A load of bollards

As you head in towards Kelham Island Museum from Alma Street you pass a set of 25 bollards along the side of the road. These were installed in this location around nine years ago when Kelham Riverside apartments were built and the streetscape was tidied up. But the bollards have been around much longer than that having been moved to this location. But when you look at these bollards you’ll see there’s two different types and so where did they come from?

First the easy ones, as I remember these in their original location…

Kelham Island bollards

Bollard on Kelham Island designed to commemorate the World Student Games. Photo credit: © Anders Hanson (CC-BY-SA/4.0)

In 1991 Sheffield hosted the World Student Games, a brilliant event that brought 3,346 athletes from 101 different countries that brought the city to life for eleven days, gave it some top class sports facilities, but also saddled the council with £658 million of debt. I won’t go in to the politics of it, but as part of getting the city ready for the event the council turned Tudor Street and Tudor Way, along with a pay and display car park, in to what is now Tudor Square. This also involved installing the bollards which you can see in the foreground of this picture of the cultural festival that accompanied the games. When Tudor Square was refurbished in 2010 to coincide with the renovation of the Crucible Theatre they needed a new home and that was how they ended up in Kelham Island. Although simple in design the bollards are of two types – one incorporates the city coat of arms and the other (as above) has the 91 logo that was used for the World Student Games as a reminder of when they were held in Sheffield.

Now for the more difficult one. I say one, but actually there’s two slightly different designs as you can see below.

Kelham Island bollards

Bollards on Kelham Island from approx 1875. Photo credit: © Anders Hanson (CC-BY-SA/4.0)

Finding the definitive background to these has proved slightly elusive however there is a clue in that they aren’t the only ones in the city. If you venture on to the backstreets near Bramall Lane football ground you’ll find the Edmund Road Drill Hall and in front of it is an identical set of bollards just without the white paint.

Bollards by Edmund Road Drill Hall, Sheffield

Grade II listed bollards by Edmund Road Drill Hall, Sheffield. Photo credit: © Warofdreams https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Warofdreams (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Helpfully the bollards on Edmund Road are also grade II listed and their official listing tells us that they are cast iron and they date from 1878. And whilst it also mentions the HN monogram and coronet it offers no clue as to what that means. However I then stumbled on a discussion on the online Sheffield History forum about the very same bollards and someone decided to contact the council who provided the following information:

The bollards were donated by Henry Fitzalan-Howard, the 15th Duke of Norfolk and first Lord Mayor of Sheffield. His statue is in the Town Hall. He was born in 1847, succeeded to the title in 1886 and died in 1917. The HN on the bollards are the monogram of Henry Norfolk. These were originally mainly in the Park Hill area but when that area was redeveloped they were saved and either reused around Park Hill and Norfolk Park or redeployed in the city centre.

Whilst that information isn’t quite right, he became Duke of Norfolk in 1860 not 1886, it does provide a plausible explanation. But it doesn’t explain why some of them have an added C incorporated in to the monogram. Using his biography there are some possible explanations behind the bollards. If the date is wrong then he could have provided them to commemorate his time as Mayor and then Lord Mayor of Sheffield from 1895-7 during which time he arranged the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee which might explain the coronet. But there’s no national events in 1878 that explains how they came about and why some have the C. He did however marry his first wife in 1877, the year before, which could provide an explanation that these were part of him sharing this happy event with the people of Sheffield where he was one of its biggest landowners and philanthropists. I had wondered if his wife may have the initial C but sadly as Lady Flora Hastings she didn’t. So the mystery continues.

If you can help explain why he provided the bollards, and what the significance is of the two designs then do get in touch.

Where Kelham Island started

The first two questions that anyone will usually ask about Kelham Island are, is it really an island and why is it called Kelham? Well in brief. Yes it really is an island, albeit less than it once was. And Kelham is actually the corruption of the first name of one of its earliest industrialists Kellam Homer.

Kelham Island is around 800 years old and is entirely man made. In around 1180, nine years before Richard the Lionheart would be crowned king and 10 years after the assassination of Thomas à Becket, a millrace was dug to take water from the River Don to turn the water wheel that powered Sheffield Town Mill which stood roughly where Irwin Mitchell’s HQ is now on Millsands. The water at that time rejoined the river just by Lady’s Bridge. Apart from the odd cottage, all the surrounding area at that time was fields and market gardens. It is said by some that the mill race, or the goit as it’s known in northern English, is one of the few Norman mill races in the country and therefore amongst the oldest in the whole of England.

In 1604, the year after James VI of Scotland united the crowns of England and Scotland becoming James I of England, and the year before the Gunpowder Plot, Sheffield had a town armourer called Kellam Homer. His job was to keep Sheffield supplied with the armour needed to protect its inhabitants from potential hostile forces. By this time though Sheffield’s reputation as an important centre of cutlery [1] manufacturing had long been sealed. As early as the late 14th century, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales mentions Sheffield made knives, and by 1604 the town was already the biggest producer of of cutlery outside of London. Kellam Homer took advantage of this and leased a mill which was built straddling the goit upstream of the Town Mill, and by 1664 its tenant was Kellam’s son Kenhelm Homer. By 1674 maps show that this mill had become known as Kellam Wheel.

When exactly Kellam or Kelham was applied to the island as well as the mill is unknown, but by the early 19th century the name was in use on maps in the current spelling. This was also a time when Kelham Island was beginning to change completely as between 1820 and 1840 it went from being open countryside to a densely packed area of mills, factories and houses.

Kelham Island in 1850-51

Kelham Island in 1850/51. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland https://maps.nls.uk/index.html

With the area becoming increasingly crowded, Sheffield’s population trebling in just 60 years, and small works turning in to major factories, the Sheffield Corporation (the predecessor of Sheffield City Council) decided to build two brand new roads – Corporation Street and Alma Street. In 1853 these two new roads were complete. Corporation Street proved the first road bridge over the goit, and Alma Street led to the culverting of the goit. From 1853 onwards the water continued to flow but this time underground from what is now the Kelham Island Brewery Shop, underneath Alma Street, before rejoining the river. Eventually Kelham Wheel itself became subsumed within the Britannia Mills, a corn mill built on the same site.

Kelham Island in 1888-91

Kelham Island in 1888-91. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland https://maps.nls.uk/index.html

Although Kelham Island remains an island, of sorts, its name has, since the property boom of the early 2000s, been applied to an area that extends well beyond its origins [2]. Kelham Island area is now generally considered to be bounded by the River Don, Corporation Steeet, Shalesmoor, Penistone Road and Rutland Road. But its name can also be found in Neepsend across the river and along Gibraltar Street, neither of which are Kelham Island as it’s considered to be by local residents.

But despite all these changes the location of Kellam Homer’s mill can still be identified from the stones that supported Britannia Mills in the goit behind the Kelham Island Brewery. And if you stand on the bank of the River Don on the riverside walkway recently named Estelí Parade, just opposite the Harlequin Pub, you’ll see and hear below you a trickle of running water. This running water is the waters of the goit rejoining the River Don, albeit now making the island smaller than it was when it was first created.

Kelham Goit

Kelham Goit, with the stones that supported the Britannia Mill (successor to Kelham Wheel) in the foreground. Photo credit: © M J Richardson (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Notes

[1] The word ‘cutlery’ is used here (and throughout this website) in its original meaning referring to anything that can be used to cut something. So not only is it knives, forks and spoons used for eating, but any form of knife as well as scythes, sickles, scissors and razors, for example.

[2] See this Google Map for an explanation of the various boundaries of Kelham Island.

Useful sources

Ball, Christine, Crossley, David and Flavell, Neville. Water Power on the Sheffield Rivers. South Yorkshire Industrial Heritage Society 2006

Kelham Island History and Buildings, Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust. Retrieved 26 Feburary 2019

Smithurst, Peter G. Sheffield Industrial Museum Kelham Island, A Guide to Sheffield’s Industrial History, Sheffield City Museum 1983