Spital Tunnel, the Fiery Jack!

The Hartwell’s site
The Hartwell’s site

As Tesco prepares its application to redevelop the Hartwell’s site on Savile Street, an issue of history and heritage arises because the Hartwell’s site has not always been a car dealership!

Whenever you walk up Spital Hill, did you know that a 160 year old tunnel runs beneath your feet? Behind Hartwell’s is a huge railway-style retaining wall, a massive stone ramp for moving rail freight and the blocked mouth of a railway tunnel. These are the remains of the Spital Tunnel and Sheffield Wicker Railway Station.

The Spital Tunnel
The Spital Tunnel

The tunnel climbs from here up to Brunswick Road where the other end, or portal, is a listed building owned by Sheffield City Council.

The tunnel was cut in 1847 to link Midlands bound Wicker Station with Manchester bound Bridgehouses and was nick-named Fiery Jack. Why? Some say because an accident once burned passengers alive, but it’s probably because the tunnel is so steep. Fire and sparks thrown out by locos struggling up the tunnel to Bridgehouses must have been an amazing sight.

Think of how high the top of the Wicker Arches are from the road surface of Savile Street. This is the height the tunnel has to climb in just a few hundred metres!

When the Midland Station and Victoria Station opened, the Wicker and Bridgehouses were relegated to goods yards, but the tunnel carried on its sterling service, even bringing the circus into Sheffield on more than one occasion!

After the Second World War the tunnel was closed and the Wicker Station demolished. In the sixties it was used by a rifle club, shooting down the length of the tunnel! Local children used it as their playground, former resident Margaret Ryan recalls playing up on “Bull Rocks” above the tunnel entrance and narrowly missing a summons to court for railway trespass!

Tesco say they are keen to make a feature of the tunnel, perhaps with an information board or a plaque to commemorate the time when the Burngreave area was the Victorian powerhouse of Sheffield’s railway!


graham earnshaw 2011-10-22 17:26:18

i remember playing in and near the fiery jack as a youngster went back recently on a nostalga trip good memories

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The content on this page was added to the website by Kate Atkinson on 2007-05-30 22:14:18.
The content of the page was last modified by Jamie Marriott on 2007-06-04 19:28:36.

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