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Rotherham Unofficial

An unofficial website about the town and borough of Rotherham

Rotherham's Roads

I have been thinking about this subject deeply, possibly even philosophically, and have come to a conclusion that the true history of Rotherham in 20th Century is built in its roads. At the beginning of the century motor vehicles had hardly puffed their ugly exhausts all over the town. There were a few streets wide enough to admit horse drawn vehicles, but much of the town centre was a tangle of alleys and yards suitable only for handcarts.

Road widening schemes began in 1905 Rotherham Council purchased the property at the top of the north side of High Street between Church Street and the market. All the buildings were demolished including the Shambles or meat market. The top of High Street was widened and the Imperial Buildings were erected in 1907 in much the situation and echoing a very similar shape to the Shambles.

In 1913 a jumble of houses, yards and lanes on the west side of town were cleared and the new Corporation Street built. It runs pretty much due south/north from its junction with High Street and Westgate down to Chantry Bridge.

Property in Bridgegate was demolished for road-widening in the 1920s I think.

A new Chantry Bridge was built in the 1930s to carry the road across the River Don.

A mass of small alleys around Little Church Yard was demolished in the 1930s to form the present day All Saints Square as a terminus for the buses and trams.

In 1933 and 1934 Rotherham council obtained 11 clearance orders and many of the slum houses and insanitary yards in the town centre were demolished. Their inhabitants were moved to new council housing estates out of town.

In 1971 the new transport interchange (bus station) opened in Frederick Street on the site of the former gasworks.

In the 1970s the east side of town was massively redeveloped with new Council Offices and Library and Arts Centre. The markets were also moved here at much the same time. Many small streets and houses disappeared under this redevelopment. The council buildings were demolished in the 21th Century and a massive Tesco store was built on the site. This opened in November 2014.

Down Bridgegate there was, until about 30 years ago a row of early Georgian houses. Very handsome houses they were, with Grade II listing and I understand that there were Elizabethan kitchens in some of them. When built the houses had been very posh with gardens and stables to the rear. In the 19th Century when development land in the centre of town was at a premium the gardens and stables were developed into "yards" - cheaply built, very nasty accommodation where a whole family often lived in one room, e.g. Russums Yard, New Zealand Yard. The latter still exists as the loading bay for the modern development. The houses were let as shops or warehouses and by the 1960s were in a poor state or repairs. There was a disastrous fire - if I remember correctly, in the kitchen of Mick's café (in part Elizabethan). The rest of the terrace was badly smoke-damaged and despite many protests down they all came to make way for new development. The Cascades Centre was built in 1984 around three side of a square along Bridgegate, Frederick Street and Howard Street with a large loading yard (New Zealand Yard behind) and is a modern unprepossessing building.

Further out of town swathes of old housing were demolished and streets, in fact whole neighbourhoods, disappeared under the construction of Centenary Way. Begun about 1968 Rotherham's inner ring road, which actually only goes half way around town, was built in sections and only completed in 1995. In 2014 major improvement work started on this road.

The centre of Rotherham was then subject to a one-way street system followed by the pedestrianisation of many of the streets. The one-way system extends to the roads round much of the town centre. Now I don't seem to find much of a problem with it but the same can't be said for other people judging by the number who ignore the road signs. I have to admit that the system is obtuse and unfriendly in places. Strangers often find it impenetrable.

Page amended 2015

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