Look carefully at this photograph. Two Sheffield landmarks we are familiar with today. To the left, the Cutlers Hall, built in 1832 by Samuel Worth and Benjamin Broomhead Taylor, and on the right of the gateway, the former Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank, most recently known as the Church Street branch of HSBC (now closed). Together they provide an imposing façade facing Sheffield Cathedral.
However, if we go back to 1878, things didn’t look quite as straightforward.
In October 1878, the Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank had just opened a new extension, built on the site of an old rope works and wire shop. Designed by Henry Dent Lomas, the four Ionic columns and the Renaissance gateway seen here, mirrored the building’s original design (not seen in the picture), created by Samuel Worth in 1838.
Most people think the iron gate as being part of the Cutler’s Hall, but it was built as access to bank buildings behind.
Back in 1878, the Cutler’s Hall was also much smaller.
The frontage we see today was created in 1888 by J.B Mitchel-Withers, once again the result of an extension. The two Ionic columns to the right of the doorway mirrored the 1832 construction on the other side, cleverly placing the Cutler’s Hall entrance (once to the right) at the centre of the masterpiece.
Together, these buildings provide an insight into Victorian ingenuity, where two buildings were cleverly transformed by adding identical extensions.
But, the period between 1878, when the Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank extension was built, and 1888, when the Cutler’s Hall was extended, meant there was an unsightly presence between the two buildings. A blot on the landscape.
Said the Sheffield Independent in 1878: –
“Few persons can have passed down Church Street since the extensions of the Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank took definite shape, without wondering how the paltry brick shop wedged in between that and the Cutler’s Hall, has managed to hold its own, to the disfigurement of the handsome buildings on either side.
“It has not even the respectable appearance of a ham sandwich; it reminds us of nothing so much as a parched bit of unappetising Chicago beef spoiling two pieces of good bread.
“When things looked as if the Cutler’s Company meant neither themselves to swallow this up in some credible fashion, nor let the Hallamshire Bank have the chance of engulfing it, the public were inclined to be a little indignant at seeing a good street spoiled.
“For this relic of the middle-period Church Street, is not old enough to be picturesque and not substantial enough to be handsome.
“It is a specimen of domestic architecture at its worst period – if an erection of bricks, with holes left to do duty as windows, be worthy to be called architecture at all – and it breaks with unsightly violence, the most imposing row of buildings of which this not very beautiful town can boast.”
The Cutler’s Company did eventually purchase the shop and premises next door, demolishing it, and replacing it with the extension of 1888.