The bizarre Sheffield urban legends that turned out to be true

The Hole In The Road - site of a giant underground fish tank.
The Hole In The Road - site of a giant underground fish tank.

Sometimes you CAN believe everything you hear – some of Sheffield’s most unusual urban legends are actually true.

Every city has its fair share of intriguing stories, and Sheffield is no exception.

The Megatron storm drain.

The Megatron storm drain.

Usually we’d take urban legends with a grain of salt, but these seemingly tall tales about the Steel City are actually true.

The town centre once housed a giant underground fish tank

Sheffield city centre was once home to a subterranean shopping precinct around Castle Square, featuring a huge open circular area which earned it the nickname ‘Hole in the Road’.

Fondly referred to by locals as the ‘ole in t’ road’, the structure came about as a result of heavy bombings in the vicinity during World War Two, and one of its most iconic features was a giant glass fish tank which was built into the wall.

Infamous Sheffield murderer Charles Peace.

Infamous Sheffield murderer Charles Peace.

After becoming subject to vandalism and crime, the hole was eventually filled in the mid-1990s and the once iconic landmark is now covered by tram lines, with Castle Square tram stop sitting right on top.

A real Sheffield murderer features in a Sherlock Holmes story

Murderer, burglar, fugitive, vagabond and master of disguise are just a few of the labels that have been assigned to Sheffield’s most notorious criminal, Charles Peace.

Having eluded police up and down the country for many years by expertly changing his appearance to avoid capture, Peace was finally arrested and sentenced to death for his crimes, and was hanged at Armley prison in 1879.

But his skills as a crafty criminal were later immortalised by Sherlock Holmes author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote Peace into the short story, The Adventure of the Illustrious Client.

A waxwork model of Peace can also be seen in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds London.

A labyrinth of rivers and tunnels are hiding below the city’s surface

Sheffield’s Victorian storm drains – known locally as ‘the Megatron’ – are big enough to surf in.

Sheffield is home to more than 150 miles of rivers and streams, but a vast network of subterranean waterways are also lurking just below the city’s surface.

Rumours of a giant underground storm drain (known as the Megatron), are actually true, and the giant Cathedral-like structure does in fact exist below the city centre.

Built in the mid-1800s, the cavernous tunnel system was constructed to contain the overflow of water from Sheffield’s the three main rivers (Sheaf, Porter and the Don), helping to protect the city from flooding in the event of a storm.

Sheffield steel gets a nod in The Canterbury Tales

Widely known as the ‘Steel City’, Sheffield has long been famed for its industrial heritage and steel-making industries, particularly its production of knives.

Such was its reputation for quality cutlery-making that the city managed to secure a mention in The Reeve’s Tale from Geoffrey Chaucer’s book, The Canterbury Tales.

The passage reads: “A joy poppere baar he in his pouche; ther was no man, for peril, doste hym touche. “A Sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose; round was his face, and camus was his nose.”

A corpse hung in Attercliffe Common for 36 years

Spence Broughton was a highwayman who was executed in 1792 for robbing the Sheffield and Rotherham mail.

Broughton posthumously gained notoriety when his body was hung up on a gibbet at the scene of the crime on Attercliffe Common, where it remained for 36 years.

The body reportedly attracted 40,000 visitors on the first day and continued to be a famous landmark until it was taken down in 1827. The display was meant to serve as warning to others to stay on the right side of the law.