Curzon Cinema

One of the newest additions to Sheffield’s cinema scene is Curzon on George Street, a quiet thoroughfare with several hidden secrets. The history of this building goes back to January 9, 1794, when John Hardcastle opened it as a ‘conservative’ coffeehouse. A large room on the ground floor was used for George’s Coffeehouse, and over the fireplace was the motto ‘King, Lords and Commons’ with the warning ‘No Jacobins Admitted’. Accommodation was available above for ‘a fine gentleman’. Three years later it was in the possession of James Healey, but evidence suggests the coffeehouse wasn’t the success it had set out to be. English coffeehouses had been public social places where men could meet for conversation and commerce, but towards the end of the 18th century had almost completely disappeared from the popular social scene.

By 1799, the Institution of the School of Industry, a Quaker driven girls’ school for reading, knitting and sewing, had taken a room here. In 1818, a portion of the old coffeehouse was taken by the fledgling Sheffield Library. ‘The library room is spacious and lofty and is well filled with a collection of the most popular works in the English language. Adjoining the library is a comfortable reading room, in which are deposited those publications which are not to be taken out.’ The library’s stay was brief, and soon removed to the Old Music Hall on Surrey Street, leaving the ground floor occupied by Harwood and Thomas, merchants, and the first floor being used as an auction room.

Most people are aware that this was once an old bank, but it wasn’t until 1831 that the Sheffield Banking Company moved in. The newly-formed bank had looked at five properties but settled on 13 George Street spending £2,200 for the whole property. As well as the old coffeehouse it included adjoining offices and three dwelling houses. Changes were made to the building by architects Woodhead & Hurst of Doncaster, turning it into ‘an exceedingly commodious place of business, as well as for the customers as for the directors and officers.’ The Directors occupied what had been the old library as the board room.

A left extension was built in 1906 by architects Matthew Ellison Hadfield and his son Charles and can be traced in the brickwork outside. The interior decorations, appropriately emblematic, were carried out by Hugh Hutton Stannus, a Sheffield-born architect who had originally trained in casting brass, copper and bronze. In 1919, the Sheffield Banking Company amalgamated with the National Provincial and Union Bank (later becoming the National Westminster). The George Street branch’s busiest time was in the 1960s with 120 staff based here. However, it later relocated to newer premises on High Street and the building remained empty for years.

The Curzon opened in January 2015, adapting the Grade II listed building for cinema use while taking into consideration the pilastered walls, Doric arcades and granite columns inside.