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SHEFFIELDER

Random notes on the Steelopolis. This isn’t just a history page. It’s about appreciating everything around us – the buildings, people, products and events that shaped the City of Sheffield. It’s about taking notice of what is around you now, and observing the things that will become history for our descendants.

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Buildings Sculpture

A relentless quest to eradicate disease

Behind the Town Hall, on Norfolk Street, is a single doorway with the words ‘Disinfectants’ carved into the lintel above. It appears to originate from 1897, the year that Sheffield’s new Town Hall opened, and where ratepayers were able to buy disinfectant for their homes.

Disease was a worry for our Victorian ancestors and the city was still recovering from outbreaks of smallpox, scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, and puerperal fever. In 1896, Sheffield’s population was 347,278 and quickly expanding into Walkley, Attercliffe and Heeley. In that year, 6,732 people died, many from disease, although the trend was decreasing. Astonishingly, 392 people had died from diarrhoea.

Medical science was concerned with tracking disease to its source with a view to prevention and was no longer content to repair the ravages of disease which might have been prevented.

In a time when preventative vaccines were still in their infancy, disinfectant was used to spearhead the fight against zymotic diseases. Where disease was evident in the home it was the use of carbolic acid powder and chloride of lime that allowed walls to be washed while articles were removed and burned.

One of the concerns was that if people were ill with infection, to make sure that they didn’t pass it on, cleaning and disinfecting, both where they lived, and the things that they owned and had contact with, was a way of eradicating germs

Sheffield had a disinfecting station at Plum Lane where infected people and their possessions would enter the station from one side, move through the process of steam disinfection and exit out the other side. There were also metal hoppers in which people would have placed their infested clothes before taking a sulphur bath to treat their condition.

These sorts of places were common across the country and were a very important part of how Victorian and Edwardian local authorities responded to outbreaks. And when outbreaks did occur, high-occupancy slum housing meant it spread quickly. In 1899, a typhoid outbreak at Brightside speedily infected over 100 people within a half mile radius.

Carbolic acid remained one of the most popular disinfectants, sold in liquid and powdered form at pharmacist’s shops, but also pre-mixed with soap. But there was also a leading brand of disinfectant, made right here in Sheffield, and this was Izal, a supplier to the British army, and the only liquid disinfectant used on troops in the Boer War. It was thought to have been beneficial for the treatment of typhoid and diarrhoea when administered internally.

In the 1930s, as infectious diseases became less virulent and more treatable thanks to a combination of vaccines and antibiotics, the use of disinfectants declined, but manufacturing processes made it more widely available to the population.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Sheffield Town Hall: the clock tower that came without a bell

Restoration work this century revealed that stone for the Town Hall clock tower came from a long-disused quarry at Walkley. Photograph: DJP/2021

Sheffield’s third Town Hall was designed by Edward William Mountford, a London architect, and opened in 1897. Its clock and tower, the face of our city, stands at the north-east corner, over 100ft high and topped with a statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking.

The tower is built on a bed of concrete, 30ft square, and 25ft thick; the concrete itself resting on solid rock. At ground level the walls are about five feet thick, and when it was built the strong room for the City Accountant was located here. The dome and spire at the top of the tower are covered with copper.

It was always thought that the tower was made of ‘Stoke’ stone from Stoke Hall Quarry, near Grindleford, but restoration work in 2017 revealed that it was from a long-disused quarry at Walkley.

The Town Hall clock was the work of William Potts and Sons, Leeds, clock makers to Queen Victoria, and was constructed to strike the quarters and hours on heavy bells. However, Sheffield Corporation waited for somebody to show their public spirit and provide the bells – something that never happened – and without it the striking parts of the clock were useless.

The frame of the clock was in one solid casing, planed perfectly flat on the top and bottom surfaces. It rested upon iron girders, supported by stone corbels built into the tower wall, and provided a rigid foundation for good time-keeping.

The large main wheels for the hour and quarter parts were 22 inches and 20 inches in diameter, respectively. The hour main wheel had ten steel cams attached for lifting the hammer to strike the large bell, with the quarter wheel having suitable cams in readiness for the ‘phantom’ bells. The large gong wheel was 20 inches in diameter.

The workings of the Town Hall clock. Seen here in the 1980s. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

There was special arrangement for accurately discharging both the hour and quarter parts, with set dials showing both seconds and minutes, and was known as the double three-legged gravity, the invention of Edmund Beckett, 1st Baron Grimthorpe, the man behind Big Ben’s clock, with the two seconds pendulum compensated for differences of temperature and heavy cylindrical bob.

There were four dials, each 8ft, 6 inches in diameter, formed of skeleton iron castings filled in with opal glass, originally illuminated at night by gas, with suitable reflectors behind. The hands were made of stout copper, counterpoised inside, and the motion wheels were made of hard brass, the teeth cut out of it. The bevel work was carried by light iron girders placed across the clock room, and the whole clock was enclosed in a neat wooden case to keep it clean.

The four faces of Sheffield Town Hall’s clocks. Work started in 1890 and wasn’t completed until 1897. Photograph: Rob Huntley

It was not until 2002 that the Town Hall got bells – but nothing as elaborate as once intended. The chimes that now ring out across the city centre comes from an electronic sound-system providing hourly strikes and Westminster-style quarter chimes.

The clock tower was exposed to Sheffield’s pollution and weather for well over a hundred years and had to be restored at a cost of £86,000 in 2017. The original ironwork which had corroded within the structure was exposed and treated and indent repairs were conducted to the ornate carved capitals. Other masonry was repaired and repointed, as necessary. In addition, new rainwater pipes, asphalt floors and gutters were installed. Suitable fine sandstone providing a good match with the original stone was sourced from local suppliers based in Chesterfield.

The clock tower stands at the north corner of the Town Hall, set back slightly in deference to the main façade. This photograph from contractor Maysand shows restoration work in 2017
Sheffield Corporation could not decide whether or not to install a four-ton bell at a cost of £400 before the building of the tower was completed. It was said that if the bell were not put in, but it was decided to put it in later, a great deal money would have to be spent and serious damage done to the tower. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

Picture Sheffield

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Companies

From horse and cart to Big Green Parcel Machine

Tuffnells adopted its slogan – The Big Green Parcel Machine – in 1985. Photograph: Tuffnells

Which Sheffield company operates from a network of 34 depots, with a head office in the city, and serves about 4,000 businesses?

This is a company founded in 1914 by Harold James Tuffnell  (1886-1963) with a horse and a cart he bought for £100. His surname is the giveaway, and today Tuffnells is a nationwide parcels carrier.

Harold James Tuffnell was once a groom to Charles Crookes, a steel manufacturer of East Cliffe House, East Bank Road. He died at the Royal Hospital in 1963. Photograph: Tuffnells

By the 1920s, Harold Tuffnell was operating on Langdon Street as a motor haulage contractor and coal merchant, living at 261 Pearl Street. By 1936, H.J. Tuffnell Ltd, carriers, were on Mary Street, with Harold living at 149 Folds Lane

By 1951, H.J. Tuffnell operated seven vehicles with a livery of maroon and cream, but two years later was sold to Mr E.J. Shaw, who had bought into removal company Caudles (established in the 1890s by William Caudle as a coal merchant, furniture remover, and haulier).

The company moved to Woodbourn Road, and subsequently to Shepcote Lane in the late 1960s.

Tuffnells new Shepcote Lane distribution centre in 1968. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

In 1971, Tuffnells was sold to TDG (Transport Development Group), a company founded in 1922 as The General Lighterage Co, and which eventually was swallowed up by Nobert Dentressangle and XPO Logistics. Under TDG, Tuffnells expanded and by the 1980s operated out of fifteen depots nationwide.

It changed its name to Tuffnells Parcels Express in 1985, and with a fleet of two hundred vehicles, adopted the slogan, The Big Green Parcel Machine.

Tuffnells was subject to a £33m management buyout in 2005 and turnover exceeded £100m for the first time. It came to the attention of the Connect Group, another company with a long history – originally known as W.H. Smith News and renamed Smiths News in 2006 from the demerger of W.H. Smith. It became the Connect Group before reverting to Smiths News again.

Connect paid £100m for Tuffnells in its centenary year, later moving its main distribution centre to Europa Close and its head office to the former Sheffield City Council Offices on Carbrook Hall Road.

The takeover was not without its problems and subject to a run of poor performance, (“a drag on profitability and cash”), Connect had considered closing it, before off-loading the company (and its 1,200 green trucks) to investment vehicle Palm Bidco for £15m in July 2020, effectively returning the company back into private hands once again.

Still going strong, despite plans by the Connect Group to close the business in 2019. Photograph: Tuffnells
Measuring 20,000 square foot and sitting on a four-acre site, the Europa Close site is home to 41 vehicles, 51 loading bays and 139 employees. Photograph: AKV Group

Picture Sheffield

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Pinstone Chambers: Its forgotten history lies within the entrance

Pinstone Chambers. Elegant, its exterior untouched, and one of the few buildings that doesn’t form part of the Heart of the City II development. Photograph: Google.

Heart of the City II is altering the way our city centre looks. We must go back to Victorian times to see anything resembling the magnitude of this change. Before then, the area around Pinstone Street was a region of dirty, narrow, streets and alleys that led to nowhere. The poor were abundant, and then the jennel known as Pinstone Street was replaced by a broad thoroughfare, and the people who lived under the shadow of St. Paul’s dome (now Peace Gardens) migrated southward. With it came shops and offices that are no longer suitable for the 21st century… and now we are preserving the look, but removing the myriad of old corridors, staircases, and rooms behind.

Once completed, almost the whole of the west side of Pinstone Street will have been touched by redevelopment… and that is quite a remarkable achievement.

One building will remain, oblivious to the change around it, and one that rarely gets a mention.

Few people realise that the entrance to Pinstone Chambers once led to the remarkable building behind.
For all to see. This stone was laid by William Bramwell Booth, the Salvation Army’s Chief of Staff. It can be seen to the right of the modern-day entrance. Photograph: DJP/2021

We can trace Pinstone Chambers (Nos. 44-62 Pinstone Street), at its corner with Cross Burgess Street, back to 1891, when the Salvation Army ‘planted the flag’ on a piece of land bought from Sheffield Corporation. A year later, a ceremony took place to turn the first sod. ‘The waste piece of ground has been as free of turf as a billiard ball is of hair, it was hard to see where the sod would be found.’   

The foundation stones were laid in September 1892, and formed part of an inner wall, the inscriptions on them visible in the entrance hall by which the Sheffield Citadel behind was approached from Pinstone Street. By this, we know that this building was steadfastly linked with the Salvation Army’s place of worship, one that survives in disgraceful neglect, and awaits its own course of redevelopment.

The architect was William Gillbee Scott (1857-1930), who designed the Gower Street Memorial Chapel (now the Chinese Church in London), and the London and Provincial Bank in Enfield.

The building is curved on plan, has five storeys, and has seven bays at the east return and one along Cross Burgess Street to the south. The building is Classical in style and has red brick elevations with contrasting sandstone dressings. Architectural features include ground floor shopfronts, mullioned fenestrations, casement windows and rusticated pilasters between bays.

The building was erected by Messrs. Thomas Fish and Son, Nottingham, and comprised accommodation on the top floor, offices beneath, and six large shops on Pinstone Street. Painting and decoration were by Thomas Toon, of Nottingham.

The land cost £7,812, and the building work over £16,000, the shops and offices used to bring in considerable income for the Salvation Army.

It was opened by Commissioner Thomas Henry Howard, on 27 January 1894.

This photograph in the Picture Sheffield collection shows the construction of the Citadel Building between 1892-1894. St. Paul’s Church, on the right, stood where the Peace Gardens are now. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.
The carved initials of the Salvation Army above the main entrance. Photograph: DJP/2021

The main entrance to the Citadel was from Pinstone Street, flanked by the row of shops. The visitor passed along a vestibule lit by gas in ruby globes. The walls were decorated in green sage, with a deep maroon dado, and the floor was paved in mosaic style. Inserted into the wall on the right were the dozen stones, laid when the building commenced, with the names of those who undertook that duty.

While the temperance rooms at the Citadel are decisively linked with the Salvation Army, the Citadel Building (as it became known) was better known for its commercial activities. Soon after it opened it was occupied by the Wentworth Café and Hotel, moving here from Holly Street, a socialist meeting place famously linked with Edward Carpenter. That association ended in 1922 when the whole of the premises was leased by Stewart and Stewart, the well-known tailors, who extended from next door.

The Wentworth Cafe and Hotel occupied most of the building from about 1898 to 1922. The entrance to the Salvation Army Citadel can be seen centre-left. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.
One of the original occupants. This newspaper advertisement from 1898 is for Stewart and Stewart who later leased the whole of the ground floor. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.
The Sheffield Citadel was built at the same time as Pinstone Chambers. Despite the contrasting styles, the two buildings were connected by a corridor leading from its main entrace on Pinstone Street. Photograph: Sheffield Star.

Afterwards, while shops frequently changed hands, the upper floors were used as offices until the interiors of Pinstone Chambers were completely remodelled for city living accommodation.

The Salvation Army moved out of the Citadel in 1999, the crumbling shell still attached to Pinstone Chambers, but the old main entrance and corridor to it long since blocked-off.

Is the ‘foundation stone’ wall still visible in the old vestibule? What survives of the Victorian floor mosaic? Is there any evidence of the sage green and deep maroon decoration?

Probably not.

With its curved Queen Anne facade, Pinstone Chambers remains one of Sheffield’s most attractive buildings. Photograph: Google.
Pinstone Chambers. The National Market Traders Federation was founded at the Wentworth Café in 1899. Photograph: DJP/2021)
Pinstone Chambers. The carved initials of the Salvation Army can be seen above the entrance. Photograph: DJP/2021

Picture Sheffield
© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Steelopolis

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It came as a surprise to learn that the Pepperpot building on Pinstone Street once had a distinctive spire on top. The Victorian building will be transformed as part of Sheffield’s £480m Heart of the City II redevelopment. Only the façade will remain, and Hallamshire Historic Buildings are calling for a replacement steeple to go on top of the famous corner turret. The original one suffered from time, neglect, and weather, and disappeared in the middle of the Twentieth century leaving behind its truncated appearance and the nickname, the Pepperpot. It was designed by Flockton & Gibbs in 1884 for the mayor, William Henry Brittain, on a corner plot at the junction of Cambridge Street.

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People think their local newspaper is worse than others…not realising that people say the same things about the supposed better newspapers.

There are a few things we like to moan about in Sheffield – the Council, buses, potholes, empty shops – the list is endless. We should also add the Sheffield Star to this list, judging by comments regularly directed to me. Perhaps unfairly, I might add.

We have a stalwart editor in Nancy Fielder who isn’t afraid of hiding and posts on twitter almost daily.

In January, the newspaper (along with sister papers like the Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman) was taken over by National World, created by David Montgomery, and promises to ‘change the business model for print and digital news publishing.’ Its previous owner, JPI Media Publishing, had little resource, and I have to say that the look and content has certainly improved since.

However, the website comes in for a lot of criticism, not just because it is hiding behind a paywall, but because it appears clunky and slow to update. Blame the previous owners, because National World has embarked on a project to expand its website footprint in all Britain’s major cities.

Having quietly launched a new national newspaper online, nationalworld.com, it is extending its digital only ‘World’ brand into eight new markets. Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Glasgow are up and running, with new sites in London, Birmingham, Bristol, and Wales launching soon.

Which begs the question as to what will happen with Sheffield Star’s digital content? Is it about to become Sheffield World, or even part of a wider Yorkshire World?

And what future for the weekly Sheffield Telegraph, alleged to be put together by a team of only two journalists, and whose meatier content appears to be shifting towards the Sheffield Star in ‘The Sheffield Weekend’ supplement? 

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An interesting new name for Sheffield Arena. We should now refer to it as the Utilita Arena after a new 5 year seven-figure sponsorship deal with the energy supplier. It follows similar agreements with arenas in Newcastle and Birmingham. Utilita, based in Hampshire, claims to be the UK’s first specialist Pay as You Go Smart Energy supplier, and is already a junior and women’s football sponsor at Sheffield United.

Constructed at a cost of £34m, Sheffield Arena was opened by the Queen in May 1991. I’ve thought that since the opening of the Fly Direct Arena in Leeds, its star had dimmed somewhat. Not, according to Pollstar, the ‘voice of live entertainment,’ which ranks the DSA (sorry Utilita) Arena at No. 53 in its last world Top 200 Arena Venues chart, three places above our Leeds rival. The table, based on ticket sales, was last published in 2019 because last year’s figures were decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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There are murmurs of discontent from the old fellows who wander up and down the bar at the Benjamin Hunstman carefully examining the cask ale pumps through reading glasses.

They’ve learned that the former Sportsman pub further down Cambridge Street (aka Tap & Tankard) will have its interiors demolished as part of the Heart of the City II scheme. It is a cause already taken up by Ron Clayton, that down-to-earth historian, and friend of Sheffielder, who says that despite alterations over the years, it is still recognisably the pub built in 1883, along with a fine club room on the first floor. Once again, only the facade will remain, much the same fate as the former Henry’s Bar nearby.

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Construction workers renovating the disused Bethel Chapel on Cambridge Street have found a time capsule stuffed with a letter from 1938. Builders from Henry Boot Ltd found a small canister inside a cavity wall. It contained a letter which turned out to have been written by John Woodhouse, foreman of local plastering company Bradbury & Sons, listing the names of all the men on the site. Bethel Chapel closed in 1936 and was purchased in 1938 by George Binns, outfitters, who built the familiar front extension The list, secreted at this time, includes an apprentice called Boy Teddy – likely to have been aged about 14.

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© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
People

“War and work, work and war, and it is said it might have been so different.”

On the nights of 11th and 13th December 1940, a German attack on Sheffield lasted for many hours, and cinemas, stores, and shops, were wrecked, and some churches damaged. Two days later, on the 15th and 16th, Sheffield was again attacked with material results, explosions, and a considerable number of fires observed.

“Between 3.30 and 4.00 a.m. on 13th December 1940, from our terrace we watched Sheffield burn. Sheffield is my native city. I felt then that the rest of my life must be devoted to helping to restore and rebuild the fortunes of the city.”

These words were written by Dr W. H. Hatfield in the introduction of his book, Sheffield Burns, published in 1943, in which he idealises and hopes the city will have a brighter future.

“My father desired to rest with his father, and I remember subsequently on a quiet wintry afternoon standing before their tombstone and reading the dates on which my grandfather and my father passed away, and then realising that I could from the inscriptions before me, predict the approximate date upon which I, given good fortune, would also pass away.”

Hatfield gave the final proofs of his book to his publisher on 13th October 1943 and died four days later, much sooner than he had probably anticipated.

He died through strain and overwork in furthering our war effort,” said his wife Edith at the time. “Working unflinchingly at all hours, day and night for four years without rest or holiday, for our armaments and aircraft industry.”

William Herbert Hatfield was born in 1882, and worked in the laboratory of Henry Bessemer and Co, while at the same time studying at University College, Sheffield, where he became Doctor of Metallurgy in 1913. Later he became a metallurgist at John Crowley and Co and was subsequently appointed director of the Brown-Firth Research Laboratories, and later with the board of Thomas Firth and John Brown.

It was Hatfield who discovered 18/8 stainless steel in 1924 which happens to be the most widely used stainless steel in the world today. For all his efforts, he is sadly overlooked by history, except for the Hatfield Memorial Lecture, held every December by the University of Sheffield.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Graves Art Gallery: another touch of the benefactor

Sheffield Central Library on Surrey Street is also home to Graves Art Gallery. Photograph: DJP/2021.

You’ve probably seen the Bowmer & Kirkland signs on hoardings and cranes around Sheffield. The Derbyshire-based construction and development company is responsible for Moor Market, No.3 St. Paul’s Place, St. Vincent’s Place, New Era Square, and is backing the developer behind the West Bar scheme.

The company was established in 1923 as a partnership between joiner Alfred Bowmer and bricklayer Robert William Kirkland. The current chairman is Jack Kirkland, businessman, art collector and philanthropist.

Bowmer & Kirkland was founded in 1923 and is based at Heage, near Belper, Derbyshire. Photograph: Bowmer & Kirkland.

Kirkland first started buying art around 20 years ago, purchasing a work by the US conceptual sculptor Tom Friedman. While big on American modernism and Latin American contemporary art, his collection also includes Hellenistic bronzes, a Carracci portrait, and an Egyptian faience baboon. 

His sizeable collection of interwar European photography is promised to the Tate, where he is Co-Chair of its Photography Acquisitions Committee. He is also the chairman of Nottingham Contemporary and a trustee of the Bridget Riley Art Foundation.

Kirkland is also chairman and settlor of The Ampersand Foundation, a UK-awarding charity that supports the visual arts, exhibitions, projects, and supporting public collections, provided they are free to the public at least one day per week.

Jack Kirkland’s art collection has been loaned for international exhibitions, and some of the works have been previously shown at Graves Gallery in Sheffield. Photograph: Apollo Magazine.

Last Friday (3 Sep 2021), the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield reopened after six months of renovation work to redecorate, re-clad the walls in galleries largely untouched since 1934, bring many artworks out of storage for new displays, and to showcase work with a fresh perspective on classic art.

It has all been possible after a grant of £455,000 from the Ampersand Foundation, a long-time backer of Sheffield Museums, and the largest single amount ever awarded by the charity.

The grant echoes the day when Sheffield Central Library and Graves Art Gallery were opened by the Duchess of York (Queen Mother to our younger readers) in July 1934.

The newly reclad and redecorated temporary exhibition space, galleries 2 and 3, will reopen with an exhibition celebrating the work of sculptor Mark Firth, great, great grandson of steel magnate and philanthropist Mark Firth. Photograph: Sheffield Museums.

The total cost of the building was estimated at £141,700, of which £114,700 represented the structure, and £27,000 the furnishing. Alderman John George Graves contributed £30,000 and gave the gallery’s director, Dr J.M. Rothenstein, unrestricted choice from his own art collection, with power to borrow whatever was needed.

John Rothenstein was born in London in 1901, the son of Sir William Rothenstein, whose family was connected to the Bloomsbury Set. Photograph: Geni.

Sir John Knewstub Maurice Rothenstein CBE (1901–1992) had served as Director of Leeds City Art Gallery, and was appointed Director of Sheffield City Art Galleries (1932-38) where he oversaw the establishment and opening of the Graves Art Gallery. From 1938–64 Rothenstein was Director of the Tate Gallery in London.

Rothenstein carefully planned the interior which was of dark blue rough-textured paper, to take advantage of each collection in its eight galleries.

It’s been a long road since, overshadowed by recent events in which the Central Library and Graves Art Gallery were almost sold to become a five-star hotel, and the fact that it needs about £30m investment in maintenance.

Kim Streets was appointed to the role of CEO of Museums Sheffield (now Sheffield Museums)in 2012. She is seen here at Graves Art Gallery before the reopening to the public. Photograph: Sheffield Telegraph.

The gallery has not had a major redisplay and some of the spaces were in desperate need of a refresh.

The project began back in the winter with the removal of the artworks from the gallery walls, allowing skilled contractors to re-clad galleries 2, 3 and 6. The contractors removed the existing wall cladding before fixing new sheets of MDF to create smooth walls – a first in decades for these galleries.

The final phase of the improvements was the installation of new MDF walls and woodwork, that were then painted and finished ready for the new displays. 

Top layer of the walls coming away to reveal vertical wooden planks. These planks had been covered in hessian many decades ago and the hessian had then been covered with layers and layers of paint over the years. Photograph: Sheffield Museums.
A set of signatures by the original builders of the Central Library and Graves Art Gallery, which opened in 1934. Photograph: Sheffield Museums.
Refurbishment and re-hanging nears completion as Graves Art Gallery gets ready to reopen to the public. Photograph: Sheffield Telegraph.

It is understood that the Ampersand Foundation will be supporting the Graves Art Gallery with further redisplays, conservation of the city’s art collection, work with schools and artists, and more over the next four years,

Jack Kirkland, the charity’s chairman, says Sheffield Museums is “using the money as it was intended to be used: that is for the benefit of all Sheffield residents and visitors, and in particular children and young people”.

I might suggest that J.G. Graves would have approved.

A fresh new look for Graves Art Gallery. Photograph: Sheffield Telegraph.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Bank Street and the building that never came to be

“The architects have embodied and concentrated, in an excellent manner, the scattered ideas that were floating in the minds of many.” – Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (1847). Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

From the archives. The year is 1847, and there was talk of a new public building in Sheffield. People were excited. The town was without a public building worthy of its name and enviously looked to Liverpool with St. George’s Hall, and Birmingham with its noble Town Hall.

Unexpectedly, the architects, Flockton, Lee, and Flockton, off its own back, came up with a design, and presented it to the Town Council. This would have been an ample hall for public meetings, a large room for public dinners or lectures, permanent places for the Town Council, the Bankruptcy Court, the Small Debts Court, the School of Design, and a large Museum.

The Town Council was shocked, flinched at the cost to build it, and dismissed the proposal.

However, the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, a supporter of the scheme, had other ideas. The newspaper published a detailed sketch of the building, along with floor plans, and advocated that it should be built.

The public was divided. Some said it had to be done, others said they would like to see it built because Sheffield would then have had a building unequalled by other towns, but the general feeling was that times were hard, and that it could not be allowed to continue.

It wasn’t built, and if it had been, we can only speculate as to what its future fate might have been. Would it still be standing? What condition would it be in? Might it have been destroyed by German bombers?

Most of us will be surprised as to where it was intended to be.

The proposed site comprised nearly 3000 square yards, in an oblong shape, stretching from Bank Street (bottom) to Hartshead (top). “It was occupied by buildings which are of small value.” Photograph: Google.

The site was a plot of sloping land bounded on the north by Bank Street, on the south by Hartshead, on the east by Meetinghouse Lane, and on the west by Figtree Lane. Today, it might seem to have been absurdly in the wrong place, but in the 1840s the area was close to where Sheffield began.

Bank Street wasn’t created until 1792, and was intended to be called Shore Street, named after John Shore, a banker, and this was the name used on leases granted when he cut up his land for building purposes.

In 1793, we find reference to a “new” street in Sheffield called Bank Street, indicating that Shore had just built the town’s first bank here. In effect, the area was a developing financial district, and a public building might not have been so preposterous after all.

“Is the town prepared for so large an undertaking?” asked the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent. “Perhaps not, just now; but there are several considerations that may tend to prepare it.

“In the first place,  if the town is to build, as build it must ere many years have elapsed, it must look beyond the present. A public building is not made like a coat, to fit exactly when made, and be soon worn out. It should be built for two centuries, or more.

The question should not be how little will it serve now? But how can we adequately provide for the present and future, combining at once magnitude of conception, liberality of spirit, and wise economy?

“The expense could not fail to be considerable, but spread over thirty or forty years, it would never be felt as a very heavy burden. This is a wide policy of the Wesleyan body, who, when they build a chapel for the next generation as well as for the present, conceive that the payment should be by those who are to enjoy it hereafter, as well as by themselves.”

What would our ancestors have got for their money?

The descent from Hartshead to Bank Street was about 30ft, allowing for two frontages – one to Bank Street, and the other to Hartshead.

It was proposed to make the Bank Street entrance into a large hall for public meetings, affording standing room for 9000, or sitting room for 3000 persons. This hall would have occupied the whole base of the building with a grand staircase leading up to Hartshead.

The entrance hall at Hartshead would have led to a Bankruptcy Court on one side, and a Council Hall on the other. To these rooms would have been private apartments for the Mayor and the Bankruptcy Commissioner. The entrance hall would have led into an Exchange, covered by a glass dome 50ft above. Alongside would have been offices and committee rooms, with a Banqueting Hall at the Bank Street end.

The topmost story would have extended the whole of the building, excepting the Exchange, and would have provided a Museum of Arts, as well as four additional museum spaces.

Simple plans were prepared by the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent that showed the three-floor layout of the public building. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

In connection with the plan, it was intended to open a new street from Hartshead to High Street (along the line of what became Aldine Court) and opening the end of Watson’s Walk into Angel Street. Figtree Lane and Meetinghouse Lane would have been made wide enough for carriages.

“We do not suppose that the Town Council will embark hastily in this measure. They will listen for the public voice.”

The newspaper was correct because it was never built, and had it been so, we might not have had a need for Sheffield Town Hall or City Hall.

The building that never came to be. This modern-day image shows where the Bank Street entrance would have been had it been built. Photograph: DJP/2021.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Categories
Buildings Other

Don’t block the daylight – our right to ancient lights

A person was historically entitled to ‘ancient lights’ if natural light and air had passed freely through their windows for a certain amount of time. Newman Passage, London. These old signs can still be found around the country, although seemingly not in Sheffield. Photograph: Matt Brown.

You might not be aware of an ancient piece of legislation that affected the way many of Sheffield’s old buildings, and new ones for that matter, were built. The Ancient Lights Law was the right of a building or house owner to the light received from and through his windows. Windows used for light by an owner for 20 years or more could not be obstructed by the erection of another building. This rule of law originated in England in 1663, although was superseded by the 1832 Prescription Act.

If a neighbour attempted to infringe upon this by building a structure or planting trees, the owner had the power to sue them for ‘nuisance’.

The law led to the placement of ‘Ancient Light’ signs under windows that were protected by the ordinance, and today some of these signs can still be found on buildings around London, although I’m not aware of any in Sheffield.

In the 1920s, an Ancient Lights expert, Percy Waldram, proposed a method that would, ideally, standardise, the amount of light people could claim. He suggested that ‘ordinary people’ required one-foot candle (a measure of light intensity) for reading and other work.

The London & Midland Bank (now part of Lloyds Bank), on High Street, Sheffield, was built in 1895 taking into account the ‘ancient lights’ of older properties on the other side of York Street. The opposite corner was later redeveloped with the Telegraph Building which had to reciprocate the ‘right to light’ of the bank.
When built, the Telegraph Building had to conform to the control of heights to which buildings were permitted, and the ancient rights of light afforded to properties opposite and adjacent. Hence the broken skyline, the setting back of the upper storeys and the pyramidal form of the building. Even the tower had to be kept with an angle of 45 degrees.

In Sheffield, the design and construction of many of our old buildings was dictated by rights to light. One such, the Telegraph Building, on High Street, had to be built in such a way as not to affect light to properties on the other side of the street.

We’ve also covered the old Mulberry Tavern, on Mulberry Street, which took the owners of the ‘new’ Victoria Hall to court because its construction had affected light inside the pub.

And there have been other cases.

In 1900, Mappin and Webb objected to the building of a property on the other side of Norfolk Street because it would have affected light coming into its ground-floor showroom.

The Sheffield Cathedral extension in the 1930s prompted discourse from occupiers on St. James’ Row, as did the building of Central Library from the Lyceum Theatre and Masonic Hall.

Broadcasting House, the BBC’s London headquarters, owes its peculiar shape to Ancient Lights claims made by residents of since-demolished nearby homes – the slanting of the east side of the building was a concession to those people’s light-rights. Photograph: Shortlist.

The power that property owners have, to demand ample daylight, is still a relevant debate. However, modern planning laws usually prevent disputes afterwards.

Interestingly, the Ancient Lights doctrine never caught on in the United States where it was deemed restrictive of new commercial and residential developments and thus limiting urban growth.  

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Apartments plan at former Boys’ Charity School

Grade II-listed, No. 14 East Parade. Its front faces Sheffield Cathedral, with a side elevation on Campo Lane, and the rear on York Street. Note the former playground on the roof. Photograph: Google.

A Planned and Listed Building Consent application for 17 shorthold tenancy apartments has been submitted by Pinebridge estates for No. 14 East Parade. It was built in 1825 as the Boys’ Charity School and has been empty for several years.

The actual date of the Boys’ Charity School (or ‘Bluecoats’ School) was in 1706, and for some time the boys were taught in a room at the Earl of Shrewsbury’s Hospital. But in 1710, premises were built at the north-east corner of the Parish churchyard, and these were rebuilt in 1825, and enlarged in 1889. The school was a home for orphan boys. They were lodged, fed, and educated free of charge, partly out of income from endowments and partly out of subscriptions and donations.

“Who has not seen those neat boys whose conduct is in every way a credit to their master, dressed in their old-fashioned blue cloth coat, buttoning up in front and cut away into tails behind with yellow braid and brass buttons, green corduroy trousers, white bands, and a blue ‘muffin’ cap?” (Sheffield Daily Telegraph – 1911)

Six of the boys were maintained out of the charity of Thomas Hanbey (founder of the Hanbey Charity) and wore the complete dress of a Christ’s Hospital boy. Ten other boys wore the letter ‘W’ on their arm, signifying that they were appointed by the heirs of Thomas Watson, who gave £3,000 to the school. There were a hundred boys altogether.

Both the original school and the larger replacement appear to have been formed from a donation in the will of Thomas Hanbey in 1782. It was built to the designs of Woodhead & Hurst who were a Doncaster-based architectural practice, also responsible for St George’s Church, the Music Hall on Surrey Street, the Grammar School on Charlotte Street, Shrewsbury Almshouses on Norfolk Road, and the enlargement of the Town Hall.

Up until 1830, the boys played in the adjacent churchyard, but after being turned-out, they played cricket and football on the third floor, and in a small open playground on the concreted roof of the building (now described as a roof terrace), both made possible by the generosity of Samuel Roberts, the cutler, and supporter of benevolent causes.

The land on which it stood had been leased to the trustees by Joseph Banks of Sefton, for 999 years, at a rental of 20s. a year, but in 1911, the school transferred to new buildings on Psalter Lane, and it was sold for £7,000 to the Government to be converted into a Central Labour Exchange.

It was later used by the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, and in recent years was used as an Industrial Tribunals Court.

The planning application is for 17 apartments, and as part of the conversion it is proposed to create additional accommodation on the former rooftop playground.


The building was separated into various office units and used by several Government departments. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

The Grade II-listed building originally comprised two wings with a central linking range where the main entrance was along East Parade and also a rear cour tyard enclosed to York Street with a wall. This open space was presumably a playground for the pupils. By 1855 this courtyard had been infilled with a new central block of the building creating its current planform. Photograph: Stephen Richards.
Proposed East Parade design. Photograph: Pinebridge Estates.
Proposed Campo Lane design. Pinebridge Estates.
Proposed York Street elevation, with roof extension. Pinebridge Estates.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.