It’s no accident that the main road through Attercliffe, the industrial east end of Sheffield, is called Attercliffe Common.
Until 1811 it was indeed agricultural common land, where the highwayman Spence Broughton was gibbeted in 1792 near to the scene of his crime. His name and the location are commemorated in nearby Broughton Lane.
After the enclosure the salubrious country homes and villas of the valley were overrun by steelworks and housing, so that only their names survive in the street-plan – Attercliffe Old and New Halls, Woodbourn Hall and Chippingham House, though part of the Jacobean Carbrook Hall, with its original panelling, plaster ceilings and ghost, survived and still survives as a public house.
Of similar age to Carbrook Hall is another unlikely survival, Hill Top Chapel, a simple Gothic-survival building of 1629, built ostensibly because the journey to Sheffield parish church, now the Cathedral, was said to be impossible in winter.
It was built by subscription, with contributions from William Spencer of Attercliffe Hall and Stephen Bright (1583-1642) of Carbrook Hall. His younger brother Rev John Bright (1594/5-1643) was vicar of Sheffield from 1635 until the year of his death. Both of them, like most influential people in Sheffield, were Puritans.
Stephen Bright’s son, John (1619-1688), was an important figure supporting Parliament in the Civil Wars, and politically astute enough to be awarded a baronetcy at the Restoration. He retired to Badsworth, near Wakefield.
The Brights’ puritan influence remained in Attercliffe, where a dissenting academy was founded in 1686.
The steelmaker Benjamin Huntsman was buried in the Hill Top graveyard in 1776.
The Hill Top Chapel remained the only Anglican place of worship between Sheffield and Rotherham until a new parish church, Christ Church, Attercliffe, was consecrated in 1826.
By the 1840s the chapel served only for funerals in the surrounding graveyard.
After Attercliffe Cemetery opened in 1859 alongside Christ Church, even that function declined, yet the chapel and the graveyard survived amid the grimy industrial works and densely packed streets of terraced housing.
The structure was reduced and substantially rebuilt by John Dodsley Webster in 1909.
The exterior featured in the music video of ‘Sensoria’, by the Sheffield group Cabaret Voltaire – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2vCpT1H7u0 – made in 1984, an interesting moment of change in the landscape of the Lower Don Valley.
In the late 1990s Hill Top Chapel accommodated an offshoot of the Nine o’Clock Service [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/nine-oclock-church-relaunches-services-1303804.html], which was witnessed by a bemused mystery worshipper from the Ship of Fools website: http://shipoffools.com/mystery/1998/026Mystery.html.
The building is now used, appropriately, by a Presbyterian congregation that proudly recalls the building’s Puritan heritage: http://sheffieldpres.org.uk/about-us/hill-top-chapel.
The Sheffield’s Heritage (October 2nd-6th 2017) tour includes a visit to the former industrial East End of Sheffield. For details, please click here.