Park Hill, Sheffield

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Park Hill Flats
Park Hill Samarkanda.JPG
General information
Coordinates 53°22′48″N1°27′29″W / 53.380°N 1.458°W / 53.380; -1.458
StatusUnder renovation
Area32 acres (13 ha)
No. of flats995
DensityPeople 192 per acre (470/ha)
Architect Jack Lynn Ivor Smith under J L Womersley
Contractors Direct service organisation
Authority Sheffield City Council
Style Brutalism
Influence Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation and the Smithsons'
Park Hill Renovation.JPG
Proposed actionPhase 1: Strip to H frame and rebuild, Phases 2-3: Light touch refurbishment, Phase 4: Light touch refurbishment and new building
UnitsPhase 1: 260 flats, nursery school, commercial units, Phase 2: 195 flats and townhouses, commercial units, Phase 3: 356 student rooms, Phase 4: 95 flats, artist studios, art gallery
Architect Studio Egret West, Hawkins Brown and Grant Associates, Mikhail Riches, Whitham Cox, Carmody Groarke
Contractor Urban Splash, Alumno Group
Directing authority Sheffield City Council
Listed Building – Grade II*
Reference no. 1246881

Park Hill is a housing estate in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. It was built between 1957 and 1961, and in 1998 was given Grade II* listed building status. [1] Following a period of perceived decline, the estate is being renovated by developers Urban Splash into a mostly private mixed-tenure estate made up of homes for market rent, private sale, shared ownership, and student housing while around a quarter of the units in the development will be social housing. [2] [3] [4] The renovation was one of the six short-listed projects for the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize. The Estate falls within the Manor Castle ward of the City. Park Hill is also the name of the area in which the flats are sited. The name relates to the deer park attached to Sheffield Manor, the remnant of which is now known as Norfolk Park.



Park Hill was previously the site of back-to-back housing, a mixture of 2–3-storey tenement buildings, waste ground, quarries and steep alleyways. [5] The streets were arranged in a gridiron with continuous terraces of back-to-back houses facing the streets, backing onto other houses facing into an internal court-yard. There were shared privies that were not connected to mains drainage. One standpipe supported up to 100 people. [5] It was colloquially known as "Little Chicago" in the 1930s, due to the incidence of violent crime there. [6] Clearance of the area began during the 1930s. The first clearance was made for the Duke/Bard/Bernard Street scheme in 1933. The courts were replaced with four storey blocks of maisonettes. In 1935 it was proposed to clear the central area which included streets to the south of Duke Street; South Street, Low Street, Hague Lane, Lord Street, Stafford Street, Long Henry Street, Colliers Row, Norwich Street, Gilbert Street and Anson Street. John Rennie, the city’s Medical Officer of Health, concluded:

"...the dwelling houses in that area [of Duke Street, Duke Street Lane, South Street and Low Street] are by reason of disrepair or sanitary defects unfit for human habitation, or are by reason of their bad arrangement, or the narrowness or bad arrangement of the streets, dangerous or injurious to the health of the inhabitants of the area, and that the other buildings in the area are for a like reason dangerous or injurious to the health of the said inhabitants, and that the most satisfactory method of dealing with the conditions in the area is the demolition of all the buildings in the area." [7]

G. C. Craven, the city's Planning officer recommended wholesale demolition and possible replacement with multi-storey flats. The Second World War halted this. [8]

Following the war it was decided that a radical scheme needed to be introduced to deal with rehousing the Park Hill community. To that end, architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith under the supervision of J. L. Womersley, Sheffield Council's City Architect, began work in 1953 designing the Park Hill Flats. Inspired by Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation and the Smithsons' unbuilt schemes, most notably for Golden Lane in London, the deck access scheme was viewed as revolutionary at the time. [9] The style is known as brutalism. [10]


A typical deck at Park Hill Park Hill deck.JPG
A typical deck at Park Hill

Construction began in 1957. Park Hill (Part One) was officially opened by Hugh Gaitskell, MP and Leader of the Opposition, on 16 June 1961. [11] The City Council published a brochure on the scheme which was in several languages, including Russian.

The footprint of the four blocks, with the paths and low-lying structures beneath Planta Park Hill.jpg
The footprint of the four blocks, with the paths and low-lying structures beneath

To maintain a strong sense of community, neighbours were re-homed next door to each other and old street names from the area were re-used (e.g. Gilbert Row, Long Henry Row). [12] Cobbles from the terraced streets surrounded the flats and paved the pathways down the hill to Sheffield station and tramlines. [12]

The second phase consisted of a 4 high rise blocks, containing 1160 dwellings, on the hill behind, joined to the main scheme by two three-storey terraces to the east of Bernard Street that contained 153 dwellings. This was renamed in May 1961, becoming the Hyde Park flats. The terraces became Hyde Park Walk and Hyde Park Terrace. The Hyde Park tower blocks were between five and 19 storeys high. This was opened on 23 June 1966 by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. [13]

Further housing schemes were completed to similar designs, including the Broomhall and Kelvin developments in Sheffield. They were initially popular and successful. Government restrictions on how potential tenants were allocated to flats and the limitations of the fabric of the building which decayed when not adequately maintained, poor noise insulation and resident security caused their popularity to wane. [14] For many years, the council found it difficult to find tenants for the flats.

Listing and renovation

Park Hill renovation
Park Hill Flats in March 2008 - Geograph-3663164-by-Martin-Speck.jpg
Park Hill in 2008
Sheffield - renovated Park Hill flats.jpg
Park Hill in 2011

Despite the problems, the complex remained structurally sound, [15] unlike many system-built blocks of the era, and controversially was Grade II* listed in 1998 making it the largest listed building in Europe. [1] Sheffield City Council hoped this would attract investment to renovate the building, but this was not initially forthcoming. The decision to list the estate was controversial at the time and it continues to attract criticism. [16] A part-privatisation scheme by the developer Urban Splash in partnership with English Heritage to turn the flats into upmarket apartments, business units and social housing is now underway. [16] [17]

Sheffield City Council have created a new public park, South Street Open Space, between the railway station and Park Hill. This includes a series of seating terraces and new planting areas.

Phase 1

Flanks A, B and C (the tallest sections of the buildings) were initially cleared, leaving only their concrete shell. The renovation was one of the six shortlisted projects for the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize. [15] The renovation was due to start in around 2007 but was put on hold due to the recession. Work started in 2009 with the first phase open to residents in 2010/11.

Phase 2

In comparison to the boldness of the Phase 1 renovation, Phase 2 instead implemented a ‘light touch’ approach [18] which retains the original brick infill and full width of the streets.  195 new flats and townhouses will be developed in flanks D, E, F, G and H around a central residents garden as well as 2,500m2 of commercial space.  This phase also included the restoration of the link bridge to Phase 1.

Planning approval was granted in December 2017 and work began on site in January  2019.  Homes went on sale in February 2020 and completion is due by September 2021.

Phase 3

Phase 3 has been developed as student accommodation, consisting of 356 rooms in 74 townhouse style units as well as communal spaces and a convenience shop. Flanks M, N, O, P and Q were developed as part of this phase which has been named Béton House.

Planning approval was granted in July 2018 and work began on site in May 2019. Work completed in Autumn 2020 with the first students moving in during September 2020.

Phase 4

Planning approval was granted in August 2019 for the redevelopment of flanks R, S and T into 95 residential units, artist accommodation, heritage flats, artist studios, and contemporary art gallery.

Phase 5



The Park Hill area of Sheffield contained and had a population density in the range of 100 to 400 per acre (250 to 990/ha). It was identified as a slum where, according to Patrick Abercrombie's Sheffield Civic Survey and Development Plan (1924), there were death rates in the lower Park district of 20–26 per 1,000 inhabitants, and infant (under one year) mortality rate of 153–179 per 1,000 births. The central area amounted to 710 acres (290 ha), and contained 140 designated clearance areas. [1]


Basic three-level, three-bay module Celula basica de vivienda.jpg
Basic three-level, three-bay module
The horizontal design repeated itself every three bays: each of these units contained a one bedroom flat (yellow), a two bedroom flat(blue), a two bedroom maisonette (red) and a three bedroom maisonette (black). The levels are connected by the H-frame containing the stair columns. Tres niveles.jpg
The horizontal design repeated itself every three bays: each of these units contained a one bedroom flat (yellow), a two bedroom flat(blue), a two bedroom maisonette (red) and a three bedroom maisonette (black). The levels are connected by the H-frame containing the stair columns.

The 995 Park Hill flats and maisonettes, 3 pubs and 31 shops were built in 4 ranges linked by bridges across the upper decks. The ranges were canted at obtuse angles to maximise the panoramic views across the city and the southern Pennines. The stair columns and lifts were placed at each turn. There were two service lifts capable of elevating maintenance vehicles. [19]

The site is steeply sloping (gradient 1 in 10), enabling the designers to maintain a constant roof level though the buildings ranged from 4 to 13 storeys. There were access roadways 10 feet (3.0 m) on every third storey; these serviced a one-storey flat beneath and a 2-storey maisonette on that level and on the level above. The horizontal design repeated itself every three bays, centred on a H-frame that carried the services and stair columns. Each of these units contained a one-bedroom flat, a two-bedroom flat, a two-bedroom maisonette and a three-bedroom maisonette, and stair columns. The kitchens and bathrooms were vertically aligned, allowing simple ducting for services and the Garchey waste disposal system. [19]

Construction is of an exposed concrete frame with a progression of purple, terracotta, light red and cream brick curtain walling. [19] However, as a result of weathering and soot-staining from passing trains, few people realise this and assume the building to be constructed entirely from concrete.

The concept of the flats was described as streets in the sky. There were four street decks, wide enough for milk floats, had large numbers of front doors opening onto them. This was a key concept of the design. Each deck of the structure, except the top one, has direct access to ground level at some point on the sloping site. [19]

The shopping facilities, known as The Pavement were provided on the lowest part of the site, there were four public houses (pubs): The Earl George on The Pavement, The Link and the Scottish Queen on Gilbert Row, and the Parkway on Hague Row. [19]


Park Hill is one of the seven hills on which Sheffield is built. It is south of the River Don, and to the east of the River Sheaf. The estate is on steeply rising land the lower slopes, it is upwind of the former heavily polluting industrial areas of the Don Valley. The estate is bounded by Park Square roundabout on the A61, the B6070 Duke Street, B6071 Talbot Street and South Street.

Immediately to the west is Sheffield railway station that in 2010–11, was the 35th-busiest in the UK, and the 11th-busiest outside London. [20] [ needs update ]


A piece of graffiti, "Clare Middleton I love you will u marry me", written on one of the "bridges" linking two of the blocks, was the subject of a documentary broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2011. [21] Jason Lowe spray-painted the graffiti proposal in 2001; Middleton did not marry him, and died of cancer in 2007. [22] The graffiti was mentioned by Yungblud in his song "I Love You, Will You Marry Me", and Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys wore a T-shirt with a reproduction of the "I love you will u marry me" at a gig. [22] As part of the renovation, Urban Splash overlaid that part of the graffiti in neon in 2008, [23] but in early 2021 removed it while renovating the bridge. [22]

Even now, inhabitants of Sheffield are split on the matter of Park Hill; many believe it to be a part of Sheffield's heritage, while others consider it an eyesore and blot on the landscape. [24] Public nominations led it to the top 12 of Channel 4's Demolition programme. Other television appearances for the flats include Police 2020 and in an Arctic Monkeys video. A BBC programme called Saving Britain's Past sheds light on the building site's past and discusses the listing from several viewpoints in its second episode, called "Streets in the Sky". The 2014 film '71 used the buildings to recreate Belfast's notorious Divis Flats during The Troubles.

Park Hill has featured as a major source of inspiration for British artist Mandy Payne, with her paintings of the estate winning several awards.

Park Hill is referenced in the lyrics of Pulp's song "Sheffield Sex City".

Park Hill appears on the cover of Eagulls' self-titled debut album.

The building was used as the location for Harvey and Gadget's flat in This Is England '90 and also features in This Is England '86 during the fight scene.

The area and above-mentioned graffiti are the subject of the song "I Love You, Will You Marry Me" by South Yorkshire-born musician Yungblud.

Park Hill is featured in the eleventh series and twelfth series of Doctor Who , [25] as the family home of companion Yasmin Khan.

The musical Standing at the Sky's Edge, featuring songs by Richard Hawley, is set in Park Hill and tells the story of three families over sixty years beginning in 1961. The musical premiered at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield in 2019.

See also

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  2. Local Government Yorkshire and Humber "Park Hill" Retrieved 10 March 2011
  3. BBC. "Park Hill's future". Retrieved 9 December 2019.
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  5. 1 2 Sheffield Sources 2010, p. 14.
  6. Milner, Will. "Gangs: A history of violence". Now Then Magazine. Opus Independents. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
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  13. Sheffield Sources 2010, p. 20.
  14. "Places: Park Hill". Sheffield and South Yorkshire. BBC. 24 September 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  15. 1 2 Townsend, Lucy (16 September 2013). "Stirling Prize:Park Hill Phase 1". BBC New Magazine. BBC. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  16. 1 2 "The absurd listing of a block of flats in Sheffield is richly comic". Guardian. London. 19 April 2009. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  17. Moore, Rowan (21 August 2011). "Park Hill estate, Sheffield – review". Observer. Guardian Newspapers. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  18. "Park Hill Phase 2". Mikhail Riches. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 Listing & 1246881.
  20. "Station Usage 2010-2011". Rail statistics. Office of Road and Rail. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  21. Mahoney, Elisabeth (7 August 2011). "Radio review: The I Love You Bridge". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
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  23. "Truth of Sheffield's 'I Love You Will U Marry Me' graffiti". BBC News. 8 August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
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  25. "Doctor Who premiere: How Sheffield red carpet happened". BBC News. Retrieved 25 September 2018.