‘Historic value’ of football disaster stadium

The Hillsborough disaster of 1989
The Hillsborough disaster of 1989
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They are the tragedies that helped define Britain through the centuries – their landscapes scarred by conflict and disaster.

From Marston Moor to the Great Fire of London, they bore witness to wholesale catastrophe and individual grief.

The Farfield Inn pub pictured shortly after the Great Flood of 1854

The Farfield Inn pub pictured shortly after the Great Flood of 1854

Today, Historic England has added Sheffield’s Hillsborough Stadium to the list.

It said the ground, at which 96 people died as police lost control of an 1989 FA Cup match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, belonged on its register of England’s most important historical sites of loss and destruction.

The list, part of a project to designate 100 places, in 10 categories, that encapsulate the nation’s past, also takes in Whitby Abbey and Sheffield’s Farfield Inn, a lone survivor of a forgotten disaster that washed away hundreds of homes.

The sites were among those chosen by the historian Mary Beard, from a raft of public nominations.

She said: “It has reminded me how important it is to remember and to memorialise tragedy.”

The Hillsborough disaster is the most recent event on the register. It was the worst sporting disaster in British history, and its aftermath was a generation-long campaign for justice that has yet to fully play out.

In 2016 a coroner’s jury ruled that the 96 Liverpool supporters were unlawfully killed – a decision that could still see a charge of manslaughter against police.

Ms Beard said: “This is such a powerful symbol of human tenacity in pursuit of justice after terrible loss of life.”

Her list also takes in the Mary Rose, which sank in the Solent in 1545, and London’s Crystal Palace, which burned to the ground in 1936.

Whitby Abbey is included both for its destruction during the sacking of the monasteries under Henry VIII and for the hit it took from German warships in December 1914.

Ms Beard said the abbey was “one of the most striking instances in the country of the haunting beauty of ruins.”

Sheffield’s second monument to tragedy, the Farfield Inn on Neepsend Lane, on the banks of the Don, is less recognisable.

It was all that remained when, in 1864, the Dale Dyke dam burst and 650m gallons of water engulfed the Loxley and Don valleys. The flood killed at least 250 people and destroyed hundreds of homes, factories, shops, mills and bridges.

Matilda Mason, the pub’s landlady, was trapped upstairs as floodwater swirled around the building.

In the aftermath, many survivors had to move out of the district and the pattern of working life there was permanently altered.

It was one of the biggest man-made disasters in Britain’s history, raising issues of corporate culpability and eventually handing responsibility for the water supply to local authorities.

The Grade II-listed Farfield was flooded again in 2007 and was put up for sale, at £95,000, earlier this year

Historic England’s original list of locations included two in Yorkshire that did not make Mary Beard’s final 10.

Barnsley Main Colliery was the scene of the 1866 “Oaks explosion” that killed 361 miners and rescuers when a series of blasts caused by firedamp ripped through the workings. It was England’s worst-ever mining disaster.

The longer list also included Marston Moor between Harrogate and York, the site in 1644 of the largest battle ever fought on English soil.

The final list does include the symbolic Euston Arch at King’s Cross, which was controversially demolished in 1961.

Last month, Historic England published its Top 10 of England’s most important historical sites for music and literature, which included the Brontë Parsonage at Haworth alongside the EMI studios at Abbey Road in London, where The Beatles recorded.