A hundred years ago the land now known as Heeley was part of the Wildwood which stretched from Nottingham to Leeds and was home to Robin Hood, his friends and enemies.
Gradually land was cleared for farming and habitation. The name of Heeley as a village has existed at least since 1343, it's name derived from Heah Leah, High Lea then Hely, meaning a high, woodland clearing. Originally Heeley was divided into three areas; Upper Heeley (or Heeley Top) was around the intersection of Myrtle Road, Heeley Green (Middle Heeley) was on the Gleadless Road at Well Road and Lower Heeley (or Heeley Bottom) was on the London Road around Artisan View.
As Sheffield expanded during the industrial revolution terraced houses were built to house the growing population and Heeley became part of Sheffield proper.
The Heeley City Farm site was originally 6 streets of over 300 mainly tenanted terraced houses built between about 1850 and 1880. There was a pub, bakery, several greengrocers, a tobacconist, sweetshop and many other shops and small businesses on every corner.
From the 1950s the locals and then South Yorkshire County Council decided to build a bypass through the area, to provide people from more affluent areas of Sheffield with a quicker route into the city centre. The proposal would have effectively cut the community in half and would funnel more traffic into an already congested city centre. Led by Heeley Residents and Tenants Association, a coalition of local people, environmentalists and early direct action campaigners, trade unionists and all political parties fought the proposal. After 20 years of campaigning and a final march of 600 people from Heeley to a meeting in the City Hall the bypass plans were cancelled in 1978.
In this 20 year period many of the houses had been acquired by the council under compulsory purchase orders or were in a very poor state as the other (private) landlords had done little maintenance. By this time so about 150 were condemned and demolished. As one of the last parts of Sheffield’s `slum clearance’ programme all the houses were condemned and the former occupiers were re-housed in the same area in council houses. All the houses, with one exception, were demolished and the whole site was levelled.
Heeley Tenants and Residents Association fired up after great victory over the authorities, wanted to turn the empty site into something positive. The idea of a city farm, improving the environment, providing a resource for local children and creating jobs for local people, was muted and gathered immediate popular support. The one remaining building, Dawson’s Pikelet Bakery, was later purchased by Heeley City Farm and is now South Yorkshire Energy Centre.
Heeley City Farm has come full circle: from the Wildwood, farmland, houses and back to farmland and woodland again.