak of cholera which killed 402 people.

However not all the houses in Sheffield were slums. In the early 19th century a middle class suburb was built west ot the town around Glossop Road.

In the working class areas the worst houses were back-to-backs. These houses were literally joined back to back without even an alley between them. In 1864 the authorities forbade the building on many more such houses. However those that had already been built remained.

There were, nevertheless some improvements in Sheffield during the 19th century. In 1818 an Act of Parliament formed a body of men called the Improvement Commissioners powers to pave and clean the streets. They also formed a police force. From 1818 the streets of Sheffield were lit by gas.

The first cemetery opened in 1836. In 1830 a corn exchange where grain could be bought and sold was opened (it was later rebuilt).

In 1832 a dispensary opened where the poor could obtain free medicines. The present Cutlers Hall was built in 1832. In 1836 the Botanical Gardens opened. At first they were privately owned but the council purchased them in 1898.

In 1843 Sheffield was given a charter (a document giving the townspeople certain rights). From then on Sheffield had an elected town council, which gradually took over the powers of the old Improvement Commissioners. Sheffield was made a city in 1893. The Town Hall was built in 1897.  Ruskin Gallery was founded in 1875. Mappin Art gallery opened in 1887.

In the early 19th Century the old industries like iron continued to boom. In 1856 Thomas Bessemer invented a way of producing better quality steel. In 1858 he began producing steel in Sheffield. Button making flourished. However in 1840 a way was found to make silver plate by electroplating replacing the old Sheffield plate. Cutlery continued to be the dominant industry in Sheffield.



 19th Century Sheffield

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