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. Photograph by Brian Mosley.

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Tales of the riverbank. Where does your water come from?

River Derwent, North Yorkshire

Water has been a big topic this summer. We haven’t got enough of it. But things might have been worse if it hadn’t been for a pioneering scheme in the 1960s that allowed Sheffield to source water from an unlikely source.

South Yorkshire has at least fifteen reservoirs and more minor ones, but according to Dr Jenny Stephenson in her book ‘The History of Water – the Sheffield reflection’ (2019) not all these service water to the area. Some act as ‘balancing’ or ‘service reservoirs’ which receive water, pumped, or channelled into them, their purpose being to balance supply with demand. Others are ‘impounding’ reservoirs into which a river flows naturally.

The biggest shock is that Sheffield’s water is mainly from the River Ouse and River Derwent, in North Yorkshire, only in part being from the reservoirs on high ground above Sheffield.

The water from rivers is typically classed as hard water because the water gathers minerals (mainly calcium and magnesium) as it runs through and over rocks. Water from reservoirs is normally softer as it comes from high ground and moorlands.

Increasing demand in the 1960s, in which Sheffield used nearly 38 million gallons of water daily for industry and domestic use, meant that the city’s water supply from the Pennine hills had reached its limit.

In 1965, it was supplemented with the Yorkshire Derwent Scheme, which involved river water being treated at Elvington, near York, and delivered along 37 miles of pipeline to an underground service reservoir at Hoober Stand near Rotherham.

You might be surprised that the scheme was instigated by Sheffield Corporation, because of the Sheffield Water Order 1961, and it designed and executed the work at a cost of over £8m. It was cleverly designed so that Leeds, Barnsley, and Rotherham, also received a share of the water and paid contributions to Sheffield.

The treatment works at Elvington softened, clarified, and filtered water to remove impurities and sterilise it.

The first pipe was laid in May 1962, built by John Brown Ltd, land and marine constructors, and used bitumen lined welded steel pipes, involving four river crossings, including the Ouse and Aire,  13 railways crossings, and 53 road crossings. Once completed it allowed 15 million gallons of water to be pumped into the city daily.

The first water arrived in Sheffield in December 1964 and was celebrated at a Town Hall luncheon hosted by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Albert Smith, who toasted his 80 guests with water mixed with wine and brandy.

It was inaugurated in September 1965, eight months ahead of schedule, and the last weld was made by Alderman Charles Ronald Ironmonger, chairman of the Sheffield Corporation Water Committee and John Staniforth, managing director of John Brown Ltd.

The last section of the 37-mile all-welded pipeline linking the river Derwent at Elvington, seven miles east of York, with the Sheffield Corporation reservoir at Hoober. Picture Sheffield

At the official opening of the Elvington treatment works, Sir William Goode, chairman of the Water Resources Board, referred to Sheffield needing to increase water flow to 25 million gallons a day and suggested that a reservoir might be built on land owned by Hull Corporation at Farndale on the North Yorkshire Moors. This would have meant flooding the valley, like previous schemes at Ladybower, Derwent, and Howden, in Derbyshire, and provide water for Hull and Sheffield.

However, the scheme was derailed in the 1970s, and Sheffield’s municipal water company was amalgamated into a regional board in 1974 and privatised in 1989 and is now part of Yorkshire Water PLC.

The Yorkshire Derwent Scheme subsequently became a segment in the Yorkshire Water Grid which allows transfer of water around the region to balance supply and demand.

By the way, water from the Ladybower dams, is largely used in the East Midlands.

Hoober Stand Reservoir, Rotherham. Image: Google

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Harris Leon Brown and the one o’clock time signal

H.L. Brown is situated in Yorkshire House at 2 Barker’s Pool. Sheffield. The time signal can be seen in the first floor central window. Image: DJP/2022

It confuses many people but is a reliable reminder to others. I’m referring to the one o’clock time signal that blasts out daily from above H.L. Brown at Barker’s Pool.

Today it’s a quirky tradition, and a reminder of a time when the concept of time was a bit fuzzier.

The origin of the time signal goes back to 1874, when in Angel Street, Harris Leon Brown fixed and maintained a ‘Greenwich time ball’ – that was placed on a flagstaff outside his premises, and which by an electric current fell at exactly 1p.m., Greenwich mean-time.

Back then, – different towns tended to keep different times, and thus Greenwich Mean Time was established.

Back in Sheffield, the 1 o’clock Time Signal became a handy way for city workers to mark the end of their lunch breaks, though its position above the watchmaker was used to ensure that his timepieces were accurate.

The equipment was admired for two years, but electric signals in the open air were affected by the weather and its failure to ‘drop’ on several occasions caused it to be removed.

In 1876, he entered into an agreement with the Government to supply him daily for three years with the correct time. A wire connected his shop in Angel Street with the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and at one o’clock every day the ball dropped with remarkable precision as the sixtieth part of a second.

In his window, Harris Brown displayed several English keyless chronometer watches, especially adapted for pocket timekeepers. All of these were regulated by the time ball placed outside his shop door.

In 1891, a ‘Greenwich mean time flashing signal and time bell’ was installed in the window of H.L. Brown at new premises at 71 Market Place. It was a synchronised clock with flashing signal and bell, showing mean time daily at 1p.m. and was unaffected by rain or snow.

The clock was 14 inches in diameter, and on either side were two open circles, about half the size of the clock dial.

The one on the left contained a ‘flashing signal’ – a disc of metal painted red, and finely balanced on a pivot. Throughout the day this disc remained with its edge towards the front and was almost invisible. But precisely at one o’clock in the afternoon (GMT) the electric current arrived, giving the disc a quarter revolution, and causing it to reveal its full face, and fill up the open circle, remaining in that position for two seconds.

Simultaneously, the time bell fixed in the open dial to the right of the large clock was struck, so that the electric current made its arrival known both to sight and sound.

To obtain this equipment, H.L. Brown had to enter a five year agreement with the Post Office and pay a large yearly subscription. They were the only watch manufacturer to receive this direct signal. He stated that one of the reasons for installing the equipment was because he had sold many watches from the Government observatory at Kew, and which were guaranteed to keep exact time.

By visiting the Market Place any day at one o’clock, he said that users could ascertain if their watch was ‘on time’ as accurately as by a visit to London.

H.L. Brown later moved to 65 Market Place, and along with it went his equipment. It was bombed in 1940 and the shop moved to 70 Fargate at the corner with Leopold Street.

The time signal was subsequently replaced with a siren, and this was relocated to its current position at Barker’s Pool when H.L. Brown’s Fargate shop was demolished in 1986 for the construction of Orchard Square.

Above the entrance, there’s a small black and white sign proclaiming “1 o’clock time signal” and alongside it, the siren that you hear each and every day. Image: Sheffield Star

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Companies People

Harris Leon Brown – a Polish refugee who made Sheffield his home

Harris Leon Brown came to England from Poland with an introduction to Alfred Beckett & Sons. He started by travelling around as a watch maker. Image: H.L. Brown

This is a story of an Eastern European fleeing from Russia, and the tale of a refugee who ended up in Sheffield.

Harris Leon Brown, jeweller, diamond merchant, and horologist, was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1843, the son of a Russian government contractor, Baruch Brown.

He received his education at Warsaw Seminary Schools, and became an apprentice to Moses Neufeld, one of the largest firms in Warsaw engaged in the Sheffield trades.

When only 17, he was a revolutionary in Poland, one of the many who could not tolerate the oppression which Russia sought to impose upon his country. His part in the insurrection was of short duration, for he saw too many of his friends either shot by the military or hanged in the streets, so he determined to seek refuge in England. This was no easy task, for in those days the passage of Poles through Germany was fraught with the danger of being caught by the Germans with the inevitably painful process of being pushed back to Poland.

But sleeping during the day and the friendly conveyance of market carts during the night enabled him to make progress to Hamburg, then a ‘free’ port, where he took a boat to Hull.

Harris Leon Brown (1843-1917), diamond merchant, jeweller and horologist of Poland and Sheffield. Image: Picture Sheffield

Sheffield was his destination, and with no money to his name, and a ‘stranger in a strange city’ he was introduced to Alfred Beckett and Sons (with whom Moses Neufeld did extensive business) and Burys Ltd. These firms, especially the former, treated him in a paternal manner, and through their guidance he remained in Sheffield.

With his instinct for trading, and by strictly honourable dealing, he founded a lucrative business in 1861 as a watchmaker; he began trading from 29 Gower Street in 1867; by 1876 H.L. Brown was situated at 24 Angel Street and in 1877 connected directly to Greenwich, with the introduction of the 1.00pm clock time signal.

H.L. Brown, 71 Market Place, Sheffield. Image: H.L. Brown

Around 1888, the firm moved to 71 Market Place (where the earliest known image of the premises exists).

In 1896 the firm moved again to 65 Market Place and by 1906 he had opened a branch on Regent Street.

In 1896, H.L. Brown moved to 65 Market Place, Sheffield. Image: H.L. Brown
In the 1930s, H.L. Brown was modernised. Image: H.L. Brown
While searching for photographs of London’s Regent Street, this image from 1910 appeared and shows H.L. Brown at 90 and 90A. Image: Getty Images

Harris Brown married a Sheffield woman, Ann Kirby (daughter of Charles Kirby, Cutler) at St Mary’s Church, Bramall Lane, in 1865. Instead of giving a dinner for his golden wedding anniversary, he sent a cheque for £100 to the Lord Mayor to distribute among various war charities.

During his early years in Sheffield, unable to speak English, he saw a review of troops at Wardsend, and feeling grateful to his new homeland, joined the Hallamshire Rifles, and took pride in doing ambulance work with the local corps. It was characteristic of him that he presented to the St John Ambulance Association a silver shield for competition.

He became the oldest member of Sheffield’s Jewish community, and for many years was Chairman of the Sheffield Jewish Board of Guardians and served as President of the Sheffield Hebrew congregation. He was a prime mover in building a Synagogue in North Church Street, as well as a new place of worship at Lee Croft. He also helped secure a Hebrew burial ground at Ecclesfield. In 1910, he was elected a member of the Jewish Board of Deputies, the first occasion on which a Sheffield Jew had been so honoured.

H.L. Brown and Son had contracts with the Government’s Admiralty and India offices  for their watches, and had obtained, for excellence in workmanship, several Kew (Class A) certificates. In their goldsmith’s workshops they manufactured the jewelled key which was presented to King Edward when he opened the University of Sheffield in 1905.

The jewelled key presented to King Edward VII at the opening of the University of Sheffield. Image: Picture Sheffield
Newspaper advertisement from 1907. Image: British Newspaper Archive

In 1914, he was on holiday with his wife in Germany when war was declared. After eight nerve-racking days, they made their way home, avoiding the gauntlet of military patrols, before escaping back to England.

When in Sheffield, he resided at Kenyon House, 10 Brincliffe Crescent. He died, aged 74, following a seizure at his London residence, 23 Briardale Gardens, West Hampstead, in 1917.  He was survived by his wife, three sons, and four daughters. One of his sons, Bernard Brown, succeeded him in the business.

At the time of his death, it was said that “he took pride in recognising all the obligations which the adoption of English nationality should entail.”

His interment was at the Jewish Cemetery, Edmonton, London. He had great aversion to any kind of display, and by his own expressed wish, the funeral ceremony was simple. No flowers were sent, the coffin was covered in plain black, and the obsequies were conducted with the strictly simple solemnities of the Jewish ritual. In accordance with the custom of that ritual, no ladies were present.

He left property of the value of £29,785 and gave £100 each to the Jewish congregation in North Church Street, the Central Synagogue, and the Talmud Terah School, as well as donations to the Sheffield Royal Infirmary, Sheffield Royal Hospital, Jessop Hospital for Women, and the Sheffield Hospital for Sick Children.

In the 1920s and 1930s, H.L. Brown opened branches in Doncaster and Derby, with Bell brothers of Doncaster joining the family business.

In 1940, the Sheffield shop was destroyed in the Blitz and business moved to 70 Fargate. Image: H.L. Brown

During the Sheffield Blitz (1940) H.L. Brown’s was bombed and business moved to 70 Fargate, at the corner with Leopold Street. The firm moved to its current location of 2 Barker’s Pool when Orchard Square was built in 1986. To this day, the 1,00pm time signal still sounds daily.

Town Hall Square in 1967 looking towards Fargate and Leopold Street, Goodwin Fountain, foreground, and No 70, H.L. Brown and Son Ltd. Image: Picture Sheffield

James Frampton (Harris Brown’s great great grandson) joined the business in 1989 after qualifying as a gemologist and training in the jewellery trade in Switzerland and London. He became MD from 2001 onwards.

In 2020, the store was modernised, and a Rolex showroom introduced.

Today,  H.L. Brown operates in Sheffield and Doncaster (still using the Bell Brothers name), as well as Barbara Cattle (York), James Usher (Lincoln) and Bright and Sons (Scarborough).

H.L. Brown at 2 Barker’s Pool, Sheffield, in 2022. Image: DJP/2022

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Sheffield’s clean air programme to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary

There is an important anniversary coming up in Sheffield’s story.

In 1972, Sheffield completed its clean air programme, and one person who had cause to feel proud was Joseph Batey, nicknamed ‘Smokey Joe,’ who had just retired as the city’s smoke control officer.

Fifty years on, many of us won’t appreciate the importance of this milestone. We are used to clear skies, (mostly) fresh air, and spectacular views across the city.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Concern over Sheffield’s air quality stretched back at least 400 years. As early as 1608 Sir John Bentley expected to be ‘half choked with town smoke’ while visiting Sheffield.

A traveller’s diary of 1798 said: “We had an excellent view of the town of Sheffield enveloped in smoke.” ; and in 1828: “Others have become so accustomed to regard an increase in smoke as an indication of improving trade that they can see nothing in a clear sky but ruin.”

By the 19th century it was apparent that measures were necessary to reduce atmospheric pollution in urban areas.

In 1819, industrial firms were being fined for undue smoke emissions. And in 1843, the Select Committee on Smoke Prevention issued its report, and locally, the Borough Council’s Watch Committee directed the police to enforce Smoke Byelaws.

“The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council’ disallowed the city’s smoke byelaws in 1852, but the council tried again the following year and were successful.

The Sanitary Act of 1866 permitted local sanitary authorities to act against smoke nuisances. It was not until 1875 however, with the passing of the Public Health Act, that attempts were made to control air pollution across the whole country.

In 1890, Sheffield’s first chief smoke inspector noted that the average smoke emission of all chimneys observed by his staff was ‘80 minutes smoke an hour.’

The real break-through came with the Clean Air Act of 1956 which established ‘smokeless zones’ in which only smokeless fuels could be burned. Here was a piece of legislation (and the city’s representatives were consulted when it was being drafted) which swept away the old, misconceived notions and gave any city that cared to have a go the chance for clean air for all.

The citizens proved worthy of their heritage. With power to prohibit smoke from domestic premises, now recognised as the biggest smoke producer, and a 40 per cent grant from the Government towards the cost of domestic conversions to smokelessness (a bonus that few Yorkshiremen could resist) the first area, in the city centre, became smokeless on December 1, 1959.

There was a clean wind blowing into the city from the Derbyshire moors, and the strategy adopted was to work for smoke elimination into this clean wind direction, namely into the south-west sector of the city, but there was not a large volume of heavy industry in the south-west, and smoke gauges in the north east sector, where heavy industry was located, only started to show a steady decline in the early sixties as the programme gained momentum in the south west.

Another advantage which accrued from working in what was largely the ‘domestic’ area was that industry was being alerted to the necessity of ‘getting it clean’ and ‘keeping it clean.’ There was little hope of clearing smoke from a house in the industrial belt if an adjacent factory chimney was pouring out smoke. The Clean Air Act of 1968 forced certain industries to use tall chimneys, and the cooperation of most managements was positive.

A final programme of complete domestic smoke control was forwarded to the then Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1960, showing the completion date as 1972. This programme was adhered to, and the promise kept.

By turning over to smokeless fuels there was a welcome reduction in the sulphur dioxide measurements, using measuring stations.

Fog or smog days disappeared by the late 1960s and Sheffield Transport’s manager stated, in reply to a query regarding bus time-keeping – “I can say that it is the opinion of all my staff that over the years with the introduction of smokeless zones, the problem has almost entirely disappeared.”

The effect on health was carried out at Sheffield University, but few needed convincing that cleaner air, more sunshine, and less dirt, was conductive to good health.

By 1972, the city of 71 square miles with over half a million population, and 186,000 houses, had tamed air pollution in 12 years, even though its basic industry, producing three million tons of steel, was notorious for its pollution problems.

The creation of smoke control areas was so successful that by the early 1980s they covered the whole of the urban parts of the city, and the transformation of Sheffield’s air was thought to have been complete. The 1956 and 1968 Clean Air Acts were repealed by the Clean Air Act 1993, which consolidated and extended the provisions of the earlier legislation.

However, the new threats from traffic emissions became the next clean air challenge.

In early 2023 Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone is due to start. This is a class C chargeable zone for the most polluting large goods vehicles, vans, buses, and taxis that drive within the inner ring road and city centre.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


‘Rain’ – ‘Passers-by seem drawn to these polished spheres.’

‘Rain’ – Millennium Square, Sheffield. Image: Cassini International

Let’s talk about Colin Rose, sculptor, printmaker, and lecturer. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1950 and studied at the Polytechnic and University there.

Over the years he has worked in a variety of mediums from mirror polished stainless steel to stone. More unusually he has worked with Rope, Brick and even Coal Dust depending on the requirement of the brief.

But what is his connection to Sheffield?

Colin Rose. Sculptor and printmaker. Image: Cheeseburn

He was the winner of a design competition in 2003 which resulted in a ‘blue space’ water feature that is representative of Millennium Square.

‘Rain’ is designed to evoke the falling of rain drops upon the ground, with the small pools at the base of each steel ball creating the ripple effect.

The steel balls, of which there are nine spheres in varying sizes up to 2m in diameter, symbolise the steel, craftsmanship, stonework, and water, which are symbolic of Sheffield’s industrial heritage.

The water sparkles at night due to dozens of colour-changing LED lights set in the paving, and into the rim of the pools under each of the steel ball raindrops.

Rose’s commissions can be seen throughout the UK and include: ‘Meteor’ – Jodrell Bank, ‘You – Genome Centre, Cambridge, StarBall – EBI, Cambridge, ‘Swirl Cone – Carmarthen, and 10 Swirl – Gateshead.

While developing his practice Colin taught fine art and was head of Sculpture at Sunderland University from 2000 till 2006.

Steel reflection. ‘Rain’ – Millennium Square, Sheffield. Image: DJP/2020

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Tesco Express to open on Fargate

42-46 Fargate. The site of a new Tesco Express. Image: DJP/2022

We recently looked at 42-46 Fargate, an existing retail unit that was formerly used by New Look. The building has been demolished and redeveloped multiple times, with the present, existing building having been constructed in the 1990s.

This was once the site of the Green Dragon Hotel, built in 1884, with R. H. Ramsden shoe and hat shop occupying the ground floor retail unit. In 1922, it was adapted to become Winchester House, the former hotel rooms becoming offices and studios. During the 1950s and 1960s, Winchester House became offices for the Provincial Insurance Company. In the 1970s, the building was demolished and replaced with a standard 1970s design.

The demise of Fargate and its pending renaissance is well documented, but here comes news that Tesco Express is to occupy the building.

The retail giant has applied for planning permission for the installation of a new realigned shopfront and new aluminium automatic telescopic sliding door, as well as new signage and rooftop plant machinery.

Tesco Express shops are convenience stores averaging 200 square metres (2,200 sq ft), stocking mainly food with an emphasis on higher-margin products, and the necessity to maximise revenue per square foot, alongside everyday essentials. They are in busy city-centre districts, small shopping precincts in residential areas, small towns and villages, and on Esso petrol station forecourts.

A typical Tesco Express store at the Mailbox, Birmingham.


County lines – the fight to keep Sheffield out

It was 1990, and the Boundary Commission was blitzed by worried Derbyshire ratepayers who feared a big part of their county could be gobbled by Sheffield.

Thousands of householders were issued with specially printed postcards by North-East Derbyshire District Council to send to the commission urging them not to make more than 100 square miles of territory part of Sheffield.

A bid by the city to grab Killamarsh, Eckington, and Dronfield, as well as parts of the Hope Valley in the Peak District, had been withdrawn after a high profile campaign by residents and neighbouring Derbyshire councils.

But despite the climbdown, the commission was still duty bound to examine the possibility of changing the boundary.

The story had begun in 1987 when the Boundary Commission wrote to Sheffield City Council announcing its intention to undertake a review of Sheffield as part of its review of the Metropolitan County of South Yorkshire.

Sheffield City Council made it known that there was a substantial case for extension of its boundary by absorbing the Hope Valley and Dronfield, Eckington, and Killamarsh. It resulted in a petition bearing 16,000 signatures, 800 postcards and 1,500 letters from people living in the areas concerned, opposing any transfer into Sheffield.

The three parishes of Dronfield, Eckington and Killamarsh had strong links with the city and despite Sheffield’s withdrawal, the Boundary Commission felt obliged to consider the proposal.

However, the Hope Valley, although falling within Sheffield’s travel to work area, and favouring Sheffield for shopping visits, had a large moorland divide, and the Boundary Commission dismissed the investigation.

Historical boundary changes had allowed Sheffield to expand in former years, and some districts that had once been part of Derbyshire, included Dore, Totley, Frecheville, Meersbrook, Hackenthorpe, Norton, Woodseats, and Beighton.

In 1991, the Boundary Commission published its findings, and the three Derbyshire parishes escaped becoming part of Yorkshire.

However, there were minor changes, including the former Lightwood Traffic Training Ground at Norton being transferred to Sheffield and using Bochum Parkway as the identifiable boundary.

It also transferred Birley Wood Golf Course to Sheffield, mainly because it was owned by Sheffield City Council and used by city’s residents.

And there was a stumbling block over land between White Lane and Birley Lane, in which Sheffield Supertram would later travel.  It was argued that the tramway should fall within Sheffield, and unless somebody corrects me, this section of tramway still runs across a tiny part of Derbyshire.  

This might have happened 32 years ago, but as one academic recently said to me, it is only a matter of time before Sheffield expands further into Derbyshire.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


“The mansion stood in a rural situation within sight of Sheffield, surrounded by farmland.”

It is one of Sheffield’s forgotten big houses, but the future of Mount Pleasant on Sharrow Lane looks much brighter.

Hermes Care, supported by Axis Architecture, has submitted a full planning and listed building application to Sheffield City Council for the conversion of the grade II* listed Mount Pleasant building, together with the partial demolition and retention of the former Highfield School building and new build extensions.

Planning permission is sought for the redevelopment of the site to create a care village offering supported living, assisted living and 24-hour specialist care.

The Mount Pleasant Building would be converted into one-, two- and three-bed residential care spaces, and a new-build 39-bedroom care home would be built on the playground area of the former Highfield School building.

The ground floor of Highfield School would be converted to create communal spaces for the new care home with the remainder providing a communal residential care lounge and day centre. The first floor would be converted into four one-, two- and three-bed residential suites.

The plans also include the demolition of former Highfield School extensions and a three-storey new build extension to the south to create 12 one-bed residential suites.

Artist impressions of Mount Pleasant care village. Image: Axis Architecture

Mount Pleasant is an 18th Century mansion and was built for the Sitwell family by Francis Hurt Sitwell. The house was constructed in 1777 using the architect John Platt (1728– 1810) of Rotherham. When first built, the mansion stood in a rural situation within sight of the centre of Sheffield, surrounded by farmland at the top of a slight gradient overlooking the valley of the River Sheaf.

The Sitwells owned Mount Pleasant for less than 20 years as in 1794 it was sold to Samuel Broomhead Ward. By the 1850s, the family of Thomas Tillotson, a Sheffield merchant, were living at Mount Pleasant, after that the building was utilised for various purposes.

In 1868, the committee of the West Riding County Asylum at Wakefield acquired a five-year lease on Mount Pleasant and used it to alleviate overcrowding at their main hospital. As an asylum, Mount Pleasant accommodated approximately 75 residents, with eight staff, and in 1872, all residents were transferred to the newly built South Yorkshire Asylum at Wadsley.

In 1874, Mount Pleasant became the Girls’ Charity School when it was relocated from its original location in St James Row at the side of Sheffield Cathedral. In 1927, the school was renamed the Mount Pleasant School for Girls.

It was requisitioned for use by the Government during World War II and afterwards the building continued to be used by various Government departments with the Ministry of Works Engineering Department, the Ministry of Fuel and the Ministry of Transport all having office space there.

Mount Pleasant, with former Highfield School to right. Image: Google

Mount Pleasant was designated a listed building in May 1952.

By 1961 there was just the National Assistance Board and the Drivers Examiners Department using the buildings, with the latter using the old stables and coach house buildings as offices.

When the building was vacated by the government, it fell into a state of near ruin during the late 1960s and early 1970s, but was restored by the mid-1970s and converted into a Community Centre with the stables used as a Youth Club known as The Stables Connexions Centre.

Only the Stable Block currently remains in use, by Shipshape Health and Wellbeing Centre, with Mount Pleasant left vacant for several years along with the former Highfield School, which was vacated and relocated to a new school on an adjacent site in 2006.

The Stable Block does not form part of the development proposals, with Shipshape being retained as tenants for the foreseeable future.

Mount Pleasant House, Sharrow Lane (Girl’s Charity School). Established in 1786, the school relocated from St. James’ Row to Sharrow Lane in 1874. Image: Picture Sheffield

The Guardians of Mount Pleasant were granted permission to occupy the Mount Pleasant building to maintain a level of on-site security.

However, the former Highfield School building was left empty and has been badly vandalised and impacted by pigeon infestation, and drug users, although thankfully now, the building is secure and has been cleaned internally by the new owners.

The area has suffered extensively from petty crime and the misuse of drugs, with the limited security to the perimeter of the site compounding matters.

Mount Pleasant, Sharrow Lane, Sheffield, pictured in 1974. Image: Sheffield Star

The mystery behind the Lord’s House

45-47 Fargate, Sheffield. The site of the Lord’s House. Image: DJP/2022

The year is 1815 and a big old town house on Fargate was demolished. It was replaced by a shop and in later years the site at its corner with Norfolk Row was occupied by Robert Hanbridge and Sons, hosier, hatters, and glovers, before becoming Hepworth tailors and finally a branch of Next.

The story of 45-47 Fargate has been covered here already, and the former Next building was recently demolished to reveal its underground secrets. But if we were able to dig even deeper there may be further treasures.

After Sheffield Castle was demolished in 1646, the Manor House remained, and the agent of the Duke of Norfolk, Lord of the Manor, resided here.

In 1706, however, the Manor House was dismantled, and a year later the Lord’s House was built in Fargate, of moderate size and pretensions, for the accommodation of the steward, and the occasional visits of the Lord of the Manor.

In the middle of the eighteenth century Henry Howard, then resident agent to the Duke of Norfolk lived here, and his son, Bernard Edward, who was born in the Lord’s House in 1765 eventually succeeded to the title on the death of his cousin, and became the 12th, Duke. But the Lord’s House was mostly occupied by his agents, the last one being Vincent Eyre.

In 1791, rioters had tried to burn it down in protest at the Enclosures Acts and were only prevented by the timely arrival of the military, which had been summoned from Nottingham the day before.

Towards the end of its life, the Lord’s House became a school where Samuel Scantlebury, the brewer, was a pupil.

View of the Lord’s House, Fargate, demolished 1815. Taken from a pen drawing in the possession of Mr R. Drury (1867). Sketch made 31st October, 1867. Image: Picture Sheffield
The Lord’s House was built in 1707 for the Duke of Norfolk on his occasional visits to Sheffield. It was mostly occupied by his agents, the principal one being Vincent Eyre. It was situated in Fargate, at the corner of Norfolk Row. The house was demolished in 1814. Image: Picture Sheffield

“At the end of Norfolk Row was the building called the old Lord’s House,” said George Leighton in 1876. “It formed the corner of Fargate and Norfolk Row and stood where there are the shops so long occupied by Mr Holden, watchmaker (now Mr Rennie’s, hosier), and the adjacent ones, as far as the Old Red House.

“There was a double flight of steps leading to a balcony on the level of the first floor. Mr Rimmer, the catholic priest, had a small room in the house, used as a chapel. The entrance was from Norfolk Row side, and there were two or three steps up to the chapel.

“About the time I am speaking of (1814-1815), the building was taken down, and the land was quite open from Fargate to the Assembly Rooms in Norfolk Street, and it continued open for years. Mr Rimmer got a chapel built upon the ground, right at the back (in 1816), and that continued to be the Roman Catholic place of worship until the present St Marie’s Church was built (1846-1850). We used to play on the ground, and ‘Old Rimmer’ did not like it, and drove us off. He was a nice old gentleman – a cheerful old chap. For a long time, the ground was unfenced, but ultimately a palisade was put up.”

The Lord’s House was sold in 1814 and dismantled in 1815, but the replacement chapel was short-lived. The palisade in the house’s former gardens was St. Marie’s Roman Catholic Church, better known today as the Cathedral Church of St Marie, Sheffield.

These days we have little visual evidence as to how the Lord’s House looked. However, within Sheffield Archives are two sketches, one of which is a pen drawing that was in the possession of Mr R. Drury in 1867.

Both are remarkably similar, but in Charles Hadfield’s ‘History of St Marie’s,’ published in 1899, he provides another sketch that was taken from a porcelain model, the property of Arnold J. Ward. This model purported to represent the old mansion in Fargate. Mrs Fisher (widow of Henry Fisher, surgeon, Eyre Street) who died in 1881, stated that her father had purchased the model at a sale.

The Lord’s House. From Charles Hadfield’s ‘History of St Marie’s’ 1889. Image: British Newspaper Archive

That the model was a correct representation of the Lord’s House was testified by several residents including Septimus Clayton, John Kirk, George Thompson, James Brown, and William Clayton, well within the recollection of these old men.

In 1931, the Sheffield Daily Telegraph queried the whereabouts of the porcelain model and discovered that it had been presented to the Duke of Norfolk by Arnold J. Ward in 1897 who received an acknowledgement.

The newspaper contacted the ducal seat at Arundel Castle in Sussex and received the following response.

“We have a model in porcelain which might be described as follows: Circular front with door in centre, two round turret towers on either side with battlements around the top of each and with a square tower in centre of model which resembles an ordinary church. There is no record stating that this is the model asked about.”

The description suggests a different property to all the sketches, but there was consensus at the time that the model was the Lord’s House.

And we should also remember George Leighton’s recollections that ‘the Lord’s House had a double flight of steps, leading to a balcony on the first floor.’ Again, this contradicts all the sketches.

Somebody has suggested to me that the sketches might show the rear of the property, and one does show a retaining wall to the left hand side that might have been alongside Norfolk Row.

For now, I have submitted a request to Arundel Castle to determine whether the porcelain model still exists, and whether they have any more information on the Lord’s House.

Catholic Chapel, Norfolk Row (Original St. Marie’s). Norfolk Row to left. Fargate in background. Image: Picture Sheffield

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