A week in Steelopolis

Former Endcliffe Sunday School, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. Image/Axis Architecture

Food court proposal for old Sunday School

Last year, we looked at proposals to convert the former Endcliffe Sunday School, next to the old Endcliffe Methodist Church, on Ecclesall Road, into apartments and townhouses. Over a year later, the plans have been changed and now designs have been submitted for the alteration, extension, and conversion of the building, to create ‘Founders & Co’ a food hall/street food restaurant, bar, and local enterprise hub, with ancillary retail and business workspace.

The Sunday School was originally built at a cost of £8,000 for the adjacent Methodist Church. It was designed by John Charles Amory Teather, who placed copies of religious and local newspapers, a circuit plan, and a programme of the day’s proceedings in a cavity, when the foundation stone was laid on 6 October 1927.

The vacant Sunday School comprises a central large classroom with a stage to the south that is lit naturally by the rear window. The front of the stage is decorated with a plaster architrave topped with a hood that includes the date ‘1928’, the date of completion.

In later years it was sold to the University of Sheffield and, in 1985, became the Traditional Heritage Museum. The museum closed in 2011 and the building was last used by the university in 2016.

‘Founders & Co’ is a concept developed by Bark Design Studios which has seen the successful rollout of the concept in Swansea and models itself on other food hall operations like Kommune, at Sheffield’s Castle House, although on a smaller scale.

Proposed Founders & Co at Endcliffe Sunday School, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. Image/Axis Architecture


Meadowhall receives planning permission for leisure extension

Retail as we’ve known it is disappearing, and Meadowhall can see that its future will be leisure-led. Plans for an extension to the shopping centre have been approved and will include a new indoor recreation and leisure hall, shops, food and drink units, extension to the existing cinema, police station and car showroom. The plan has been scaled down twice and includes an agreement to delay building the leisure hall until 2029, to minimise impact on Sheffield and Rotherham centres.


Old Town Hall, Waingate, Sheffield. Image/Sheffield in Ruins/Denzil Watson/2022/Revelations 23 Press

Renewed fears for future of the Old Town Hall

This photo has been doing the rounds this week. It shows a missing floor at Sheffield’s Old Town Hall and is featured in a new book.

Sheffield In Ruins, by Denzil Watson, is a fascinating photographic record of city locations that once teemed with life, but that found themselves empty and unwanted as the city’s story moved on.

Since first exploring the dereliction of Sheffield’s East End in the late 1980s, Denzil Watson has developed a passion for secret spaces that once had a purpose – interiors that are now smashed and trashed, rusting and wrecked, but that have a desperate beauty all their own.

The photo emerges at the same time as Valerie Bayliss, chair of the Friends of the Old Town Hall, urged its owner, Gary Ata, to show he was serious about restoring the ‘great old listed building which has been neglected for too long’. Built in 1808, it has been disused for 25 years.

“In its current state it’s likely to be a drag on the city council’s plans to regenerate Castlegate; it will probably deter other potential investors; and we know its condition is getting worse. We hope the city council is monitoring the situation closely.”

According to David Walsh, writing for the Sheffield Star, “Mr Ata snapped up the site on Waingate for £600,000. He registered a company called The Courthouse Apartments (Sheffield) Ltd and took out two loans which were repaid on November 28 this year. But no repair or restoration work appear to have taken place.”


Site of new Manhatta at Balm Green, Sheffield. Imagee/Ashleigh Signs

A lively addition to Balm Green

Into the city centre, and a lively addition to the normal solitude of Balm Green, next to Sheffield City Hall.

Once upon a time, this was the site of the Grand Hotel, replaced by Fountain Precinct, a brown and neutral tiled office building, built in the 1970s. It ranges from six to nine stories in height across its various wings and is arranged around a central courtyard.

The building has recently undergone major refurbishment, with lots of glass, shared business lounge, external roof terrace, break out areas and upgraded common areas.

Early next year, the ground floor, fronting Balm Green, is to become Manhatta bar/restaurant and says it will be beneficial for both locals and visitors to the area.

The company already operates in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Harrogate, and York.


Castlegate House, Haymarket, Sheffield. Image: DNA Group

Apartment plans for Castlegate House

News of an unusual planning application for Castlegate House at 12-18 Haymarket. Built in the 1960s, the ground floor was once occupied by British Home Stores (BHS) but is now a branch of B&M Bargains.

The application is for change of use on the upper floor from retail (unused) to large ‘housing in multiple occupation’ style letting rooms. The basement will be converted into a gym for residents, while the existing ground floor shop and first floor snooker hall will remain unaffected.

The proposal is to convert the second and third floors into high quality student accommodation. New windows will be included to each room for light and fresh air, with the central part of the building removed to provide a large open space to the central area and light to the inner rooms.

Each room will have its own kitchenette, bathroom, seating and sleeping areas. There is a large communal area in the glazed atrium and a communal kitchen/ dining area on each floor.

Access to the site will be from Dixon Lane and across the walkway bridge to the covered way at Haymarket. Both entrances will have electronic key entry, CCTV cameras, and a video entry system.

It isn’t the most attractive building in the area, but the exterior will be upgraded to include new window openings, while the Haymarket front will be re clad with stylish metal sheeting.

Proposed designs for Castlegate House, Haymarket, Sheffield. Image: DNA Group

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


A week in Steelopolis

Crucible Theatre. Image: Rich Bamford

A bit of a dramarama

What do the following have in common?

The Bath and Ladle, The Bessemer, The Casting Pit, The Forge, The Hopper, The Hearth and Spoon, The Pig, The Puddle Shop, The Run-Out Table, The Ace of Hearts, The Colossus, The Dramarama, The Futurist, The Prince of Wales, The Jennie Lee, The Sheaf, The Arundel Gate, The New Elizabethan, The New Playhouse, The Stirrings, and The White Elephant.

They were all suggested names submitted by readers of the Morning Telegraph in 1969 to name Sheffield’s new theatre.

The winner was The Adelphi because the theatre stood on the site of the Adelphi Hotel, in which Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Sheffield United, and Sheffield Wednesday were formed. But it was eventually rejected because there were plenty of other Adelphi Theatres across the UK.

It was the publicity manager at the old Sheffield Playhouse, Hilary Young, who came up with the final suggestion, The Crucible.

When the Crucible Theatre went through a £15 million refurbishment between 2007 and late 2009, a new events room above the main entrance was called the Adelphi Room (see photo).


Image: Hufton & Crow/VIEW/Alamy

I found out about the ‘voms.’

The Crucible Theatre has two of them, and they lead onto its main stage.

Actors walk up and down them, sometimes they run, some have tripped up and down. A chariot, a car, and goodness know what else, have been driven up them. Snooker players rest in front of them, and when they do, they are seen by millions of people around the world.

They are referred to by actors as the ‘voms,’ the two ‘sally ports’ set into the raked seating at the Crucible Theatre.

On a thrust stage these are called vomitories, and comes from the word ‘vomitory’ or ‘vomitorium’ which meant a passageway in an ancient Roman amphitheatre that connected an outside entrance to a tier of seats.

Alas, vomitory also means a substance that induces vomiting.


Hanover by night

“I believe we now have to break with the past and consign high-rise tower blocks to history. They have served their purpose, but never truly fulfilled their promise, and we have learned valuable and tragic lessons from their brutal, brooding presence in our housing stock.” – Emma Adams.

Hanover House is a single 16-storey block of flats on Exeter Drive, off Hanover Way, built by M J Gleeson on behalf of the Sheffield City Council in 1965-1966. The cladding applied much later to Hanover House was the only tower block cladding in Sheffield which failed fire safety tests and had to be replaced.


The coolest bus in Sheffield

A Heaven 17 design with layout by Malcolm Garrett is adorning this First bus in Sheffield. It pays tribute to the band’s two ground-breaking albums – Penthouse and Pavement and The Luxury Gap.

Heaven 17 are a new wave and synth-pop band that formed in Sheffield in 1980. The band were a trio for most of their career, composed of Martyn Ware (keyboards) and Ian Craig Marsh (keyboards) (both previously of the Human League), and Glenn Gregory (vocals, keyboards).


Electronically Yours/Martyn Ware/Constable Books/2022. Image: DJP/2022

And talking about Heaven 17

I’ve started reading a book and begun listening to one of the best podcasts out there. Electronically Yours is the name for both, and are the brainchild of Martyn Ware, keyboardist with Heaven 17, composer, arranger, record producer, and music programmer.

The book was written in lockdown and provides charming meditations on culture, humour, travel and sport, Martyn also shares his love of 60s films, explains why Venice is the most beautiful city in the world, and reveals how Sheffield Wednesday has forever been his first and eternal passion.

“And why the title Electronically Yours? I designed the artwork for the front cover of our first Human League single ‘Being Boiled’ and, at that time, I liked the idea of using a strapline or slogan that would humanise the product.”

I’ve listened to several of the 115 episodes that make up the Electronically Yours podcasts, but immediate standouts are lengthy chats with Richard Hawley (in two parts), Mark Radcliffe, Nile Rodgers, and Glen Gregory.

There are no inhibitions, there is a lot of swearing, fascinating stories, and you might easily be in a room with them. And there are loads of stories about Sheffield that will appeal to those of a certain age.

Listening to them makes me realise what is lacking on radio today. Personality. Get a few of these under your belt and you really do think that Martyn is an old friend.

Martyn Ware/Image: The Bookseller

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


A week in Steelopolis

The Fiesta – early 1990s. Now Odeon Luxe. Image: Sheffield Modernist

I saw an old photo, and thought of Marti Caine

I saw this photo from the early nineties. It made me think of a good book I read in the garden, when it was sunny, and we were in lockdown.

“My career was flourishing, I had reached the dizzy heights of compere at the Fiesta, one of the North’s most prestigious night clubs, where I did an hour spot and introduced acts like Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson, as well as all the top British acts. It gave me an opportunity to study the great comics like Tommy Cooper and Dave Allen.

“The Fiesta was as plush back-stage as it was out front. The 2000 strong audience wore full evening dress. It was how I imagined showbiz would be – far removed from the stark reality of Working Men’s Clubs.”

From Marti Caine/A Coward’s Chronicles/1990


I saw a big yellow crane in the Peace Gardens

I visited the Peace Gardens and there was a big yellow crane. Christmas preparations, and the installation of the Alpine Bar. Further evidence that it will soon be upon us. This photograph was posted elsewhere, and somebody said I was colour-blind because the crane was red.


It was dark and quiet, and two students stood talking

The early hours of the morning. A view from Regent Terrace towards Leavygreave Road, and two young men, presumably students, stand talking outside the University of Sheffield’s futuristic Diamond Building.

This time is theirs, but had they been from another era, they might have heard the sound of crying babies, new life, nurses chattering, and tears of joy and sadness from emotional parents. This had been the site of Jessop’s Hospital for Women.


Sheffield Hallam University is going to London

In 1843, the Sheffield School of Design was founded in response to the industrial revolution, in which the town established itself as a leading centre for steel production.

By the 1850s, it had changed its name to the Sheffield School of Art and merged with the College of Commerce and Technology in 1969 to become Sheffield Polytechnic.

It evolved into Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) in 1992, with the right to award its own degrees, and according to latest figures is the fourteenth largest university in the UK with over 30,000 students (seemingly more than the University of Sheffield).

And now it is to open its first satellite campus outside Sheffield in Brent Cross Town, the 180-acre, £8Bn new park town in London.

The town will bring together 6,700 new homes, over 50 locations for retail, food, and drink, provide workspace for over 25,000 people and build a community around three redeveloped schools, health, wellness, and amenity services.

Sheffield Hallam University will occupy the lower 6 floors of the first commercial building at Brent Cross Town and focus its degree-course offering on the subject areas for which the university is renowned, including health and wellbeing, business, finance, management, digital and technological skills.

The focus will be on recruitment of local students, with a significant proportion expected to be from the surrounding area and follows the same strategy as in Sheffield where 40% of the university’s students come from within a 25-mile radius. It is scheduled to open from 2025/26, with the aim of reaching 5,000 students by 2030.


I found out that Alun Armstrong used to visit Sheffield schools

I wonder how many people remember the children’s theatre company, Theatre Vanguard, which toured Sheffield schools with a company of professional actors during the 1960s and 1970s.

It was the brainchild of Colin George, Sheffield Playhouse’s artistic director, and when the theatre closed its doors in 1971, the project transferred with him to the newly constructed Crucible Theatre.

If this brings back memories, as it does me, then you might have seen an up-and-coming young actor called Alun Armstrong, who also appeared in the Playhouse’s last production, I Was Hitler’s Maid.

Since then, his credits have included several Charles Dickens adaptations, and the eccentric ex-detective Brian Lane in TV’s New Tricks.

He spent nine years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, originated the role of Thénardier in the London production of Les Misérables, and won an Olivier Award in the title role in Sweeney Todd.

He’s also known for playing Cardinal Jinette from the Van Helsing franchise, Baltus Hafez in The Mummy Returns, Uncle Garrow from Eragon, the High Constable from Sleepy Hollow and Maxwell Randall in Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire.

And he also appeared at your school assembly hall.


A story about New York‘s Cornelia Street Cafe

Another story about Theatre Vanguard, the Sheffield Playhouse project that toured city schools during the 1960s and 1970s, and later transferred to the Crucible Theatre.

With plays, improvised pieces, and audience participation, the company introduced performing arts to schoolkids.

One of the original troupe members was a London-born actor called Robin Hirsch.

“I taught for a year and a half at a German University when I was very young. When I came back to England, I became an actor at the Sheffield Playhouse, and I was hired partly to be a junior actor on the mainstage, but also to help with what was a pilot program in theatre and education. It was Theatre Vanguard — we went into the community to do stuff and we would bring the community to us.”

In 1977, Hirsch created the New Works Project, a peripatetic experimental theatre company in New York, and, along with two other artists—Irish American actor Charles McKenna and Argentinean-Canadian-Italian painter and sculptor Raphaela Pivetta—he opened a tiny one-room café in New York City’s Greenwich Village: the Cornelia Street Café.

Its size and reputation grew, and it was where singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega started out, as did Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. There were performances from members of Monty Python and the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as singer Jeff Buckley, and it’s alleged that Lady Gaga had a job here.

Hirsch ran the Cornelia Street Cafe for forty-one-and-a-half years until he was forced to close it in 2018 due to rising rent.


An unplanned Attercliffe experience

It was Friday afternoon, and I’d dropped somebody off at Cineworld, and I thought I’d go and take some photographs of the old Adelphi Picture Theatre at Attercliffe (soon to be in council hands).

I realised I’d not really investigated this part of Sheffield, and I was blown away when I discovered Attercliffe Cemetery.

I spent an hour tramping through autumn leaves, between graves, and down to the river.

I didn’t see a soul, but when it was time to go, a man with an Alsatian dog appeared out of the gloom, and said ‘hello’ with a strong Brummie accent.



A week in Steelopolis

It was Halloween

“Oh how the candles will be lit and the wood of worm burn in a fiery dust. For on all Hallows Eve will the spirits come to play, and only the fruit of thy womb will satisfy their endless roaming.” – Solange Nicole.

Before the rains came. Autumn leaves and a gravestone. Sheffield Cathedral.


In the still of an autumn night

St James’ Row, beside Sheffield Cathedral. It took its name from St James’ Church that stood at the end of St James’ Street (next to where St James House now stands). The church was consecrated in 1789, but by 1945 its roof and fittings had gone, destroyed by the blitz. The shell of the building remained, awaiting the hands of an appreciative restorer, but one never came. It was eventually dismantled in 1950.


It was business as usual

Listeners didn’t suspect a thing. It was business as usual. But it must have been hard for BBC Radio Sheffield presenters to take to the airwaves.

It was the second BBC local radio station to go on the air, launching in November 1967, and yesterday, they heard that Acting Director of BBC England, Jason Horton, was going to “grow local impact in all parts of the country.”

In other words, the BBC are cutting jobs on local radio stations in England, as part of its strategy to become a ‘modern, digital-led’ broadcaster.

Local shows will only survive on weekday mornings and lunchtimes (6am till 2pm) whilst the rest of the output, apart from evening and weekend sport, will be shared either regionally or nationally.

A possible 139 posts will be at risk because of the changes, and a voluntary redundancy drive is being launched. So, who will go? Toby Foster? Paulette Edwards? Howard Pressman?

There will be six regions going forward, covering North West/North East, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, Midlands, London and East, South, and South West.

It means that outside the eight hours of local programming, the station effectively becomes the radio equivalent of TV’s Look North – BBC Radio North anyone?


Orchard Square. Image: Tim Dennell/Flickr

Orchard Square and its mega-canopy

In 1987, Orchard Square was ground-breaking, and provided an exciting addition to Sheffield’s shopping scene. And yet, I always got the feeling that people were reluctant to leave Fargate and try something different.

Thirty five years later, Orchard Square finds itself at midpoint.

Nobody could have predicted the internet, a pandemic, and the fact that our shops became stale and generic. And for a long time, we made a mess of the city centre. Like the rest of town, Orchard Square suffered from shop closures and empty units.

But I’m firmly on the side of those that say city centre regeneration will be worth it afterwards. But as I’ve said before, I’m also one of those that hates the slow progress of planning and development.

The future of Orchard Square is going to be leisure, entertainment, and city living.

In January, its owners, London Associated Properties, said it planned to create an events space as well as 13 flats from empty shops.

And now it has submitted a planning application to install a massive canopy in the centre of the square to provide weather protection so markets and events can be held all year. It would be suspended on wires and ‘demountable’ to stop it creating ‘more shade than is desirable.’

The application also includes plans to install more than a dozen awnings above shops to ‘add colour and visual interest’ and ‘provide protection.’

It seems likely that the scheme will get the go-ahead, with Sheffield City Council earmarking £750K of public money from the Future High Streets Fund towards it.


I like colour and light

This is Lightbox, student accommodation on Earl Street, and typical of the things I see at night.

I’m a nightwalker and enjoy seeing Sheffield city centre when most of you are in bed. The use of colour and light makes everything more mysterious and interesting.

But things are changing.

The significant increase in our energy bills means lights are being switched off across the city.

And who can blame anyone for doing so?

But it will make everything seem rather drab.


Soaring into autumn darkness

Is everybody in bed, or are most of these apartments empty? And those rumpled vertical blinds really annoy me.

Velocity Tower should have been 30-storeys high, but construction halted on the 21st floor. When the developer went into administration it was eventually sold to Dubai-based Select Group which also agreed a deal to build the £6.5m Ibis Hotel next door.


A Victorian renaissance

The Montgomery Theatre on Surrey Street is set to receive funding as part of the Future High Streets Fund.

The owners are set to receive £495K to support them in redeveloping the 136-year-old building. The money would go towards making all public areas accessible for the first time as well as changes to the interior design and layout. The upper floors of the building will also be opened.

The grant will help support and expand The Montgomery’s vision of becoming Yorkshire’s leading arts centre for children and young people.

Built in Domestic Gothic-style at a cost of £15,000 in 1884-1886, the Montgomery Hall, as it was called, was designed by Sheffield architect Charles John Innocent (1839-1901) and constructed by George Longden and Son.

The Future High Streets Fund supports landowners to utilise unused space by opening the upper floors of their building and make improvements to frontages on Fargate, High Street and connecting routes such as Surrey Street and Chapel Walk.

Earlier this week, we looked at plans to cover Orchard Square with a huge canopy, and the conversion of the upper floors into eight new apartments. If approved, the scheme is set to receive £990K of funding.

Sheffield City Council’s Finance Sub-Committee will meet next week to discuss both proposals.


Castlegate plans move forward

At last, positive news about Castlegate, once home to Sheffield Castle and Castle Market.

You may remember that Sheffield City Council secured £18m funding from the Levelling Up Fund to develop the derelict site, and it will go to public consultation from next week.

The council hopes to create a new public space which focuses on heritage, culture, and sustainability. It would see the Castle site transformed with new ‘grey to green’ planting, footpaths, a community events space, a de-culverted River Sheaf, and other infrastructure needed to unlock future development.

A ‘Concept Plan’ vision can be seen at the Moor Market between 8-11 November, as well as scheduled presentations at 18 Exchange Street and a Zoom session.

Visitors will be able to comment at Moor Market and an online survey will be available from November 7.

A planning application is due in early 2023, with construction starting in summer and finishing in spring 2024.

However, the Council has estimated that ‘high level’ costs of the proposed changes included in the Concept Plan means the Levelling Up Fund may not be enough to cover all the costs.


“Oh,my poor head.”

I walked into the night to see what I could find. The only person I saw was a drunken young lad staggering somewhere. “It’s the Harley,” he slurred, as I took a photograph.

I remembered Dr Marriott Hall who married Sarah Firth in 1866. She was the daughter of Mark Firth, the steel magnate, who gave them a new house and surgery at this corner on Glossop Road.

And then, I thought of Dr Hall riding his horse along Endcliffe Vale Road in 1878. The horse threw him off and the doctor’s head struck a kerbstone.

“Oh, my poor head,” he complained, and suffered a slow agonising death.

Lastly, I thought of students. Drinking, dancing, and shouting.


Harry Styles was singing

The Gothic Revival church of St Silas lit up like a beacon. It’s a far cry from the cold and gloomy day of February 1869 when the Archbishop of York consecrated this new church in front of a full congregation.

It cost £8K, a gift from Henry Wilson of Sharrow, and the work of John Brightmore Mitchell-Withers.

His Grace read the 24th Psalm, but on this autumn night all I can hear from inside is Harry Styles singing Late Night Talking, which seems appropriate and inappropriate at the same time.

The church closed at the Millennium and is now student accommodation.


And finally… look what happened in 1929

Sheffield City Hall is getting into early festive spirit.

When it was constructed between 1929-1932, the foundations were sunk to a depth of 30ft. The earth that was removed was taken to build a new dirt track for motor-cycle racing, and this became Owlerton Stadium.


©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


“There is no building or civic space which can make the heart gasp or the spirit sing.”  

Fifty years may seem like ancient history to some. But to others, fifty years is well within living memory. In 1972, The Guardian published a special report on Sheffield.

A city on the brink of change,” was how city-based writer, G.R. Adams, described Sheffield, but has it really altered half a century later?

Let’s go back in time to see what the writer said: –

“Before this article was published, I was believed to be a true son of Sheffield. I could appear knowledgeable about goits, leats, ingots, and lady buffers. I would examine cutlery with discreet ostentation in foreign dining rooms. I had cultivated a modest paranoia about Leeds and took no interest in the affairs of Manchester or Birmingham. But now I must confess that I was not born in Sheffield, not even in Yorkshire, but in Sussex. I can therefore look at Sheffield with some detachment.

“The truth is that nothing very much has ever happened in this city. There have been no great confrontations between kings and princes, no epoch-making political drama; no great painting, literature, or music has ever been inspired in this neck of the woods. The city only rose to prominence during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. While great events were happening elsewhere, Sheffield was producing the iron and steel sinews which made those events possible – the expansion of railways, bridges, harbours, and industrial machinery. Two World Wars were fought with iron ships, steel tanks, and armaments. Statesmen who took part in the great debates of history looked over their shoulders to Sheffield for the means to carry out their grand designs.”

A fair assessment, but ‘great music’ did emerge from Sheffield. Off the back of Thatcher’s Britain, the 1980s created an explosion of talent – Cabaret Voltaire, Human League, ABC, Heaven 17, Deff Leppard – and the days of Jarvis Cocker, Pulp, and the Arctic Monkeys, came later. These musicians inspired a generation like me.

“The foundation of this fame lies in the industrial Don Valley,” wrote Adams. “Attercliffe is still an appalling place of mean-spirited houses of grey slate on blackened brick and open back yard privies. All are crowded around and overshadowed by the black hulks of dying industrial buildings. Many of the houses have been pulled down but enough remain to house many of the immigrant families and those below the poverty line. The road to Wigan Pier ran through these terrible streets. They are the conscience of the city and while one child lives in this wasteland, no councillor or citizen can sleep at peace.

“This is the spur of the great rehousing programmes that the city has undertaken. Between the wars, the extensive Manor, and Firth Park estates were built. At that time, they were sufficiently better than Attercliffe to be acceptable as an improvement, but now they are joyless graveyards of houses which will require replacement to higher standards.”

What can we say about Attercliffe? Since the article was written, the houses disappeared, and so did industry. The World Student Games in 1991 promised the great revival. Much was bulldozed, and Sheffield Arena and Don Valley Stadium were built, but even the latter wouldn’t survive. Ever since, Attercliffe has remained a lost cause, a sorry link between the city centre and Meadowhall, and a down-at-heel suburb that laments the golden days. And, while the people have returned to the city’s other old residential districts, it could be that after all this time, Attercliffe might finally become Sheffield’s next regeneration model.

In the interim, the Manor estate attracted unwanted publicity, the subject of a miserable TV documentary, but it eventually went the same way as Attercliffe. Widespread clearance and swathes of empty land appeared, but new builds have slowly brought the area back to life. Alas, Firth Park remained much the same, and is probably still suffering.

Back in 1972, Park Hill came under scrutiny, but even the writer could not have anticipated that the flats complex would be listed before suffering its unglamorous decline. Had it not been listed, it might not have risen, phoenix-like, into a citadel for young professionals, and still in the process of emerging from its slumber.

“Park Hill is a city within a city and dominates the Sheaf Valley like a castle above a moat. A second generation of families no longer remember the bitter controversy of its birth and the endless social surveys. Banks of trees and grass now cover the scars of the railway slopes and cuttings. Few grandparents now recall the previous squalor and degradation, where the Mooney gang dominated the sordid streets with razor and terror and Charlie Peace crept out at night.”

Those grandparents are long-dead, and their grandchildren are now grandparents themselves, and probably live in the suburbs watching the unrelenting spread of Sheffield’s two universities.

“On the hill, some of the best buildings in the city have been commissioned by the university. They still remain largely unrelated to each other, but the recently completed spacious underpass beneath a major road linking two parts of the campus is an imaginative solution.

“In the valley, the metamorphosis is taking the place of the Polytechnic from the chrysalis of the old Technical College. The span and complexity of its spreading wings are being watched with awe.”

The University of Sheffield advanced towards the city centre, absorbing houses, factories, churches, as well as the Jessops Hospital for Women, and almost the entire area around it. It grew to become one of Sheffield’s biggest employers, creating space-age buildings, and made the city appear incredibly cosmopolitan.

Now it is the turn of Sheffield Hallam University, the former Polytechnic, with aspirations to flatten and recreate former manufacturing areas and provide a welcoming gateway to the city.

“The new Crucible Theatre is an exciting building with its foyers painted so costly gay. It could be a place of real artistic achievement if the city will support it.”

The city didn’t support it, at least not in the beginning, but far from being the ‘white elephant,’ it was saved by snooker and then by the very thing it was built for – drama, musicals, shows, and pantomimes. The Crucible’s been joined by the Lyceum Theatre, empty and redundant in 1972, and is regarded by critics as the best producing-house outside London. Its foyers painted so costly ‘gay’ resonate with its recent multi-million pound success story – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – doing good business in the West End and made into an Amazon film. Try explaining Amazon to our seventies’ forebears.

“There are many fine buildings of power and character in the city but few of real grace and elegance. There is no building or civic space which can make the heart gasp or the spirit sing.”  

And this has been the case ever since, but times are quickly changing, and nobody could ever have anticipated, nor waited for, the long-overdue Heart of the City redevelopment.

“But now the city is facing new challenge to its skills. There is no more land left within its past boundaries to meet the new housing, industrial, and social needs of a rising population. The major expansion of the city has been channelled into Mosborough to the south-east. Here it is planned to increase the local population by 50,000 within 15 years. It is a bold and ambitious plan, based on a series of townships of 5,000 each, linked by a grid network of roads fed from a new expressway to the heart of the city. The problems of implementing this explosive growth may have been underestimated by both the local authority and the private sector. There is concern that neither the ambitious programme nor the high environmental target standards may be reached.”

It was about this time that my parents considered buying a new house at Mosborough. I was young and the thought of moving miles away from the city sent a shiver through me. But Mosborough wasn’t that far away, and the move never happened, at least not until the 1980s. By this time, previously unknown names emerged, and wrapped themselves into city history – Owlthorpe, Waterthorpe, Westfield, Holbrook, and Sothall – becoming extensions to existing suburbs like Hackenthorpe, Beighton and Halfway. And along came Crystal Peaks, Drakehouse, and, of course, Supertram.

G.R. Adams failed to mention in 1972 that there was a flaw to this masterplan. Much of this district was farmland, the border between the West Riding of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, to the south of Hackenthorpe, where most of the townships were planned. All was not lost, because those parts of Derbyshire soon found themselves in a new county.

“Local government reform will create a new South Yorkshire metropolitan county with four constituent districts of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and Sheffield. Each of these proud cities (sic) faces similar problems of industrial waste and neglect, substandard housing, and declining industry. Sheffield as the largest centre will have considerable influence. Yet while preoccupied with Mosborough to the south-east, it must offer cooperation and coordination to the north and may have to divert resources.

“The whole of South Yorkshire is increasingly dominant by the large, nationalised undertakings for coal, steel, rail, gas, and electricity, and larger but fewer organisations concerned with major heavy engineering. The power of decision is moving away from South Yorkshire and the control of its destiny is slipping into other hands.

“While there are great financial advantages in the whole area being designated an intermediate area, it is a blow to the independent spirit of Sheffield that it can no longer stand alone upon its own excellence.

“Perhaps the most difficult task for the city is to avoid being misled by its own pride and to recognise its own deficiencies. It must create a major change in its industrial future and encourage a rich creative diversity in its life and leisure.”

And while there will be critics of Sheffield’s progress over fifty years, it could be said that the city did re-invent itself. With little heavy industry remaining, the emphasis has switched towards leisure, service industries, and something that could never have been envisaged, a digital future.

As we reflect on our city of long ago, we must touch on the astonishing decline of the city centre.

Nobody anticipated that Sheffield, with a city centre full of shops and people, would fall victim to Meadowhall and the internet. Who could have anticipated a city without Cole Brothers, Walsh’s, Cockayne’s, and Paulden’s (which would become Debenhams a year later)?

Sheffield is still changing, perhaps quicker than most other cities, and the two stages of the Heart of the City redevelopment, might be the much-needed catalyst to reinvent the city centre’s future.



It came as a surprise to learn that the Pepperpot building on Pinstone Street once had a distinctive spire on top. The Victorian building will be transformed as part of Sheffield’s £480m Heart of the City II redevelopment. Only the façade will remain, and Hallamshire Historic Buildings are calling for a replacement steeple to go on top of the famous corner turret. The original one suffered from time, neglect, and weather, and disappeared in the middle of the Twentieth century leaving behind its truncated appearance and the nickname, the Pepperpot. It was designed by Flockton & Gibbs in 1884 for the mayor, William Henry Brittain, on a corner plot at the junction of Cambridge Street.


People think their local newspaper is worse than others…not realising that people say the same things about the supposed better newspapers.

There are a few things we like to moan about in Sheffield – the Council, buses, potholes, empty shops – the list is endless. We should also add the Sheffield Star to this list, judging by comments regularly directed to me. Perhaps unfairly, I might add.

We have a stalwart editor in Nancy Fielder who isn’t afraid of hiding and posts on twitter almost daily.

In January, the newspaper (along with sister papers like the Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman) was taken over by National World, created by David Montgomery, and promises to ‘change the business model for print and digital news publishing.’ Its previous owner, JPI Media Publishing, had little resource, and I have to say that the look and content has certainly improved since.

However, the website comes in for a lot of criticism, not just because it is hiding behind a paywall, but because it appears clunky and slow to update. Blame the previous owners, because National World has embarked on a project to expand its website footprint in all Britain’s major cities.

Having quietly launched a new national newspaper online,, it is extending its digital only ‘World’ brand into eight new markets. Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Glasgow are up and running, with new sites in London, Birmingham, Bristol, and Wales launching soon.

Which begs the question as to what will happen with Sheffield Star’s digital content? Is it about to become Sheffield World, or even part of a wider Yorkshire World?

And what future for the weekly Sheffield Telegraph, alleged to be put together by a team of only two journalists, and whose meatier content appears to be shifting towards the Sheffield Star in ‘The Sheffield Weekend’ supplement? 


An interesting new name for Sheffield Arena. We should now refer to it as the Utilita Arena after a new 5 year seven-figure sponsorship deal with the energy supplier. It follows similar agreements with arenas in Newcastle and Birmingham. Utilita, based in Hampshire, claims to be the UK’s first specialist Pay as You Go Smart Energy supplier, and is already a junior and women’s football sponsor at Sheffield United.

Constructed at a cost of £34m, Sheffield Arena was opened by the Queen in May 1991. I’ve thought that since the opening of the Fly Direct Arena in Leeds, its star had dimmed somewhat. Not, according to Pollstar, the ‘voice of live entertainment,’ which ranks the DSA (sorry Utilita) Arena at No. 53 in its last world Top 200 Arena Venues chart, three places above our Leeds rival. The table, based on ticket sales, was last published in 2019 because last year’s figures were decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.



There are murmurs of discontent from the old fellows who wander up and down the bar at the Benjamin Hunstman carefully examining the cask ale pumps through reading glasses.

They’ve learned that the former Sportsman pub further down Cambridge Street (aka Tap & Tankard) will have its interiors demolished as part of the Heart of the City II scheme. It is a cause already taken up by Ron Clayton, that down-to-earth historian, and friend of Sheffielder, who says that despite alterations over the years, it is still recognisably the pub built in 1883, along with a fine club room on the first floor. Once again, only the facade will remain, much the same fate as the former Henry’s Bar nearby.


Construction workers renovating the disused Bethel Chapel on Cambridge Street have found a time capsule stuffed with a letter from 1938. Builders from Henry Boot Ltd found a small canister inside a cavity wall. It contained a letter which turned out to have been written by John Woodhouse, foreman of local plastering company Bradbury & Sons, listing the names of all the men on the site. Bethel Chapel closed in 1936 and was purchased in 1938 by George Binns, outfitters, who built the familiar front extension The list, secreted at this time, includes an apprentice called Boy Teddy – likely to have been aged about 14.



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