St Vincent's Church, Sheffield
Irish emigration to Sheffield
As a result of the Irish Potato Famine between the years of 1845 and 1849 many emigrants left Ireland to try to find a better life in England. The developing cutlery and tool industries of Sheffield attracted many of these Irish emigrants and they settled in "The Crofts" area of the town. The Crofts was centred on Solly Street (then called Pea Croft) and at that time was the centre of the Sheffield steel, cutlery and filemaking industries. It was an area of working class tenements and back to back housing interspersed with iron and steel works and small workshops making cutlery and hand tools.
Founding of St Vincent’s
The majority of the Irish emigrants in The Crofts were Roman Catholics and worshipped at the newly opened St Marie’s church in Norfolk Row, the only Catholic church in Sheffield in the early 1850s. Father Edmund Scully of St Marie’s pledged to build a school-chapel for The Crofts area and on Good Friday 1851 a plot of ground was purchased in the area for £700. Matthew Ellison Hadfield designed the chapel-school which was completed in July 1853 at a cost of £1,850.
Chapel becomes a church
The chapel was greatly expanded in 1856 by George Goldie, a partner of Hadfield’s, with the addition of a nave and a chancel at a cost of £3,100 and was officially recognised as a church although it had no tower or spire. Further building work costing £650 took place in 1870 when a church tower was built up to a height of 40 feet which incorporated the south porch and an entrance from White Croft. The tower was raised up to its present-day height of 93 feet in 1911 when a donation of £1,400 by Mr. Philip Wake enabled it to be completed in a design in the Norman style based on a typical church in Normandy. The architect of the new tower was Charles Hadfield and it was formally blessed and opened by Michael Logue Primate of All Ireland on 28 October 1911.
Inter war years
1920 saw the division of St Vincent’s parish with the creation of the Sacred Heart parish in the Hillsborough area of the city. The area around the church was still mostly slum housing with some crime, one of the gangs involved in the Sheffield Gang Wars of the mid 1920s was of Irish descent with most of its members from the St Vincent’s parish. The Great Depression in the United Kingdom caused great hardship in the parish, it eventually resulted in a programme of slum clearances which began in 1929. Many acres of old properties were demolished in the parish and the residents moved to more spacious housing in the suburbs. The slum clearances continued up to 1938 when they were suspended because of the imminence of war.
World War II
The first Sheffield Blitz raid by German bombers on the night of 12/13 December 1940 resulted in the destruction of the original 1853 chapel when a parachute mine landed on the roof. The original girls school was also destroyed and every window in the church was blown out destroying some valuable stained glass windows. The newer part of the church from 1911 escaped serious damage.
Post war and present day
Vigorous fund raising enabled much re-building to be done on the damaged church in the 1950s, this included a new chapel, replacement roofs and a new entrance porch, organ loft and choir gallery.
Due to the war damage and continuing slum clearances in the post war St Vincent’s area, the church lost much of its congregation as the district was rebuilt as a business area. In 1998 it closed as a place of worship and is in need of some renovation with much of the land round the church used for car parking. The interior of the church is currently used for storing furniture for the Vincent's charity which recycles old furniture and redistributes it to the city's poorer and more vulnerable people. The church is now within the St Vincent's Quarter of Sheffield which is undergoing slow rejuvenation. Sheffield City Council are looking at new ways that the St Vincent’s group of buildings can be used in conjunction with the owners and the local community, and at the end of 2004 announced the St Vincent’s Action Plan which includes:
|“||The creation of a new public green space around or adjacent to a reused St Vincent’s church complex taking advantage of its dramatic topography and views and providing a focus for new housing, business and community facilities."||”|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to St Vincent Church, Sheffield.|
- "Pevsner Architectural Guides - Sheffield", Ruth Harman & John Minnis, ISBN 0-300-10585-1, Page 162 Gives details of architecture.
- "Illustrated Guide to Sheffield", Pawson & Brailsford, ISBN 0-85409-671-X, Page 61 Gives details of architecture.
- "A Detailed History of St Vincent‘s Church, Sheffield", No ISBN, Gives the general history of church and parish.
- BBC South Yorkshire. Gives some details of Vincent's charity.
- Sheffield City Council. Gives details of St Vincent‘s Action Plan.