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A Night On The Town (Hall)

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A little while ago, myself and Kaplan were discussing the idea of working our way through the list of Sheffield's tallest buildings. We've topped a few of them already, but there was always one which seemed out of reach... the Town Hall clock tower.

Sheffield's current town hall was designed by Edward William Mountford to replace the previous town hall which was repurposed as a courthouse (and subsequently as an urbex hotspot). This new town hall was constructed from local Stoke Hall sandstone in the Gothic Revival style to complement the nearby St Paul's church (now demolished). The exterior features stone carvings by renowned sculptor F.W. Pomeroy, depicting Sheffield's industrial achievements. The building took seven years to complete and was opened by Queen Victoria in 1897. It is now grade I listed and is home to Sheffield City Council.

The 61 metre tall clock tower is one of Sheffield's most prominent landmarks and is visible from all over the city. Above the four clock faces sits the bell enclosure, however no bells were ever installed. Above this, the tower is topped with a baroque style domed belvedere, on top of which sits a bronze statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

If we were ever going to complete our 'Sheffield's tallest' list, we needed to find a way to get this one done. Fortunately an opportunity recently presented itself. The tower has been undergoing restoration, including replacement and repointing of some of the stonework. To facilitate this, some very precarious looking scaff was erected. This was our chance. But true to form, we did absolutely fuck all about it for a good few weeks. Finally after much procrastination, we thought we'd better get on it.

Our first attempt a couple of weeks ago was a fail. That particular night there was just too much foot traffic around, so we settled for a chilled little roof just across the road which Tablets had tipped us off about many months ago. We sat and admired the clock tower in front of us. We knew the scaff wouldn't be up forever, so we vowed to return before it was too late.

Fast forward a few days and we were back in front of the tower, staring up at it like morons. This time around we had rocked up nice and late, hoping it would be quiet enough for us to just waltz in and crack on. Unfortunately it wasn't that easy. There were still plenty of people milling about the streets, and to top it off the workmen renovating the building over the road (at one o'clock in the fucking morning!) were spending more time outside smoking than inside working. We weren't giving up this time though. We waited for our moment, and then like bearded ninjas, we were in.

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The ascent was tedious. Every couple of levels we'd have to stop and keep still when hoards of people appeared on the street below. Then there would be a lull and we could carry on. We persevered, eventually passing the clock face and finally reaching the first balcony level.

Once we were off the scaff and inside the tower, we could finally relax and take a moment to appreciate where we were, but we weren't at the top yet. From the lower balcony level, a short ladder leads up into bell tower, and from there a hellish ladder climb up to the belvedere.

Finally at the top we were greeted with one of the best views in Sheff.

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Well, that's about your lot. It was a cracking feeling to get this one ticked off, even if I am getting too old to be rolling into bed at 4:00am on a school night. I feel pretty lucky to have been up there, and of course getting this one cracked is a big leap towards our target of topping all of Sheffield's tallest.

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We think of those nights spent with one or more friends, nights when we merged with the shadows and could see the world with eyes that were not our own.

Whipplesnaith - The Night Climbers of Cambridge (1937)