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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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Steelopolis

A week in Steelopolis

Former Endcliffe Sunday School, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. Image/Axis Architecture

Food court proposal for old Sunday School

Last year, we looked at proposals to convert the former Endcliffe Sunday School, next to the old Endcliffe Methodist Church, on Ecclesall Road, into apartments and townhouses. Over a year later, the plans have been changed and now designs have been submitted for the alteration, extension, and conversion of the building, to create ‘Founders & Co’ a food hall/street food restaurant, bar, and local enterprise hub, with ancillary retail and business workspace.

The Sunday School was originally built at a cost of £8,000 for the adjacent Methodist Church. It was designed by John Charles Amory Teather, who placed copies of religious and local newspapers, a circuit plan, and a programme of the day’s proceedings in a cavity, when the foundation stone was laid on 6 October 1927.

The vacant Sunday School comprises a central large classroom with a stage to the south that is lit naturally by the rear window. The front of the stage is decorated with a plaster architrave topped with a hood that includes the date ‘1928’, the date of completion.

In later years it was sold to the University of Sheffield and, in 1985, became the Traditional Heritage Museum. The museum closed in 2011 and the building was last used by the university in 2016.

‘Founders & Co’ is a concept developed by Bark Design Studios which has seen the successful rollout of the concept in Swansea and models itself on other food hall operations like Kommune, at Sheffield’s Castle House, although on a smaller scale.

Proposed Founders & Co at Endcliffe Sunday School, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. Image/Axis Architecture

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Meadowhall receives planning permission for leisure extension

Retail as we’ve known it is disappearing, and Meadowhall can see that its future will be leisure-led. Plans for an extension to the shopping centre have been approved and will include a new indoor recreation and leisure hall, shops, food and drink units, extension to the existing cinema, police station and car showroom. The plan has been scaled down twice and includes an agreement to delay building the leisure hall until 2029, to minimise impact on Sheffield and Rotherham centres.

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Old Town Hall, Waingate, Sheffield. Image/Sheffield in Ruins/Denzil Watson/2022/Revelations 23 Press

Renewed fears for future of the Old Town Hall

This photo has been doing the rounds this week. It shows a missing floor at Sheffield’s Old Town Hall and is featured in a new book.

Sheffield In Ruins, by Denzil Watson, is a fascinating photographic record of city locations that once teemed with life, but that found themselves empty and unwanted as the city’s story moved on.

Since first exploring the dereliction of Sheffield’s East End in the late 1980s, Denzil Watson has developed a passion for secret spaces that once had a purpose – interiors that are now smashed and trashed, rusting and wrecked, but that have a desperate beauty all their own.

The photo emerges at the same time as Valerie Bayliss, chair of the Friends of the Old Town Hall, urged its owner, Gary Ata, to show he was serious about restoring the ‘great old listed building which has been neglected for too long’. Built in 1808, it has been disused for 25 years.

“In its current state it’s likely to be a drag on the city council’s plans to regenerate Castlegate; it will probably deter other potential investors; and we know its condition is getting worse. We hope the city council is monitoring the situation closely.”

According to David Walsh, writing for the Sheffield Star, “Mr Ata snapped up the site on Waingate for £600,000. He registered a company called The Courthouse Apartments (Sheffield) Ltd and took out two loans which were repaid on November 28 this year. But no repair or restoration work appear to have taken place.”

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Site of new Manhatta at Balm Green, Sheffield. Imagee/Ashleigh Signs

A lively addition to Balm Green

Into the city centre, and a lively addition to the normal solitude of Balm Green, next to Sheffield City Hall.

Once upon a time, this was the site of the Grand Hotel, replaced by Fountain Precinct, a brown and neutral tiled office building, built in the 1970s. It ranges from six to nine stories in height across its various wings and is arranged around a central courtyard.

The building has recently undergone major refurbishment, with lots of glass, shared business lounge, external roof terrace, break out areas and upgraded common areas.

Early next year, the ground floor, fronting Balm Green, is to become Manhatta bar/restaurant and says it will be beneficial for both locals and visitors to the area.

The company already operates in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Harrogate, and York.

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Castlegate House, Haymarket, Sheffield. Image: DNA Group

Apartment plans for Castlegate House

News of an unusual planning application for Castlegate House at 12-18 Haymarket. Built in the 1960s, the ground floor was once occupied by British Home Stores (BHS) but is now a branch of B&M Bargains.

The application is for change of use on the upper floor from retail (unused) to large ‘housing in multiple occupation’ style letting rooms. The basement will be converted into a gym for residents, while the existing ground floor shop and first floor snooker hall will remain unaffected.

The proposal is to convert the second and third floors into high quality student accommodation. New windows will be included to each room for light and fresh air, with the central part of the building removed to provide a large open space to the central area and light to the inner rooms.

Each room will have its own kitchenette, bathroom, seating and sleeping areas. There is a large communal area in the glazed atrium and a communal kitchen/ dining area on each floor.

Access to the site will be from Dixon Lane and across the walkway bridge to the covered way at Haymarket. Both entrances will have electronic key entry, CCTV cameras, and a video entry system.

It isn’t the most attractive building in the area, but the exterior will be upgraded to include new window openings, while the Haymarket front will be re clad with stylish metal sheeting.

Proposed designs for Castlegate House, Haymarket, Sheffield. Image: DNA Group

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Places

Sheffield Deer Park – ‘the avenue of walnut trees that stretched from the Lodge to the Castle.’

Sheffield Deer Park. Image: Friends of Manor Lodge

Once upon a time, in medieval England, there were deer parks that stretched across the country. These enclosed areas were bounded by a ditch with a wooden, stone, or brick wall to keep the deer in.

To establish a deer park a royal licence was required, and they quickly became status symbols for the lord of the manor.

At the end of the 15th century there were about 2000 deer parks with most having a range of about one to two miles.

One of the biggest was Sheffield Deer Park, spanning a circumference of eight miles, 2500 acres, established in Norman times by Thomas de Furnival, but is believed to have Anglo-Saxon origins.

At its zenith it contained about three thousand deer (mainly fallow) and some of the largest oak trees ever recorded in England

Turret House, Manor Lodge, Sheffield. Image/Friends of Manor Lodge

According to Friends of Manor Lodge, which provided much of this information, Sheffield Deer Park was a Baronial Castle Park, with the castle located at the edge of the park and extended away like a large balloon

It was referred to as ‘Ye Greate Park,’ and was a place of recreation, somewhere to ride, joust, practise archery, to fish and to boat, and to engage in falconry. It is thought by most scholars that it was not primarily for hunting, but to provide food for the lord of the manor.

The deer were often chased, but the ‘drive’ or ‘bow and stable’ method was used which involved driving the deer into nets or towards archers. The deer were pickled for the winter, because fresh meat was unavailable between November and April.

A forgotten part in Sheffield’s history. Sheffield Deer Park was one of the largest in England. Even now, deer are sometimes seen in parts of the old park, and people are shocked to see them. But this was once their habitat. Image/Shutterstock

“Sheffield Park commenced below the Castle entrance where the Park gates were situated and followed a northerly direction tracing the river Don before turning eastwards towards Attercliffe. After several miles, it ceased following the river Don and turned in a southwards direction tracing a line close to and parallel with what is now the modern Sheffield Parkway.

“On reaching Bowden Housted woods at Darnall, it then turned in a westerly direction following the Car Brook and parallel to what is now the modern Sheffield Ring Road (Prince of Wales Road). On reaching its highest point at what is now called Manor Top, we come across the other main gates, called the Intake gate. Entry through here (private by invitation only) would have led direct to the Park gate. It followed a line parallel to the present City Road and was a superb walnut avenue of trees creating a major landmark in the town.

“From the Intake gate, the edge of the park continued in a southerly direction until reaching what is now referred to as Gleadless Valley and a wooded area called Buck Wood (named Berrysforth Wood in earlier times.)

“This is the most southerly point and then continuing through Buck Wood in a westerly direction we reach Heeley and then on to the outer reaches of the town (as it was then) through to the present Bramall Lane, The Moor, Union Street, Norfolk Street and finishing at the starting point of the Park Gate.”

The Manor Lodge was at the heart of the Deer Park, and it was said that it was possible to travel under the avenue of walnut trees that stretched from the Lodge to the Castle without getting wet.

Sheffield Deer Park provided food in days when most of the land was unenclosed. Deer lived, and thrived, upon the land, but it was said that most of Sheffield’s shops were supplied with venison stolen from the park.

There is a curious record that the Earl of Shrewsbury, who once had a thousand fallow deer in Sheffield Park, graciously allowed ‘a holiday once every year to the apron-men or smiths of the parish, when a number of bucks were turned into a meadow near town, and the men were sent into it to kill and carry away as many as they could with their hands, and would sometimes slaughter about twenty, on which they feasted. Money was given to them for wine. Such is said to have been the origin of the famous Cutlers’ Feast, but it was not until 1624 that the Cutlers’ Company of Hallamshire was incorporated by an act passed ‘for the good order and government of the makers of knives, sickles, shears, scissors, and other cutlery ware.’

Medieval deer hunting. Image/Medievalists

From around the 16th century and into the seventeenth century it ceased to be totally a deer park. Large parts were converted into pasture and arable land with tenants renting strips of land to grow crops. Isolated farmsteads sprang up with other parts for quarrying and a coal mine.

By 1637, Harrison’s survey indicated 1,200 deer in total with the deer park only about 40% of its original size.

“The common people would trespass this park and were allowed certain privileges of coming and going but insisted on taking more. In 1692, the Duke of Norfolk, then Lord of the Manor, brought an action against certain people because of their use of a road between Intacke and Parke Hill and then into Sheffield, pretending that it was a public highway.”

It was a problem that recurred over the centuries.

In 1822, Michael Ellison, Agent to the Duke of Norfolk placed an advertisement in local newspapers warning locals after tenants complained that people had been going over their lands in pursuit of game, or other idle purposes, and had thrown down walls and fences.

“That, with a view to preventing the continuance of such Trespasses, proper Persons have been appointed for the purpose of detecting those who may commit them after this Notice, and all Persons so detected will be proceeded against in the manner prescribed by the Law.”

In 1913, the deer park had long disappeared, and Thomas Wilder gave a lecture in Sheffield:-

“The venerable trees of the Park had gone to build the country’s ‘wooden walls,’ to make charcoal for the melting of iron and steel, to supply ‘kidds of wood’ to the town bakery on Baker’s Hill, and their very roots had been grubbed up for fuel for the blast furnaces. The numerous streams and fishponds had disappeared into the wastes, gobbs and grafs of the ancient coal and ironstone workings with which the Park was honeycombed.”

What made the deer park so special were the thousands of veteran oak trees with some listed in John Evelyn’s 18th-century book ‘Silva.’ Several were mentioned, including the great oak tree situated in the Conduit plain, located above City Road Cemetery in modern times. This tree, its arms stretching 45 feet or more from the trunk, could shelter more than 250 horses under its foliage and there were many other trees with similar magnitude.

All these years later, there is still evidence of the old deer park. Norfolk Park, Buck Wood, Manor Fields Park, and other wooded areas are all remnants of the deer park, and small sections of the wall remain in the most unlikely places.

One of the most unusual sections, virtually unnoticed, is at Manor Top, where old stonework can be seen under a later brick one, beside the road opposite the TA Centre.

Remains of Deer Park wall at Manor Top. Image/David Templeman/Ecclesall Design

Manor Lodge survives and was a ‘standing’ or ‘prospect house’ from which the park could be viewed. An inventory of 1582 suggests that the Hall in the Ponds (The Queen’s Head) was a park banqueting house.

“This great house stood near the middle of Sheffield Park; part of it is very ancient; but one part being brick, with stone corners, is not older than 1500. The Duke of Norfolk, in 1609, destroyed it. This is the place where Cardinal Wolsey, that proud Prelate, when under house arrest for high treason, took the fatal draught whereof he died at Leicester Abbey; and here also Mary Queen of Scots was kept prisoner at large more than sixteen years.” – Extract from a manuscript, written in 1647.

If you discount the Manor Lodge itself there were at least 4 lodges, plus a hunting stand. There’s nothing left of any of them, but some later became farms, the most obvious being Park Farm at Gleadless.

And there is evidence of the old ‘Intacke gate’ that stood at the entrance to the park. This would have been near where the stretch of wall remains at Manor Top. Old wooden gates were replaced with stone ones in 1685 and were later bought by Burrows Trippet from the Duke of Norfolk who moved them to his farmhouse where they stand to this day at Richmond.

See also: Friends of Manor Lodge

Intake Gates. Now positioned at Richmond. Image/HistoryDude/Sheffield History

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Decision day looms for Meadowhall extension

Meadowhall, Sheffield. Original project drawing. Image/TMM Hybrid Application

Next week is an important one for Meadowhall. The shopping centre will learn whether its planned extension will be approved by Sheffield City Council.

British Land applied in late 2020 for The Meadowhall Masterplan project, and following revisions, the application was scaled down to include an extension to Meadowhall for a new leisure hall, an extension to the existing cinema complex, and additional space for new retail units.

The application will be considered by the council’s planning and highways committee on 6 December and is recommended for approval in an officer’s report prepared for the meeting.

The recommendation has been made despite objections from Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, NewRiver REIT (UK) Ltd (which owns most of the land and property on The Moor in Sheffield city centre) and Dransfield Properties (which owns and manages the Fox Valley retail, office, and leisure development in Stocksbridge).

Meadowhall opened in 1990 and is the largest shopping centre in Yorkshire. The site was once the Meadow Hall Iron Works, owned by John Crowley and Co, and later occupied by Hadfields Ltd, known as East Hecla Works, which specialised in steel casting to produce points and crossings for railway track works.

Any development within the site has the potential to disturb buried archaeological remains associated with the former East Hecla Works, Imperial Steel Works, West Tinsley Railway Station, and Brightside Works.

Meadowhall, Sheffield. Original project drawing. Image/TMM Hybrid Application

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Streets

“A favourite playground of the boys of those days and boasted the name of ‘Sow Mouth.”

Pinstone Street, Sheffield. Image/Sheffield Star

I walked through the city centre the other day and remembered an old newspaper article that spoke of Pinson Lane in 1736, and later became Pinstone Street.

The article from 1927 was written by Harold Rowley who suggested that Pinstone Street may have had some connection with Penistone, once a common surname in the district, but had once been called Pincher Croft, which hinted it may have had some connection with Barker’s Pool, being originally Pitcher Croft.

When I got home, I referred to Sidney Oldall Addy’s ‘The Hall of Waltheof’ or ‘The Early Condition and Settlement of Hallamshire’ from 1893.

“We have few ‘lanes’ in Sheffield now. The popular idea seems to be that there is something mean and insignificant in a lane, and hence Pinson Lane now bears the grander name of Pinstone Street.

Old inhabitants of Sheffield speak of Pinson Lane. Gosling writes it Pinson Lane in 1736, and I find a croft called Pincencroft Len in a document dated 1554. 

Pincen is probably the surname Pinson, so that Pincencroft is exactly analogous to Colson Crofts, Sims Croft, Scargill Croft, and Hawley Croft, which are derived from surnames.

The word ‘len’ in Pincencroft Len is not our ‘lane’ but the Old Norse lén, a. fief, or fee, a piece of freehold, or land held in fee simple. Thus, the meaning is Pinson Croft freehold. The croft acquired the name of the person or the family—the Pinsons—who once held it, and then it afterwards became known as the Pinsoncroft ‘len’ or fee.”

Mr Rowley also mentions that the old name for the Fargate end of Pinstone Street was once called Sowmouth, popularly explained because it tapered and grew narrower. However, he says, this was evidently wrong, because Sowmouth meant a door or opening.

I didn’t know this, but I referred to Robert Eadon Leader’s ‘Reminiscences of Old Sheffield: Its Streets and its people’ (1876) and found the following passage from Richard Leonard: –

“Forty years ago, there were one or two trees growing on the property of Mr Withers, in Pinstone Street. A passage leading from Fargate to New Church Street, was a favourite playground of the boys of those days and boasted the name of ‘Sow Mouth.’”

(New Church Street ran parallel to modern-day Surrey Street and was lost underneath the Town Hall when it was built in 1890-1897).

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Harmony Works development green-lighted

Canada House, Commercial Street, Sheffield. Image/DJP/2022

Planning consent has been granted for the former gas board offices on Commercial Street.

Sheffield Music Academy submitted full planning and listed building applications to Sheffield City Council earlier this year for the conversion of the grade II*-listed Canada House on Commercial Street.

The building was constructed in 1875 for the Sheffield United Gas Company and continued to be used as offices by the gas board until 1972. It was converted into a nightclub and pub in the 1980s, while the adjoining Shude Hill warehouse wing became Tower Cash & Carry.

In 1990 the building was acquired by Canadian Business Parks of Bedfordshire, and adopted its new name, Canada House.

The plans cover the refurbishment, change of use and extension of the building.

The development would include a performance space for an audience of 300, two rehearsal rooms accommodating 80 musicians, 15 smaller ensemble rehearsal rooms, 20 individual practice rooms and a substantial instrument store.

Office space, a café, breakout spaces and ancillary accommodation would also be provided.

The design was developed by Live Projects, an initiative at the School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield.

The proposed ‘Harmony Works’ development, from Sheffield Music Academy and Sheffield Music Hub, aims to create a home for music education in the region.

Sheffield Music Hub is a partnership of education and music organisations, led by Sheffield City Council, which provides music education to 176 schools and 80,000 children across the city. SMA is one of 15 Centres for Advanced Music Training in the UK, funded by the Department for Education’s Music & Dance Scheme.

Sheffield City Council made the following comments after granting the application: –

“The proposed development would being a currently vacant grade II*-listed Building in declining condition in a prominent City Centre gateway location back into beneficial use as a music academy.

“The applicant has revised the proposals to overcome initial concerns in relation to the height of the proposed rear extension and the obstructive effect of the previously proposed accessible ramp to Commercial Street.

“It is considered that the benefits of the proposal would significantly outweigh the less than substantial harm to the heritage asset which would be caused by the proposed listed building works and rear extension.”

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

“I noticed that many of the old crofts have disappeared – the old slumdom is going.”

Sims Croft, from Townhead Street towards Tenter Street. Image/Picture Sheffield

“I believe that we can recapture the lost beauty of Sheffield. In fact, you are already beginning to recapture it. I thought this morning how greatly improved the city was architecturally and structurally. I noticed that many of the old crofts have disappeared – the old slumdom is going. Watch that you don’t get new slums in their place, and that you don’t let the jerry-builder play his old game and run up his weedy, seedy, respectable-looking, but fever-haunted dens, built on rottenness and breeding illness of all kinds in days to come.”

This is a quote from 1910, by the Rev. S.E. Keeble, of Southport, once a Methodist minister at Brunswick Church in Sheffield between 1893 and 1896, who had returned to speak at the Victoria Hall on Norfolk Street.

In olden days, it had been the fashion to name streets or lanes as ‘crofts’. Sheffield had Pea Croft, White Croft, Hollis Croft, Lea Croft, Sims Croft, Hawley Croft, Scargill Croft, and so on. These were (and some still are) located in the area between modern-day Bank Street and towards Scotland Street.

The ‘crofts’ area developed within plots formed by former fields, and the name was originally respectable and modern, much the same as ‘avenue’ became, but the advent of time led to the term becoming synonymous with slums.

And for this reason, Sheffield started eliminating the term, and under the Government’s Slum Clearance Scheme had eradicated the properties in the early twentieth century.

Scargill Croft, Lee Croft, White Croft, and Hollis Croft survive in very different circumstances, and in some cases the people have returned to live here.

Derelict housing on Scargill Croft. Image/Picture Sheffield/SCC

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Steelopolis

A week in Steelopolis

Crucible Theatre. Image: Rich Bamford

A bit of a dramarama

What do the following have in common?

The Bath and Ladle, The Bessemer, The Casting Pit, The Forge, The Hopper, The Hearth and Spoon, The Pig, The Puddle Shop, The Run-Out Table, The Ace of Hearts, The Colossus, The Dramarama, The Futurist, The Prince of Wales, The Jennie Lee, The Sheaf, The Arundel Gate, The New Elizabethan, The New Playhouse, The Stirrings, and The White Elephant.

They were all suggested names submitted by readers of the Morning Telegraph in 1969 to name Sheffield’s new theatre.

The winner was The Adelphi because the theatre stood on the site of the Adelphi Hotel, in which Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Sheffield United, and Sheffield Wednesday were formed. But it was eventually rejected because there were plenty of other Adelphi Theatres across the UK.

It was the publicity manager at the old Sheffield Playhouse, Hilary Young, who came up with the final suggestion, The Crucible.

When the Crucible Theatre went through a £15 million refurbishment between 2007 and late 2009, a new events room above the main entrance was called the Adelphi Room (see photo).

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Image: Hufton & Crow/VIEW/Alamy

I found out about the ‘voms.’

The Crucible Theatre has two of them, and they lead onto its main stage.

Actors walk up and down them, sometimes they run, some have tripped up and down. A chariot, a car, and goodness know what else, have been driven up them. Snooker players rest in front of them, and when they do, they are seen by millions of people around the world.

They are referred to by actors as the ‘voms,’ the two ‘sally ports’ set into the raked seating at the Crucible Theatre.

On a thrust stage these are called vomitories, and comes from the word ‘vomitory’ or ‘vomitorium’ which meant a passageway in an ancient Roman amphitheatre that connected an outside entrance to a tier of seats.

Alas, vomitory also means a substance that induces vomiting.

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Hanover by night

“I believe we now have to break with the past and consign high-rise tower blocks to history. They have served their purpose, but never truly fulfilled their promise, and we have learned valuable and tragic lessons from their brutal, brooding presence in our housing stock.” – Emma Adams.

Hanover House is a single 16-storey block of flats on Exeter Drive, off Hanover Way, built by M J Gleeson on behalf of the Sheffield City Council in 1965-1966. The cladding applied much later to Hanover House was the only tower block cladding in Sheffield which failed fire safety tests and had to be replaced.

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The coolest bus in Sheffield

A Heaven 17 design with layout by Malcolm Garrett is adorning this First bus in Sheffield. It pays tribute to the band’s two ground-breaking albums – Penthouse and Pavement and The Luxury Gap.

Heaven 17 are a new wave and synth-pop band that formed in Sheffield in 1980. The band were a trio for most of their career, composed of Martyn Ware (keyboards) and Ian Craig Marsh (keyboards) (both previously of the Human League), and Glenn Gregory (vocals, keyboards).

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Electronically Yours/Martyn Ware/Constable Books/2022. Image: DJP/2022

And talking about Heaven 17

I’ve started reading a book and begun listening to one of the best podcasts out there. Electronically Yours is the name for both, and are the brainchild of Martyn Ware, keyboardist with Heaven 17, composer, arranger, record producer, and music programmer.

The book was written in lockdown and provides charming meditations on culture, humour, travel and sport, Martyn also shares his love of 60s films, explains why Venice is the most beautiful city in the world, and reveals how Sheffield Wednesday has forever been his first and eternal passion.

“And why the title Electronically Yours? I designed the artwork for the front cover of our first Human League single ‘Being Boiled’ and, at that time, I liked the idea of using a strapline or slogan that would humanise the product.”

I’ve listened to several of the 115 episodes that make up the Electronically Yours podcasts, but immediate standouts are lengthy chats with Richard Hawley (in two parts), Mark Radcliffe, Nile Rodgers, and Glen Gregory.

There are no inhibitions, there is a lot of swearing, fascinating stories, and you might easily be in a room with them. And there are loads of stories about Sheffield that will appeal to those of a certain age.

Listening to them makes me realise what is lacking on radio today. Personality. Get a few of these under your belt and you really do think that Martyn is an old friend.

Martyn Ware/Image: The Bookseller

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

Easy to see why the historians get confused by Commercial Street

Commercial Street. The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent jokingly said that the new road might be called ‘Wrangle Street.’ Image: DJP/2022

Let us go back to the early 1800s and visit a thoroughfare that was entered under an archway at the top of Haymarket. This narrow sloping lane was lined with squalid houses, little workshops, a few shops, and halfway down, on the left-hand side, was the Nag’s Head public house, that gave the lane its name. Nag’s Head Yard ended in a flight of steps that came out onto Shude Hill.

Despite its proximity to the old town, most folk avoided Nag’s Head Yard, for this was where you were likely to find many of the town’s thieves, brawlers, and drunkards.

Nag’s Head Yard is long forgotten, swept away in the late 1860s, when the construction of a new railway station for the Midland Railway on Sheaf Street necessitated road improvements to it.

Four approach roads were built to what became Sheffield Station. The first was down Howard Street, the second commenced on Sheaf Street, opposite the vegetable market, and passed along the River Sheaf into Harmer Lane. The third was a continuation of Cross Turner Street, emerging at the junction of Shrewsbury Road, Suffolk Road, and St Mary’s Road. And it might surprise you that the fourth approach was from Nag’s Head Yard, passing on arches over Shude Hill, and became known as Commercial Street.

This was one of two brand new roads built by Sheffield’s Street Improvements Committee, the other being Leopold Street.

Historians are easily confused by Commercial Street because there was already a road of the same name in proximity.

In 1834, the inhabitants of Jehu Lane wanted to change its name to something more in the spirit of the times. They asked Town Commissioners to allow street boards to be taken down and be replaced with a new name. Amazingly, the commissioners consented and told the residents to choose a new name. They chose Commercial Street, but this would be short-lived because the council started purchasing and demolishing properties on the east side of Market Street and the south side of Old Haymarket, to create Fitzalan Square, named after the Duke of Norfolk’s family.

This process of compulsory purchase didn’t go well, and Sheffield Corporation was involved in numerous court cases in which displaced residents and businesses demanded better compensation.

Nevertheless, the council pressed ahead with plans for a new 40ft street from the upper end of Old Haymarket, where Nag’s Head Yard was, over Shude Hill, near the gas works by a bridge, and into Sheaf Street.

Shude Hill passing under Commercial Street Bridge, Gas Company Offices, in background. Image: Picture Sheffield

The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent jokingly said that the new road might be called ‘Wrangle Street,’ but the surveyor of Sheffield Corporation announced in 1870 that the railway approach road would now become Commercial Street.

It confused locals and the Sheffield Independent’s ‘Spectator in Hallamshire’ asked, “What is the name of that street? I never know how to call it.”

Commercial Street allowed the construction of grand new buildings including the Post Office, at its corner with Haymarket, by James Williams in 1871, and offices and showrooms in 1875 for the Sheffield United Gas Company.

The King’s Arms Hotel and the Birmingham District Bank (later Barclays) would eventually be demolished to make Commercial Street wider.

One of the most interesting developments involved the King’s Arms Hotel whose frontage faced Jehu Lane (old Commercial Street). The new road cut immediately alongside it, and in a stroke of brilliant business acumen, the proprietors sold the building to the Midland Banking Company for £20,000.

It demolished the front portion of the hotel for a grand new banking hall, designed by Salmon Linton Swann, and redesigned the remaining part of the hotel so that it faced onto new Commercial Street. The bank would eventually become Barclays Bank.

Both the old Post Office and gas showrooms survive but have been empty for years, the latter regarded as one of Sheffield’s finest Victorian buildings, and is now called Canada House, subject of a current planning application to turn it into Harmony Works, a new home for music education in the region.

Former Gas offices on Commercial Street. Image: DJP/2022

However, Barclays Bank and the King’s Arms Hotel were both demolished in the late 1960s as part of further road improvements. It had been decided to make Commercial Street a dual carriageway, linking it to Park Square and Sheffield Parkway, and the two old buildings were swept away. The bank relocated to a newly constructed white office block (behind the site of the old King’s Arms Hotel) and subsequently became Commercial House, occupied these days by law firm Knights.

Fitzalan Square looking towards Commercial Street and Gas Company Offices, 1880-1890, Birmingham District and Counties Banking Co. Ltd, right, General Post Office, left. Image: Picture Sheffield

Ponds Forge International Leisure Centre was added to the bottom of Commercial Street by architects FaulknerBrowns for the World Student Games between 1989-1991.

But a few years later, Commercial Street underwent its biggest transformation with the building of Sheffield Supertram. The original line of the street was covered with new tram tracks, a gateway into the city centre, while the carriageway built on the site of the bank and hotel retained road traffic.

The construction of the iconic bowstring steel arch bridge allowed trams to travel over Park Square Roundabout, across Shude Hill, and onwards through the city centre.

Considering that Commercial Street is about 150 years old, building work has been limited, and there is no denying that recent times have been unkind. Empty buildings and graffiti blight the street, but with the redevelopment of Fitzalan Square, the Grey-to-Green project, proposals to develop Castlegate, and its proximity to Sheffield Hallam University, means that the future might be considerably brighter.

Commercial Street. Unrecognisable from the days when it was built. Image: DJP/2022

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Attercliffe Parish Church – “Standing on a bold cliff which overhangs the Don.”

Christ Church, Attercliffe Road, from the River Don by Walter Revill. Described in early directories as standing near the bold cliff which overhangs the Don. Image: Picture Sheffield

We forget about Attercliffe, and so it is inevitable that we forget its lost buildings.

One example is Attercliffe Parish Church, also known as Christ Church Attercliffe, once a grand place of worship, badly damaged in the Sheffield Blitz of 1940 and later demolished.

And we might be forgiven for not knowing where it stood, but its site is plain to see.

Christ Church, Attercliffe Road. Image: Picture Sheffield/G. Bagshaw and Sons

We can turn to Pawson and Brailsford’s Illustrated Guide to Sheffield (1868) for details: –

“There is a handsome church at Attercliffe, which is about two miles from the centre of town, on the Doncaster Road. Formerly Attercliffe was a detached village, but now it is practically a busy manufacturing suburb of Sheffield. It was opened in 1826, having been built by means of a Parliamentary grant, at the cost of £14,000. It is a Gothic building, with lancet windows and a handsome groined roof. It will accommodate from 1,100 to 1,200 persons.”

The old chapel-of-ease of the Township of Attercliffe-cum-Darnall, dating from the 17th century, had been replaced by the new church.

Attercliffe, at that time, was a comparatively small place, and largely consisted of lanes and fields, and the new church was one of four churches built in Sheffield out of what was known as the ‘Million Fund.’

The nucleus of the building fund consisted of a grant from an indemnity paid to England by Austria after the Battle of Waterloo.

Christ Church, Attercliffe Road. Built at a cost of £14,000. Image: Picture Sheffield
Interior of Christ Church, Attercliffe Road. In 1867 the galleries were removed, and the interior reseated with open benches. Image: Picture Sheffield

The first stone was laid by the 12th Duke of Norfolk assisted by the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam in October 1822 and took four years to build. It was consecrated by the Archbishop Vernon Harcourt of York in 1826.

Early directories referred to the church as standing near the bold cliff which overhangs the Don.

“Time was when Attercliffe was a place of sylvan beauty and picturesque repose, of pleasant pastures and stately houses on the banks of a River Don whose waters were clear and transparent.”

“In the church, there are galleries on the sides and at the west end; which, with the pews in the body of the church, contain two thousand sittings. Some of the windows of the church are ornamented with painted glass, containing the arms of Fitzwilliam and Surrey, Gell, Milner, Staniforth, and Blackburn.”

The churchyard closed for burials in 1856 and a cemetery leading down to the Don was opened in 1859.

In 1876, the church was closed for cleaning and redecoration.

“Below the windows the walls are tinted puce, but above they are straw-coloured, with ornamental work above the windows. The groins are picked out in stone and the roof is coloured buff. White is the groundwork of the chancel roof, but other tints are introduced.”

The church didn’t forget the men who served in World War One, and at a cost of £300 a memorial was erected in the form of oak reredos and panelling together with remembrance panels framed in oak, bearing the names of all those who answered the call of their country.

By the time of its centenary in 1926, the parish embraced around 33,000 souls, but it was a different place.

“The mere mention of Attercliffe to those who are closely acquainted with it is scarcely calculated to send them into ecstasies of delight, for the very sound reason that Attercliffe has precious little that appeals to the aesthetic sense. Attercliffe and throbbing, thriving industry are – in normal times – synonymous terms, and when the clang and clatter, the smoke and grime of heavy trades fill the air, Attercliffe, from the casual visitor’s point of view, is a place to get away from rather than to remain at.

“Looking back upon a picture of a rural landscape, with its common (now filled with shops), its thatched cottages, and its sheep grazing on the riverbanks, the individual might well exclaim: ‘All this has changed.’”

The church was in debt for years, especially after the installation of electricity, and following the departure of Rev. A. Robinson in 1930, the church revealed that its finances were “vague and confused,” and that he had left a debt of £550-£600.

Unfortunately, the church was closed after bomb damage in 1940. Most of its contents were destroyed and Sheffield lost one of its finest churches.

Christ Church, Attercliffe, after bomb damage. Image: Picture Sheffield
Attercliffe Road – Christ Church after air raids. Image: Picture Sheffield
Carved detail from Christ Church, Attercliffe after air raid. Image: Picture Sheffield

The organ from the blitzed church was rebuilt and taken to St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Hanover Street.

The adjacent church hall became the parish church until 1950, and then functioned as a chapel in the parish of Attercliffe-cum-Carbrook until it was closed in April 1981. The new church of St Alban (Darnall) is now the parish church of Attercliffe.

In 1953, the site of the old church and its graveyard was turned into a garden, an area of pleasant green turf bordered by paths. It was opened by the Lord Mayor, Coun. Oliver S. Holmes, who said, “it was inspiration to the whole city that good will make beauty rise from the rubble of war.”

Attercliffe Garden of Rest (in the grounds of former Christ Church), Attercliffe Road from Church Lane with Christ Church Sunday School and No. 747, William Deacons Bank in the background. 1959. Image: Picture Sheffield

The church site and the garden of remembrance can be seen on Attercliffe Road, opposite the Don Valley Hotel. Access is available into old Attercliffe Cemetery behind and the Five Weirs Walk.

NOTE
A rare book, ‘The Church in Attercliffe,’ by Rev. Arthur Robinson, was published to celebrate the church’s centenary in 1926.

The site of Attercliffe Parish Church. Images: DJP/2022

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Steelopolis

A week in Steelopolis

The Fiesta – early 1990s. Now Odeon Luxe. Image: Sheffield Modernist

I saw an old photo, and thought of Marti Caine

I saw this photo from the early nineties. It made me think of a good book I read in the garden, when it was sunny, and we were in lockdown.

“My career was flourishing, I had reached the dizzy heights of compere at the Fiesta, one of the North’s most prestigious night clubs, where I did an hour spot and introduced acts like Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson, as well as all the top British acts. It gave me an opportunity to study the great comics like Tommy Cooper and Dave Allen.

“The Fiesta was as plush back-stage as it was out front. The 2000 strong audience wore full evening dress. It was how I imagined showbiz would be – far removed from the stark reality of Working Men’s Clubs.”

From Marti Caine/A Coward’s Chronicles/1990

*****

I saw a big yellow crane in the Peace Gardens

I visited the Peace Gardens and there was a big yellow crane. Christmas preparations, and the installation of the Alpine Bar. Further evidence that it will soon be upon us. This photograph was posted elsewhere, and somebody said I was colour-blind because the crane was red.

*****

It was dark and quiet, and two students stood talking

The early hours of the morning. A view from Regent Terrace towards Leavygreave Road, and two young men, presumably students, stand talking outside the University of Sheffield’s futuristic Diamond Building.

This time is theirs, but had they been from another era, they might have heard the sound of crying babies, new life, nurses chattering, and tears of joy and sadness from emotional parents. This had been the site of Jessop’s Hospital for Women.

*****

Sheffield Hallam University is going to London

In 1843, the Sheffield School of Design was founded in response to the industrial revolution, in which the town established itself as a leading centre for steel production.

By the 1850s, it had changed its name to the Sheffield School of Art and merged with the College of Commerce and Technology in 1969 to become Sheffield Polytechnic.

It evolved into Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) in 1992, with the right to award its own degrees, and according to latest figures is the fourteenth largest university in the UK with over 30,000 students (seemingly more than the University of Sheffield).

And now it is to open its first satellite campus outside Sheffield in Brent Cross Town, the 180-acre, £8Bn new park town in London.

The town will bring together 6,700 new homes, over 50 locations for retail, food, and drink, provide workspace for over 25,000 people and build a community around three redeveloped schools, health, wellness, and amenity services.

Sheffield Hallam University will occupy the lower 6 floors of the first commercial building at Brent Cross Town and focus its degree-course offering on the subject areas for which the university is renowned, including health and wellbeing, business, finance, management, digital and technological skills.

The focus will be on recruitment of local students, with a significant proportion expected to be from the surrounding area and follows the same strategy as in Sheffield where 40% of the university’s students come from within a 25-mile radius. It is scheduled to open from 2025/26, with the aim of reaching 5,000 students by 2030.

*****

I found out that Alun Armstrong used to visit Sheffield schools

I wonder how many people remember the children’s theatre company, Theatre Vanguard, which toured Sheffield schools with a company of professional actors during the 1960s and 1970s.

It was the brainchild of Colin George, Sheffield Playhouse’s artistic director, and when the theatre closed its doors in 1971, the project transferred with him to the newly constructed Crucible Theatre.

If this brings back memories, as it does me, then you might have seen an up-and-coming young actor called Alun Armstrong, who also appeared in the Playhouse’s last production, I Was Hitler’s Maid.

Since then, his credits have included several Charles Dickens adaptations, and the eccentric ex-detective Brian Lane in TV’s New Tricks.

He spent nine years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, originated the role of Thénardier in the London production of Les Misérables, and won an Olivier Award in the title role in Sweeney Todd.

He’s also known for playing Cardinal Jinette from the Van Helsing franchise, Baltus Hafez in The Mummy Returns, Uncle Garrow from Eragon, the High Constable from Sleepy Hollow and Maxwell Randall in Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire.

And he also appeared at your school assembly hall.

*****

A story about New York‘s Cornelia Street Cafe

Another story about Theatre Vanguard, the Sheffield Playhouse project that toured city schools during the 1960s and 1970s, and later transferred to the Crucible Theatre.

With plays, improvised pieces, and audience participation, the company introduced performing arts to schoolkids.

One of the original troupe members was a London-born actor called Robin Hirsch.

“I taught for a year and a half at a German University when I was very young. When I came back to England, I became an actor at the Sheffield Playhouse, and I was hired partly to be a junior actor on the mainstage, but also to help with what was a pilot program in theatre and education. It was Theatre Vanguard — we went into the community to do stuff and we would bring the community to us.”

In 1977, Hirsch created the New Works Project, a peripatetic experimental theatre company in New York, and, along with two other artists—Irish American actor Charles McKenna and Argentinean-Canadian-Italian painter and sculptor Raphaela Pivetta—he opened a tiny one-room café in New York City’s Greenwich Village: the Cornelia Street Café.

Its size and reputation grew, and it was where singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega started out, as did Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. There were performances from members of Monty Python and the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as singer Jeff Buckley, and it’s alleged that Lady Gaga had a job here.

Hirsch ran the Cornelia Street Cafe for forty-one-and-a-half years until he was forced to close it in 2018 due to rising rent.

*****

An unplanned Attercliffe experience

It was Friday afternoon, and I’d dropped somebody off at Cineworld, and I thought I’d go and take some photographs of the old Adelphi Picture Theatre at Attercliffe (soon to be in council hands).

I realised I’d not really investigated this part of Sheffield, and I was blown away when I discovered Attercliffe Cemetery.

I spent an hour tramping through autumn leaves, between graves, and down to the river.

I didn’t see a soul, but when it was time to go, a man with an Alsatian dog appeared out of the gloom, and said ‘hello’ with a strong Brummie accent.

*****