I have always associated Paradise Square with solicitors, as many solicitors offices were once located in the area, and the Law Society resided just around the corner (I was not sure if the office was closed due to COVID or if they had moved premises). However, the Georgian square has a somewhat interesting past.
The square was built in the 18th century on the site of Hicks’ stile-field, the stile being one of the entrances to the church-yard. The Square also acquired the nickname Pot Square when crockery vendors were moved here from the High Street in around 1808.
The Sheffield Society for Constitutional Information had their headquarters in the Freemasons’ Hall on the northern edge of Paradise Square. The Sheffield Society was the first and the most active of the Corresponding societies in England. The Sheffield branch was set up in 1791 and was to fight for political reform. The Sheffield Society had over 2,000 members in 1792. Despite being the centre of propaganda and supporting the French Revolution, the Sheffield working class found themselves without parliamentary representation and political rights, as the town had no MP.
Paradise Square was once used for all major political meetings in Sheffield. The first recorded assembly in Paradise Square was on 15 July 1779, when John Wesley (English cleric, theologian and evangelist who was a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism) preached to what he would later note in his journal was “the largest congregation I ever saw on a weekday”.
One of the most notable meetings was held in the summer and autumn of 1839, at the height of Chartist agitation. Chartism was a working-class male suffrage movement for political reform in Britain that existed from 1838 to 1857. It took its name from the People’s Charter of 1838 and was a national protest movement.
During the 19th century, those standing for election to represent the Sheffield constituency would hold political meetings in the square. However, when the balcony at number 18 was removed, this ended the use of the square as a public meeting place in 1889.
About ten or so years ago, I worked not far from the square. I would always walk through it on my lunch hour on my way into town and there was always a decent amount of activity. However, when I took a walk to the square to take some pictures and video, it was almost empty. I am not sure if it was due to COVID or if people have moved away from the office spaces in the square, but it felt eerily quiet. The Wig and Pen, a nice little pub and restaurant was also boarded up, again, i’m not sure if this is temporary or not. I remember going after work for a drink and sitting on the tables that backed onto Paradise Square, there was always a nice atmosphere about the place. Hopefully once things are back to normal the hustle and bustle will be back.
Thanks for reading.