Fountain Precinct

It’s 45-years old and occupies a prime location in Sheffield city centre. The Fountain Precinct, in buff and brown tiles, at Barker’s Pool, is probably one of our best known office blocks, opened in 1974 (or 1976, according to Harman and Minnis) on the site of the demolished Grand Hotel. The eight-storey building was designed by Sidney Kaye, Firmin and Partners, and is owned by Kames Property Income Fund, which has announced a £3.5million modernisation programme complete with a new shop or restaurant on the ground floor. Current Occupiers include Handlesbanken, 7 Legal and Finance, Aon Ltd, Quidco and tech firm 3Squared, but is a third empty.


Turkish Baths

There are a few historic buildings in Sheffield up for sale at present. Just hitting the market are the Turkish Baths on Victoria Street, just off Glossop Road.

These once formed part of Glossop Road baths, the first public baths in the city, built in the aftermath of the cholera epidemic of 1832 and associated with the Public Dispensary (later Royal Hospital).

It was re-built in 1877-1879 by architect Edward Mitchel Gibbs of Change Alley, for the Turkish and Public Bath Company Ltd.

Turkish baths became popular in Victorian times, its proponents arguing that they achieved a degree of cleanliness “unattainable by any other expedient,” and its successes forced the medical profession to take notice.

Gibbs paid a visit to most of the chief Turkish Baths in the country, and his plans were based upon his experiences.

The heating system was installed by Vickers, Son and Company, the invention of Thomas Edward Vickers, and removed sulphur from the heated air and “that even in the hottest room there were none of the unpleasant sensations which were sometimes experienced under such circumstances.”

At the time, the Sheffield Independent wrote: –

“It is not often that Sheffield can boast of excelling other towns; but it may now take credit to itself for having the finest and most complete Turkish baths in the kingdom. Attendants in Turkish costume await his bidding, and while smoking a cigar – never so delightful as after a bath – he can have tea or coffee, or, the cigar finished, he may have light refreshments.”

While the rest of the old baths have been given over to leisure and residential use, only the interiors of the Turkish Baths, reputed to be the oldest in the country, has survived.

These Turkish Baths closed in 1990 after 127 years but were reopened in 2004 after SPA 1877 developers completed a £2million restoration, reviving many of the original features including mosaic flooring, glazed brick walls and arched ceilings.

Offers are invited above £695,000 for the landmark building.


Parade Chambers

If you have a spare £4.9million then you might want to consider buying Parade Chambers on the corner of East Parade and High Street. The Grade II listed building comes with five tenants, including Lloyds Bank which occupies most of the ground floor.

In 1883, the premises of Pawson and Brailsford, stationers and printers, were demolished as part of the East Parade improvement scheme, the lane widened, and the building line adjusted.

About 11 yards of Pawson & Brailsford’s land was taken, although they were handsomely compensated by the council.

The company had been founded by Henry Pawson and Joseph Brailsford, both former newspaper men. Pawson had joined the reporting staff of the Leeds Intelligencer, moving to the Sheffield Mercury and later becoming editor of the Sheffield Times. Brailsford had been associated with the Sheffield Independent.

The two opened their first printing and stationary shop on Castle Street, later adding manufacturing works on Mulberry Street, and moving to the High Street, near to the Church Gates (now Sheffield Cathedral), taking the premises of Samuel Harrison, Jeweller.

With enough money to build a replacement, Pawson and Brailsford commissioned Charles Hadfield, of M.E. Hadfield & Son, to build a five -storey Tudor Gothic block, built by George Longden & Son between 1883-1885.

In order to erect the building as quickly as possible the builders worked in night relays, using electric light, and made it one of the first buildings in Sheffield to be built this way.

Constructed in Huddersfield stone, with specially made bricks from Fareham, Kent, it was topped with green Westmoreland slate.

Its two principal elevations were dominated by mullioned and transomed windows. The decorative stonework, with portraits of Chaucer and Caxton and grimacing gargoyles and mythical beasts, was the work of Frank Tory, but the character of the building was emphasised with two picturesque turrets on East Parade.

When completed, Pawson and Brailsford, had a large shop on the corner, with two windows on the High Street and three windows in East Parade. The basement was used for showing mercantile stationary, accounts books, drawing papers, and Milner’s Safes.

Two other shops adjoining the High Street were available to let, soon occupied by the Union of London and Smiths Bank (later to become London and Yorkshire Bank).

Well-lit offices for solicitors, architects and accountants were available on the first and second floors, entered by a handsome entrance on East Parade.

The upper floors were used as store-rooms by Pawson and Brailsford.

The new building set the model for High Street, Church Street and Fargate, the architectural drawings being shown by the Royal Academy in 1885.

Pawson and Brailsford extended their Mulberry Street works at the same time, increasing space for wood and copper engraving, letter-press, lithographic printing, book-binding and photo lithography.

The company remained at Parade Chambers until 1930, before moving to another new building on the corner of Norfolk Street and Mulberry Street. (This building still exists and subject to a future post).

The London and Yorkshire Bank eventually became the National Provincial Bank (later NatWest), subsequently taking over the premises of the London City and Midland Bank, at the corner of High Street and York Street. The ground floor premises are still home to a bank, although now occupied by Lloyds.

While the outside of the building remains unchanged, the same cannot be said for the interior. This was gutted in 1988, with only the stone staircase surviving, the offices above now taking on a very modern look.


Parade Chambers

The changing face of the High Street in Sheffield.

This remarkable photograph shows Pawson and Brailsford’s stationary shop at the Church Gates in 1883. The old shop still traded while their new premises, Parade Chambers, were being built alongside.

Designed by Charles Hadfield, of M.E. Hadfield & Son, the five-storey building was built by George Longden & Son between 1883-1885.

Pawson and Brailsford occupied the ground floor corner unit, pulling in rent from offices constructed above, and the London and Yorkshire Bank next door.

The building is still here, with Lloyds Bank occupying most of the ground floor, although the interiors were gutted in 1988 with only the original main staircase to the offices surviving.


Grosvenor House

Top 10 global law firm, CMS, is set to become the second anchor tenant in Grosvenor House, the new HSBC building. It is relocating from its current base at Victoria Quays and preserves the firm’s presence as a major employer in the city.

The new office will be entirely self-contained and separate to HSBC, with a bespoke entrance, reception and signage facing onto Wellington Street and connecting to the impressive public realm of Charter Square.

Staff are expected to relocate from offices near Park Square this autumn, coinciding with the firm’s 30-year anniversary in Sheffield.

It means the building, officially called Grosvenor House after the hotel that stood on the site, will be full, delighting council chiefs who are bankrolling the £480million Heart of the City II scheme with taxpayers’ cash.


Abacus House

At first glance, this plain looking building, on the corner of Norfolk Street and Norfolk Row, looked to be a bit of a lightweight in terms of its history.

Oh, my goodness, what a challenge it has turned out to be instead.

According to Historic England, Grade II-listed Abacus House, home to the Coventry Building Society, was built about 1791 as three houses. And here lies the mystery. No manner of archive digging can reveal the builder and for whom it was built for.

We do know that Norfolk Row was built about 1780, running alongside the gardens of the Lord’s House in Fargate, to Norfolk Street. The Lord’s House was built in 1707 for Henry Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, and at the back of the house was a chapel where a Catholic congregation worshipped.

This was dismantled and sold in 1814, replaced with a new chapel two years later, itself demolished to make way for a new church in 1850, better known today as St. Marie’s Cathedral.

I have a suspicion that Abacus House may have been built by the Duke of Norfolk as the presbytery to the original chapel, and a day in the archives will have to resolve this mystery.

It was certainly used as the presbytery at one time but in the early 1800s it was being occupied by Sir Arnold Knight, a Catholic physician, appointed to the Royal Infirmary in 1852, founder of the Sheffield Medical Institution in 1829, and later establishing the public dispensary on West Street (later the Royal Hospital). Next door was Thomas Raynor, one of Sheffield’s first Chief Constables.

In the mid-19th century the houses were altered with additions, quite possibly around the time that a new presbytery was built on the opposite corner. It paved the way for a long line of occupants, some with quite fascinating stories, and its future use as office accommodation.

It was here that John Hyde – proprietor of private estate sales rooms, estate and commission agent, accountant, auditor and collector of rents and debts – had his business during the 1840s. He was charged with embezzlement and obtaining money by false pretences in 1851, subsequently absconding and arrested in Glasgow.

There was also Dr Alonzo Durant, a man of dubious character, who established the Medical and Surgical Philanthropic Institution in 1851. He was described as “a trifle extravagant, and not free from eccentricity,” and worthy of a separate post.

George Nichols was a military tailor, who established a business here during the 1850s and 1860s, later becoming insolvent and emigrating to Ontario, Canada, where he became Captain Nichols of the Alexandrian Company (No.3) of the 59th Regiment.

We should also mention Henri LeClere, a Parisian, who arrived in Sheffield in 1861 to set up a silver engraving company on High Street before taking rooms here. His son built up the LeClere family business and successive generations were in demand with aristocratic families and embassies across Europe. The company later moved to their most famous premises on Howard Street.

Add to the mix – J.F. Anderson, Chiropodist Surgeon, Madame Malbet, Stanfield and Hirst, law and general stationers, A. Thornley Walker, architect, and William Edwards, freight, passage and emigration officer, to name but a few.

At the start of the twentieth century the building had been renamed Rectory Chambers, now solely used as offices, and attracted a new generation of tenants.

Robert F. Drury was the first patent agent in Sheffield, his company surviving until the 1930s, Walter Harry Best was a stocks and shares broker, Frank Bibbings represented the Free Trade Union and this was also the office for The Expert Advertising Company, whose advertising appeared on theatre screens across the country.

And we mustn’t forget Madame Lille, whose maid recruiting agency was the “oldest and best known in the Midlands, and the only one in Sheffield to be on the ‘recommended’ list.”

There also appears to be Eliza F. Jones, tobacconist, who occupied part of the ground floor until the 1920s.

The Leeds Permanent Building Society moved in during 1931, a foretaste of a later occupant, the Coventry Economic Building Society, taking most of the building, and operating still as the Coventry Building Society.

And so, this brick building, with rendered and colour-washed walls, does have a lot of stories to tell after all. But can anyone explain the meaning behind Abacus House?


The brick houses of Sheffield

When was the first brick house built in Sheffield?

In the book, “Reminiscences of Sheffield,” it states that the first brick house was built at the end of Pepper Alley about the year 1696.

Pepper Alley was superseded by the grander title of Norfolk Row, created nearby in 1780.

This long-lost house was leased at an annual rent of 24 peppercorns, quite high for the time because a rent of “one peppercorn if demanded” was a common nominal rent. But why should rents in Pepper Alley have been nominal? After all, one would have thought that land was rather valuable in this neighbourhood.

The statement that the house in Pepper Alley (was it so called after the peppercorn rents?) was the first brick house in Sheffield rests upon the authority of the Rev. Edward Goodwin, a clergyman of antiquarian tastes, who lived in the town at the end of the eighteenth century.

However, we can perhaps refute his claim, and will probably never know.

About the fourteenth century the houses in Sheffield were of wood, or partly of wood and stone, and in some of these houses brick must have been used in combination with wood.

Brick was little used in northern towns, where stone was plentiful, but it is likely that some old builder or architect used brick instead of stone, merely by way of change.

Sheffield was a stone-built town for the most part, but when the Duke of Norfolk began to lay out new streets between Pond Lane and Norfolk Street, and in the neighbourhood of Scotland Street and West Bar, a great deal of brick was used.

When street improvements were made, a few old brick houses were pulled down, and, plain as their exteriors probably were, some of them contained beautifully carved chimney-pieces and panelled walls, showing that these houses had once been occupied by people of wealth and consequence.

It’s very improbable to say the least, that no brick house was built in Sheffield before 1696. After all, the great tower at Sheffield Manor was of brick in Cardinal Wolsey’s time, and we know how old it was even then.


Brown Bear

The Brown Bear is referred to as one of the oldest pubs in Sheffield, believed to have been built about 1745, although whether it was originally a pub is open to debate.

The square-set Georgian pub is one of the earliest surviving brick buildings in the area, once referred to as being the last house in Norfolk Street.

The Sign of the Brown Bear, the Brown Bear Inn, or the Old Brown Bear, as it was once known, probably refers to bear-baiting, popular in Europe until the 19th century. Any claims that it was named after the bear pit at the Botanical Gardens are unlikely as this wasn’t created until 1836, and was home to Bruin, a black bear.

We can trace its origins as a pub to at least 1790, home to John Crookes, regularly frequented by townsfolk, and where beer was brewed at the back of the house.

As well as an ale house it was also home to several groups, including the Fitzalan Sick Society and the Old Brown Bear Sick and Funeral Society.
In 1896, The Brown Bear was taken by John Smith’s Tadcaster Brewery on a 21-year lease which maintained ties up until the beginning of this century.

In the 1920s, it was used to play the game of Bumble Puppy, a version of True Madame, a game still played in Belgium and France. It was played on a raised board, balls rolled down a sloping top towards nine numbered arches.

It was bought by Sheffield Corporation in the 1930s, and in 1981, when the lease was up for renewal, a stipulation was included that the character of the pub could not be altered. The winning bidder turned out to be John Smiths, which held it until 2005 when it was taken over by Samuel Smiths.



Work will start shortly on “Vista”, a 16-storey student tower block on a plot of land between Flat Street and Pond Street.

Sheffield Council approved a plan by Langland Estates to redevelop the entire former Head Post Office site in September 2015. Refurbishment of the listed buildings is complete, including the old post office which is now Sheffield Hallam’s Institute of Arts.

Langland’s initial aim was to build up to 22 storeys, but this was brought down to 16 two years ago after talks with the council’s planning department.

The development has now been bought by Liverpool-based Mount Property Group which is aiming to complete construction for the September 2021 academic year. The approved scheme is for 241 “student units” with ground floor reception, study lounge, coffee shop and bike store.

It is Mount’s first project in Sheffield, and will use its own building subsidiary, Mount Construction.


Stone House

Let’s not dwell too much on the recent history of the Stone House pub on Church Street. Famous in the seventies and eighties as the must-go-to bar on a Saturday night, and memorable for the courtyard that gave you the impression that you were standing underneath a star-filled sky.

The courtyard disappeared in the 1980s after the building of Orchard Square, the Stone House refurbished as a trendy establishment that lasted until 2005.

It was bought by the owners of Orchard Square, London & Associated Properties, for £2.5million, space given for the expansion of T.K. Maxx, and the older, listed part, left empty.

It’s a sad time for this Grade II-listed building, seemingly unloved, and not likely to attract a new tenant soon.

There is some confusion as to the date when the Stone House was built.

A band inscribed across the front states “1795, White & Sons, late Thomas Aldam.” But, the two-storey building we see today dates from the 1840s.

Over the doors, round-arched panels are inscribed with “The Stone House” and “Private Lodgings.”

Thomas Aldam, an importer of wines and spirits, moved here in the 1840s, continuing until his death in 1858.

The business was taken over by Dunkelspiehl Brothers & Company in 1867, trading from the site until the late 1870s.

The business transferred to J.B. White and Sons; an old Chesterfield company that had been established in 1795 (hence the date seen on the building today).

The name of the Stone House first appeared in 1913 following the acquisition of J.B. White and another Sheffield wine merchant, William Favell and Company, by brewer Duncan Gilmour and Company.

The two companies became White Favell and Company, wines and spirits merchants and cigar importers, operating in the front of the building. More importantly, the rest of the building became the Stone House public house.

White Favell and Company was later run by J. Lomax Cockayne, the managing partner in what became White, Favell and Cockayne.

Duncan Gilmour and Company was taken over by Leeds-based Tetleys in 1954, the wines and spirits business gradually being phased out and part of its old windowed frontage bricked up.

An illustrious past for the building, now waiting for a new lease of life.