Quiet Flows the Don - 250 Years of Sheffield Steel

Geoffrey Tweedale on Sheffield's history of steelmaking.

This town of Sheffield is very populous and large, the streets narrow, and the houses dark and black, occasioned by the continual smoke of the forges, which are always at work.

Thus wrote Daniel Defoe in his Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-26). Sheffield has changed much since then. It is still populous and large, some of the streets are narrow, and a few houses are dark and black. But a tourist visiting Sheffield in 1995, some 250 years after the arrival of steelmaking in the city, would find that its busy forges have almost disappeared, the air is clear and smoke-less (notwithstanding car pollution), and the evidence of manual, large- scale industry is largely absent. In fact, the urban landscape with its motorways, shopping precincts and high-rise flats looks much the same as any other English metropolis and hardly suggests that Sheffield was once 'Steel City'.

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