Tiger Works

Tiger Works has become a mainstay of West Street’s nightlife, establishing itself as a modern bar within an old building. It’s been open nearly ten years now, lasting much longer than previous uses as a fitness centre, Indian restaurant, nightclub and a Tequila bar.

Officially known as 136-138 West Street, the three-storey building is dated at 1884, with the name “Tiger Works” incised on a narrow but ornate façade at the front. And you can’t fail to notice the two carved tigers that sit above ground floor level.

It doesn’t take you long to realise that the bar adopted the name of the former factory, but its unique moniker has long puzzled locals. The clue REALLY does rest with the carved lions.

You might be surprised to learn that this was the second Tiger Works built in Sheffield.

The first Tiger Works belonged to Joseph Tingle Deakin, a Britannica metals manufacturer, who set up a factory at Green Lane, Kelham Island, in 1860, going into partnership with Henry Ecroyd, Ernest George Reuss and John Bottomley.

Deakin, Ecroyd and Company, were manufacturers of steel files, tools, saws, springs and table cutlery, its trademark consisting of a tiger, standing upon an arrow, with the word “Tiger” underneath. It was no surprise that the factory was named after its hallmark.

The partnership was dissolved in 1874, Deakin and Reuss continuing the business as Deakin Reuss and Company, establishing links with the Spanish and South American cutlery trade and exporting general hardware.

In 1884, the firm relocated to these new premises at West Street, although there is evidence that it had been operating on the site two years before. And it was here that the distinctive carved tigers appeared and have remained ever since.

Joseph Deakin died in 1896, by which time the company had changed its name to Deakin and Sons.

Despite the relatively small frontage, Tiger Works was deceivingly large, with an entrance to the factory through a cart entrance (now forming the main entrance to today’s bar), into a small courtyard surrounded by workshops.

The company moved out after Deakin’s death, with John Townroe and Sons, electro-platers, taking over No. 138 West Street in 1898, sharing with John Scholey, mark manufacturers, who occupied No. 136.

Scholey’s lease was subsequently taken over by J.G. Graves, the famous Sheffield mail order company, which used Tiger Works to sell jewellery, cameras, electro-plate musical instruments, clocks, phonographs and records.

Between 1910 and 1914 , Willie and Emile Viener, electro plate manufacturers, had taken over No. 136, and after they vacated, this section of the building was regularly offered to rent.

John Townroe and Sons, famous for its chromium stainless plating, remained until the 1940s, when it was taken over by the Aurora Gear and Engineering Company.

With various uses for the building ever since, it is somewhat remarkable that the “Tiger Works” name survives, in a very different manner, to that first created 160 years ago.


Arts Tower

For fifty-five years, the University of Sheffield’s Arts Tower has dominated the Sheffield skyline.

This was once the city’s tallest building at 78metres, built in a commanding position on high ground, eventually eclipsed by St. Paul’s Tower in 2011.

A Building for Arts was first discussed in 1953, with designs submitted by architects Gollins, Melvin, Ward and Partners, and it went through several radical changes before the University’s planning group chose a “cube of steel, glass and concrete.”

Thirteen storeys were originally planned, with six more added, including two floors in which additional funding had to be found because the University Grants Committee refused to underwrite it.

“Every time the planning group for the building met, the height went up by two storeys.”

It finally reached nineteen storeys (although a further two can be found underground) and became the tallest university building in the country.

Construction started in 1961, the foundations built on solid rock thirty feet beneath the surface and was topped-out in October 1964.

The University moved in during the summer of 1965, with accommodation for 18 departments and 160 staff. The Architecture Department occupied the top floors (as it still does), because “it gave them a very good view over Sheffield to see all the town planning that was going on.”

The Arts Tower was officially opened by the Queen Mother in June 1966, where she was made an honorary Doctor of Music, and memorably described the structure as “the tower of light and learning.”

The tower was built with a concrete frame, exposed at ground level by sixteen columns, and sheathed with glass-curtain walling, long being subject of speculation that it was based on the Seagram Building in New York City, as well as the CIS Tower and New Century House in Manchester, although no documentary evidence supports any of these theories.

It was connected at first-floor level with the Library (built 1955-1959) and originally had a wide bridge between fountains over a shallow pool in front of the building, but this was drained and covered over due to strong down-drafts, resulting in people getting soaked when entering and leaving the building.

In 2009, the Arts Tower underwent major renovation, the interiors being reorganised, and a new façade added.

Being as tall as it is, stories have persisted about the tower’s sway in strong winds – this turns out to be true, reported as being “slight but measurable” on windy days.

And, of course, we cannot fail to mention the famous Paternoster lift, subject to a separate post.

“Like the big wheel in a fairground,” this was a revolutionary solution to save space (there was only room for four lift shafts), designed to speed up movement of students and staff between floors.

Thirty-eight cars continuously circulate allowing people to step on and off at each level and is now said to be the largest surviving Paternoster lift still in use in the UK.


Arts Tower

In another post, we’ve looked at the University of Sheffield’s Arts Tower, arguably one of the city’s iconic buildings. It was built during the 1960s, designed by Gollins, Melvin, Ward and Partners – a cube of steel, glass and concrete – and at 78metres high is the tallest university building in Britain.

The design only allowed for four lift shafts, including two high-speed lifts primarily to the top floors, and two paternoster lifts, a revolutionary system as few had been built and none the size of Sheffield.

The paternoster was introduced to speed up movement of students and staff between floors. It has no doors and moves continuously without stopping at floor level, and is only one of two left in the country, certainly the tallest operational lift of its kind in Europe.

It was originally installed by the Schindler Lift Company, and comprises 38 two-person cars, travelling the full 22-storeys of the building. A journey between floors takes 13 seconds and allows 76 people to move at any one time.

The paternoster system was designed in the 1860s by Peter Ellis, a Liverpool architect, and gets its name from its resemblance to rosary prayer beads and is Latin for “Our Father,” which opens The Lord’s Prayer.

The paternoster lift was popular in Europe during the early and mid-twentieth century, but production was halted in the 1970s after a series of accidents.

The Arts Tower paternosters were completely rewired in 2009, with new controls and additional lighting. The gearbox and sprockets were recut, wooden guides replaced where necessary, and new safety features were introduced.

And so, to the mischief caused by students on the paternosters.

In the early days, and no doubt still applicable, second- and third-year students liked to scare freshers by emerging from the top of the shaft doing a handstand to prove that the cars turned right over (which they didn’t).

The trip wire on each compartment can easily be triggered by mischief-makers, resulting in the paternosters stopping completely.

There is a story from the 1960s, whereby George Porter, Professor of Physical Chemistry, and his wife, were attending a tea party hosted by the Vice-Chancellor on the thirteenth floor.

“We travelled smoothly in the new wondrous Paternoster lift until, as our heads appeared above the thirteenth floor, we were able to see our host receiving the guests. As he turned to greet us the lift stopped, leaving us about neck level to the floor. The Vice-Chancellor immediately joined us, though necessarily at a higher level, and during the twenty minutes which passed before the lift could be started again, graciously served us tea on the floor.”


Wharncliffe House

According to Historic England, which gave Wharncliffe House a Grade II listing in 1995, this is a town house built for the Earl of Wharncliffe about 1885.

However, in this post we’re going to challenge these facts, although the Bank Street building does have a definite link to the Wharncliffe family.

Bank Street wasn’t created until 1792, and was intended to be called Shore Street, named after John Shore, a banker, and this was the name used on leases granted when he cut up his land for building purposes.

In 1793, we find reference to a “new” street in Sheffield called Bank Street, indicating that Shore had just built the town’s first bank here.

Wharncliffe House, or more correctly Wharncliffe Chambers, was described as a new building on Bank Street in 1874, probably built for John Henry Wood (1830-1914), a mining engineer and landowner, who had offices here, the building later forming part of his estate.

The original structure was of traditional brickwork, three-storeys and described as Italianate. (It had the misfortune of having an insensitive fourth storey added in 1980).

The central doorcase was decorated with masks, brackets and garlands, while bearded heads formed two keystones of two windows either side and on the left return, all below a deep bracketed cornice. Wrought iron railings were added to the little balconies over the doorway.

John Henry Wood was born at Burton-on-Trent and came to Sheffield in his youth. With the object of learning mining engineering, he became a pupil of John Jeffcock, and later went into business with Vincent Charles Stuart Wortley Corbett, a relative of the Earl of Wharncliffe.

For forty-six years, Wood was mineral agent and waterworks engineer to the Wortley family, retiring in 1907, and having the honour of serving under three heads at Wortley Hall, including the 1st and 2nd Earls of Wharncliffe, and was responsible for building the reservoir at Wortley.

He died in 1914, the 2nd Earl of Wharncliffe offering condolences to his son, Reginald Barritt Wood.

“Your father did the most valuable work for my family estate, and besides the regret I feel for his death, I have a very strong sense of gratitude for all he did.”

After John Henry Wood’s death, Wharncliffe Chambers, “the finest suite of offices in the city,” was put up for sale, advertisements describing a basement, lavatories, W.C.’s and cellars, as well as a suite of offices that were let, “in the best professional part of Sheffield, and always occupied by high-class tenants.”

Wharncliffe Chambers sold for £6,200, falling into different owners, but always retaining its use as offices for architects, solicitors and professionals.

In 1921, it was renamed Wharncliffe House, creating confusion amongst historians, and unsurprisingly linking it to the Earl of Wharncliffe’s London house of the same name on Curzon Street, Mayfair, sold to Lord Crewe in 1899 and renamed Crewe House.

This century, Wharncliffe House was acquired by the Mandale group, which restored the building, painting it all-white, and turning the offices into apartments in 2017.

The ground floor became Foundry Coffee Roasters, a coffee house, later taken over by Cassinelli’s, an Italian-inspired eatery.

And so, did the Earl of Wharncliffe build Wharncliffe House, and did he use it as a townhouse?

Probably not.

Based on this evidence, it was likely called Wharncliffe Chambers as a compliment to the Wharncliffe estate, to which John Henry Wood had very close connections.



It’s near Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter, defined by historic street patterns from the 18th century, once home to early water-powered mills and Little Mesters’ metal trades workshops.

These days, the area south of Sylvester Street and north of Mary Street (near Decathlon) is being developed for more city centre residential use.

The next project, a £75million plan to construct 335 ‘build-to-rent’ upmarket apartments alongside the Porter Brook, is due to start in the next few months, developers say.

Platform_, supported by DLP Planning, designed by TateHindle Architects, secured planning permission two years ago, and will be built on the brownfield site, where decontamination works and the shoring up of the Porter Brook, is nearing completion.

The developer has promised to plant vegetation along the edge of the river and place rocks in the middle to slow down the flow and reintroduce habitats for wildlife. A new pedestrian route will run parallel to the river, with a bridge allowing people to access the new buildings.


Dam House

This building has seen a lot of tragedy since it was built in the 1780s, initially as a home for the company secretary to the Sheffield Reservoir Company. Dam House, on Mushroom Lane, was built above the Old Great Dam, better known now as the lake at Crookes Valley Park.

Since 1951, Dam House has been used on-and-off as a bar and restaurant, but for 160 years beforehand it was a large house, owned by the reservoir company, and subsequently the Sheffield Water Works Company.

It’s fair to say that Dam House has witnessed an awful lot of drownings over the years. Suicides have been common, and accidental deaths numerous, whether the result of swimmers, both sober and drunk, misjudging the dam’s 60ft depth, or skaters falling through ice.

And, as we shall see, tragedy hasn’t been confined outdoors.

Let’s appreciate that this was once in rolling countryside, with spectacular views down Crookesmoor Valley, and it was only during the 19th century that the town advanced towards it.

In 1841, Dam House was advertised to let. “Beautifully situate at Crookesmoor, and commanding some of that delightful scenery for which the vicinity of Sheffield is so deservedly famous.”

The house had a spacious entrance hall, dining, drawing and breakfast rooms, and two kitchens, together with a two-stalled stable, coach house and requisite out-offices.

By 1848, it was occupied by William Smith, magistrate for the West Riding, director of the Midland Railway Company, and for many years chairman of the Sheffield Water Works Company. A barrister by profession, he was an active friend of the Sheffield General Infirmary and of the Public Hospital and Dispensary (later the Royal Hospital).

Smith died a broken man at Dam House in 1864, shortly after the collapse of the Dale Dyke Dam, at Bradfield, that claimed the lives of 240 people. He’d resigned as chairman of the Sheffield Water Works Company, claiming ill-health, and died of probable heart failure.

It was next occupied by Michael Hunter, Jr., brother of Joseph Hunter, the antiquarian, who headed a cutlery firm and had been a Master Cutler. For 22 years he was a member of Sheffield Town Council, becoming its Mayor in 1881-1882.

He left for Stoke Manor, near Grindleford, in the 1870s, the house passing to James Bartlett, and subsequently to Dr Robert Salmon Hutton, head of a silverware company.

During the early 1920s, Dam House was inhabited by Gilbert Rowe, a civil engineer, who committed suicide by filling a room with gas in 1924.

It was later rented by Mr F.C. Lea, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield nearby. He retired in 1936 and the last occupant appears to have been E.J. Waller, a man with connections to Sheffield Corporation’s Water Department.

Dam House has always looked out upon the Old Great Dam (and at one time separated it from the New Dam behind, later filled in).

In 1893, Sheffield Corporation built Crookes Valley Road, a monumental engineering effort that needed 450,000 loads of material to build up an embankment.

The view from Dam House was thus restricted and the Recreation Ground was built alongside the road, adjacent to the dam, in 1905, with bowling greens and tennis courts.

The Old Great Dam was redundant by this time, and it wasn’t until 1951 that Sheffield Corporation made use of the land as part of the city’s Festival of Britain programme, renaming the area Crookes Valley Park.

The dam was turned into a boating lake and Dam House was converted into the Festival Restaurant, complete with furnishings from Heal’s Contracts of Tottenham Court Road, London, and offering “first-class meals of a continental standard.”

Since then, Dam House has had a chequered history, changing ownership several times, and suffered a devastating fire in 1996 that gutted the interior and destroyed most of the roof. It was restored and reopened as a restaurant by Carlton Palmer, the former Sheffield Wednesday footballer.

After closing and standing empty for several years, it was bought by Kamalijit Sangha and Simrun Badh, both from Grenoside, in November 2011, functioning as the Dam House Bar and Restaurant ever since.


The tallest building in Yorkshire

Sheffield’s skyline is going to look very different in the coming years. With several high-rise projects in development, the news comes that planning consent has been granted for a £100million scheme that is set to include the tallest building in Yorkshire.

The plans from Code will include three buildings of 12, 17 and 38 storeys, located on a site adjacent to the Vita building between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Trafalgar Street.

At almost 117 metres tall, the main tower would be taller than a 114-metre Hume House scheme currently under construction in Leeds, which is set to become the tallest in the region.

It would also be 16 metres taller than St Paul’s Tower, Sheffield’s current title holder.

The co-living development is aimed at a mixture of students, post-graduates and younger people. It will feature a 24-hour concierge on site and communal space at both the ground level of the main tower and the top floor of the 17-storey block.

A total of 1,230 apartments will be provided, with the majority being studios but also one- and two-bedroom units.

Sheffield City Council’s planning and highways committee voted to approve the plans at a meeting yesterday (28 January).

Planning Officers had recommended approval after noting the quality of the design, and suggesting the building would act as a positive key marker for the ongoing redevelopment of the neighbouring Heart of the City II area.

Work to bring forward the development is set to begin immediately, with Code aiming to be on site to begin construction this summer. It was supported in its application by Howes Percival and Staniforth Architects.

Buildings Places

Orchard Square

Orchard Square was one of the first new-style retail developments that considered the existing urban landscape.

This was once the site of steelmaker John Brown & Co, who later merged with Thomas Firth & Sons to become Firth Brown.

The shopping centre was designed by Chapman Taylor Partners and completed in 1987, all-but obliterating properties that stood behind the Victorian façade bordering Fargate, Leopold Street and Orchard Street.

It was suggested, but extremely unlikely, that once former England football Emlyn Hughes had cut the ribbon, it was the most expensive retail area per square foot in Britain.

Impressive it was, an open rectangular courtyard, surrounded by new and old buildings, faced in red or yellow bricks with traditional building features like pitched roofs, casements and weather-boarded oriels. Its centrepiece was a square clock tower with chimes and moving figures that attracted hourly crowds.

But Orchard Square never lived up to expectations. Meadowhall sucked the life out of the city centre in 1990 and those shoppers that remained seemed reluctant to wander through the covered arcade linking it from Fargate.

Shops have come and gone, and a 2008 re-development removed the food court and the Stonehouse pub to facilitate a three-level TK Maxx.

The famous clock no longer chimes, and the twirling figures are locked behind closed doors.

As someone commented on social media, “the only thing that performs in this area now is the idiot coming out of The Bessemer across the road.” Quite sad really.


Old Red Lion

One Saturday night, in September 1926, Alfred Henwood finished his pint at the bar of the Old Red Lion on Holly Street and walked out. He returned just after time and said he had left his beer on the counter.

The landlord, Charles Foreman, told Henwood that he had seen him drink his beer. Not satisfied, Henwood picked up another jar of beer, which was not his, and refused to put it down. He told the licensee that if he could not have a pint, he would smash all the glasses. Thereupon he spread his arms around the glasses – five-and-a-half dozen – and every one was smashed.

He claimed in court that it was an accident but was fined £3.

Just another story in the life of an old Sheffield pub.

The Old Red Lion opened in 1822, life and soul for the surrounding houses and small industries. Slum-like flats used to be attached to the property, long demolished and the land vacant ever since.

The Old Red Lion, a William Stones establishment, moved with the times. The locals moved and industry declined but when the City Hall opened in 1934 it became a favourite watering hole.

In the 1980s it was remodelled – knocked through into the property behind – the former works of J.W. Northend, printers, which became a bar known as Barkers (becoming Edwards, later Reflex and now the Slug and Lettuce).

But times are hard now for the Red Lion. A separate property again, it’s nearly ten years since it closed and has been boarded-up ever since. The City Hall clientele prefer the Wetherspoon options at the front, and the Red Lion is stuck at the arse-end of West Street.


Velocity Tower

Things didn’t go to plan with the Velocity Tower, near Moore Street roundabout, at the edge of the city centre.

When it was built it should have been 30-storeys high, (an application for 36-storeys was wisely rejected by planners), but construction halted on the 21st floor, as the firm behind it went into administration. A student block alongside would have reached 18-storeys, containing 41 cluster flats, but only the ground-floor podium was completed.

In 2011 the complex went on the market for £10.5million and was eventually snapped up by Dubai-based Select Group.

A few corners had been cut during the initial build, something that Select have been able to rectify as well as completing the unfinished twenty-first floor.

More importantly, it agreed a deal for a £6.5million Ibis Hotel in the footprint of the proposed student block.

Work is almost completed on the seven-storey building, designed by Whittam Cox Architects, and will provide an extra 126 beds for the city centre. A coffee shop will be created on the ground floor along with the reception and (somewhat scanty) 14 car-parking spaces.

Meanwhile, planning permission remains for the 30-storeys at Velocity Tower, although the developer says there are no plans to extend higher.