Buildings Sculpture

The lions which finally came home

Photograph by RIBA

The next time you visit Sheffield City Hall, look out for John and Samuel. These two old fellows are a pair of stone Assyrian lions who have quite a story to tell.

Their tale begins in the early 1930s at Middleton-by-Wirksworth, a small village the other side of Matlock.

Made of Hopton Wood stone, the two lions were created by Sheffield sculptor John Hodge, a man with an elusive history, “a tall mysterious figure,” seen regularly wearing a large-brimmed black hat and matching cape, and causing fright amongst children at night as he walked to and from his project at Derbyshire Stone’s works.

The two lions, each four-feet-high and weighing 2.5 tonnes, were predestined to be night cats, commissioned by architect Emanuel Vincent Harris to sit either side of the “Entrance of Honour” to the stage of the newly-built Sheffield City Hall.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield
Photograph by BBC News

When the City Hall opened in 1932 the two lions could be seen by everyone in the Oval Hall, admired at first, but soon subject of ridicule and anger.

The trouble, apparently, was that the lions split up a choir or orchestra, so that there was a lack of cohesion between artists on two sides of the platform.

The lions became subject of letters to local newspapers: –

“The proper place for the City Hall lions is outside, on the pedestals flanking the columns.”

“These ridiculous stone lions block up valuable space in the centre of the orchestra.”

“Admittedly they are a fine piece of work, but they ought not be there. They obtrude themselves on one’s vision, and hardly seem to fit in with the otherwise pleasing artistry of the interior.”

The most damning criticism came from Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor, and impresario, best known for his association with the London Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic orchestras. Addressing an audience of musicians on stage at the City Hall in 1935, he reckoned that the platform had been expressively designed for “clock golf.”

“AND THESE,” he shouted pointing at the two big cats,” “THESE MUST GO. I don’t know who devised them, but it looks like Epstein. I suppose they are works of art, but why can’t they be placed at the other end of the hall?”

In 1936, the Sheffield Hall Committee, perhaps influenced by Beecham’s description of them as “horrors” and “huge brown beasts,” recommended to the City Council that the lions be removed. The council, not be bullied, refused to do so, and the two lions remained on stage for thirty years.

It wasn’t until 1962, a year after Beecham’s death, that the lions were banished when the auditorium was refurbished.

The two lions were bought for £600 by John Hadfield, the sympathetic chairman of Derbyshire Stone Ltd. They were hoisted out of the hall, put on the back of a lorry, and reunited back in Derbyshire.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

They were eventually built into the steps of John Hadfield House at Matlock, constructed in 1968 by Tarmac Construction, for Derbyshire Stone, and later becoming Tarmac Eastern’s regional office for over 30 years.

Photograph by Tarmac Roadstone

When the company vacated the building, the lions were moved to Tarmac’s Ettingshall office, Wolverhampton, and when that closed, the poor lions ended up at their regional office near Leicester.

Photograph by Tarmac Roadstone

After nearly fifty years living outside, the fate of the Assyrian lions took a remarkable twist in 2017.

As part of Sheffield City Hall’s 85th birthday celebrations, John, and Samuel, as they were now called, were cleaned up, returned to the City Hall, and given ‘pride’ of place in the foyer.

Photograph by Abi Jaiyola on Twitter
Photograph by David Johnson on Flickr

Pan: Spirit of the Wood

Photograph by Sheffielder

Within the Rose garden at the Botanical Gardens, in Sheffield, is a sculpture called Pan: Spirit of the Wood. This was a gift to the city by Sir Charles Clifford, proprietor of the Sheffield Telegraph and Star, on his death in 1936.

However, the city’s inhabitants had to wait a long time to see the sculpture, only made available after the death of his widow, Lady Alice Clifford, in 1941.

He had expressed a wish that the sculpture would be placed in Endcliffe Wood or Whiteley Wood, but it wasn’t until 1952 that Spirit of the Wood was finally placed in the newly designed and restored Rose Garden at the Botanical Gardens.

Although his will referred to Peter Pan, it was almost certainly a statue of Pan: Greek god of pastures, flocks and woods, seated on a tree stump. Around the statue are brass birds, rabbits, mice, frogs and squirrels, while elves are imaginary woodland spirits. Cast in bronze, about 2 metres high, the sculptor has remained unknown.

The condition of the sculpture deteriorated over the years and it wasn’t until 2003 that restoration was undertaken at a cost of £40,000.

Spirit of the Wood was sent away to Chris Boulton, a restorer, who found that it had been made in sections and bolted together. Grit was blasted away, the patina removed, and rough cement detached from the stone base.

It was discovered that the cast was of poor quality, with the likelihood that the sculpture had been made of scrap-metal.

Once completed, Pan: Spirit of the Wood was reinstalled in the centre of the Rose Garden and nowadays forms part of the Riddle Trail.

The only clue to its creator can be found on an inscription – “H.W. Cashmore – Westminster” – a company of metal workers that had a foundry in Balham.

It had been set up by George Henry William Cashmore and Malcolm Hankey and became part of the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts, established in 1894 by Walter Gilbert as a company of modern artists associated with the Arts and Crafts movement.

The guild worked in all sorts of materials including metal, wood, plaster, bronze, tapestry and glass. As a result of their most famous commission, the iron and bronze gates at Buckingham Palace, they were issued with a Royal Warrant appointing them metal workers to King Edward VII, an honour repeated two years later under George V.

By 1908, the guild was using H.W. Cashmore at 96 Victoria Street, Westminster, as a showroom and studio.

The partnership between Henry William Cashmore (he’d now dropped the initial G from his name), and Malcolm Hankey was dissolved in 1911 and became known as H.W. Cashmore and Company.

The showrooms flourished and attracted the attention of Country Life magazine in March 1914, which did a feature on the company.  Later the same year, The Gardeners’ Chronicle provided perhaps the best insight into the workings of H.W. Cashmore.

“Mr Cashmore has been careful to surround himself with workers who are not only skilled in their several branches, but are also imbued with the true craftsman’s instinct, and are therefore capable of applying themselves zealously to the realisation of high ideals. The effect is seen in the many examples of beautifully wrought and finely-finished metal work and carried out by the firm’s staff in a manner worthy of the invariably artistic designs to which they work.

“These productions take the form of garden statuary and elegantly modelled figures, ornamental bronze work, wrought iron gates, grilles and railings. The appreciation of their work now reaches to the most distant parts of the world. Examples of their skill and taste have gone as far afield as India, China, Japan and South America, as well as to the United States and Canada.

“Much of their work is used in the new commercial buildings of the world, on the other hand, a great deal of their skill seems to be utilised by clients who inhabit some of the most beautiful of the old English country homes – as found at Eltham Hall and Rushton Hall.”

Photograph by Sheffielder

Although records suggest that Spirit of the Wood was created in the 1930s, the likelihood is that it originates to about 1915 when Sir Charles Clifford bought Whirlow from Denys Hague, a coal-owner. Britain was at war, with metal commanding premium prices, and the inclusion of scrap-metal in its creation was understandable.

The sculpture probably stood in his garden at Whirlow, as did a pair of wrought iron gates, most likely by H.W. Cashmore as well, also bequeathed to the city, with Sir Clifford hoping that they would stand at the entrance to the bird sanctuary in Ecclesall Wood. As it happens, the gates are still hanging outside Clifford House on Ecclesall Road South (as Whirlow became known).

It seems we shall never know the designer of Spirit of the Wood, the obvious answer being that it was probably designed by one of Cashmore’s employees. Sir Charles doubtless ordered the statue from a catalogue, or even after visiting the Westminster showroom.  

People Sculpture

Athens – the Sheffield connection

Photograph by Patrick Comerford (2017)

This sorry-looking statue of George Canning, the British Prime Minister who from 1825 to 1827 saved Greece from conquest by the Turks, stands in the George Canning Square in Athens.

But what is its connection to Sheffield?

George Canning, who was Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister, gave diplomatic support to the Greeks in the struggle against the Turks for freedom and ensured the eventual creation of an independent Greek state. In 1827, he signed the Treaty of London with Russia and France, with the object of securing Greek independence.

Canning’s successor as Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, tried to undo his work by making a truce with Turkey, but the Treaty of London had secured Greek independence.

The statue of George Canning from 1834 has a simple inscription: ‘George Canning 1770-1827’.

It was unveiled, wrapped in British and Greek flags, by the Greek Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, on 6 April 1931, at a ceremony attended by Sir Patrick Ramsay, the British ambassador, and the English builder and developer Charles Boot (1874-1945), who donated the statue to the Greek nation.

And here are the Sheffield connections.

Charles Boot was the Sheffield-born son of Henry Boot, the builder, and became a successful businessman and creator of Pinewood Studios.

He acquired the 10ft-high statue when he bought Thornbridge Hall, Great Longstone, near Bakewell, in 1929.

The statue, the work of famous Jordanthorpe-born sculptor, Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841), had originally been at Trentham Hall, Staffordshire, the last work commissioned by the Duke of Sutherland.

It was transferred to Thornbridge Hall, and after the death of the Liberal statesman, Chantrey made a replica which was erected at Westminster Abbey.

As a result of big business dealings between his firm, Henry Boot and Sons, with the Greek Government, it occurred to Charles Boot to present the statue to the Greek nation, and has remained here ever since.

Sadly, if you think that Sheffield has a graffiti problem, then I suggest you look at Athens.

Buildings Sculpture

Cairn’s Chambers

We’ve already had a look at the history of Cairn’s Chambers on Church Street, a Grade II-listed building that has been empty for most of the past sixteen years.

Built between 1894-1896 by Charles Hadfield for Henry and Alfred Maxfield, an established Sheffield firm of solicitors.

Almost unnoticed these days, are the decorative features that emblazoned the building, and which survived a Second World War German bomb.

The stone carvings, at the front, were the work of Frank Tory and Sons, Sheffield-based architectural sculptors, operating from the early 1880s until the 1950s, consisting of Frank and his twin sons Alfred Herbert and William Frank.

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. He became a Q.C. in 1856, Solicitor-General in 1858, and was knighted in May of the same year, becoming Attorney-General in 1866.

The statue looks extremely miserable these days, weather-beaten, covered with dirt, and with some parts missing.

As well as the statue of Cairns, the building also features a sundial, and the heads of the then Prince and Princess of Wales, later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Buildings Sculpture

Bainbridge Building

I bet most of you have never noticed this above a door at the top of Norfolk Street. This carved panel is on the old Halifax Bank at the corner of Surrey Street. The building was commissioned by Emerson Bainbridge, a mining engineer consultant and philanthropist, following the death of his wife, Jeffie.

It was erected as a memorial to her and opened by the Duke and Duchess of Portland in 1894.

The first floor formed a shelter for waifs and strays, and a large suite of offices on the second floor were given to the local branch of The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, of which Bainbridge was a committee member.

The ground floor consisted of shops that were let out to tenants in order to raise revenue to support the rent-free premises above.

The sculptor is unknown, but the architect was John Dodsley Webster, who also designed the Gladstone Buildings next to the Cathedral.


Goodwin Fountains

The Goodwin Fountains in the Peace Gardens. Eighty-nine individual jets of water inviting Sheffield’s kids to run through them during the summer and avoid them during winter. These are dedicated to Sir Stuart Goodwin (1886-1969), head of the Neepsend Steel and Tool Corporation. He gave away over £500,000 to charities and was honoured with the original Goodwin Fountain which stood at the top of Fargate between 1961 and 1998.


Holberry Cascades

The Holberry Cascades. Named after the Chartist leader Samuel Holberry (1814-1842), they consist of eight large water features located on either side of the four main entrances to the Peace Gardens. The waterfalls from the bronze vessels represent both the pouring of water into Sheffield’s five rivers, and the pouring of molten metal used in the city’s metal industries. 57,000 litres of water are pumped through its water features, the system using a water re-circulation system, and is kept clean using a brine solution rather than chemicals.


Bochum Bell

The Bochum Bell, in the Peace Gardens, was presented to the people of Sheffield in 1985 by our twin city of Bochum in Germany to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the link between the two cities. The steel bell was made by apprentices at the Krupp AG Works and reflects the shared heritage of the two cities in the manufacturing of the highest quality steel and steel artefacts. The bell is located in the top flower-bed along Pinstone Street. A Bochum Bell also exists at Donetsk in the Ukraine, another sister city.


City War Memorial

In 2009, when Philip Laing, a university student, got drunk and urinated on Sheffield’s War Memorial in Barker’s Pool, he didn’t realise he’d suffer the wrath of the city, as well as the rest of the country. He was spared jail and ended up quitting his university course.

Enthusiasm is still felt for the City War Memorial, erected in 1925, “to create a sacred centre where the people of Sheffield may meet on Armistice Day, and where the bereaved can lay their wreaths, and see the flag hoisted half-mast to honour their dead.”

In 1923, the Lord Mayor, F.C. Fenton, launched an appeal, aimed at ratepayers, to fund a memorial already designed by architect Emanuel Vincent Harris, an 80-foot high obelisk, to be sited at the junction of Townhead Street and Church Street.

The plan was abandoned due to being “unsuitable in design and location.”

However, the War Memorial Subcommittee was persuaded to consider a new design in front of the proposed City Hall. It launched a competition to select a more suitable design, restricted to artists working, or with practices, in the city. The contest attracted 34 entries; the winning design chosen by E. Vincent Harris.

The final design was by Charles Canus-Wilson, the architect, with George Alexander responsible for the sculptured designs of the figures.

The Grade II-listed City War Memorial is set on a bronze case, with the sculptures on a granite plinth, into which is set a flagpole, over 100 feet in length and weighing nine tons, with a bronze crown.

The panels on the base, near the Sheffield coat-of-arms, shows emblems of the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy, the Army and the Royal Flying Corps.

Below these, are insignias to commemorate the Yorkshire Dragoons (Queen’s Own) South Africa 1900-1902, the Royal Engineers, the Tanks Corps, the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment, the Royal Army Service Corps and the Army Medical Corps.

There are also four figures of four ordinary soldiers, heads bowed, and rifles reversed, standing on a ledge above an octagonal pedestal. It was originally to have had four females standing between the soldiers, but these were lost to save money.

The cost of the memorial was £5,345, funds coming from the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, fund-raising performances at Sheffield’s 44 theatres, music halls and cinemas, collection boxes in shops, the university and schools, a “Flag day” and a contribution from the British War Graves Association.

The bronze was cast by Conrad Parlanty Castings Ltd of Herne Bay, while the flagpole was made by Earle’s Shipbuilders and Engineers, Hull.

The flagpole arrived at The Wicker by rail, occupying six trucks, and was manoeuvred through the streets using steam-tractors during the early hours of the morning. It was designed to be the same height as the City Hall (opened in 1932) and was set 20-feet into the ground for stability.

The City War Memorial was unveiled on 28 October 1925, by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Charles H. Harington, GBE, KCB, DSO.

During the December Blitz of 1940, a bomb exploded near its base, causing the six-ton bronze base to shift five inches out of position. It was repaired in 1949, parts of the memorial dismantled and taken to Herne Bay at a cost of £680.

In 2005, the memorial was assessed, and a £60,000 programme of essential repairs carried out by Rupert Harris Conservation. The mast was treated for corrosion and repainted, and the crown and ball at the top of the mast re-gilded using 24-carat gold leaf.

Interestingly, the 1940 shrapnel damage remains, kept as a reminder of the memorial’s history and purpose.

Companies People Sculpture

Frank Tory and Sons

As we discover the historic buildings of Sheffield, and the intricate sculptors that adorn many, the name of Frank Tory frequently appears.

Frank Tory and Sons were a firm of sculptors that worked on many of the city’s buildings from the early 1880s until the 1950s. Apart from stone, the family also worked in wood, marble, bronze and fibrous plaster.

Frank Tory (1848-1938) was a Londoner who trained at the Lambeth School of Art. He came to Sheffield in 1880 after accepting a commission from the 15th Duke of Norfolk to work on the new Corn Exchange.

The contract brought him into contact with architect Matthew Ellison Hadfield and his son, Charles, who encouraged him to stay in Sheffield and offered him several commissions.

Tory set up a studio amongst terraced houses, and was joined in 1901 by his twin sons Alfred Herbert Tory (1881-1971) and William Frank Tory (1881-1968).

The Corn Exchange was destroyed by fire in 1947 and demolished in 1964. However, some of his finest work can still be found at Parade Chambers (High Street), St. John’s Church (Ranmoor), Cairns Chambers (Church Street), Carmel House (Fargate) and the Cathedral of St. Marie.

Perhaps Frank Tory’s greatest work is on Parade Chambers, with decorative sculptures of Geoffrey Chaucer and William Caxton, created in 1883 for Pawson and Brailsford, printers and stationers (pictured).

Alfred and William were born on Winter Street and attended the Broomhill County School and the Weston Academy for Sons of Gentlemen. They learned their trade from their father, who also taught at the Sheffield School of Art.

While Frank Tory worked on some of the city’s finest Victorian structures, his sons were responsible for sculptures on twentieth century buildings, including Sheffield City Hall, the Central Library, the White Building (Fitzalan Square), Victoria Hall (Norfolk Street) as well as Leeds Civic Hall and Chesterfield Town Hall.

After their father’s death, the firm moved to Ecclesall Road, at a site that is now the Porter Brook pub, eventually retiring in the 1950s after which the firm was wound up.