Outside of Sheffield station, Sheaf Square was an impressive glimpse into the city’s creative innovation. A curved steel wall of cascading water and a staggering water fountain ran alongside a series of low-lying stairs. The two paths led into Sheffield Hallam university campus, where an uplifting poem by poet laureate Andrew Motion beckoned us to delve further into the city.
Past the campus site was the Millennium Gallery. An art house funded by local organisations and donations, the gallery showcased the works of local and international artists, both contemporary and modern pieces. ‘Hope is Strong’ is a collection of work by renowned international artists such as Ai Weiwei and Mona Hatoum. Reframing our perception of various socio-political landscapes, the exhibition made viewers question the world they live in. After exploring the Metalworks Gallery, Conroy / Sanderson exhibition, and The Ruskin Collection, we continued into the adjoining garden space connecting the gallery to the downtown area. The Winter Garden, fitted with over 2,500 plants from around the world, holds the honour of being one of the largest temperate glasshouses built in the UK in the last hundred years.
Through the warm oasis ironically named the Winter Garden lay the Peace Gardens. A semi-circle focused around a floor-based water fountain and the gothic architecture of Sheffield Town Hall, narrow fountains spouted water along the staircases leading into the green space. Pristine benches and lush, trimmed lawns provided visitors with ample seating in a quiet corner of the city.
Admiring the mixture of French and Gothic influences on the city buildings, the grey sky illuminated the finer details of the cityscape. Off a side street to the right of Fargate lies the Cathedral Church of St Marie. As the church was closed, I admired the fine details of its exterior and its stained-glass windows. Across from the quaint church lay a rustic-themed café deli. Marmaduke’s, serving deli sandwiches and elegantly prepared desserts, was the prefect level of crowded, with the pleasant din of conversation and two or three tables available for the curious passerby’s drawn in by its charming aesthetic.
Ordering a Marmadukes burger and a very berry tea, the complex burger and the simple tea were a perfect match. The rich beef patty, paired with an avocado, caramelized onion relish, sriracha, beef tomato, and cheese, was sandwiched in a brioche bun. The fresh bun was sprinkled with paprika, enhancing its flavor palette. Hand-cut chips were fresh and uniform. My friend ordered the club sandwich, absolutely adoring the moist texture of the chicken and tomato and how it fitted with the bacon and garlic mayo. We finished the meal with delicious desserts. Sharing a slice of cheesecake and a passionfruit tart, the cheesecake was soft and decadent, the tanginess of the tart harmonizing with the meringue on top.
After the delicious and filling meal, we moseyed through the wide streets, finding our way to independent bookshop Biblioteka. Selling unique novels, photography magazines, local zines, and minimalist stationary, the store doubles as a print shop. Fun cookbooks and travel pieces lined the back wall, intriguing images on the front covers of the photography magazines captivating your attention. If I could’ve, I would have bought it all. Settling for a vintage French chalkboard, we headed out and made our way to Sheffield Cathedral.
Built between 1675 and 1710, Sheffield Cathedral was the highest point of the city for 1,400 years. A number of chapels reside within the cathedral; including Shrewsbury Chapel, St. George’s Chapel, and The Chapel of the Holy Saints. The last two commemorate the lives lost in both World Wars, simultaneously a prayer space and a respectful memorial. – a prayer space, created in 1758, dedicated to the memory of all ranks of the York and Lancaster Regiment. Intricate stained glass windows illuminate the halls in a soft light. Everyone smiles at each other and gives a small nod before returning to their own private admiration of the architecture. Surrounded by the beauty that faith can create, I couldn’t help but smile.
Having too much fun enjoying ourselves, we had to race back to the railway station to catch our train. The city streamed past us in a blur of colours. Laughing, we later agreed that it was a successful day out.