Norfolk Heritage Trail

City Centre

Norfolk Heritage Park, Guildford Avenue, S2 2PL

Starting uphill from Sheffield station, the trail takes in the cholera monument, the Park Hill flats, and the pigeons up at Skye Edge.

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Norfolk Heritage Trail

Norfolk Park is the city’s best-kept residential secret. On the hillside overlooking the city centre above Sheffield station you’ll find faded but still glorious early-Victorian mansions and elegant stone houses, just a stone’s throw from rolling green parkland and quiet woods. Part of Norfolk Park’s secretive charm is its ability to surprise – here, historical gems rub shoulders with boarded-up pubs and ailing 20th century housing experiments.

Luckily, for the inquisitive, Norfolk Park comes complete with its own Heritage Trail, a linear route that takes in the most interesting bits of the area before leading on to Sheffield Cathedral. It’s best adapted to a short or a long loop, depending on whether you have a train to catch.  

The railway station is the logical place to start. Head for the tram stop at the rear and on the skyline above you’ll see the much talked-about Park Hill flats. The trail will take you from the landscaped amphitheatre behind the station to the Cholera Monument beyond, from where you’ll be rewarded with an exceptional view of the city centre.  Sheffield’s answer to Cleopatra’s Needle, this handsome pinnacle was erected in 1835 to commemorate the 402 unfortunate victims of a cholera epidemic, buried in a mass grave nearby.

A short stroll through charming Clay Wood will take you almost to the gates of the park that gives the area its name: Norfolk Heritage Park. Sheffield’s first public park (and one of the oldest in the country) was reclaimed from scarred industrial land by local big cheese the Duke of Norfolk and opened to help clear the lungs of Sheffield’s workforce in 1848. Easy to miss, the nicest part of the park is Jervis Lum – a wooded ravine and haven for wildlife that has lain quietly undisturbed for hundreds of years, oblivious to the city that sprouted up around it.

Intrepid explorers will now forge on up the steep hillside above Norfolk Park in search of Sheffield’s most incongruous ruin, Manor Lodge. Built around 1516, the Lodge was once at the heart of a huge deer park, and played host to a famous prisoner in the form of Mary Queen of Scots. The sprawling housing estate next door takes the shine off the historical romance, but the ruins of the Lodge are well worth a visit, as is the small visitor centre run by local regeneration heroes Green Estate

From here another deviation from the official trail takes you on to Skye Edge. Once a gathering place for would-be Chartist revolutionaries, and a century later the site of an illicit gambling ring that sparked Sheffield’s deadly gang wars, the Edge is now mostly frequented by dog-walkers and bored teenagers. But catch it on a sunny day and you’ll be amazed by flocks of homing pigeons as their fanciers train them above the allotments, and by the view for miles around – stretching from the distant purple hills of the Peak District, to the industrial heartland of the Don Valley beneath the Edge.

From the Edge it’s not far back down to Park Hill and the station. The ‘scenic’ return route, not shown on the trail, takes in a true Sheffield survivor in the form of St John’s Church. This mid-nineteenth century relic was once on the edge of the city, surrounded by fields, but the ornate gravestones in the churchyard now lie in the long shadow of Hyde Park flats, Park Hill’s less well-known but equally vast neighbour.

Heading beneath Park Hill back to the station, you’ll pass through the pleasantly re-landscaped hillside now known as the Sheaf Valley Park. Between patches of grass you’ll find sturdily cobbled paths, the ghosts of streets once packed with slum housing in a neighbourhood dubbed Little Chicago in honour of its thriving criminality. Which just goes to show that, in Norfolk Park, the diamonds have always shone amongst the rough.

Cholera Monument illustration by Alys at Eleven. Taken from our illustrated Sheffield Alphabet, which takes you on a tour of the city from A-Z, via J for Jarvis and T for Trams. In this case, N is for Norfolk Park.  

Written by Eric Hildrew; June 13, 2014
Illustration by Alys Mordecai.