Cairn’s Chambers: the renaissance of a forgotten building

Damon Wiseman pictured outside Cairn’s Chambers on Church Street in Sheffield city centre, which he is planning to turn into luxury apartments with a new restaurant on the ground floor. Photograph: Sheffield Star

Cairn’s Chambers on Church Street, a building slowly deteriorating these past twenty years or so, has had an offer accepted, and subject to planning permission, will turn it into a restaurant, with up to a dozen luxury apartments on the first, second, and third floor which will be available to rent.

The man behind the scheme is Damon Wiseman who came to the UK in 2016 from Zimbabwe to study real estate and later ended up working for a Russian goldmine company. He lives in Sheffield and has successfully invested in rental properties in Burnley and Manchester.

Wiseman’s offer of £800,000 has been accepted and is understood to have the backing of wealthy overseas investors. He estimates that once completed, the scheme will have cost a total of £1.5m.

Grade II listed 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 sad decline of Cairn’s Chambers is highlighted by the small tree growing out of a chimney-pot. Image DJP/2020

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.

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.

Most recently, the ground floor was occupied by Cargo Hold, a seafood restaurant.

The crowning glory of Cairn’s Chambers was the statue of Hugh McCalmont Cairns (1819-1885), 1st Earl Cairns, an Irish statesman, and Lord Chancellor of Great Britain. Photograph: DJP/2021

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.