It began in the early 1990s in Sheffield, England, in the “School Room,” a 30-by-30-foot classroom in the Anns Grove School where the Sheffield City Council had been renting space to artists. In Sheffield, the climbing center of rainy England, climbers had either been holding “Board Meetings,” in which they’d climb on each other’s small, rudimentary garage and basement walls, or climbing at Sheffield’s lone rock gym, The Foundry. They needed another option.
In 1993, the artist/climber Alan Williams turned UK legend Ben Moon onto the idea of renting the space. “Straightaway,” recalls Moon, “between 10 and 20 people were keen.” Led by Gavin Ellis, the climbers erected three walls: a 50-degree board; a 30-degree board; and the Cressbrook Board, a 10-degree undercut overhang. For grips, the climbers supplemented resin holds with wood “offcuts” (remnants) and pieces of bannister from “skips” (dumpsters). They screwed it all together by hand, adding a campus board, free weights, and boom box.