There might be a brighter future for Leah’s Yard, on Cambridge Street. For many years the former Little Mesters’ workshops have been cloaked with scaffolding, a desperate attempt to stop the Victorian frontage falling down.
But now, Sheffield City Council, and its development partner for the Heart of the City II project, Queensbury, have submitted a planning application for Leah’s Yard.
The council bought the building in 2015, almost ten years after the site had been sold to a development company (presumably as part of the ill-fated Sevenstone project), and over thirty years since it had last been used.
This latest planning application seeks permission to undertake fundamental construction works to make the building structurally sound and bring it back into usable condition. It includes the installation of one replacement shop front and another new one.
The project team has also revealed that it will be inviting bids from interested organisations wishing to occupy and manage the spaces towards the end of March.
Despite its Grade II*-listing, Leah’s Yard has been on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register, slowly decaying and crying out for development.
Leah’s Yard fronts onto Cambridge Street, a carriage archway leads into a small courtyard surrounded by two and three-storey brick workshops.
Barely one room deep, the workshops have external wooden staircases to give access to the upper floors with its casement windows, needed to provide natural light to the workbenches behind.
It’s hard to believe that many of these former workshops still contain traces of past existence, including some of the old workbenches.
Cambridge Street, once known as Coal Pit Lane, was traditionally one of the centres of the bone and horn-working trades in Sheffield.
Leah’s Yard dates between 1850-1890, once home to six companies, including four cutlers, a horn and bone merchant and a silver-plater.
Henry Hobson later traded on the site, and in the 1890s it was solely occupied by Henry Leah, a manufacturer of die stamps for silverware, and for which the site gets its name.
By 1922, eighteen companies were working from Leah’s Yard, with Henry Leah eventually merging with Spear & Jackson in 1976.
Its last occupant was a shop on the front lower floor, and when this closed the site fell into gradual degeneration, and subject to fire damage.
The Heart of the City II team wants Leah’s Yard to become ‘a cultural heart and social anchor’ to the £470million scheme.