We pass this building on Church Street and probably don’t give it a second glance. This Grade II-listed property is looking unloved these days, its condition deteriorating. Look at the windows left open to the elements, and the tree growing out of the chimney pot. A sad reminder that this was an impressive and important Sheffield building.
Cairn’s Chambers was built between 1894-1896 by Charles Hadfield, of M.E. Hadfield, Son and Garland for Henry and Alfred Maxfield, solicitors. It was built in scholarly Tudor-style, a favourite of Hadfield’s, featuring decorative stonework by Frank Tory Sr.
The structure was described in Builder in 1897, as “very quiet and self-restrained, it also remarked that “this architect’s detail is always markedly good, particularly in the matter of scale.”
In 1916, Wilfrid Randolph, an architectural critic, considered Cairn’s Chambers as being one of Hadfield’s finest pieces. “Its quiet composition and detail, stands as an admirable application of traditional English forms to present day purposes, unspoiled by the straining after effect which mars so much contemporary street architecture.”
Henry and Alfred Maxfield occupied a large suite of offices, but it was also built to accommodate other businesses, a common trait of Victorian entrepreneurship.
The offices were used for almost 40 years by Charles Hadfield’s own company, C & C.M. Hadfield, architects, and later by Hadfield and Cawkwell. It was also where John Dodsley Webster, another Sheffield architect, had his office with an entrance at the back, on St James’s Street. Another long-serving tenant was Septimus Short and Co, a Sheffield agent for the Sun Insurance office.
The Hadfield company remained until World War Two, leaving after the building was damaged by a German bomb in 1940. The rear of the property was almost destroyed, but the decorative front survived.
Afterwards, Cairn’s Chambers became a branch of the District Bank, subsequently becoming NatWest until its closure.
The building stood empty for 15 years before the ground floor was taken over by Eua De Vie Leisure Ltd, which opened it as Cargo Hold in 2018, a seafood restaurant.
Alas, Cargo Hold closed earlier this year, the Cairn’s Building empty once again, and craving for a new occupier.