The lost bandstands of Sheffield

According to Paul A. Rabbitts’ excellent book, ‘Bandstands: Pavilions for Music, Entertainment and Leisure’ (2018, Swindon, Historic England);

‘In 1833, the Select Committee for Public Walks was introduced so that “the provision of parks would lead to a better use of Sundays and the replacement of the debasing pleasures.” Being “the safest and surest method of popular culture,” music was seen as an important moral influence in this endeavour. And so, the bandstand was born.’

In Sheffield, several public spaces were fortunate to receive prestigious bandstands, however most are now long gone and beyond living memory; it is therefore perhaps worthwhile recording here their details.


Botanical Gardens:

On June 29th 1836, the Botanical Gardens was the first of the major parks within Sheffield to be opened to the public and now covers 19 acres.

The Sheffield Botanical and Horticultural Society was formed in 1833 and by 1834 had obtained £7,500 in funding (approx. £0.75m today). The money was raised selling shares, permitting the purchase of the south-facing farmland from the estate of local snuff manufacturer Joseph Wilson. When originally opened admission to the gardens was limited to shareholders and subscribers only.

A bandstand was purchased from the Coalbrookdale Iron Company in 1888 and erected in 1889. It was used by military bands on many occasions until after the Town Trust took over the management of the gardens. With few promenades or galas during WWI and the years immediately after, it fell out of use and was removed in 1929. Its former position on the main Broadwalk is marked by a circular widening of the pathway.

Also in the gardens are the Grade II* listed glass pavilions of special historic and architectural interest originally designed by Benjamin Broomhead Taylor and, after a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, restored, and officially reopened in 2007.


Weston Park:
Although the bandstand in Weston Park is not lost, it very nearly was, and, because of its relationship with the bandstand that was lost in Hillsborough Park, it is worth spending a little time recording its history.

Weston Park was developed from the grounds of Weston Hall, a grand house originally built in the early 1800’s by Mr Thomas Harrison. The city council bought the land in 1873 for £15,750 and employed Robert Marnock to create a public park. The park covers just over 5 hectares and was officially opened on Monday 6th September 1875. Weston Park is an important historic park and is Grade II registered on Historic England’s ‘Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.’

The Weston Park bandstand was originally designed in 1874 by Sheffield architects Flockton and Gibbs. However, it was not actually built until around 1900 and was paid for by the profits from the original Sheffield tram system.

The bandstand was made by James Allen & Sons of Glasgow at their Embank Foundry as one of a pair commissioned for Sheffield parks (the other in Hillsborough Park) and it is referred to in their catalogue as ‘model No.9 bandstand’.

The Grade II listed bandstand was fully restored in 2008 as part of a Heritage Lottery Funded park restoration project. Its design is unusual as it has sash windows which can be lowered into the basement section or left raised, which helps to project the sound in each direction or to shelter the musicians. The stained-glass panels were designed by children in the Sheffield Children’s Hospital, and made by Natasha Sorrell.


Endcliffe Park:

Endcliffe Park is about 2 miles west of Sheffield city centre. The park was opened in 1887 to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria and is a Grade II listed park and garden on the National Heritage List for England.

The park is the first in a series of green spaces, known collectively as the Porter Valley Parks. These parks are a sequence of municipal parks and green spaces, created in phases between 1885 and 1938, along the valley of the Porter Brook, incorporating Endcliffe Wood, laid out for public use by William Goldring, Bingham Park, Whiteley Woods, Forge Dam, and Porter Clough.

In 1924 Sir Leslie Patrick Abercrombie, architect, and town planner, said of the parks, “The Porter Brook Parkway, consisting as it does of a string of contiguous open spaces, is the finest example to be found in this country of a radial park strip, an elongated open space, leading from a built-up part of the city direct into the country, the land occupied being a river valley and so for the greater part unsuitable for building.”

The park features three monuments dedicated to Queen Victoria and there is also a memorial stone marking the 1944 crash site of the WWII USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft Mi Amigo.

The bandstand in Endcliffe Park was again originally erected around 1900 and made by James Allen & Sons of Glasgow. The bandstand was removed in 1957 and formerly stood just south of the main walk near to where the modern-day café is.


Firth Park:
The 36-acre park was a gift to the city from the Sheffield industrialist Mark Firth who had bought it in 1873. On 16th August 1875 Firth Park was officially opened by the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, the eldest son of Queen Victoria, and his wife Princess Alexandra.

The royal couple were the guests of Firth, staying at his mansion in the city. It was reported that the royal visitors arrived at Firth Park in a procession of forty carriages from Victoria station with the band of the Hallamshire Volunteer Rifle Corps playing the “Firth Park March”.

The park occupies two long, roughly rectangular areas, with a total area of 15.2 hectares (37.6 acres) separated by Firth Park Road and combines elements of the original pre-park landscape with modern day facilities. The Clock Tower pavilion is a Grade II listed building.

In its early days the park had a pavilion, lodge, bandstand, drinking fountain and ornamental lake with ducks. The park was very popular at this time with an estimated 1,000 people visiting daily in spring and summer and as many as 30,000 on Good Fridays.

As with many other Sheffield parks a bandstand made by James Allen & Sons of Glasgow was erected around 1900.

Until relatively recently, Whit Sings and musical concerts were held in the ornate Bandstand, and on summer evenings it would be lit by hundreds of lamps. The bandstand is thought to have been removed sometime in the late 1960s or early 70s. Recently the University of Sheffield’s Archaeology department excavated the site and found the Bandstand foundations still intact and old bottles and clay pipes once used by the crowds that gathered around it to listen to performances.

All above ground evidence of the bandstand has been removed; however, it was located just to the north of the Vivian Road entrance to the park.


Meersbrook Park:

The park was originally the grounds to Meersbrook Hall and was acquired by Sheffield council in 1886 and opened to the public on 14th September 1887 to provide ‘much needed breathing and recreational space in a rapidly expanding part of town.’ A typical Victorian municipal park, one of its main features was a broad promenade walk called ‘The Avenue’ where people could promenade in their Sunday best.  

Meersbrook Hall is a grand Grade II listed building and was until recently home to the Sheffield Council Parks Department offices. The Heeley Trust has taken over managing the space, in partnership with Friends of Meersbrook Hall, where it now hosts Sheffield Online and various community projects and events.

The bandstand in Meersbrook Park was originally erected around 1900 and was again made by James Allen & Sons of Glasgow. In its heyday the bandstand was used for numerous public meetings and to mark annual Whitsuntide celebrations. In the post-WWII period, following several years of neglect, the bandstand was finally demolished in 1958.

In 2018 a geophysical survey and trial dig was undertaken by Colin Merrony & Rebecca Hearne of the University of Sheffield archaeology department to investigate the location of the former Meersbrook Park bandstand, which is still evident as an area of level ground on the hillside not far to the west of the current children’s play area.


Hillsborough Park:

Hillsborough Park is located approximately 3 miles north west of the centre of Sheffield not far from the home of Sheffield Wednesday football club.

The park and its many listed buildings were originally used as a grand home belonging to the Steades family before being passed on to other local landowners. Eventually the land was divided up for auction and, in 1890, part of the site was bought by the Sheffield Corporation who paid £15,000 for 50 acres of parkland belonging to the Hillsborough Hall estate of J.W. Dixon junior to be used as a public park and as such was opened on 8th August 1892.

At that time the land lay outside the city boundary in the parish of Ecclesfield, but in 1901 boundary extensions brought the park within the city. Initial development work utilised unemployed labour and included enlarging the lake making it suitable for boating, erecting new boundary walls and public toilets as well as carrying out extensive drainage work. An impressive domed, circular bandstand was built just above the lake, where open air concerts were given.

The bandstand in Hillsborough Park, located just west of the lake, was an exact twin of that in Weston Park and was originally erected around 1900 and again made by James Allen & Sons at their Embank Foundry in Glasgow.

The bandstand stood until the 1950s when it was demolished. There is no visible above ground evidence that there was ever a bandstand in Hillsborough Park.


High Hazels Park:

One of Sheffield’s lesser-known parks, High Hazels opened on 6th August 1895 and is in Darnall, in the East of Sheffield, and was once regarded as one of the largest and finest parks in Sheffield.

The Jeffcock family moved into the area around 1814. John Jeffcock was head of the family, and made his name in the coal industry. The family resided in High Hazels for around fifty years. It was William Jeffcock, John’s son, who built the impressive House that is still evident in the park today. Born in the Handsworth area of Sheffield in April 1800, William Jeffcock, became the first Mayor of Sheffield in 1843.

In 1894 the High Hazels estate, comprising 47 acres and several buildings, was purchased by the City of Sheffield for £10,875 and held in trust. It is thought that the Victorian landscape architect, Robert Marnock was involved in the original layout of the grounds. Maps dated during the 1890s show a large lake and meandering paths, including the once very popular circular walk, which are all thought to be typical of Marnock’s Gardenesque approach.

High Hazels Park was often the centre for large social gatherings, May Day Labour demonstrations, annual Easter Parades and the very popular Whitsunday Walks organised by the Sunday School Union.

High Hazels Park once boasted two bandstands. The first opened in around 1906 and the second, and largest of these, opened in 1932 and included electrical lighting and changing rooms and was big enough to accommodate military bands. Families regularly enjoyed public meetings and many concerts in the park.

There is no longer any evidence of either of the former bandstands at High Hazels Park, however, the traditional circular bandstand was located to the west of the main house in the location of the more recent basketball court.


The Moor:

The last and most recent addition to the lost bandstands of Sheffield, was also the most short-lived. A Planning application for a ‘Bandstand structure for entertainment, information, and promotion purposes’ on ‘The Moor Precinct’ was first submitted to the Local Council in January 1982, interestingly it took a whole year for the application to be assessed and it was conditionally granted in December 1982.

The bandstand was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield on 23rd April 1983, and the first band to play there was the City of Sheffield Schools Brass Band.

The bandstand was used intermittently over the following years, not only by brass bands, but for all manner of ‘entertainment, information, and promotion purposes’.

In late 2000 a new planning application was submitted to the local authority for ‘Use of bandstand as a café’. After some amendment to the original application, planning permission was conditionally granted in February 2001. The Moor bandstand facility then disappeared.

Recent redevelopment work on The Moor has erased all evidence of this the most transitory of the lost bandstands of Sheffield.


If you would like to see more images of the lost bandstands of Sheffield, a good place to start is the Sheffield City Council’s Archive and Local Studies Library website from where many of the photographs in the above article are sourced. These images are used here in a non-commercial research capacity, and are duly acknowledged as such.

The header image on this page depicts the lost bandstand formerly in Hillsborough Park.