An important factor that is often overlooked is that one must take account of exactly when the phrase became common usage. Sheffield's borders have expanded over the years, so it is reasonable to assume that the "seven hills" are hills within the borders of Sheffield when the phrase became common.
The earliest reference I have to seven hills is George Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier, written in 1936. In it he writes:
The town is very hilly (said to be built on seven hills, like Rome) and everywhere streets of mean little houses blackened by smoke run up at sharp angles, paved with cobbles which are purposely set unevenly to give horses etc, a grip.Sheffield extended its borders several times in the early 20th century. From 1900 to 1921 the borders, with some adjustments, were as shown on the following map:
|Sheffield's borders in 1918-1920|
The Derbyshire border at Stanedge Edge, the Rivelin valley to Rivelin Dams, then running along the top of Rails Rigg and Toft Rigg to Stannington Town End. Then it followed Myers Grove Lane to Broadhead Flats, crossing the Loxley Valley up to Wadsley Common and then running behind Langsett Avenue to the River Don. It then followed roughly the line of Herries Road, Herries Drive and Hatfield House Lane, then running through Concord Park to Blackburn Brook. It then looped around Tinsley to Tinsley Cemetery and High Hazels Park, then following the Carr Brook to Manor Top. It then followed Hurlfield Road and the east side of Lees Hall Woods and Graves Park to Meadow Head, then Abbey Brook to Abbeydale. It then followed the Limb Brook and Ringinglow Road back out to the Derbyshire border and Stanedge Edge.
As ? points out, it is more accurate to say that Sheffield is built at the confluence of several rivers. Rivers are easy to point to, hills much less so. So, to try to identify the hills of Sheffield I have first identified the rivers.
The rivers in Sheffield are River Don, River Sheaf, River Loxley, River Rivelin, Porter Brook, Meers Brook and Owler Brook. Along the borders there are Limb Brook, Carr Brook and Blackburn Brook. Draw these on the map of Sheffield and eight, not seven hills become obvious:
|The eight hills of Sheffield|
|Ridgeline||Areas on the hill|
|1||Dykes Hall Road||Wadsley, Wisewood, uphill of Hillsborough|
|2||Stannington Road||Stannington, Marchwood, Wood End|
|3||Redmires Road||Walkley, Crookes, Broomhill, Fulwood, city centre|
|4||Ringinglow Road||Nether Edge, Greystones, Ecclesall|
|5||Derbyshire Lane||Woodseats, Meadow Head|
|6||City Road||Park, Manor|
|7||Barnsley Road||Southey, Firth Park|
|8||Jenkin Road||Shiregreen, Wincobank|
Sheffield was incorprated as a Town Council in 1843, and the borders remained unchanged until 1900. Within the Town Council boundaries I can only identify five hills, the ones I have numbered 3, 4, 6, 7, 8. When the new City Council extended in 1900 that added three more hills, numbers 1, 2 and 5. At no point can I identify exactly seven hills within Sheffield's boundaries.