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Parks, Museums, Pictures, Libraries


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Probably no city in the world has better accommodation than Sheffield for the recreation of its people in public parks, though the open country around is attractive in almost every direction, and easily reached. Exclusive of the beautiful wooded gorges of the Wyming Brook and upper Rivelin, purchased by the Water Committee, and open to the public travelling by carriage or on foot, the Parks and Recreation Grounds have an area of 787 acres. The open spaces which, by their size and character, may properly be called "parks," number twenty; and they are situated at such convenient distances that no resident in a populous part of the city can be more than a mile away from a park.

The parks and recreation grounds have been acquired by purchase, by gift, and by lease. About 369 acres have been bought by the Corporation for something over 100,000. About 297 acres have been presented to the city; and 16 acres are leased at low rents. The chief donors have been the Duke of Norfolk, over 150 acres; Miss Fanny Phillips, Miss Mary Payne Phillips, and Mrs. Henrietta Harrison, jointly, 75 acres of Loxley Chase; the late Mark Firth, 36 acres; the Earl Fitzwilliain, 20 acres; Sir John Bingham, over 11 acres. The Botanical Gardens, 18 acres, were bought and are maintained by the Town Trustees for the enjoyment of the public. Hutcliffe Wood, comprising 35 acres, was in course of purchase in 1915.

The Parks Committee, besides managing its many parks and recreation grounds, is also responsible for the City's Cemeteries, for, by Act of Parliament, the Council is the Burial Board of the city. The eight cemeteries owned by the Corporation have an area of 213 acres.

For the upkeep of the parks and cemeteries, and in interest on and repayment of capital charges, the Parks Committee pays out of the rates about 17,000 a year. They now have under consideration the provision of several municipal golf courses, which are expected to be self-supporting.

There can be no doubt that in providing grounds for recreation the Sheffield Council has looked far ahead, and both by its choice of the lands bought, and by the use to which it has put the lands that have been bought and given, it has deserved well of the citizens of to-day and of the future. Wherever room has allowed, the parks have not been treated as preserves to be only looked at and admired, though there is a sufficiency of ornamental bedding and shrubbery; but they have been arranged as playing-fields where youthful energy may have free scope. Nearly all of them have water, either as ponds or as streams, and are more or less wooded.

Firth, Hillsbro', Meersbrook, and High Hazels Parks are park-like in character, having been originally grounds attached to considerable houses. Norfolk Park, which was long maintained by the Duke of Norfolk before being given to the city, and is the most attractive remaining part of the ancient Sheffield Park, forms a natural amphitheatre. Weston Park, the most central of the public grounds, is too small for playing purposes, but it is a beautiful piece of wooded sward, and almost compares in that respect with the charming Botanical Gardens, which are a lasting proof of the public spirit of the Town Trustees who, in 1898, rescued the site when it was about to fall into the hands of the enterprising builder.

Perhaps the most effective of the arrangements for preserving natural beauty in the midst of the city is the treatment of the Porter valley. The whole of the bed of the valley, on either side of the stream, from Hunter's Bar to the Forge Dam - a distance of 2½ miles - has been purchased, and is left in its natural state, as far as is consistent with having dry walks and preserving the banks of the stream from denudation. Its succession of dams, reminders of the old form of Sheffield's industrial "power," adds interest to a woodland scene of much beauty. Where the valley begins to' broaden out in its lower part, as Greystones is approached, the higher slopes have also been purchased by, or given to the city, and the level floor of the valley at Endcliffe serves as a playing-field.

A somewhat similar treatment, partly by purchase and partly by gift, is being arranged for the Sheaf valley between Millhouses and Beauchief, the grassy floor of the valley, and also the overhanging woods on the Derbyshire side, being owned by the city. The Wincobank Wood, overlooking the Don valley before it leaves the city, contains the old British Camp; and the Roe Woods, with their fine timber on the Ecclesfield side of Pitsmoor, contain a Roman outpost. Both these woods were gifts from the Duke of Norfolk.

The deep and sudden little valley between Broomhill and Crookesmoor, where Sheffield found its second water-supply extension in 1785, has been laid out with effects that must surprise all who knew it only in the days when the road called the "Tip" was completed. The Bole Hills Park, not as yet fully developed, occupies a magnificent site facing up the Rivelin valley and commanding perhaps the most striking scenic panorama to be observed from any city in the British Isles.

In 1914 ten of the Sheffield parks contained bowling greens, some having several sets; six had public tennis courts, and these facilities for recreation are being constantly increased.

The Museums of Sheffield, and its Art Gallery, are situated in three of its parks - the Art Gallery and the principal museum in Weston Park, the invaluable Ruskin Museum (one of the country's choicest collections) in Meersbrook Park, and a general museum (an overflow from the Weston Park collection) in High Hazels Park. All the museums are housed in old halls that have been adapted for museum purposes, but the Mappin Art Gallery, adjoining the Central Museum, was specially built for the display of pictures.

The Weston Park Museum was built in 1875. It owes its first set of exhibits to the Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society, an organization of great usefulness that was founded in 1822 and continues in vigorous and prosperous existence, providing popular monthly lectures and discussions throughout the year. The Natural Science Section of the Society handed over to the Corporation its valuable collection of botanical and geological specimens. The zoological department of the museum has also been enriched from time to time by many varied specimens contributed by Dr. Henry Clifton Sorby, by Mrs. Eden (a daughter of the late Dr. Gatty of Ecclesfield) and by Henry Seebohm, the distinguished ornithologist. Mr. Seebohm, who founded in Sheffield, in 1865, the steel-making firm of Seebohm & Dieckstahl, became the greatest expert of his time on the subject of the migration of birds, and one of the secretaries of the Royal Geographical Society. When he died, in 1895, he left his fine ornithological collection to the Natural History section of the British Museum, but in his earlier life, when he was actively identified with Sheffield, he gave the local museum a number of specimens.

The museum specially illustrates general natural history, geology, mineralogy, archaeology, pottery, glass-ware, metal-work, and cutlery. The section devoted to discoveries respecting the early life of man, particularly in Britain, has been made of high value by the purchase of the Bateman Collection of antiquities, with its fine examples of neolithic implements and primitive pottery. Modern pottery is being gradually represented. Special attention has been given to the illustration of the artistic qualities of Old Sheffield Plate; and the history of cutlery, local and general, is told by specimens. Indeed, the museum is of great interest, whether regarded as a local or a general collection; but, unfortunately, it is much cramped for room, and though the space available has been skilfully used, many of the exhibits cannot be displayed to full advantage.

In the adjoining park is a small astronomical observatory, under the joint care of the authorities of the Museum and of the University.

The High Hazels Museum, which was opened in 1901, is used to illustrate, specially, industrial art, natural history as it appeals in bird life to children, and everything that relates to the history of Sheffield.

Except in the provision of room for the inevitable expansion of the city's Museum Collection, Sheffield has been generous in its support of this valuable form of popular education. It may be mentioned here, as a happy curiosity in voluntary public service, that, at the time when this is written, the Chair of the sub-committee which manages the Museum has been occupied by the same member of the City Council for thirty-seven years - Alderman W. H. Brittain.

The Ruskin Museum belongs, by right of its origin and interest, to the whole world. It contains many of the choicest treasures gathered by John Ruskin throughout his lifetime to illustrate his conceptions of beauty in nature and his ideals of truth in art and simple nobility in life. He intended it as a Museum for the St. George's Guild, which he had founded, and it is still the property of the Guild, but is lent to Sheffield for a long term of years, and is not likely to be removed. It was begun in a house in the Rivclin Valley in 1875, and was removed to Meersbrook Park in 1890. Raskin's reasons for placing the museum on the outskirts of Sheffield were, first, the beauty of the city's surroundings, and, next, his belief that, in Sheffield, handicraft in ironwork is most honestly practised. He thus placed it, as he said, "within easy reach of beautiful natural scenery and the best art of English hands." The Museum contains specimens of beautiful stones illustrating Ruskin's ideas of mineralogy; drawings that illustrate his ideas of architecture and preserve the appearance of buildings threatened by what is called modern progress; reproductions of fine pictures, including drawings by Ruskin himself; illuminated manuscripts; engravings of some of Turner's most masterly studies; and a library on art and natural history, including Ruskin's own writings. This gem-like museum is for the student who has felt the genius of the man who changed the modern world's conception of the true meaning of art.

The Mappin Art Gallery, the only permanent art exhibition in Sheffield, was founded in accordance with the will of John Newton Mappin, a wealthy patron of modern painters, who died in 1884. He left money to build the gallery and bequeathed to it more than 150 pictures, which are grouped in the central part of the gallery. The gallery was opened in 1887 by Sir Frederick Thorpe Mappin, a nephew of its founder, and Sir Frederick added fifty more pictures to the collection. Later, Sir Frederick increased his gift to eighty pictures. Other bequests have followed, till the number of exhibits is over 400. No purchases of pictures have been made by the Corporation.

The Gallery, of Grecian Ionic style, opens into a lofty vestibule leading to a handsome central hall, specially designed for a display of pictures. Around the hall are five other rooms, all with suitable lighting. The most striking feature in the collection is the group of paintings by John Pettie - the best examples of that artist's work. Four of them - "To the Death," "The Flag of Truce," "Treason," and "The Sally" - once seen are never forgotten. They rouse stirrings of romance in the dullest spirit.

Other artists represented in the collection are Ernest Croft, in Waterloo scenes; John Phillip, Frederick Goodall, David Roberts, and John Linnell; Millais in an early work; Orchardson, Sidney Cooper, H. W. B. Davis; and W. J. Miiller, in a fine painting of a mountain torrent. Besides the Mappin pictures and others given to the Gallery, there is a collection lent by the National Gallery, which includes examples of Turner, West, and Etty; and, at frequent intervals, various Municipal Galleries send some of their pictures on loan to Sheffield.

On the whole, the Committee has been successful in keeping up a high standard of art, by the exclusion of gifts of inferior work. The Gallery is often used to exhibit, temporarily, specimens of the art-craftsmanship of the city that have a public interest.

The Mappin Art Gallery is an example of thoughtful public generosity on the part of the Mappin family, of which all concerned may be proud. Successful painting is there adequately illustrated; but there remains in Sheffield ample room for the encouragement of local art by a gallery that would contain the best examples of the work of its own considerable art circle. The Town Hall and the Cutlers' Hall have an almost complete portrait gallery of local celebrities. The University is making a collection which will grow constantly in value. Local personality is abundantly represented. But there is very little house room for local ambition in the practice of art.

Sheffield is exceedingly well provided with reading matter through its Central Library and many Branch Libraries. One of the great needs of the city, until quite recently, was a well arranged Central Reference Library; but now that the Central Lending Department is separately housed in Surrey Street, and the Reference Library can be property displayed in the re-organized Library Buildings - formerly the Mechanics' Institution - the wants of readers will be reasonably met for many years. There are about 40,000 volumes in the Central Lending Department, and 30,000 volumes in the Reference Department. These include a valuable, and fairly complete, library of local history, and some interesting manuscripts. Science and art, as they are applied locally to manufactures, are also well represented.

There are eight local, or branch, libraries: namely, at Upperthorpe, Brightside, Highfield, Attercliffe, the Park, Walkley, Hillsborough, and Tinsley, making in all ten library buildings; and there arc also eight book delivery stations: namely, at Brightside village, Hunter's Bar, Broomhill, Crookes, Nether Green, Wincobank, and Darnall, where there is also a reading room. Altogether, Sheffield has about 170,000 volumes in its free libraries, of which quite half are useful for purposes of reference. A school lending library scheme was started in 1913.

The beautiful and spacious library at the University, given by Mr. Edgar Allen, Litt.D., has accommodation for about 120,000 books, and already has a well selected library of about 30,000 volumes. The library of the Literary and Philosophical Society, in Church Street, also contains about 30,000 volumes, some of which were inherited from the Sheffield Library, an institution formed in 1771, and merged in the "Lit. and Phil." Library in 1907.

The cost of the Free Library enterprise out of the rates is about 10,500 per year. For libraries and museums a rate of 2d. in the pound is available; but the whole proceeds of a 2d. rate have never been spent. The libraries and museums are managed by a committee composed of nine members of the City Council and six co-opted citizens, who now are selected because of their suitability for the work they have to do.


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Pictures for Parks, Museums, Pictures, Libraries

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RUSKIN MUSEUM
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The Mappin Art Gallery
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