Ponds Forge

Ponds Forge, Sheffield (1978)

Ponds Forge, Sheffield (1978)

Ponds Forge” for most people who know Sheffield nowadays means the huge swimming and sports complex that was built in 1991 as part of the city’s investment in the World Student Games, a one-off event to which Sheffield council-tax payers continue to contribute.

Names often indicate hidden history.

Underneath the sports centre runs the River Sheaf in a culvert:  whether or not the river was named after the sheaves of corn harvested by its banks, it certainly gave its name to the city of Sheffield, and the sheaves duly appear on the municipal coat of arms.

North of the site stands the 1960s Castle Market, which was refused listing as a building of historic and architectural interest and has disappeared, once again uncovering the vestigial remains of the medieval Sheffield Castle, which was destroyed after the Civil War.

Ponds Forge, and the adjacent Pond Street which gave its name to the central bus station, took the name from the ponds which provided a supply of fish for the castle and, presumably, the town in the Middle Ages.

In the days when Sheffield industry made things, Ponds Forge belonged to George Senior & Sons, and the adjacent Ponds Works was owned by a toolmaker, Marsh Brothers.  By the 1970s, these businesses had ceased, and Ponds Forge was for a number of years an architectural antiques repository, from which friends of mine bought the doors of a defunct local cinema.

When the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre was erected, to the designs of Faulkner Browns, who also built Center Parcs, Nottinghamshire (1987) and the Doncaster Dome Leisure Centre (1989), George Senior’s pedimented and pilastered gateway was carefully re-erected round the corner, scrubbed to within an inch of its life.

By these means, tenuous connections survive of a history that deserves not to be forgotten.

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