Chapeltown, A South Yorkshire village with the feel of a bustling town that wants for nothing
PUBLISHED: 08:33 21 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:14 20 February 2013
The people of Chapeltown, to the north of Sheffield, are working hard to ensure the town has a bright future to match its colourful past <br/>Words and pictures by Bill Hearld
Theres an unsolved mystery in Chapeltown, on the north edge of Sheffield. An old Army tank once stood as a proud memorial on the site where Churchill tanks were churned out during World War Two. A few years ago, residents awoke to find it was missing. Some said it was taken away for refurbishment. Others say it was stolen. The story goes that one local was returning home late at night and saw it on the back of a low-loader disappearing down the nearby M1.
Either way, they dont think it will return. I dont think well ever get to the bottom of it, said parish councillor Norman Garratt. I doubt well ever see it again.
The place is called Chapeltown, but the locals still refer to it as the village. It has the feel of a small, bustling town, it is home to 10,000 and its growing rapidly. And Chapeltown wants for virtually nothing. It has a thriving, modern business park, a railway station (more a halt), a good-sized library, a twice-weekly open-air market and a giant supermarket. It has three primary schools, swimming baths, a community hall and is well-endowed with pubs and clubs, including a British Legion club which last year raised nearly 47,000 for the Poppy Appeal.
What it doesnt have is a single council car park, though one pub has opened up its large car park and asks for a charity donation in a collection box which hangs trustingly at the entrance.
Like the rest of the Sheffield area, the village is cocooned in park and woodland. Right in the heart of town is Chapeltown Park, an attractive open area which leads onto Chapeltown Park Wood. The Friends of Chapeltown Park help keep the place spick and span and have secured funding for a new playground area.
The future of this village is inextricably linked with its past. Chapeltown owes much to two 18th century entrepreneurs who established a nearby industrial complex which became one of the largest in Britain. George Newton and Thomas Chambers formed Newton, Chambers & Co, which started out as an iron works but later expanded into coal and ironstone mining and the chemical byproducts of coal, including the famous Izal disinfectants.
Their Thorncliffe Works thrived and during World War Two it was used for the manufacture of thousands of Churchill tanks. Today the site is home to the modern, attractive Thorncliffe Business Park which accommodates more than 70 businesses, including Yorkshire Water and Balfour Beatty, and provides much-needed local jobs.
With the M1 just five minutes from Chapeltown and a rail service that includes two trains an hour to Meadowhall and Sheffield or Barnsley and Leeds, the area has excellent communications. And you can be in the Peak District in 20 minutes.
A twice-weekly market could be a real asset to Chapeltown but many of the traders fear it is ailing. Fewer customers mean empty stalls empty stalls mean fewer customers. It is a vicious circle, said pet stall trader Richard Whitam. We need more traders to bring the market back to life. But we wont get more traders without more customers. It is a matter of use it or lose it.
Parish Council chairman Howard House is determined to re-develop a community spirit in the parish. He is working with several volunteer groups to improve local amenities, including the parks and woodland, and to help keep the area free of litter. I am proud to say that all the groups have made a great difference locally, he said.
Parish councillor Norman Garratt, a retired Newton, Chambers engineer, loves the area and its people. Most people know each other and it is great to walk through Chapeltown and nod or stop for a chat. We have had a problem with unemployment in the recession but I think that is improving now and most of our school-leavers are either finding work or going on to further education.
Right in the heart of Chapeltown is the old fairground which was bought by the showmen and is now a smart, gated community where people involved in the business have built homes or settled in their caravans.
All around Chapeltown, flowers are being planted as the village prepares itself to enter Yorkshire In Bloom for the first time.
Hesley Wood is the site of the biggest scout centre in South Yorkshire and every year attracts thousands of people to the area.
For more information contact Sheffields Tourist information Centre on
0114 221 1900.
Where is it: Chapeltown is on the northern edge of Sheffield, five minutes from M1 Junction 35 and on the Leeds-Sheffield rail line with two trains an hour in either direction.
Where to park: There is no official pay car park. Asda has time-limited parking for customers and one pub car park asks for a charity donation. There is limited on-street parking.
What to do: There are plenty of pubs in Chapeltown and pleasant strolls in the parks and woodland. The village is home to Thorncliffe Cricket Club and the Helsey Wood Scout Activity centre which attracts thousands of people to the area and holds many events throughout the year.