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People

A forgotten son who created visuals for classic mid-century travel posters and architectural landmarks

Time makes us forget, and this applies to the work of Sheffield artist Kenneth Steel. He was a painter and etcher, noted for his watercolours, but since his death in 1970 his work is often overlooked.

Kenneth Steel was born in 1906, the son of George Thomas Steel, an artist and silver engraver. His eldest brother, George Hammond Steel (1900-1960) was a successful landscape painter, and both brothers studied at Sheffield College of Art under Anthony Betts. During the 1920s, Kenneth studied briefly under landscape artist, Stanley Royle, and exhibited his watercolours, oils, and engravings in Sheffield at the Heeley Art Club and Hallamshire Sketch Club.

In 1932 he secured a contract with the print publishers, James Connell and Sons, and annually published line engraving and drypoint prints both before and after the War. In 1935 he exhibited two of these prints at the Royal Academy and then in November 1935 he became the youngest elected member of the Royal Society of British Artists. His work in watercolour was shown at three one man exhibitions in London in 1934 and 1937 and Dublin in 1938. After World War Two he diversified into the fields of perspective drawings and commercial art. This included railway posters and carriage prints.

Among his most famous pieces are Sheffield Castle from 1964, commissioned by the Brightside and Carbrook Co-operative Society to hang in Castle House, an imaginary view of Sheffield Castle as it might have looked.

Oil Painting of Sheffield Castle by Kenneth Steel R.B.A. S.G.A. Art., commissioned by the Board of Directors for the new Boardroom at Castle House, September 1964. 

From his studio in Crookes, Kenneth found work preparing watercolour washed perspective drawings commissioned by the construction industry. One of these, the Electricity Sub Station on Moore Street, painted in 1965-1966, was a classic piece of Brutal architecture. Other works included Jodrell Bank Observatory, South Kirkby Colliery and Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet.

Kenneth wrote a number of books on artistic techniques and had his work widely reproduced in such publications as Arts Review, Sphere, Studio and The Artist.

Cadman Lane by Kenneth Steel, looking towards the Town Hall and Norfolk Street. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

But there was tragedy in his life. His mother and pregnant wife were both killed during the Sheffield Blitz, and much of his work destroyed. He remarried in 1953 and the last two decades of his life produced some of his most experimental artistic work.

The proposed Sheffield city centre redevelopment, 1908-1926 showing the Law Courts from a new Chester Street. There were a number of artworks created by Kenneth Steel that are thought to be lost. Devonshire Green now occupies the site of the original Chester Street. The proposal never came to light. Photograph: Artist’s Estate

His work can be found in a book ‘Kenneth Steel. Catalogue Raisonné of Prints and Posters’ with full-colour illustrations of his watercolour and oil paintings, plus his perspective drawings and later palette knife oil paintings of the Balearic Islands and beyond. The appendices include a complete catalogue of his fifty-four line engraving and drypoint prints, plus a full catalogue raisonné of his 48 Railway posters and thirty-five carriage prints.

These now sought-after posters – nostalgic reminders of a vanished world – adorned railway station platforms, carriages, and waiting rooms.

This month you can view Kenneth Steel’s work in a new exhibition at Weston Park Museum. It is curated by Lucy Cooper, exhibitions and display curator at Sheffield Museums, and runs from December 17 until May 2.

Categories
Places

Rewilding our urban space has never been so important

Charter Square. Photograph: DJP/2021

Sheffield is becoming an even greener city. The grey-to-green project around Castlegate has been well received, and other parts of the city centre are benefiting from a return to nature.

In these times of climate change the greening of public spaces – parks, squares, rooftops, and streets, can contribute to climate mitigation if they become green spaces. If a single healthy tree can have the cooling power of more than ten air-conditioning units, let’s rewild our public space and cool down our planet.

Outdoor spaces not only allow us to move more safely during the pandemic but are also linked to our well-being. Green urban areas facilitate physical activity, relaxation, recreation, and social interaction.

Time for me to be controversial.

If we are left with unwanted (and perhaps unloved) city centre buildings, might there be an argument to knock them down and start again? Might it be sensible to create green spaces from these footprints?

This photograph of Charter Square shows that redevelopment, and the introduction of greenery, can have a positive impact. The problem here is the shabby Debenhams building that will struggle to find an alternative use.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Streets

Cumberland Street – two photos – 60 years apart

Cumberland Street. Photograph: Picture Sheffield
Cumberland Street. Photograph: DJP/2021

Two night-time shots of Cumberland Street, Sheffield, sixty years apart. The black and white photograph, looking towards Eyre Street, was taken in the early 1960s, and even though almost everything was demolished, it is still recognisable.

The row of shops down the left became Moor Market, including the tall and imposing General Electric Company building.

The old properties down the right were replaced in the early 1970s, including the addition of the Whetstone Public House, later Moorfoot Tavern, and now El Paso restaurant.

Only one building survives – the former Martin’s Bank at the far right corner of Cumberland Street with Eyre Street.

About halfway down are two roads with contrasting fortunes. To the right, South Lane, then a narrow thoroughfare, but significantly widened. To the left, Cumberland Way, lost during Moor Market construction, and now forming the entrance to the market service area.

In the far gloom was the factory belonging to W.A. Tyzack (built in 1958 and demolished in 1984), and now the site of Decathlon.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
People

Roger Moffat: “Nobody did it like me.”

Roger Moffat at Radio Hallam. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

There I was, looking for something completely different, and I discovered that on this day in 1986 Roger Moffat died (aged 59) at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

It was a hard-drinking, fag-fuelled, career with Radio Luxembourg and BBC Radio, not to mention TV with Pinky and Perky (1957), Here’s Harry (1960) and Like … Music (1962).

Roger Moffat was best-known to us on Radio Hallam (as was) – an eccentric, masterful storyteller, and leader of controversy. As somebody commented, “Who would dare hire somebody like this nowadays?”

‘Our Rog’ might only have been on the airwaves at Radio Hallam for seven years, but it is quite incredible that Sheffield people still talk about him 35 years later.

The photograph above is dated 1980/1981 which meant his days at the station were numbered. He “sally forthed” to Scotland for a holiday, was dropped by Hallam, and only reappeared when his own pre-recorded obituary was broadcast after his death.

Here is a sad story that takes place in 1985, a year before he died.

I was working at a supermarket at Broomhill in Sheffield and asked to deliver provisions to him. Carved ham, cut half an inch thick, and Italian garlic salad dressing. He was bed-ridden in a ground-floor bedsit. Memorabilia was piled high – records, cassettes, newspapers, books, fag packets, and, of course, a radio to listen to.

Roger looked a lonely old man, very charming, and still able to entertain an audience of one. He was a brilliant storyteller. I was so captivated that I forgot to take payment for his shopping and ended up paying for it myself.

Had he still been alive, Roger would have been ninety-four.

Long-gone, not-forgotten, and if only he had completed his autobiography that was to have been called ‘Nobody Did It Like Me.”

Announcer Roger Moffat announces the end of the Light Programme, 1967. Photograph: BBC

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

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Other

How did that happen? Sheffield tops high street recovery charts

It might not look like it, but we are told that Sheffield has seen a significant increase in footfall in recent months. According to data collected by Centre for Cities, Sheffield city centre saw a huge increase in footfall in September, with the level reaching 89% of the pre-pandemic average – way above the UK urban average of 73%. Footfall figures included not only residents but people venturing into the city from other parts of the country.

Crowds gather to watch performances during the African-Caribbean market last month. Photograph: Sheffield City Council

The Centre for Cities figures were so impressive that Sheffield came out on top with the best high street recovery score of the 63 largest towns and cities in the UK in September.

Whilst Sheffield is still not seeing the footfall of pre-pandemic levels, compared to other big towns and cities we are on the up and doing well considering the circumstances people faced during the pandemic.

And it appears large numbers of people chose Sheffield as a destination to visit while the events were taking place. Occupancy in hotels in and around the city rose to 79.5% – making Sheffield the highest scoring northern city except for York during September.

At the end of October, the African-Caribbean market, the first of its kind put on in the city as part of Black History Month in Sheffield, attracted thousands of people to the city centre.

That week alone, around 180,000 people visited Fargate, with a 30.9% footfall increase, equating to around an extra 30,000 people. There was also a 19.3% increase in footfall at Moor Market, equating to around 10,000 extra people.

Centre for Cities is a leading think tank, set up in 2005 by Lord Salisbury of Turville, dedicated to improving the economies of the UK’s largest towns and cities.

I’m sure we’d all like to know how the data is collated.

Categories
Buildings Companies

Castle House: From the Co-op to Hollywood in 80 languages

Castle House designed by George S Hay, Chief Architect for CWS, with interior design by Stanley Layland, interior designer for CWS. Reinforced concrete with Blue Pearl granite tiles and veneers, grey granite tiles and veneers, buff granite blocks, glass, and brick. Photograph: DJP/2019

Ever wondered who creates the subtitles for Hollywood movies from the likes of Disney, HBO, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, Viacom, and Netflix?

Look no further than Sheffield company, Zoo Digital, established in 2001 by Stuart Green and Ian Stewart of Gremlin Interactive. In 2003 it had a worldwide smash with the first interactive DVD game, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? Afterwards, it developed new tech and started subtitling, dubbing, cloud operations and streaming.

Zoo Digital creates subtitles and dubbing voiceovers in 80 languages for Hollywood films shown around the world. But unlike rivals based in studios shuttered by the pandemic, its cloud-based tech can be used anywhere. The firm has 7,000 freelance voice artists and translators who mostly work from home. It also has offices in London, Dubai, and Hollywood, with total global staffing at more than 270.

Recently, it completed a strategic investment in Istanbul-based media company ARES Media to grow ZOO’s services for Turkish content.

Zoo Digital posted posted a 64% increase in revenue for the six months ended 30th September 2021. Photograph: Insider Media

Based on St Mary’s Gate, it’s now moving all its 160 Sheffield-based workers into the former Co-op department store on Angel Street. It joins another top city tech firm, WANdisco, which made the building home in October 2019. Castle House is also home to popular food hall Kommune and a Barclays tech accelerator.

Grade II listed Castle House was designed by George S. Hay, chief architect for the Co-operative Wholesale Society, for the Brightside & Carbrook. It was built between 1959 and 1964 before closing in 2007.

ZOO operates from production facilities in the key entertainment hubs of Los Angeles, London, Turkey and UAE and has a development and production centre in Sheffield. Photograph: Netflix

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Buildings

Ellin Street: Change ahead for the forgotten Sheffield street

Ellin Street can be seen in this satellite image. The road starts at the entrance to the retail park and follows the line in front of the building. Photograph: Google Earth

Is an outlying part of Sheffield city centre about to be redeveloped?

Theatre Delicatessen and the Forces Support charity shop have been served notice to vacate their premises on Eyre Street by January 2022. Both units were once branches of Mothercare and Staples (later Office Outlet).

It is understood that both properties are owned by NewRiver and Bravo Strategies, which bought The Moor, the adjacent 28 acre estate for £41m.

The former retail park will almost certainly be demolished and there is speculation that it will be replaced with a new Lidl supermarket. Any redevelopment will be subject to planning permission.

Earlier this year, the discounter urged landowners to come forward with the focus on ‘town centre, edge of centre, retail park and metropolitan locations’ which are prominent, easily accessible and have a ‘strong pedestrian or traffic flow’.

Areas of interest included Beauchief, Broomhill, Burngreave, Chapeltown, city centre, Crystal Peaks, Ecclesall, Ecclesfield, Fir Vale, Fulwood, Gleadless, Handsworth, Hillsborough, Holbrook/Mosborough, Meadowhall, Norton and not surprisingly, St Mary’s Gate.

The site was once Ellin Street (still listed on maps) and edges Porter Brook. It was named after Thomas Ellin who had used water power from the Porter where it widened into Bennett’s Dam. Here he founded Vulcan Works with cutlery shops and a steel furnace. The dam, roughly where St Mary’s roundabout is now, was later covered over and the Porter culverted to Leadmill Road.

Categories
People

Robert Eadon Leader’s long life saw the greatest development in world history and Sheffield shared it to the full

Robert Eadon Leader (1838-1922). “One may be quite sure in reading anything he wrote that if he made a definitive statement he had verified everything before committing to writing.” Photograph: Picture Sheffield

If it had not been for Robert Eadon Leader, we might not know much about Sheffield history. Today, his work provides us with a definitive account of our past. “He was an antiquary to the finger-tips, with an infinite relish for patiently searching among old records, and a comprehensive knowledge which enabled him to distinguish truth from myth, almost at a glance.”

Robert Eadon Leader, journalist, Liberal activist, and historian, was the son of Alderman Robert Leader and was born at Broomhall in 1839. He was the descendant of an old Sheffield family, his ancestors for four generations connected with the firm of Tudor, Leader, and Nicholson, silversmiths.

His grandfather became proprietor of the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent in 1830, and his father succeeded to the paper in 1842.

In 1860, Robert and his older brother, John Daniel Leader, were admitted into partnership. Four years later, the father retired in favour of his two sons, though he continued to take an active part in the editorial work until 1875.

The brothers divided work between them. Robert became editor and John became commercial manager, an arrangement that lasted until 1892, when Robert became a Liberal Parliamentary candidate and gave up the editorial chair. The  Leader family sold the paper a few years later.

“Occasionally when some question arose regarding Sheffield history I wrote and asked him about it and invariably received a courteous reply giving me all the information I wanted. It was invariably accompanied by a note that I was at liberty to make what use I liked of it, but not to mention his name.” -Unknown journalist – 1939. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

His expertise in local history was comprehensive, and his most famous volumes were ‘Reminiscences of Old Sheffield’ and ‘Sheffield in the Eighteenth Century’. He also published two volumes of the ‘History of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire’, written at the request of the Company. It was completed when King Edward and Queen Alexandria visited Sheffield for the opening of the University and handsomely bound copies were presented to them.

Robert also wrote ‘Local Notes and Queries’ and ‘Spectator in Hallamshire’ for the Sheffield Independent.

He lived at Moorgate, on Crookesmoor Road, and moved to London in 1893. He died at his home in Whetstone in 1922 and was cremated, his ashes afterwards brought to Sheffield and interred in the family vault at the General Cemetery.

The widespread collection of his papers is held by Sheffield City Archives, and what a treasure trove these will be! And don’t forget that Leader House, the ancient family home, still stands at the end of Surrey Street.

R.E. Leader had the reputation of being able to put more cutting sarcasm into a few words than any man in Sheffield, and wielded a terrible lash with merciless power. But, personally, he was an agreeable man, with a charming manner.” Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

NOTE
Next year will be the centenary of Robert Eadon Leader’s death and I plan to put together a more comprehensive history then.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Buildings

Berona House: It’s business as usual for this unpretentious building

Berona House. One of the survivors of Pinstone Street’s Victorian building boom. Similar properties have had their interiors removed as part of the Heart of the City II project. Photograph: DJP/2021

We all know it, we all pass it, and we tend to overlook it. This building has stood at the corner of Pinstone Street and Charles Street for generations, and while the shops have repeatedly changed hands, we know little about it.

Berona House, or to be more precise, 95-107 Pinstone Street/31-35 Charles Street, has worked hard to hide its history.

The appearance of the building has remained unchanged since it was built, including the rounded first-floor corner windows. Photograph: Google

In 1897 the last plot of vacant land on Pinstone Street was sold by Sheffield Corporation to a private company. Prior to this, the corporation had systematically bought old properties on narrow Pinstone Lane, demolished them, and created the Pinstone Street we know now.

The land, opposite the Empire Theatre, was used to build a block of shops and dwelling houses. With brick and stone dressings and distinct first-floor corner arched windows, it was designed by Sheffield architects Holmes & Watson and constructed by George Longden and Son.

Edward Holmes (1859-1921) was in partnership, 1893-1908, with Adam Francis Watson (1856-1932), and were responsible for the City (later Lyceum) Theatre, Leopold Chambers, Norfolk Market Hall, as well as being associated with the city’s improvement scheme as valuers and advisers.

Harry Cassell, furriers, about 1910 (above) and (below) different names above the doors in the 1950s. Photographs: Picture Sheffield

The building was completed in September 1898 at a cost of £10,000 and consisted of seven shops and a restaurant – five shops on Pinstone Street, one at its corner with Charles Street, and one shop and the restaurant in Charles Street.

The list of shops that occupied ground floor premises is extensive, but one of its earliest occupants was Harry Cassell, furriers, which did a big trade in sealskin jackets. Later shops included Neville Reed, Lea-Scott opticians, Bradleys Records, and Colvin male outfitters.

It is perhaps fitting that the upper floor flats, later converted into offices, were adapted into apartments again in 2002-2003.

And maybe somebody might be able to explain the meaning behind its current name – Berona House.

Berona House, with the recent addition of a Post Office on Charles Street. Photograph: Google

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Buildings

The signs come down and John Lewis disappears

Workcrews abseiled off of the roof of the store in Barkers Pool to remove the last letters of the John Lewis sign from Sheffield’s skyline. Photograph: Sheffield Star

The last call for John Lewis in Sheffield. The signs are down and its association with the city since the 1940s has been obliterated. It was one of eight stores axed nationally and brought to an end the history of Cole Brothers, the beginning of which went back to 1847, when John Cole, silk mercer and hosier, opened a shop at No.4 Fargate. He was later joined by his brothers, Thomas and Skelton Cole. Their Fargate store was taken over by Selfridge Provincial Stores in 1919, before being sold to the John Lewis Partnership. Cole Brothers moved to its purpose-built department store in 1963, and was renamed John Lewis in 2002. It never reopened after the lockdown and confirmation of its closure came in June.

The signs were lowered to ground level before carried away by work crews. Photograph: Sheffield Star
The John Lewis store by Barkers Pool closed down permanently in August after the decision was reportedly taken at the start of the third national lockdown. Photograph: Sheffield Star