A city underground: the hidden secrets that lie beneath Sheffield - 'the Megatron'

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In any city, there are always far-off corners waiting to be discovered – and Sheffield is no exception.

But while most visitors will head for the shops and restaurants, there are other far more unusual places lurking under the surface.

In some cases, quite literally. What lies beneath Everything might appear to be in order above ground on the streets of Sheffield, but out of sight there is a hidden network of waterways.

Sheffield is home to more than 150 miles of rivers and streams. Its waterways are an integral part of its make-up and have contributed to creating the hilly valley landscape we know today.

Rivers have long been a defining feature of Sheffield (with the city actually deriving its name from the River Sheaf) and while you don’t have to travel far to stumble upon a flowing waterway, you may be surprised to discover that hidden rivers are actually running beneath your feet too.

Earlier this year a large hole appeared in the car park of sport’s retailer Decathlon, on the edge of the city centre. Following the collapse of a concrete tunnel structure sitting above the River Porter, a glimpse of the concealed waterway running below was revealed. The hole exposed just one of many secret rivers which flow beneath the surface, with around 1km of hidden tunnels said to be dotted around the city centre.

A hole in the Decathlon car park in Sheffield opened up after a culvert over Porter Brook collapsed (Photo: JP)

A hole in the Decathlon car park in Sheffield opened up after a culvert over Porter Brook collapsed (Photo: JP)

It was a fascinating glimpse into the world hidden just below your feet. Abandoning the storm With so many waterways running throughout Sheffield, it’s no wonder the city is hiding a spectacular labyrinth of underground storm drains to protect from the risk of flooding.

Known wonderfully as ‘The Megatron’, the Victorian-engineered subterranean drainage system was built in the mid-1800s below the city centre and boasts an impressive network of cathedral-like brick archways and interconnecting darkened tunnels to contain the overflow of water from a storm.

The impressive vault-like tunnel system was constructed in an effort to channel the huge flow of water from the three main rivers (Sheaf, Porter and the Don) that run through Sheffield, and contain the overflow following a storm.

Subterranean adventures The existence of the cavernous underground drain was shrouded in mystery and rumours for many years, with whispers that respiratory equipment was required to enter into its depths due to harmful fumes. But while The Megatron has long been forgotten by most, it has attracted the eye of extreme sports enthusiasts. Last year, local film production company Salt Street, who are known for their penchant for capturing the unusual, headed into the murky underground world to film two Sheffield wakeboarders speeding through the tunnel system.

The Megatron in Sheffield : Photo: Salt-Street Productions

The Megatron in Sheffield : Photo: Salt-Street Productions

The short two-minute film perfectly shows off the incredible size of the tunnels, breathing life back into the long forgotten network and firmly putting any doubts of its existence to bed.

Another mysterious place – buried from view? There are also rumours of a hidden underground building somewhere in the city, built by old Sheffield firm Firth Brown Steels.

While the company is now part of the Sheffield Forgemasters, many of the old Firth buildings are still in existence – including, so it is said, an abandoned medical centre.

Due to the vast size of the business, it was considered a necessity for the company to have such a centre on site, and while it has long been out of use, the remains of the building still apparently exist today.

Hidden from view near the former Firth Brown Steels complex on Carlisle East Street, the eerie centre sits derelict, gathering grime and dust, and devoid of any natural light. While urban explorers have captured fascinating images of the decaying centre, it’s exact location is unknown – and suggestions that the facility is actually buried underground remain unclear, giving its existence a mysterious air of intrigue.