2018 - 2019 Ancient Medieval Modern Sheffield Volume 8

From Krkur to Crookes – A Brief History of the 1,000-Year-Old Village

Although it may seem like a quiet, ordinary suburb on the fringes of a city, Crookes has a surprisingly rich history that makes it anything but ordinary. From its unlikely musical tradition to its centuries-old pubs, Crookes has been a lively place long before students called it home and put their stamp on the area. Situated by an old Roman road, there has been evidence of human habitation here since 3000 BCE. In 1887, archaeologists uncovered funerary remains dating back to 1500 BCE. In addition, other discoveries have unearthed a Bronze Age arrowhead, a Roman coin of Magnentius, an urn, calcinated human bone and an incense cup. However, it wasn’t until 980CE that a permanent settlement, the aptly-named Krkur, was established here by the Vikings.

Meaning ‘nook or corner of land’, Krkur remained small and sparsely populated during its early history. Its position on Crookes Road, now over a thousand years old, meant it acted as a rest stop for travellers riding between Sheffield and the Peak District. These resting stops included pubs like the Old Grindstone, originating from 1828, since replaced an older coaching inn. ‘The Ball’ part of the modern day ‘Greene King’ pub retailer and brewer leading chain, dates back to 1696, when it was built to accommodate these travellers. This tradition was renewed with the opening of a turnpike road to Glossop in the 1790s, spurring development of the village, but things didn’t really take off until the industrialisation of Sheffield. 

Originally, when Crookes was still surrounded by countryside, the village was treated as a holiday spot by the residents of Sheffield, who enjoyed the health benefits of its ‘country air’. Over the course of the 19th Century, more and more affluent middle-class families moved to Crookes, living in mansions and terraces built as part of the trend of moving to the west of Sheffield as a sign of success. By the end of the century, Crookes lost its status as a village when the urban centre of Sheffield expanded out, claiming the village as its own.

As a suburb of Sheffield, Crookes continued to transition. A tramline was built from Crookes centre to the city centre to meet the demands of the growing population, reservoirs were built behind Blakeney Road and in Crookes Valley Park to provide water for the new residents. A turning point for Crookes was as the University of Sheffield student body grew, so too did Crookes with thousands of students beginning to populate it as their student accommodation. However, eventually development prompted by the students began to stall, and Crookes entered somewhat, into a period of decline. The tramline closed, the reservoirs were covered over, a cinema on the high street shut its doors and the students shuffled down to nearby Crookesmoor (named for its location on the moorlands of Crookes). Yet, in spite of its ‘decline’, Crookes was building a strong musical tradition. Joe Cocker, the world-renowned soul singer, was born here in 1944, and so too were Joe Elliott and Rick Savage of Def Leppard. In fact, Def Leppard played one of their first ever gigs at Crookes Working Men’s Club (now Crookes Social Club) in 1979. The area has been name-checked by several famous Sheffield bands, including in the Human League’s instrumental track ‘The Bus to Crookes’ and in Pulp’s ‘Sheffield Sex City’. More recently, the indie rock band, The Crookes, was named after the area by its band members who were Sheffield alumni.

Today, Crookes is firmly part of the city of Sheffield, but a short walk up to Bolehills will reveal its rural roots. Crookes has changed a lot since Vikings roamed the earth, but it has managed to retain its village atmosphere and an evolving reputation as a great place to live whether you’re a student, a professional or a retiree. While it may no longer have a cinema or a tram stop, Crookes holds an ever-diversifying community, is well-connected to surrounding areas in and beyond Sheffield, and is in itself home to a unique and enriched history, beyond its often student-oriented status.