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.
Tudor Square, the home of theatres, the library, and the Winter Garden, and created in 1991 to become Sheffield’s cultural centre. But how did it get its name?
Let us go back to the late 1700s, and we would be standing in the grounds of Tudor House. This Adam house was built in 1770 for Dr Sherburn with commanding country views across Alsop Fields. The gardens extended to the front and right, the land sloping down across what is now Arundel Gate, amid sycamore trees, to the margin of the Sheaf.
Now let us introduce Henry Tudor, a man identified by Dr Sherburn to become head of a firm making the best wrought silver plate. Tudor teamed up with Thomas Leader and the firm of Tudor and Leader was created, eventually building a workshop close to the house. Dr Sherburn showed his appreciation of the efforts of his active partners by bequeathing the bulk of his property to Henry Tudor, with a share in the concern to Thomas Leader.
Henry Tudor moved into what became Tudor House, while Thomas Leader rented a house nearby that the Duke of Norfolk built for his land agent and became known as Leader House.
Mr Tudor was for many years a prominent man in the town’s affairs – as a Town Trustee, one of the first Guardians of the Assay Office, and in other offices. He had the reputation of being the proudest man in Sheffield, and this earned him the title of ‘My Lord Harry.’ He was highly indignant at finding another Henry Tudor, a journeyman, and he vainly endeavoured to bribe the man to change his name.
This idyllic retreat, with bright flowers and country air, changed as Sheffield grew. The front garden became a bowling green, and in 1808, the house of the late Henry Tudor, though shorn of its once extensive grounds, retained as garden, the whole of the triangle which with Tudor Street as its base, had its sides along Arundel Street and Surrey Street, and its apex at their junction. Narrow streets (Tudor Street, Tudor Place) had surrounded it, with industry spreading into the Sheaf Valley below. By now, one of the Lucas’s, of the Royd’s Mill Silver Refinery, was the occupant of the house, coach-house, and stables.
Tudor House stopped being a home, its remaining land sold off, and it became a Dispensary (1832-33), the Tudor Place Institute (a bible society), Medical Officer’s Department, and Offices of the Weights and Measures Department.
In 1872, a letter appeared in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent.
“Passing through Tudor Place the other day I could not help being struck with the lost and demoralised appearance it presents. Grimy brick walls, whose monotony is increased by tattered shreds of flaring posting bills, stare at the once considerable residence of Henry Tudor, which, with its ancient adornments of wreathed flowers, contemplates with an aspect which is the height of melancholy, the deep puddles, the chaotic boulders, the piles of stones, the layers of timber, and general waste heap look that have invaded the sacred precincts of its once charming garden. The parade ground of the Artillery Volunteers and the other buildings that intervene between Tudor Place and Arundel Street have usurped the place of the flower beds and fruit trees of Henry Tudor, and the sycamores that surrounded his domain have their memory perpetuated in the adjoining street, that breathes a fragrance of anything but bright flowers and green trees.”
The parade ground mentioned was cleared, and a large wooden circus erected. It later became the site of the Lyceum Theatre and Tudor House’s last use was as storage for theatrical scenery.
By 1908, Tudor House was doomed.
“It is remarkable that at the moment when a special appeal is being made for funds for the erection of a new Infirmary in the city the home of the oldest of our medical charities, the Sheffield Dispensary, is about to be demolished. The building referred to is in Tudor Place. Its broken windows and deserted appearance give little indication as to the important part it played for many years in the alleviation of suffering humanity. A few days, and the building will be demolished. What is to become of the old operating table which is in the old building? A gruesome relic it would doubtless be, but it is surely worthy of consideration whether something cannot be done with a view to preserving it from the flames.”
The house was demolished, the old oak panelling chopped up, and the Adam mantelpieces with one exception (rescued by artist Charles Green), shared a similar fate, with the promise of a few shillings to a workman employed in the destruction, for carting it away.
The site stood empty until the 1930s, and its foundations lie somewhere beneath the Central Library. The old roads – Tudor Street, Tudor Way, Sycamore Street – have long disappeared, and only Tudor Place survives as a private road between the Lyceum and the Library.
© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.
This might have been called ‘Arthur Conan Doyle’s Last Case,’ except it was one which that great writer left to others to solve and involved a story with Sheffield connections.
Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930 and several documents, unused typescripts, and odd papers, were placed in a deed box by Lady Conan Doyle. Among them were some typewritten pages headed, ‘The Man Who Was Wanted,’ recounting a hitherto unrelated adventure of the great Sherlock Holmes.
Reference was made to it by Hesketh Pearson, a biographer of Conan Doyle, and the revelation caused a literary stir. People clamoured for its publication, American and British editors approached the Conan Doyle family, and tempting prices were mentioned. But the family were unwilling to sell at the time.
Some years later, the American Cosmopolitan magazine acquired the right to print the story in the United States, and in Britain, shortly after Christmas 1948, it was published by the Sunday Dispatch.
It prompted a letter to the Conan Doyle family from Arthur Whitaker, a slim, grey-haired man, who was living in Longridge, near Stroud, and spent his days collecting ornithology reports from bird-watchers in Gloucestershire.
“You know that story called ‘The Man Who Was Wanted,’ which appeared in an American magazine and in the Sunday Dispatch? Well, I wrote it. I don’t want any money or publicity, of course, but I just thought you’d like to know, that’s all.”
It caused upset in the Conan Doyle family and a solicitor began to investigate the claim. He interviewed Whitaker, examined a letter from Arthur Conan Doyle, and saw that he had an exact carbon copy of ‘The Man Who Was Wanted.’
“It is quite simple, really,” said Mr Whitaker. “In 1911 I was a young architect, married, and living in Barnsley. I thought I might earn a little more money by writing detective stories, so I wrote five or six. One was called ‘The Man Who Was Wanted.’ I sent it to Arthur Conan Doyle, asking him whether he ever collaborated in story-writing, and if he would like to collaborate with me.
“He replied that the story was not bad, but that he did not collaborate; he sometimes paid ten guineas, however, for an idea which he later worked up in his own way. He advised me to change the names in the story and get it published myself. However, I accepted the ten guineas, and he retained the typescript. That’s all there is to it, really.”
Because the typescript was unsolicited, the Conan Doyle family had retained it but held back on publication believing it was not up to the great man’s standards. However, Arthur Conan Doyle’s son, Denis, had eventually allowed publication with a note to that effect, and adding that the family had at last yielded to public pressure and had allowed it to be printed.
And the Sheffield Connection? I quote from the pages of ‘The Man Who Was Wanted.’
“Holmes picked up a telegram from the table and looked at it thoughtfully. “If only the inquiry this refers to promised to be of anything like the interest of some we have gone into together, nothing would have delighted me more than to have persuaded you to throw your lot in with mine for a time; but really I’m afraid to do so, for it sounds a particularly commonplace affair,” and he crumpled the paper into a ball and tossed it over to me.
“I smoothed it out and read: “To Holmes, 221B Baker Street, London, S.W. Please come to Sheffield at once to inquire into case of forgery. Jervis, Manager British Consolidated Bank.”
“It appears that a gentleman named Mr. Jabez Booth, who resides at Broomhill, Sheffield, and has been an employee since January I88I, at the British Consolidated Bank in Sheffield, yesterday succeeded in cashing quite a number of cleverly forged cheques at twelve of the principal banks in the city and absconding with the proceeds.”
The Conan Doyle family returned the money it received from the Sunday Dispatch and the newspaper forwarded it to Arthur Whitaker to help him support his seriously wife.
The story itself eventually appeared in ‘The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: After Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.’ It was credited to Arthur Whitaker and retitled ‘The Adventure of the Sheffield Banker.’
© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.
Sherlock Holmes remains the most popular fictional detective in history. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) is best known for the 60 stories he wrote about Sherlock Holmes, but he was also a physician and spiritualist.
In November 1921, Conan Doyle gave a lecture at the Victoria Hall. It was arranged by the Sheffield Educational Settlement and the title was “Modern Psychic Thought.” He had arrived the day before and at once proceeded to the Sheffield Settlement’s premises, in Shipton Street, Upperthorpe, where an informal gathering had assembled, and where he spent the night.
The Sheffield Settlement had been founded by the YMCA in 1918, opening the following year under the wardenship of Arnold Freeman. Its mission was to create a better society. ‘That which described in three words is Beauty, Truth and Goodness, and described in one word is GOD.”
Conan Doyle was accorded a hearty welcome, and in a brief response expressed his pleasure at seeing a “growing centre of activity.” He said he could imagine how beneficial it was to the city to have in the Settlement such a centre of art and culture of every kind.
Another comment made by Conan Doyle sparked the greatest interest.
“It is not generally known that I once lived in Sheffield. When I was a medical student, 17 or 18 years of age, I advertised my willingness to learn a little about medicine, and a Dr. Richardson, who lived in Spital Hill, was good enough to take me on. I had no salary, which was probably what I was worth, and it was just as well for the population of Sheffield that in a few weeks I got the order of the boot.” (Laughter.)
And it was true, Conan Doyle had come to Sheffield in 1878, working as an assistant to Dr Charles Sydney Richardson at Nelson Terrace, 80 Spital Hill. It was evidently not a happy experience.
“These Sheffielders would rather be poisoned by a man with a beard than saved by a man without one.”
Conan Doyle had, by this time, become an agnostic, and although he already had interest in psychic phenomena, his philosophy was still materialistic.
However, at the 1921 lecture the ‘world-famous’ novelist found the Victoria Hall only half full. He related to the ‘jury’, as he called them, that “The subject is by all odds the most important thing in the world. It is a thing which is going to influence and bear upon the future of every man and woman in the room. There is one alternative, and that is either this movement is the greatest delusion the human race has ever experienced, or else it is far the most important thing – the most important addition to our knowledge which has ever come from the centre of all knowledge.
“The afterlife,” he said, “is merely a waiting room where you are waiting, very likely in discomfort, until you are fit to go on.
“Everybody eventually gets to heaven, but these places of waiting – hospitals for the soul they might call them – are not pleasant places to wait in. One of the real punishments is in being earth-bound.”
Conan Doyle related séance experiences and told of a conversation he had with the spirit of James Johnson Morse, a ‘trance medium’ who had died in 1919. The departed leader claimed that their last meeting had been in a newspaper office. “No,” said Conan Doyle, “It had been at Sheffield, at a meeting at the Empire Theatre.” Afterwards, he was reminded by his wife that it had been in a newspaper office.
Almost as soon as the people had left the Victoria Hall, they were handed pamphlets bearing such phrases as ‘Spiritualism is to be avoided like the plague’.
Conan Doyle died nine years later, in July 1930, and a few weeks later the Sheffield Daily Telegraph was one of only a handful of newspapers that printed a ‘spirit’ photograph of him.
The image was vouched by the Rev. Charles Tweedale, Vicar of Weston, near Otley, a man Conan Doyle had known quite well, and who had been confident that the author would manifest himself after death.
In a series of sittings immediately after Conan Doyle’s death, Tweedale claimed to have had communication with him (“Well Tweedale, I have arrived here in Paradise. That is not heaven. Oh, no! But what we should call a dumping place, for we all come here as we pass on to rest.”)
Rev. Tweedale had then sat with the psychic, William Hope, of Crewe, and photographs taken of the séance. Afterwards, four plates were exposed, and two were “clearly recognisable pictures of Conan Doyle.”
The ‘spirit’ photographs of Conan Doyle, although still available if you know where to look, rarely surface these days. Perhaps not surprising considering that William Hope, who had become famous for dozens of other ‘ghost’ pictures, was later found to be a fraud, and had double-exposed his images.
© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.
Realistically, Leader House, overlooking Arundel Gate, from Surrey Street, should not be here anymore. In 1938, Sheffield Corporation bought it with intention of demolition, using the site as part of an ambitious plan to build a new College of Arts and Crafts. The plans were postponed because of World War Two and the Georgian House survived.
A similar thing happened in the 1970s, when Leader House (along with the Lyceum Theatre, the Education Offices and Gladstone Buildings) all came under threat of demolition. In 1970, an application was made to the Minister of Housing for Listed Building Consent to replace it with a modern circular register office. After a public enquiry permission was refused, and the infamous ‘wedding cake’ was built elsewhere.
Leader House was built by the Duke of Norfolk in 1770 for his land agent, Vincent Eyre. The brick building, with slated roof, looked across Alsop Fields, amid sycamore trees, to the margin of the River Sheaf. About this time, the Duke commissioned designs from James Paine, and also from Thomas Atkinson, for laying out the fields with handsome squares and terraces. A start was made on building just before his death in 1777, but the scheme was abandoned, and we can speculate that Leader House was part of this grand plan.
In 1777, it was leased to Thomas Leader, a silversmith, from Broxted, Essex, who came to Sheffield to set up the firm of Tudor, Leader & Co in 1762 with Henry Tudor, who lived at nearby Tudor House.
The eminent Leader family remained until 1817, when it passed to the Pearson family until 1872. It was bought by Charles Wardlow, owner of Wardlow Steels Company on Carlisle Street, whose son, Marmaduke, later lived here spending large amounts of money renovating and improving the building.
It was sold by the Wardlows in 1920 and had several occupants including the silversmith company, Thomas Bradbury, and Son, which had workshops in Arundel Street, and the accountants Joshua Wortley & Sons.
The lease was bought by Sheffield Corporation in 1938 with plans of demolition, but the advent of the Second World war meant it was used as a headquarters for the ARP. It has remained with the council ever since, except for a period when it was leased to Sheffield Polytechnic, and today is used as administrative offices for Sheffield Museums.
© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.
A few weeks ago, I was looking at some old documents and discovered that if this shabby building at Manor Top survives another six years, it will have reached its centenary. This is one of Sheffield’s last remaining suburban cinemas but hasn’t shown a film for 52 years. People in this part of the city will be more familiar with it as a supermarket (Challenge, Frank Dee, Gateway, Somerfield, Tesco) and now Poundland. In fact, it’s spent more time as a shop than it did as a cinema. Sadly, its condition is worsening, and one suspects that demolition will be the eventual outcome.
However, the former Manor Cinema has an interesting link with an important building in Leeds. It opened in December 1927 to the designs of Pascal J. Stienlet and Joseph C. Maxwell, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, the same architects who conceived the Majestic Cinema in Leeds city centre, which has recently been restored as the new headquarters for Channel 4.
The Majestic opened in 1922 and remains a distinguished building. The Manor Cinema opened five years later, cost much less to build, and was praised for its smart appearance at one of the highest points in the city.
It was the idea of Thomas Francis McDonald, one of cinema’s pioneers, who had been in business in the United States, and realising the future of the film industry, rushed back to Britain and built his first cinema at Wallsend-on-Tyne in 1904. Afterwards, he was owner or lessee of houses at Gateshead, Blaydon, Mexborough, Worksop, Edinburgh, Shirebrook, Ripley, Heanor, and Coalville. Until the intervention of World War One, he was in the film-renting business, under the title of Photoplays Ltd, based in Sheffield and South Shields, buying films from America, and renting them to cinemas.
In 1927, following expansion of housing estates in the Manor area, McDonald went into business with Michael Joseph Gleeson (the builder) and George W. Dawes (plumbing contractor) to form Manor Picture House Ltd. It acquired a site on sloping land at Manor Top to build a ‘super-cinema’, the largest in South Yorkshire, accommodating 1,700 people.
M.J. Gleeson were responsible for main construction, including excavation reinforced concrete, brickwork, carpentering, joinery, and roofing.
The façade of the cinema was faced with rustic brick and coloured cement rendered dressings with the ‘MANOR CINEMA’ name in the brick work above the entrance doors. Its exterior was lit by floodlights mounted on concrete pylons.
The entrance to the cinema was through an 18 foot wide vestibule into a spacious foyer housing the pay box. Because of the hillside, the circle, often referred to as the first balcony, was on the same level as the entrance. Stairways led down to the stalls and up a second balcony. The auditorium was decorated with fibrous plaster pilasters, coffered ceiling and beams with a proscenium opening of 23 feet. The decoration was by Frank Flint of London Road with a scheme of pastel shades, not too strongly contrasted, together with an original stipple effect on the wall panels.
The screen was hung in front of a curtain that covered the whole of the back of the stage. The projection room, with two Kalee projectors, was outside the building, at the back of the second balcony. In the basement, under the main entrance, was a 10-table billiard room, and three private rooms, the table supplied by Fitzpatrick & Longley, one of the country’s oldest and reputable manufacturers.
The Manor Cinema turned out to be one of Sheffield’s finest cinemas and was later joined by the Paragon at Shiregreen and the Ritz at Southey Green. Sound was introduced in the 1930s, and a canopy was erected on the outside, running the entire length of the façade. Thomas McDonald died at Montgomery House, Sharrow Lane, in 1946, the business carried on by his two sons.
In 1950, a more modern style proscenium was fitted and in 1955 a new projection suite was fitted at the back of the stalls.
The Manor Cinema was sold to the Leeds based Star Cinema Circuit in 1958 who closed it to carry out further improvements including the installation of a new sound system. The reopening was celebrated in style with a grand fireworks display, when 120 rockets were set off, one for each of the cinemas on the Star Circuit.
It closed as a cinema in 1963, reopening three days later as the Manor Casino – Star Bingo Club. However, films returned on a part time basis along with some bingo sessions, but finally closed in 1969 after being sold to Challenge, a Sheffield-based supermarket group.
© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.
Complaints about pot-holes always cause a stir. But you might be surprised to know that our roads have long been the subject of contention. The columns of local newspapers have been filled with grumbles going back to Victorian times.
The grievance was the type of material used to surface our streets. As Sheffield grew, the network of roads expanded, and many of the main streets were overlaid with cobbles (water-rounded stones collected from beaches and rivers), irregular flat-shaped stones, or more commonly, slag macadam.
In the 19th century, cobbles were replaced with round or hexagonal wooden setts, probably creosoted Norway pine, that provided a safer surface for horses and wagons. They gave a better grip for horse-shoes and the iron rims on wheels, and reduced the noise of traffic.
The wooden setts, although abundant in supply, proved expensive, and granite setts, squared off by hand, were brought to Sheffield from several locations, including Cornwall, the Channel Islands, and then increasingly from Aberdeen.
Once worked, granite setts were capable of much greater precision of laying and could help construct a far smoother street surface. They lasted for 30 years, hardwood for 15 years, and afterwards could be taken up and redressed.
However, the people of Sheffield objected to granite, complaining that noise generated by horse-drawn traffic was too loud. On West Street, wooden setts had been laid to make it quieter around the Royal Hospital, but ratepayers on the other side, on Division Street and Devonshire Street, protested that noise from granite was “nerve-racking,” “a distinct disgrace to the city,” and “enough to send people to the county asylum.”
There was a bigger drawback. Horses tended to slip on granite causing serious injury, sometimes death, to the animals. It was reason enough for Sir John Bingham, head of the firm of Walker and Hall, to campaign against their use in the 1890s.
Bingham had good reason to dislike granite setts. When driving a high dog cart, one of his horses had slipped and fallen, pitching him out onto his head. He started a crusade and gained support from Reuben Thompson and Joseph Tomlinson, proprietors of Sheffield’s two largest horse-drawn cab and omnibus firms.
“I, like many others, have been injured for life upon these granite setts, and I feel most strongly that where they are laid, they should be properly and regularly roughed. About a year ago, accidents happened on the same day to two of our leading steel manufacturers, Colonel Vickers, and Sir Alexander Wilson, one of them having his horse killed, the other being seriously injured, and will bear deep scars on his forehead so long as he lives, and says will never drive again in Sheffield.”
Bingham re-entered the council to enforce his views and was eventually able to stop granite setts being used on Sheffield’s main streets.
In 1895, he discovered that the stringy bark of a Tasmanian tree could be combined with granite to create a safer, quieter, and more durable road surface. He developed Bingham Patent Paving, first used on Norfolk Street, and then across many of the city’s main streets.
However, by the 1920s, the use of asphalt meant that Sheffield Corporation hadn’t bought any wood or granite setts (or Bingham’s paving) for several years. Asphalt had been created by accident in Kent after tar barrels had fallen onto a road and broken. Ultimately, it was discovered the part of the road covered with tar was found the best, and afterwards the use of tar had spread all over the country.
It resulted in most of Sheffield’s cobbled streets being covered over, a practice that continues to this day using modern techniques.
Thankfully, there are still plenty of granite setts in streets across Sheffield, and some of the wooden setts have even resurfaced in recent years, notably on Hodsgon Street, near the Moore Street roundabout, and on Sackville Road, at Crookes.
© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.
Set in the floor, at the entrance to a narrow covered alley on Fleet Street, in the City of London, is a forgotten reminder that the Sheffield Daily Telegraph was once one of Britain’s leading provincial newspapers.
Fleet Street was the centre of Britain’s newspaper industry, and adjacent to Hen and Chicken Court, was the site of the Telegraph’s former London office. It moved here in the early 1890s, occupying a small building at its corner with Fetter Lane. However, in 1901, it was swept away by the Telegraph’s owners, W. C. Leng and Co, and replaced with a piece of Sheffield.
180-181 Fleet Street was designed by Sheffield architects Gibbs and Flockton, and used as offices for the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, the Weekly Telegraph, the Yorkshire Evening Star and Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, and other newspapers and publications belonging to the company.
The site was held on a long lease from the Drapers’ Company, with a 20ft frontage on Fleet Street, and 131ft in Fetter Lane.
There were six floors, including the basement and roof storey, built with cast-iron standards and steel girders. The ground floor in Fetter Lane was divided into six sale shops, and each of the floors into thirteen offices. The front of the building was faced with creamy white Carrara faience, supplied by Doulton and Co.
It was here that the newspaper rented a private telegraph wire from the Post Office, the first provincial publication to do so. It connected Fleet Street with its head office in High Street allowing 400 words a minute to be transmitted. The wire ran underground to Birmingham then onwards to Sheffield using telegraph poles. It meant that Sheffield was only five minutes behind London when it came to getting the latest news stories.
In 1925, the newspapers were bought by Allied Newspapers, the building sold, and the offices relocated to 136 Fleet Street.
Surprisingly, very few photographs exist of the Gibbs and Flockton offices, and it was replaced by a modern office block in 1983.
Newspapers were once big business, but no more.
© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.
News of a significant proposed development within Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter Conservation Area.
Sheffield Hallam University has submitted a planning application for the erection of three new higher education blocks within its city campus on the existing Science Park site and adjacent surface car park. Blocks A, BC and D are planned around a new public green space provisionally named University Green. It forms a revised Phase One of SHU’s campus masterplan, initiated in 2017/18, and considers changes to the workplace because of the pandemic.
The site covers an area bordered by Paternoster Row, Howard Street, Arundel Street and Charles Street, and is alongside the Hubs complex.
Block D will become a key civic gateway building to the city and campus. In response to this, the tallest part of the development is located at the key junction between Howard Street and Paternoster Row to symbolise a new gateway and reference to the old clock tower of the Arthur Davy & Sons building that once stood on part of the site.
This area was once known as Alsop Fields where ancient hunting rights were claimed. In the late 18th century, the Duke of Norfolk set about his ambitious and grand plan to develop the neighbourhood into a fashionable residential district in response to the growing wealth of manufacture. The masterplan was prepared by James Paine. He proposed a rigid grid framework incorporating a hierarchy of streets, with main streets and a pattern of smaller ones for each urban block, serving mews to the rear of the main houses.
In the 1780s, work on the Georgian estate grid commenced to the north of the site beginning with the parallel routes of Union Street, Eyre Street and Arundel Street from the town centre, extending to Matilda Street (formerly Duke Street). However, the masterplan didn’t transpire largely because Sheffield’s inhabitants didn’t want or couldn’t afford the properties as planned.
Despite the masterplan never being wholly built, the legacy of the Duke of Norfolk is retained in many of the streets being named after his family members.
The site designated for redevelopment became a series of factories, workshops, small shops, as well as the site of the County Hotel. Much of the land was cleared during the 1980s, with the creation of Sheffield Hallam University’s Science Park (1996) in red brick by Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson. This will be swept away in the proposed development.
© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.
Here’s a building on Leopold Street with a thought-provoking history. St. John’s Buildings are now used as barristers’ chambers, the interior changed from its former use as the Bank of Scotland. However, a stone inscription (Ars Longa Vita Brevis) above the main entrance provides a clue to its original use.
Somewhere within, lies a foundation stone, and within its cavity is a bottle, a time capsule, containing Sheffield’s morning papers from June 1887, a conjoint prospectus for 1886-1887 for Firth College, Technical School, and School of Medicine, an old photograph, and a parchment engrossed as follows : –
“The Sheffield School of Medicine was built in 1828, at the corner of Surrey Street and Arundel Street, the foundation stone having been laid by Sir A.J. Knight in July 1828. The building having become inadequate to the requirements of the day in 1883, a proposal was made to amalgamate with or become a department of Firth College, the councils of the school and Firth College having met and fully considered points of co-operation, unanimously agreed that the union was likely to be advantageous to both, but before complete incorporation took place a new medical school was necessary.”
The new medical school was this building, the foundation stone laid by Dr Mariano Alejo Martin de Bartolomé, using a specially inscribed silver trowel.
“I declare this stone duly laid in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. From this humble structure may we raise up a structure perfect in all its parts, and creditable to the builders.
“It will, in the course of time, grow as an oak did from the acorn, that it will spread its beneficial shadow over the whole of the town and neighbourhood, and communicate the blessings of true medica and surgical practice.”
Designed by architect John Dodsley Webster and built by W. and A. Forsdyke, of St. Mary’s Road, it was opened with an extravagant soiree, including a special address from Sir Andrew Clark, President of the Royal College of Physicians, in September 1888.
A site had originally been purchased from the Corporation in Pinfold Street; but at the request of the medical council the Corporation agreed to exchange the land for a plot in Leopold Street, opposite Firth College. The area contained about 550 yards and the price was £5 a yard. There was a frontage of about 50ft on Leopold Street, the main elevation being entirely of stone, and the treatment a sort of classic free renaissance, which caused the building to harmonise well with the surrounding property.
On the ground floor towards Leopold Street was a faculty room and library, a lecturers’ room, with porter’s room, lavatory, main staircase, and entrance hall. Also, on this floor, running towards Orchard Street, was an injection room and lumber room. A hoist connected the ground floor with the first floor.
On the first floor were two classrooms and at the back was a museum. The medical theatre was on the second floor, with circular seats in tiers, alongside a practical physiology and a dissecting room.
The School of Medicine was short-lived here, its entwined relationship with Firth College, and the Technical School, leading them to form University College, Sheffield, in 1897, and the eventual creation of the University of Sheffield in 1905, with the medical school moving to a new building at Western Bank (now Firth Court). In 1973, it moved again, and can still be found on Beech Hill Road.
After the school vacated, the building has been in almost continuous use. It will be recognised by those of a certain age as Sheffield Education Committee’s Central School Clinic, afterwards as a bank, and now St. John’s Buildings.
© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.
The subject of city development is emotive. People have different opinions. As someone who looks at historical detail, we’re no different to our ancestors.
In Victorian times, people agreed or disagreed about Sheffield’s redevelopment. Sheffield Corporation was always in the firing line. The difference now is that we’re able to make our views known on a much wider and accessible platform.
This piece of news will provoke the same split opinion.
The Sheffield Star has revealed that Sheffield City Council is about to complete the purchase of 20-26 Fargate, the former Clintons card shop opposite Marks and Spencer, to become ‘Event Central,’ a six-storey flagship for the city’s ‘burgeoning creative sector.’
The acquisition and revamp of the building will consume a ‘sizeable’ chunk of £15.8m the authority won from the Future High Streets Fund, a partnership with Sheffield University, to improve Fargate and High Street.
Prof Vanessa Toulmin, of Sheffield University, who led the bid said she would like to see the top floor used for music gigs and practice sessions. Event Central could also host festival events, such as for DocFest, and acts displaced by the closure of venues. There will also be co-working space, exhibitions and a café. The operating model had not been finalised but was likely to be a commercial and public sector partnership.
As part of the masterplan, the top of Fargate will be reconfigured to provide outdoor space for major events. The scheme is expected to attract 110,680 visitors annually. Meanwhile it is hoped that ‘Front Door Access’ to old offices above shops will spark investment in new flats.