TitleSheffield City Council: Place - Parks and Countryside
AdminHistoryThe need for public parks in Sheffield was highlighted by James Smith in his Report on the conditions of the Town of Sheffield for the Royal Commission on Health of Towns in 1842: ‘There are no public gardens or open space of any extent for the people to walk and enjoy themselves in’. The need to provide space for recreation in urban areas had been recognised but the only formal provision in Sheffield was the Botanical Gardens, owned by a private company and only open to subscribers except on a few days each year.

In 1841 the Duke of Norfolk proposed laying out part of the former Sheffield Park to provide recreational space for the working classes. Norfolk Park opened in 1848 and although it remained in private ownership until 1909, the public was allowed access at all times. It was one of the earliest public parks in the country.

The involvement of Local Authorities began with the 1860 Public Improvements Act which permitted the levy of a rate to pay for the maintenance of open spaces. The Town Council purchased the Weston Hall estate in 1873 and Robert Marnock was commissioned to design the new park. Weston Park became Sheffield’s first municipal park.

The creation of parks was a matter of great civic pride and in 1897 the City Council’s General Purposes and Parks Committee recorded its achievements in a book, 'Plans and descriptions of parks and recreation grounds', which detailed 6 major parks – Endcliffe Woods, Firth Park, High Hazels Park, Hillsborough Park, Meersbrook Park and Weston Park - and a number of smaller recreation grounds in built-up areas. (Copies available at: Sheffield Local Studies Library: 352.7 SQ; Sheffield Archives: MD7339).

Parks continued to be acquired through donation and purchase, including Norfolk Park gifted to the city by the Duke of Norfolk, and the Town Trustees took over the Botanical Gardens and opened them to the public. This period also saw the further development of sports and recreational facilities. Sports pitches, boating lakes and refreshment pavilions were supplemented by bowling greens and tennis courts, Sheffield’s first municipal golf course and a bathing pool in the Rivelin Valley. Music was also popular and bandstands were provided in the major parks. Parks also became the venue for large public events.

In 1924 Professor Patrick Abercrombie published his report, 'Sheffield: a civic survey and suggestions towards a development plan', which called for a doubling of the acreage of Sheffield’s open spaces. Thanks largely to the generosity of J.G. Graves, the famous Round Walk was completed and Graves and Concord Parks were opened. Smaller gardens such as the City Hall Gardens and Beauchief Gardens were also created and a number of playgrounds opened in built up areas. During the Second World War the Parks Department’s Holidays at Home programme, intended to encourage people to spend leisure time close to home, was one of the most successful in the country and it was estimated that use of the parks doubled during the war.

The post-war years saw the opening of Whirlow Brook Park, contributions to the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the transition of the wartime Food Production Show into the Sheffield Show. However there was also the beginning of a gradual decline in the use of parks as changes in the use of leisure time and greater mobility took effect. Some developments such as the Millhouses Lido attempted to cater for new demands but other facilities were lost and financial pressures would later lead to reduced maintenance and security, vandalism and little encouragement for people to use the parks.

The emergence of voluntary ‘friends’ groups has been a key factor in reversing the decline and external grants have been obtained to help restore some of the historic parks such as the Botanical Gardens and Norfolk Park. In the city centre the Peace Gardens were remodelled and the Winter Garden created as part of the Heart of the City Project.

These records came from the Parks and Countryside Department, Sheffield City Council (formerly based at Meersbrook Park House) and were transferred in 2015 and 2016.
The management of Sheffield's public parks: Committees

The Town Council acquired Sheffield's first public park in 1873 and in November 1873 maintenance of Weston Park was added to the responsibilities of the General Purposes Committee, renamed the General Purposes and Parks Committee. As other parks were acquired a number of Sub-Committees were also set up with particular responsibilities. The Parks and Burial Grounds Committee was created in 1919 and in 1968 it was replaced by the Recreation Committee, later becoming the Recreation and Amenities Committee and the Recreation Programme Committee. In 1986 the Leisure Services Committee was formed with a number of sub-committees including a Recreation Sub-Committee.

See 'related material' for a list of Committee minutes available at Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library.
DescriptionRecords of minutes, 1900 - 1990 (CA981/1)
National insurance records and wages books, 1916 - 1958 (CA981/2)
Maps and plans, [1920s] - 1970 (CA981/3)
Allotment plans, 1903 - 2011 (CA981/4)
Architectural plan, [20th cent] (CA981/5)
Photographs, 1941 - 1994 (CA981/6)
Films (16mm), [20th cent] (CA981/7)
Miscellaneous (flyers, projects, articles etc.), [1990] - 2005 (CA981/8)

Other records (unlisted) Acc.2016/60:

Agendas, minutes and reports, 1970-2010:

Leisure Gardens Advisory Committee, 1970-1982 [Box 1]
Leisure Gardens Working Party, 1982-1998 [Box 6]
Allotment Advisory Group, 1996-2010 [Boxes 2 & 3]
SCC Tourism, Major Events & Facilities Sub-Committee, 1992-1995 [Box 1]

Miscellaneous office files, including agendas, minutes (some copies), action notes, allotment inspections (itineraries), reports and correspondence, 1942-2005:
Various, including Leisure Gardens Advisory Committee, Leisure Gardens Working Party, SCC committees and sub-committees (Allotments Sub, Recreation, Recreation and Amenities, Parks), Growing Together Project Steering Group. [Boxes 4-6]
Date1900 - 2001
Extent133 items
RelatedMaterialCommitte minutes:

Sheffield City Council (and predecessor). Minutes of Council and Committees. 1843-2010 (Sheffield Archives: CA-COU)
Signed copies of the minutes.

Sheffield City Council. General Purposes (later General Purposes and Parks, later Parks and Burial Grounds) Committee. Signed and draft minutes and reports. 1843-1968 (Sheffield Archives: CA-GPP. Restricted)

Sheffield City Council. Recreation Grounds Committee. 1879-1881
(Sheffield Archives: CA-VAC/50)
Appointed 13 August 1879 'to ascertain if eligible sites could be procured for the purpose of recreation grounds within St. George's, St. Phillip's, Nether Hallam and Ecclesall wards.

Sheffield City Council. General Purposes (later General Purposes and Parks, later Parks and Burial Grounds) Committee. Sub-Committee signed minutes. 1896-1901 (Sheffield Archives: CA-GPP/4/1)
Sub-Committees: Bands, Weston Park, Audit, Meersbrook Park, Crookesmoor, Endcliffe Woods, High Hazels Park, Hillsborough Park and Wages.

Sheffield City Council. General Purposes and Parks Committee. Sub-Committees. Nov 1901 - Sep 1914 (Sheffield Archives: CA-VAC/70)

Sheffield City Council. General Purposes (later General Purposes and Parks, later Parks and Burial Grounds) Committee. Sub-Committee minutes and reports, 1909-1913 (Sheffield Archives: CA-GPP/3)

Sheffield City Council. Recreation Committee. Signed and draft minutes and papers. 1968-1987 (Sheffield Archives: CA-REC. Draft minutes are restricted)

Sheffield City Council. Leisure Services (later Leisure and Tourism Services Programme) Committee. Minutes and papers. 1987-1998
(Sheffield Archives: CA-LER)

Sheffield City Council. Endcliffe Woods and Meersbrook Park Committee. 1885-1886 (Sheffield Archives: CA-VAC/27)
The Committee was appointed on 14 Jan 1885 to consider the desirability of their purchase by the council.

Sheffield City Council. Committee as to the Proposed Purchase of Hillsborough Park. 1890 (Sheffield Archives: CA-VAC/16)

Sheffield City Council. High Hazels Park Committee. 1890-1894 (Sheffield Archives: CA-VAC/32)

For a full list of sources at Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library relating to public parks and gardens in Sheffield see:

Libraries, Archives and Information (compiled by Doug Hindmarch), Sources for the Study of Public Parks and Gardens, 2014 (available online:
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