The steel city of Sheffield is a metropolitan borough in South Yorkshire, England and so called because of its origins in a field on the River Sheaf that wends its way through the city. Historically, Sheffield was a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, however, the city has since grown from its largely industrial roots to encompass a wide economic base. The population of the City of Sheffield was approximately 525,800 in 2006 and is one of the eight largest English cities outside London which form the English Core Cities Group. The wider Sheffield Urban Area which extends beyond the city proper has a population of 640,720.
From the mid19th century, Sheffield grew rapidly to become the foremost steel manufacturing centre in the world, with most of the great steel mills and factories based in the lower Don Valley. The development of alloy steels and the invention of stainless steel in 1913 gave an immediate boost to the cutlery industry along with the wide range of products still being manufactured in the city. The expansion of the British Empire and two world wars ensured increased prosperity during this time, however, the amalgamation of firms after WWII were subsequently swept away in the 1960's and 70's by the introduction of new technology and changing markets. Even so, Sheffield today produces more steel than ever, but in a cleaner environment and with only a fraction of the workforce. Avesta, Sheffield's Shepcote Lane factory, has a capacity to produce more than 500,000 tonnes of stainless steel per year and is the largest supplier of high quality, hot rolled stainless steel throughout Europe and North America.
Although Sheffield is renowned world-wide for its production of high quality cutlery, knives and small tools, these are not the only products for which the city is famous. In Sharrow, a mile or so west of the city centre, Wison's Snuff Mills, established in the 18th century, still uses water power to produce a variety of powdered tobacco snuffs to closely guarded family recipes. Across the city to the north, founded by George Bassett in 1842, Trebor Bassett still make their world-famous Liquorice Allsorts. At the end of WWI the same company launched a new product to celebrate the occasion, 'Peace Babies' later to become known as Jelly Babies.
Sheffield has a long and esteemed history of education. Records show that boys were being taught by the monks of Beauchief Abbey as long ago as 1490. The University of Sheffield was established in 1905 and today has one of the largest student populations in the country. Although Sheffield Hallam University was only accorded university status in 1992, the Technology and Art Colleges on which it was founded date back to 1843. Sheffield's status of National City of Sport is well founded. Sheffield FC, an amateur club founded in 1857, is the world's oldest football club whilst nearby neighbours, Hallam FC, have the world's oldest ground, Sandygate. Plus, the first ever floodlit soccer match was played at Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United, in 1878.
Sheffield has an estimated total of over two million trees, which amounts to more trees per person than any other city in Europe. It has over 170 woodlands covering almost 11 square miles, 78 public parks and 10 public gardens. Sheffield also has an extremely wide variety of habitat, comparing favourably with any city in the United Kingdom, be it urban, parkland and woodland, agricultural and arable land, moors, meadows and freshwater-based habitats. Large parts of the city are now designated as sites of special scientific interest which includes several urban areas.
Sheffield is on the Trans-Pennine Trail, a National Cycle Network route running from Southport in the north-west to Hornsea in the East Riding, with a developing Strategic Cycle Network within the city. The Peak District National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty and is popular with both on and off-road cyclists. Being so close to Sheffield, part of the park lies within the city boundary, with green routes into the park more or less from the city centre.
Sheffield is also a major retail centre and home to many High Street department stores and designer boutiques. The main city centre shopping areas are on The Moor precinct, Fargate, Orchard Square and the Devonshire Quarter. Department stores in Sheffield city centre include John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Atkinsons, Castle House Co-op, Debenhams and Woolworths. The main market is Castle Market which is built above the remains of Sheffield Castle. Shopping areas outside the city centre include the Meadowhall Shopping Centre and Retail Park, Ecclesall Road, London Road, Hillsborough and the Crystal Peaks Shopping Centre.
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