Categories
Buildings Sculpture

A relentless quest to eradicate disease

Behind the Town Hall, on Norfolk Street, is a single doorway with the words ‘Disinfectants’ carved into the lintel above. It appears to originate from 1897, the year that Sheffield’s new Town Hall opened, and where ratepayers were able to buy disinfectant for their homes.

Disease was a worry for our Victorian ancestors and the city was still recovering from outbreaks of smallpox, scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, and puerperal fever. In 1896, Sheffield’s population was 347,278 and quickly expanding into Walkley, Attercliffe and Heeley. In that year, 6,732 people died, many from disease, although the trend was decreasing. Astonishingly, 392 people had died from diarrhoea.

Medical science was concerned with tracking disease to its source with a view to prevention and was no longer content to repair the ravages of disease which might have been prevented.

In a time when preventative vaccines were still in their infancy, disinfectant was used to spearhead the fight against zymotic diseases. Where disease was evident in the home it was the use of carbolic acid powder and chloride of lime that allowed walls to be washed while articles were removed and burned.

One of the concerns was that if people were ill with infection, to make sure that they didn’t pass it on, cleaning and disinfecting, both where they lived, and the things that they owned and had contact with, was a way of eradicating germs

Sheffield had a disinfecting station at Plum Lane where infected people and their possessions would enter the station from one side, move through the process of steam disinfection and exit out the other side. There were also metal hoppers in which people would have placed their infested clothes before taking a sulphur bath to treat their condition.

These sorts of places were common across the country and were a very important part of how Victorian and Edwardian local authorities responded to outbreaks. And when outbreaks did occur, high-occupancy slum housing meant it spread quickly. In 1899, a typhoid outbreak at Brightside speedily infected over 100 people within a half mile radius.

Carbolic acid remained one of the most popular disinfectants, sold in liquid and powdered form at pharmacist’s shops, but also pre-mixed with soap. But there was also a leading brand of disinfectant, made right here in Sheffield, and this was Izal, a supplier to the British army, and the only liquid disinfectant used on troops in the Boer War. It was thought to have been beneficial for the treatment of typhoid and diarrhoea when administered internally.

In the 1930s, as infectious diseases became less virulent and more treatable thanks to a combination of vaccines and antibiotics, the use of disinfectants declined, but manufacturing processes made it more widely available to the population.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
People Places Sculpture

Lost in France: “Back to the happy days at Redmires, and to the long rows of wooden crosses in the valley yonder,”

“To the memory of the officers and men of the 12th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Sheffield City Battalion) who fell before Serre 1916.” Photograph: Google.

There are many war memorials and plaques located around Sheffield, including the City War Memorial in Barker’s Pool. All of these are cared for by Sheffield City Council, but did you know that it also maintains the Sheffield Battalion Memorial in Serre-lès-Puisieux, a village in northern France.

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 men of the 12th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment (“the Sheffield Pals”) were entrenched ready to launch an attack on the German position in the fortified hilltop hamlet of Serre. The troops met with devastating machine gun fire and by the end of the day, the Battalion reported 248 killed, 246 wounded and 18 missing.

This tiny village has been indelibly stamped on the pages of Sheffield history – stamped with the blood of city sons, for in a fruitless endeavour to take Serre, the Sheffield City Battalion suffered enormous losses.

In October 1920, the Lord Mayor of Sheffield received the following correspondence from the Mayor of Puisieux:

“I am happy to send you the resolution by which the Municipal Council of Puisieux has decided unanimously to offer to the City of Sheffield the ground necessary for the erection of a monument. This monument will perpetuate among the population of Puisieux a souvenir of your dear lost ones. Believe me sincerely, that even without this monument they will not be forgotten.”

After World War One, the area around Puisieux was one of the saddest and most desolate-looking heaps of ruins. It looked like it had been dead for many years! Very little signs of life or vegetation, the once beautiful, wooded country was just a collection of dead stumps and bits of trees—a few odd ones standing here and there, but all dead, as the asphyxiating gas used by the Germans killed every living thing.

Serre was really part of Puisieux, but had no inhabitants left. Puisieux had about 250 but before the war had a population of over 1,000. The reason they had not returned was the lack of money to work their devastated fields into order again. Sheffield had given a steam tractor, but it was at Arras because no one knew how to drive it, but a man had been sent from Puisieux to take lessons.

A Sheffield-Serre Memorial committee, chaired by Alderman Wardley, raised funds for the memorial, and Major C.B. Flockton, architect, offered a prize of five guineas for the best design, won by J.S. Brown, of Barnsley Road, an ex-serviceman studying in the Department of Architecture at Sheffield University.

The memorial, in Villebois stone, was erected on a slope overlooking the field where within an hour the battalion suffered 600 casualties. On its inscription, in English and French:

“To the memory of the officers and men of the 12th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Sheffield City Battalion) who fell before Serre 1916.”

Above were four bronze plaques, representative of Sheffield’s Coat of Arms, those of Serre, and the regimental badge of the York and Lancasters.

The memorial was unveiled on Monday 21 May 1923. The gathering of Frenchmen and Englishmen included about a hundred people from Sheffield, among them a company of survivors of the battalion, besides parents and friends, and citizens who occupied prominent positions during the war.

The memorial to those of the City Battalion who fell. On the right were members of the battalion and their friends. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

It was unveiled by Lieutenant-Colonel G.H. Wedgewood, D.S.O., commanding the 1st Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, and was dedicated by Dr H. Gresford Jones, Bishop of Kampala (who was Vicar of Sheffield from 1912 to 1920).

Perhaps the saddest moment of all was the sounding of the Last Post and the Reveille. As these well-known notes rang over the battlefields, thoughts fled back to the happy days at Redmires, and again to the long rows of little wooden crosses in the valley yonder, beside stinted, and blasted trees that had once been copses.

Captain Douglas Leng opened the proceedings before the unveiling ceremony. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.
A presentation by the Mayor of Bapaume, Sheffield’s adopted city in France, to the architect of the memorial. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.
Survivors ready for the march past in May 1923. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

In 1926, a large wooden hut was erected nearby, much to the disappointment of survivors, and even the Mayor of Puisieux, who complained that it overshadowed the memorial. After months of negotiation, the owner of the land adjoining the memorial agreed to remove two huts after he was paid 3,000 francs, the cost met by the Sheffield ‘Twelfth Club’ (made up of ex-servicemen) on condition that the owner would not erect anything else of a similar nature.

Serre-lès-Puisieux was slowly rebuilt, but only as a hamlet of houses dotted along the road. The Sheffield Battalion Memorial survived World War Two and remains as a tribute to Sheffield’s lost sons – still honoured by the French who regularly lay flowers and wreaths around it.

In 2006, the memorial was restored and re-dedicated by the Right Rev. Jack Nicholls, Bishop of Sheffield.

(The Sheffield Battalion Memorial isn’t the only dedication to those lost in France, and in a future post we’ll look at the nearby park owned by the City of Sheffield).

J.S. Brown’s winning entry in C.B. Flockton’s 1921 competition to create the Sheffield Battalion Memorial at Serre-lès-Puisieux. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
People Sculpture

The lost genius of Charles Green

Charles Green loved flowers, animals, and children. “He took scrupulous care in workmanship.” (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Charles Green (1836-1916) had reasonable acquaintance of old Sheffield buildings and landmarks, and his knowledge of Sheffield craftsmen was remarkable. But throughout his life he lamented the fact that they weren’t valued.

“The citizens of Sheffield have little idea of the beautiful works that are now being produced by its native sculptors in other towns, where they have gone for lack of encouragement at home.”

The same could be said for Charles Green, sculptor, modeller, and designer, whose reputation faded after his death.

Today, his name barely registers in the art world, yet his work was patronised by the likes of the Duke of Portland, Baron Rothschild, and Indian Rajahs. After the Boer War he designed and modelled monuments for the battlefields of South Africa.

Charles Green was born at Brampton, Chesterfield, the son of William Green, who became a fender maker at Sheffield’s Green Lane Works. He was educated at St. George’s School, Hallam Street, and showed great aptitude for art with a love of drawing and modelling at the expense of his lessons. He went to Sheffield School of Art aged 11, becoming a pupil of Young Mitchell, and was apprenticed to Edwin Smith, sculptor, and learnt how to model and carve with marble.

A newspaper advertisement from 1877. Green had moved from his original studio on North Church Street. (Image: British Newspaper Archive)

During his apprenticeship he carved a bust of Rev. Thomas Sutton for Sheffield Parish Church (now Cathedral) and that of Sir Robert Hadfield for the Cutlers’ Hall.

Green set up his own business and drifted away from sculpture, designing, and modelling ornamental cast-iron on a large scale. He designed fountains, gateways, mantelpieces, ceilings, decorative silver, and metalwork.

Perhaps his finest work was a cabinet commissioned for the Duke of Portland at a cost of £1,100. It seems the Duke changed his mind, but the ebony and bronze cabinet, representing the four seasons, the four elements, the twelve signs of the zodiac, and the globe, merited exhibition in London and Paris.

“I had the spirit within me to make this cabinet as a monument to my father who was so fond of flowers.”

Charles Green’s ebony and bronze cabinet (top) was exhibited at the Paris Exhibition in 1878. It was later exhibited in Sheffield and Rotherham but its whereabouts is unknown. It would appear that these images from Picture Sheffield are the only in existence, and underlines the incredibly important work of the photo archive. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

His studio was at North Church Street, later relocating to Bank Street, and ending up at 19 Shrewsbury Road, opposite his home at No.18, a listed building that survives. (It subsequently became Samuel Walker’s sweet factory).

“He was widely read in the classics, his broad outlook mellowed by a sense of humour.” (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Charles Green married the daughter of Dr Wright Wilson, and had four daughters, one of which, Florence, also became an artist, modeller, and designer.

Before the Society of Artists was formed, local artists met at his studio in North Church Street as far back as 1859, he being one of the first members of the society. He was invited by John Ruskin to attend the first meeting of the Ruskin Museum, and the Sheffield Art and Crafts Guild was formed at 18 Shrewsbury Road in 1894, he being the first master.

He also wrote Artist’s Rambles In and Around Sheffield for the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent.

No. 19 Shrewsbury Road. If ever a building experienced highs and lows this is it. Destroyed by fire, rebuilt to become a sweet factory, and then allowed to fall into disrepair and become a crack den. The Grade II listed building was restored by South Yorkshire Buildings Preservation Trust in 2001.

Charles Green was a lifelong collector of works, and at his studio on Shrewsbury Road, he had a large library, priceless antiques, and prints.

Amongst these were two original models by Francis Chantrey, one was a plaster cast of Sir Walter Scott, and the other, an early model of Rob Roy, thought to have been the only one. He also had several masks taken after death of Lord Brougham, Napoleon, Oliver Cromwell, and others.

Sadly, one August evening in 1911, Green was heating wax in his studio, when it boiled over, a sheet of flame enveloping him in fire. He managed to rip off his apron, but flames spread to the whole property.

The Chantrey busts were lost, as were pieces of carved oak, old oak chairs, pencil drawings, and sketches by Thomas Creswick, Alfred Stevens, William Ellis, E. Stirling Howard, and Robert Baden-Powell. Amongst his huge collection of books lost were a first edition of Rhodes’ Peak Scenery and early editions of Ebenezer Elliott, and first editions of James Montgomery.

“The scene after the fire was a particularly distressing one. Near the entrance was a ruined China cheese dish, huge enough to take a stilton cheese, obviously of high value. All around were prints and frames and statues of beautiful design, hopelessly wrecked, whilst the valuable library, too, was utterly destroyed.”

Charles Green was critical of Sheffield Corporation for destroying old artworks. The demolition of Tudor House, in Tudor Square, about 1909, had allowed him to save several relics from the rubbish heap, including this fireplace that was installed at 19 Shrewsbury Road. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Green died at No. 18, High Bank, Shrewsbury Road, in April 1916.

“The last of the arts craftsmen of the type that won for Sheffield its proud pre-eminence, associated with Alfred Stevens, Godfrey Sykes, Henry Hoyles, Hugh Stannas, William Ellis, James Gamble, Reuben Townroe, and Robert Glassby. He also enjoyed the friendship of Ruskin, Onslow Ford, Tom Taylor, and James Orrock.”

One of Green’s last unfinished works was a bronze bust of conductor Dr Henry Coward, presented to him by the Sheffield Musical Union, and completed by his daughter. He had also made a Florentine bronze tablet for the Hunter Archaeological Society, with various panels with portraits of the Earl of Surrey, Mary Queen of Scots, Cardinal Wolsey, Chaucer, and Joseph Hunter.

Amongst his first successes were the Montgomery Medal, offered by the ladies of Sheffield in honour of the poet, for modelling wild flowers from nature, and awarded by the poet himself. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Some of Green’s work survives in private collections but an internet search reveals extraordinarily little. However, we can still see some of his work in Sheffield, including the Lord Mayor’s Chain of Office (which he designed aged 21), and some of the ceilings in the Cutlers’ Hall.

But where did that prized ebony and bronze cabinet go?

“The work of a lifetime is practically gone.” The words of Charles Green after the fire at his studio in 1911. (Image: British Newspaper Archive)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings Sculpture

The mystery of Mercury

The sculpture of Mercury stands proudly above the portico of the Sheffield Telegraph Building on High Street. It is one of two statues of Mercury in the city centre, the other being on top of the Lyceum Theatre. (Image: David Poole)

Here is a mystery.

This bronze statue of Mercury has stood on top of the portico of the Telegraph Building on High Street since about 1915.

Mercury, Roman god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves, is shown as a nude male figure with wings both side on his hat, and on the outside of his ankles. He carries in his left hand a caduceus, an elaborate winged staff. The statue appears to be about to take off, his toes barely touching the base and his right arm extended with fingers pointing skyward.

But where did the statue come from?

An artist impression from 1913 of the Sheffield Telegraph Building at High Street. The sculpture of Mercury sits above the portico at the corner with York Street. The portico was the entrance to the offices and counting-house which occupied the whole of the ground floor. Most recently occupied by a building society, the corner unit has planning permission to become a restaurant. (Image: British Newspaper Archive)

The bronze statue is said to be much earlier, re-sited here when the Sheffield Telegraph built new offices on High Street between 1913-1915.

A few searches are quite specific that the statue was acquired by the Electric Telegraph Company in 1856 to decorate new premises for the Sheffield Daily Telegraph at the opening to The Shambles. (This is now the site of KFC at the junction of High Street and Haymarket).

The Electric Telegraph Company office seen about 1856. The statues of Mercury (left) and Vulcan (right) can be seen in the niches at the upper level. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Furthermore, it is suggested that the bronze sculpture occupied one of two niches, one on either side of the front elevation of the upper story, the figure of Mercury to the left and Vulcan to the right.

It is said that the Mercury sculpture was moved to the Telegraph Building in 1915, while the Vulcan statue was lost.

Old illustrations of the Electric Telegraph Building clearly show the statues, but at this point the authenticity of the sculpture on the 1915 building comes into question.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph may or may not have had offices at the Shambles, and it is well documented that its early offices were on the site of High Street and Aldine Court, long since vacated by the newspaper.

Further inspection identifies the Electric Telegraph Building on The Shambles as being the Fitzalan Market Hall, that looked up the slopes of High Street and King Street.

Fitzalan Chambers in 1918. Blackened by Sheffield’s smoky atmosphere, the Mercury and Vulcan statues are clearly evident three years after the construction of the Telegraph Building on High Street. The De Bears Schools specialised in shorthand, typewriting, correspondence, and business training. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

In 1856, an account of the opening of the Exchange, News Room, and Telegraph Office was published in the Sheffield Independent:

“This building which has been erected from the designs of Messrs Weightman, Hadfield, and Goldie, by the Duke of Norfolk, terminate the pile of buildings occupying the façade towards the Old Haymarket. On the ground floor it was necessary to retain the old-established wine vaults of Samuel Younge and Co, and to provide shops for fish salesmen in the lower part of the market. The Exchange Room occupies the first floor. The room is entered by folding doors. At the end of the room opposite the entrance is a small apartment fitted up by the Telegraph Company in which the subscribers may write and dispatch their messages to all parts of the globe accessible to this rapid mode of communication.”

There were lengthy descriptions of the interior and finally “Over the market entrances are two niches with figures carved in stone by Messrs Lane and Lewis of Birmingham representing Mercury and Vulcan – typical at once of the wonder-working telegraph and the staple trade of Sheffield.”

From this account we can identify that both sculptures were made of stone and still present when the Fitzalan Market Hall (or Fitzwilliam Chambers as the offices became known) was demolished in the 1930s.

Fitzalan Chambers prior to demolition in the 1930s. The whereabouts of the statues of Mercury and Vulcan is unknown. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

This makes the Mercury atop the Telegraph Building a bit of an unknown.

The design is based on the work of Giovanni da Bologna (1529-1608), better known as Giambologna, noted for his command of sculptural composition, producing figures that were pleasing to view from all positions.

The bronze figure is identical to one on top of the dome above HSBC in Doncaster’s High Street, built in 1896-1897 for the York and County Bank (and according to historians, the sculpture also dating to 1856).

I suspect the origin of the Mercury sculpture on the Telegraph Building lies closer to home and is later in design.

The building was designed by Gibbs, Flockton & Teather and constructed by George Longden and Son in 1915. Both Sheffield firms worked with Frank Tory, responsible for much of the city’s fine stone artwork, but also known to have worked in bronze.

Is it possible that Frank Tory was the man behind the sculpture we see today?

It also leaves another question unanswered.

What happened to the two stone Lane and Lewis statues?

Maybe someone, somewhere, has two fine statues of Mercury and Vulcan in their garden.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Sculpture

The Sheffield Cross

‘Anglian Cross from Sheffield.’ (Image: British Museum)

In 1570, the accounts of Sheffield Parish Church show that a stone cross in its grounds was pulled down and sold to George Tynker. Made of sandstone,  the Anglo-Saxon cross vanished, its whereabouts unknown, until it resurfaced in the early 1800s, hollowed out and missing its horizontal beam, used as a quenching trough at a cutler’s workshop in the Park district.

At some point, in the late 18th or early 19th century, the cross-shaft was spotted by William Staniforth, a surgeon, who gave it to his son, John, of Westbourne, on Whitham Road, Broomhill.

John Staniforth, a solicitor, used the old cross as a garden ornament and an old map showed its position, but designated it a ‘stone coffin.’

He died in 1848, the ornament remaining in the garden, but subsequently became the property of his son, John Walter Staniforth, a merchant, who in later years moved it to his garden at Fairholme, on Oakholme Road.

It seems the old stone trough, remembered by Sheffield folk, came with provenance.

The 153cm high statuary had on its main face an archer kneeling at the foot of a vine scroll, with vine scroll decoration on two sides. It was recognised as being part of a free-standing cross that played an important part in the Anglo-Saxon Christian Church.

This one was believed to have originated in Derbyshire and stood on the site of the future Sheffield Parish Church (eventually to become Sheffield Cathedral) before being removed in 1570. A replica was thought to have been cast in 1876.

John Walter Staniforth died in 1904 and his widow, Gertrude, donated the garden trough to the British Museum in 1924.

In 1939, Dr A.C.E. Jones, Provost of Sheffield Cathedral, mounted an unsuccessful campaign to have the cross returned and given a permanent home inside the Cathedral or within its grounds.

‘Anglian Cross from Sheffield’ has remained at the British Museum ever since, but briefly returned to the city for an exhibition at the Cathedral in 1991 and was later exhibited in Mumbai and New Delhi. 

The replica is owned by Museums Sheffield at the Mappin Art Gallery, and the Sheffield Cross is celebrated in statuary high-up between two windows within Sheffield Cathedral, displayed in its original whole form.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Places Sculpture Streets

Grey to Green

The recent post about Castlegate failed to mention that it is in the process of being part-pedestrianised, Phase 2 of Sheffield’s ‘Grey to Green’ project. Unless you visit this forgotten part of the city centre the relevance of the initiative might escape you.

It is part of an approach to transform ‘redundant’ road space into a network of public spaces, sustainable drainage and urban rain gardens, which aims to improve the setting of the Riverside Business District, Castlegate and the rest of the city centre and then on to Kelham Island and Victoria Quays, as a place to work, live and enjoy, whilst also dealing with the effects of climate change.

Phase 1 (West Bar/Bridge Street/Snig Hill) was completed in Spring 2016 and was funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Sheffield City Region Infrastructure Fund and Sheffield City Council.

The area suffered catastrophic river floods in 2007. With the completion of the Inner Relief Road in 2008, traffic was diverted away from West Bar. The opportunity was seized to replace the ‘grey’ impermeable ‘redundant’ roads into ‘green’ permeable beds, transforming the space with colourful meadow-like planting and significantly increasing surface water storage.

With advice on plant selection from the University of Sheffield Landscape Department this has created a new townscape that is different to anything done in Sheffield before. Over 40,000 bulbs, 40 new trees, 600 evergreen shrubs and 26,000 herbaceous plants were introduced to form a seasonal urban meadow.

The new road layout was designed to slow vehicle speeds and make walking and cycling more attractive. New paving, street furniture, colourful seating and five eye-catching  public art ‘totems’ celebrate the local history of the West Bar area including its Victorian music halls and theatres, its lively street life, its complex relationship to the river and its legacy of industry and brewing.

Phase 2 (Castlegate to Exchange Place) is nearing completion, and Phase 3 (Gibraltar Street  to Shalesmoor) will eventually transform 1.2km of ‘redundant’ road-space into an attractive new linear green public space.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings Sculpture

The William Mitchell abstract relief

(Image: Patrick Crowley)

A photograph for posterity by follower Patrick Crowley. The William Mitchell abstract reliefs are today being removed from Barker’s Pool House on Burgess Street.

Installed in May 1972 the ten panels were commissioned as part of the office and supermarket development. They were constructed in the latter period of Mitchell’s first phase of practising in Britain, following his work as design consultant with London County Council.

“A minor example from a cycle of works produced in Faircrete, a new form of concrete developed at the John Laing Research and Development headquarters.”

It has an Egyptian appearance, a characteristic of his work, first evident in an office building entrance mural for London’s Barbican, in the early sixties.

William Mitchell (born 1925) subsequently left Britain, returning in the 1990s to work with Mohammed Al Fayed of Harrods.

Ironically, he died in January with the fate of his Sheffield work still undecided. It will now be restored and incorporated somewhere in the Heart of the City II development.

(Image: Reddit)
Categories
Buildings People Sculpture

Victoria Station Memorial

The original memorial outside Victoria Station. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

In our investigations into the Victoria Station one structure appeared on old photographs that deserved further investigation.

This was an elegant memorial that stood at the entrance of the railway station. The classical portico, with colonnade, contained nine columns with the names of workers of the Great Central Railway who died in World War One.

The names of 1,304 men were inscribed on tablets of French marble, and the memorial was unveiled by Earl Haig on Wednesday 9th August 1922. He had commanded the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front from late 1915 until the end of the war.

Sheffield had been chosen for the memorial because it was the centre of the railway’s operations. About 8,000 people turned up for the ceremony, including hundreds of relatives of the fallen.

Haig inspected a guard of honour composed of over 200 ex-servicemen employees who had gained decorations for gallantry in the field.

“The day will come when we in our turn will have passed on, but these stones will still stand as evidence of the splendid sacrifice and glorious achievement of the 1,300 brave and gallant men whose names they bear.”

The ceremony was presided by Lord Faringdon, chairman of the Great Central Railway, who said the memorial had been subscribed by no fewer than 3,000 shareholders and servants of the company as far afield as Canada, India, Australia, and Africa. He pointed out that over 10,000 employees had gone to war.

Canon Houghton dedicated the memorial, after which wreaths of remembrance were laid, and the service closed with a rousing rendition of the National Anthem.

They would have been forgiven that the future of the memorial was secured. However, within two years the marble had crumbled, and some names were already illegible.

In 1925, the London North Eastern Railway (LNER), which had absorbed the Great Central Railway, graciously replaced the tablets with Kupron bronze plaques. The memorial stood on its own until 1938 when LNER improved the station, extending the booking hall, so that the memorial became its eastern wall. (I presume the memorial was reversed and the tablets were relocated inside).

It remained until the Victoria Station’s closure in 1970 and might have been lost with subsequent demolition.

Remains of the memorial before demolition in 1980. The plaques had been removed to the underneath of Wicker Arch. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

A handful of survivors campaigned for it to be saved and the bronze tablets were re-erected (somewhat hidden) underneath Wicker Arch, where it was rededicated in November 1971. The magnificent portico, in which they had stood, was sadly lost).

The decline of The Wicker is well publicised, and the memorial suffered from neglect and vandalism. Various locations were suggested as an alternative site, but it was the owners of the Royal Victoria Holiday Inn (the former Victoria Station railway hotel) that offered it a permanent home.

The memorial plaques underneath Wicker Arch. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

With support of the hotel, sponsors and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Great Central Railway Society organised rescue of the plaques and relocation to its new home, almost on the site of the original memorial.

It was rededicated on Remembrance Day 2008 and remains outside the Royal Victoria Crowne Plaza. A Roll of Honour for all the men listed, collated by the Great Central Railway Society, can be found inside the hotel.

(Images: David Poole)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Sculpture

Marti Caine: Sheffield’s only tribute to that gawky and glamorous entertainer

Marti Caine. (Image: David Poole)

It’s remarkable that Sheffield has never officially paid tribute to Marti Caine. However, there is a sculpture at the top of Howard Street, near Sheffield Hallam University, that is named after her.

Marti Caine grew up in Shiregreen and her vocal talents, wit and engaging personality made her a mainstay of the northern club circuit before she leapt to national prominence by winning the TV talent show New Faces in 1975 – a programme she went on to present with great success.

In her later years, she campaigned tirelessly on behalf of cancer charities before succumbing to lymphatic cancer on November 4, 1995, aged 50, after a long illness.

Marti was awarded an honorary doctorate by Sheffield Hallam University in recognition of her contribution to the world of entertainment, and the film Funny Cow, starring Maxine Peake, was loosely based on her compelling life story.

The gritstone and stainless steel sculpture dedicated to her, originally called Sheen, is often referred to simply as ‘Marti’, one of the pieces made for the Stone City Symposium of 1995. It was commissioned by Sheffield Hallam University and was to have been revealed by Marti Caine, who died two weeks before the opening; it was decided to dedicate the sculpture to her instead.

The stainless steel was intended to reflect the changing weather and reflect passing traffic which flicker across the inset steel squares on the Arundel Gate side of the sculpture.

Describing his work at the time, Mick Farrell, its creator said: “Using stainless steel and stone I hope to set up a contradiction within the nature of both materials. This architectural piece would act both as a landmark and a point to view from.”

Marti Caine (1945-1995). Comedian, actress, singer and dancer. (Image: BBC)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings Sculpture

The White Building

The White Building in Fitzalan Square. The old offices have been converted into apartments. (Image: David Poole)

This is probably one of Sheffield’s best-loved buildings. A glance through social media shows positive words about the White Building in Fitzalan Square, and yet little appears to be known about it.

The building is Grade II listed by Historic England, more so for the ten carved friezes that adorn its fascia, but its simple past, as shops and offices, means it is largely forgotten.

(Image: David Poole)

The White Building was built in 1908, named after the white faience used to dress it, quite different from the stone used in other buildings of the time. This material was used because it was ‘self-cleaning’, an antidote against the soot that clung to our city centre buildings in the past. (Another example, still seen today, was the Telegraph Building on High Street).

However, it would not look out of place on a typical Parisian street and comes into its own on a bright sunny day.

The White Building seen shortly after completion in 1908. This was one of several new buildings built at the same time as the square was ornamentalised. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

It was designed by Edward Mitchel Gibbs, of Flockton and Gibbs, who built and owned the building. No surprise then that its construction came the same time that Fitzalan Square was about to be rebuilt. Gibbs, as a member of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Society of Architects and Surveyors, had consulted on plans for the square, and no doubt saw an opportunity to cash in on future success.

The White Building was built of four storeys with a raised attic storey in the centre. The use of French windows with balconies on the first and third floors provided welcome relief to the usual designs for commercial buildings.

The building was accessed by an arcaded ground floor, the entrance, still with its original name plaque, recessed behind one of the plain elliptical arches.

It is above these five arches that the ten friezes can be seen. These were created by Alfred Herbert Tory and William Frank Tory, the brothers using real workers as models, before sending away the designs to be cast as hollow tiles (the moulding was done with terracotta tiles in Leeds).

With thanks to Darcy White and Elizabeth Norman ‘The Sheffield Trades’ are as follows:-

“A Silversmith (with a blowpipe): a Chaser: an Engineer: a File Cutter; a Steel Roller: a Cutler: a Grinder (using a flat-stick): a Hand Forger; a Buffer; and a Steel crucible teemer (with sweat rag in mouth).”

The Tory brothers made five each, casting their initials beneath their work, although these have weathered badly and are now difficult to read.

After the White Building opened, its ‘first class shops and offices’ were in huge demand and proceeded to be so until the decline of Fitzalan Square in the 1970s and 1980s. It was altered in the late twentieth century, including the removal of decorative rooftop urns, but remains pretty much as it did when first built.

These days the old offices have been converted into apartments and the ground floor shops await the revival of Fitzalan Square.

The King Edward VII Memorial with the White Building in the background. (Image: David Poole)

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