Sunday, 6 February 2022

The Cholera Monument

 In the early Seventies I lived for a year in Sheffield (working at the university library), but as far as I recall I never visited the Norfolk Park area of the city, high on one of Sheffield's seven hills, with grand views all around. I certainly have no recollection of the Cholera Monument which, along with its landscaped grounds and woodland, is now apparently a source of civic pride, signposted from some distance away. The pride is well placed: the monument is an elegant, understated pre-Victorian Gothic landmark, an early work by M.E. Hadfield (who was to become one of the city's leading architects), completed in 1835. It commemorates the 402 people who died in the cholera epidemic that hit Sheffield in 1832. A plaque at its foot notes that the foundation stone was laid by 'the poet James Montgomery'. 
  James Montgomery? He was a Scottish-born poet, writer and newspaper editor who was raised in the Moravian church, settled in Sheffield, was twice jailed for sedition, and campaigned against various social ills in verse and prose. One of his early successes was The Wanderer of Switzerland (1806), a poem in six parts addressing the French annexation of Switzerland in seven-syllable cross-rhymed quatrains – tempted? Me neither. When Montgomery died, a monument was erected in his memory at a cost of £1,000, raised by public subscription – that's well over £100,000 in today's money.
  Further investigation of the Cholera Monument and the nearby almshouses – also in a pleasingly plain Gothic style – was cut short by a violent hailstorm that suddenly blew in from the West on a ferocious and bitterly cold wind. By the time we (my cousin and I) had taken shelter in a café that was about to close but took pity on us, I was just about as cold as I have ever been in my life. I think I am still recovering.


  1. Sheffield? Do you know Richard Hawley ?

  2. I've heard some of his songs.
    When I was living there, the much less cool Dave Berry used to drink in my local.