Bethel Sunday School

The origin of this building at 32 Cambridge Street can be seen on a stone plaque near the roof-line. It shows ‘Bethel Sunday School – 1852’. Presumably this was the date it was built and differs from its Historic England listing that claims it was built twenty years earlier.

To understand its existence, we must go back to the eighteenth century when Edward Bennet, a sugar-baker, funded a Methodist chapel to be built on Coal Pit Lane, which led to a pit towards the West Fields, abandoned because of the dangers of subsidence. In 1790, the church built a larger chapel on Howard Street and Coal Pit Lane was occupied by different Independent societies before standing empty.

Primitive Methodism was introduced into Sheffield at the end of the 18th century and made use of the redundant Coal Pit Lane chapel until 1835, when they built a new chapel (part of which still survives) on the other side of Bethel Walk. The old chapel was demolished, and the Bethel Sunday School was built in its place, accommodating over 500 scholars and were the means of educating and influencing thousands of children.

Coal Pit Lane, by the way, was renamed Cambridge Street when the Duke of Cambridge laid the foundation stone of the Crimean monument in 1857.

It is difficult to determine when the Methodists vacated the building, but by the 1920s it was being used as factory premises for Killeen, Rothwell and Company, men’s and boys’ cap manufacturers. Of course, later generations know it better as being part of Bar Centro, later The Cutler/Stardust Bar, opened next door in a former spoon factory.

At present it is occupied by DINA Venue, a hub for creative and digital space, with the former school known as Sheffield Arts Centre. It is astonishing that the building survived at all , but its Grade II-listing allows it to be retained in a future phase of the Heart of the City 2 masterplan.