The Sheffield and Rotherham Railway was a short railway between Sheffield and Rotherham and the first in the two towns. In the early nineteenth century, when news broke of the building of the North Midland Railway, it was clear that George Stephenson would follow the gentle gradient of the Rivers Rother and Don, bypassing Sheffield. Stephenson known for his railway building techniques never built lines with gradients higher than 1 in 130.
Despite representations by Sheffield people, who engaged Joseph Locke to state their case, and from Charles Vignoles and George Hudson to convince Stephenson to bring the NMR to Sheffield, the NMR was built via the Rother valley, to the East of Sheffield. Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, the city has grown from its largely industrial roots to encompass a wide economic base. The population of the City of Sheffield is estimated at 530,300 people (2007 est.),and it is one of the eight largest English cities outside London, which form the English Core Cities Group.
The wider Sheffield Urban Area, which extends beyond the city proper, has a population of 640,720. Sheffield obtained worldwide recognition during the 19th century for its production of steel. Many innovations in the industry were developed locally, including crucible and stainless steel. This fuelled an almost tenfold increase in the population during the Industrial Revolution. It gained its city charter in 1893 and became officially titled the City of Sheffield. International competition caused a decline in traditional local industries during the 1970s and 1980s, and at the same time the nearby national coal industry collapsed, affecting Sheffield's population.
The hilly topography of Sheffield and its former nature as a centre of industry rather than commerce meant that the city did not develop as extensive a suburban and inter-urban railway network as other comparable British cities.However, there are several busy local rail routes running along the city's valleys and beyond, connecting it with other parts of South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire. These local routes include the Penistone Line, the Dearne Valley Line, the Hope Valley Line, and the Hallam Line. As well as the main stations of Sheffield and Meadowhall, there are four suburban stations at Chapeltown, Darnall, Woodhouse and Dore.
The light rail system Sheffield Supertram (operated by Stagecoach Sheffield), opened in 1994, serves the city. Its network consists of three lines, from Halfway to Malin Bridge, from Meadowhall to Middlewood, and from Meadowhall to Herdings Park, with all three lines running via the city centre. Sheffield is formally twinned with Anshan in China, Bochum in Germany, Donetsk in Ukraine, and Esteli in Nicaragua.There are more informal links with Kawasaki in Japan, Kitwe in Zambia, and Pittsburgh in the United States. Sheffield has also had close links with Poland, since Polish ex-servicemen who had fought alongside British forces during the Second World War settled in the city.
As a result a Polish consulate was opened in the City in 1997 (now closed), the first new Polish consulate to open in the UK for over 60 years The intention of the raid was to destroy the factories in the East End however the first wave of planes, mainly incendiary carrying Heinkel 111s, marked the centre of the city and by 9pm many fires were blazing At about 9.30 p.m. a stick of bombs fell on Campo Lane and Vicar Lane demolishing the west end of the cathedral. At about 10.50 p.m. a 500 kg bomb fell on and destroyed the C&A building opposite the Marples Hotel.
The Sheffield Urban Area is a conurbation with a population of 640,720 (2001 census) making it the 8th largest conurbation in the United Kingdom and Englands 6th largest. Named the Sheffield Urban Area by the Office for National Statistics, it must not be confused with the Sheffield City Region, a non-government term, although often used, particularly by the business community. The conurbation dominates South Yorkshire, with over half of the county's population living in this urban area.