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Buildings

Sheffield Telephone Exchange

A sketch of Sheffield Telephone Exchange taken shortly after completion in March 1927. The building survives as Steel City House, at the bottom of West Street, the subject of a recent £10million office conversion.

The triangular building was designed by Henry Edward Treharne Rees (1871-1937), of His Majesty’s Office of Works and Public Buildings, with construction starting in 1921 on a site that had been empty for years, and had “formed the forum for keen agitators among the unemployed.”

Now classed as Art Deco, but at the time described as being a “modern adaptation of Renaissance-style, harmonising with existing buildings in the area.”

It was built with 40,000 cubic feet of Portland stone, the rough blocks conveyed from Dorset with final sawing and dressing done in Sheffield. The floors were made of reinforced concrete with about 40 tons of reinforcing rods used in the construction.

With rounded corners, massive Doric columns supported a semi-circular portico to the main entrance at the corner of West Street and Pinfold Street.

The five-storied building was built by Henry Boot and Sons, based on Moore Street, which claimed to be Britain’s biggest builder, with a yearly output of £1.7million.

The iron and steelwork were by Manchester-based Lambourne and Company, constructional engineers, the cause of much disappointment to local steel companies which tendered for the contract.

The sole contractor for the installation of electric lighting was Marsh Brothers, which had showrooms on Fargate and works at Edmund Road.

The extensive plumbing and glazing work were in the hands of M. Newman and Son, of Union Street, and the installation of “regency” metal windows and ornamental cast ironwork completed by Williams & Williams of Chester.

The House of Sage – Frederick Sage and Company, of London and Leeds – executed the bronze metal and teak shop-fronts, entrances to the offices and the main entrance.

The electric lifts were installed by William Wadsworth and Sons, Bolton and London, which had installed lifts in several other Government departments.

Marble and terrazzo paving, crafted by Italian experts, were supplied by Hodkin & Jones of Queen’s Road, and interior painting and decoration was undertaken by Smiths (Decorators), with a showroom in Fitzalan Square.

However, the most important contract was reserved for Siemens Brothers, Woolwich, which designed and supplied the whole of the automated telephone exchange equipment, comprising nine exchanges across Sheffield.

Soon after construction, Martin’s Bank became an anchor tenant, moving from Leopold Street, taking over the main entrance between West Street and Pinfold Street.

It spent a small fortune decking the new bank with Cuban mahogany, the floors with polished maple and borders of oak and jarrah, a dark coloured Australian wood.

The telephone exchange operated until the 1960s when a bigger facility was built at Eldon House on Wellington Street. Martin’s Bank later became Barclays until its eventual closure.

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Buildings

Carver Street National School

By the time you read this, it should have been another busy night at The Viper Rooms, on Carver Street. Situated at the heart of Sheffield’s hectic night scene, this club is the latest reincarnation of a building with completely different origins.

Behind the glitz and glamour, you can see traces of its humble beginnings. Not least, a large plaque above the four-bay gabled centre, which declares that this was once the “National School – Built by Subscription – 1812.”

The National School was set up in 1811 by the National Society for Promoting Religious Education, providing an elementary education with teaching of the Church of England to children of the poor. Supported by voluntary subscriptions and donations, it was probably the first near-universal system of education in England and Wales.

Sheffield had a good supply of National Schools, conveniently distributed, allowing the working man a choice of schools within easy distance to which he could send his children.

The oldest of these was the Carver Street school, opened in 1813, consisting of two large rooms, one downstairs for boys and the upper one for girls, to which committee rooms were attached, and a playground outside.

In 1823, a report said there were 340 boys and 513 girls in attendance, although three years earlier three thousand children had squeezed inside for a rally.

The National School on Carver Street survived until 1882, its demise probably caused by rising population and a building unable to cope with demand. There was, also, the Victorian idea that all children should go to school, and in 1880 schooling became mandatory, all children attending until they were 10-years-old, initiating a school-building programme across the town.

The building stood empty, although parts of it had already been let to John B. Corrie, plumber and glazier, and the vast arched-brick cellars rented by J.J.G. Tuckwood as warehousing for his general supply stores.

The Sheffield School Board expressed interest in buying the building when it went to auction in 1884, but the remainder of the leasehold (99 years from March 1794) was eventually bought by the Sheffield Technical School for £538.

However, the technical school never used it, writing its history elsewhere, and the subject of a future post.

In 1913, the building was bought by Charles Constantine, builders’ merchants and hardware factors, complementing premises down the hill on Fargate.

Eventually, the business consolidated here and was joined by Woollen and Company, sign specialists and colour printers, in 1929, moving here from Holly Green, as a result of street widening for the new City Hall.

Generations of people will remember it as Constantine’s Ironmongers, remaining here until the 1970s, by which time the property had fallen into disrepair and after the closure of the business became derelict.

For younger readers, understand that Carver Street, along with Division Street, was very different to the area seen today. It was populated with small shops, factories and workshops, all past their best, and came as a surprise when the building was converted into a public house in 1981.

Opening as Dickens at ground level, it offered a separate venue, Le Metro, making use of the old arched-cellars to echo the Paris underground.

It was inspired planning, quick to exploit eighties bar culture, and became a must-go-to place on a Saturday night.

It subsequently became Ruby Lounge and Cellar 35, later reinventing itself as The Viper Rooms, along with late licence, and a credible reputation with Sheffield’s student population.

Next time you pay a visit, take a moment to look at the stone plaque above your head, and remember that this was once something far removed from its present use.

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Places

A deer city

We’re used to seeing foxes and badgers in Sheffield, but sightings of deer in the city are becoming increasingly common.

And we’re not just talking about in the outer suburbs, where the boundary between the countryside and housing has become blurred.

According to Ian Rotherham, Professor of Environmental Geography at Sheffield Hallam University, who has studied populations of deer in the UK since the 1980s, deer are now regular visitors.

“Red deer are established to the west and south-west of Sheffield with a population centred on Big Moor, but now ranging in all directions from there. In the west and north-west, the populations are joining long-standing feral herds around Wharncliffe and Bitholmes with individuals now recorded from Rivelin and Strines.

“Roe deer colonised Sheffield originally from the east and north-east, but now also from the south-west. The population is now well-established in the heart of the urban catchment, with regular sightings, for example, in Crookes, Nether Edge and Sharrow.”

Visitors to the Sheffield General Cemetery, a stones-throw from busy Ecclesall Road, have also reported roe deer, and last August one was found dead in Endcliffe Park.

Muntjac was first recorded in Sheffield during the early 1990s with individual sightings in the Moss Valley.

“Since then there has been progressive movement into the city with recorded sightings in Woodseats, Heeley, Gleadless, Norton, Nether Edge, Sharrow, Parkwood Springs and Queen’s Road.”

The deer population in the UK is at the highest it has been for at least 1,000 years, at around two million.

There are many reasons for this: since wolves, lynx and bears became extinct hundreds of years ago, deer have had no predators to contend with.

They, along with other wildlife, have also benefited from other factors including milder winters, increased woodland cover in some areas and changes in farming such as the planting of winter crops.

“The urban area offers huge possibilities in terms of food,” says Ian Rotherham.

“If you’re a muntjac getting into an allotment or garden, who knows what’s on offer for you? It’s easy pickings.”

Deer are now making their homes in urban woodlands and near rivers, which provide habitats, cover and safe corridors to allow them to find food and breeding opportunities, making Sheffield, with its five rivers, the perfect place.

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Buildings Streets

Fargate

The long-term plan for Fargate is to address the decline of retail and focus on leisure instead.

The regeneration of The Moor as a retail destination and the future development of Heart of the City II, which on completion will consolidate the retail core to the south of Fargate, has prompted Sheffield City Council to bid for up to £25million of government funding to improve the pedestrianised street.

It comes as no surprise then that the council has granted planning permission for the conversion of the old Next building at the corner of Norfolk Row.

Woodhead Investments’ proposal for a dining venue, along with a roof terrace fronting Norfolk Row, was accepted by the council, seen as regenerating the area.

Next relocated to The Moor in August, and the empty store was used as a pop-up Christmas shop during November and December.

The unit will be renovated to designs by Pearce Bottomley Architects, using new glazed panels and stone cladding, with a minimalist clock placed at the front of the building.

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Companies

Westfield Health

A flashback to July 1921, and plentiful support had been given to the “Penny in the Pound” scheme for aiding Sheffield voluntary hospitals.

The Sheffield Hospitals Council had launched the scheme to support the city’s four hospitals: The Royal, The Royal Infirmary, The Children’s and Jessop Hospital for Women during the aftermath of World War One, when accommodation was short and no means to modernise or re-equip wards.

Whereby for every pound of an employee’s pay, a penny would contribute to the hospital’s finances in return for free hospital treatment, and employers would contribute a third of any money raised.

There were few who were not willing to recognise their responsibility to the hospitals.

Merchants, tailors, painters, brewers, wheelwrights, printers and many other trades had heard about the scheme.

The Sheffield Law Society had recommended the scheme to its members, and 96 per cent of staff of the Sheffield and Ecclesall Co-operative Society had agreed to pay contributions.

The Tramways and Motor committee, the Electric Supply committee, and the Sheffield Water committee, had each agreed to pay the employers’ portion of the scheme and the Parks men had shown sympathetic interest.

“Penny in the Pound” was dropped when the NHS came into being in 1948, but the Sheffield Hospitals Council survived by introducing innovative new schemes.

And what became of the Sheffield Hospitals Council?

It was renamed the Westfield Contributory Health Scheme in 1974, and as Westfield Health, has become one of Britain’s biggest Health Cash Plan providers. It moved to bigger premises at Charter Row in 2016.

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Companies

Westfield Health

“Are you in the Westfield?” A question often asked at our Sheffield hospitals. But what do you know about the history of the Westfield Contributory Health Scheme?

It’s an institution, now nationwide, and its origins can be traced to July 1919, founded as the Sheffield Consultative and Advisory Hospitals Council, later shortened to The Sheffield Hospitals Council.

Its formation was to support Sheffield’s four hospitals: The Royal, The Royal Infirmary, The Children’s and Jessop Hospital for Women during the aftermath of World War One.

The war had crippled finances at Sheffield’s hospitals, with accommodation short and no means to modernise or re-equip wards.

The honorary medical staff at the hospitals suggested that a Joint Council should be formed, principally to tackle the financial difficulties after the war. They put their views into writing, produced a document to present to members of the Board and asked that a Joint Council should be set up to put the finances of the hospitals on a sound basis and to make the people of Sheffield, hospital health conscious.

The Sheffield Hospitals Council stepped in with the “Penny in the Pound” scheme, devised by businessman Fred Osborn, whereby for every pound of an employee’s pay, a penny would contribute to the hospital’s finances in return for free hospital treatment, and employers would contribute a third of any money raised.

The scheme was launched in April 1921, raising almost a million pounds for hospitals in the first six years, proving to be one of the largest and most successful in the country.

It quickly caught the imagination of the city’s biggest firms, trade unions and principal employers’ associations.

For 25 years it raised nearly five million pounds, surviving the Great Depression of the 1930s, when local people still contributed to the scheme from their wages.

During World War Two the scheme continued to support the hospitals, funding a new maternity unit at Jessop’s Hospital for Women after it suffered during a heavy air raid.

It also provided two ambulances in 1942 which transported patients to the city’s hospitals, and to and from nursing homes, travelling a total of 191,788 miles.

As well as delivering 9,000 Christmas Gifts each year, it also donated Easter eggs to patients in the Sheffield Voluntary Hospitals.

On 5th July 1948, the NHS was born with the aspiration to make healthcare available to all, regardless of a person’s wealth.

The NHS threatened the viability of the Sheffield Hospital’s Council, and although contributions fell, it closed the “Penny in the Pound” scheme and launched a “Special Purposes Fund,” providing amenities that weren’t covered by the NHS to patients and hospital staff.

In 1951, the NHS was struggling and introduced charges for prescriptions, dental services, and glasses, with the Sheffield Hospital’s Council creating an extended scheme of general benefits, becoming the innovator of the Health Cash Plan.

It was also the same year that the “Hospital Cinema Service” was launched, providing patients at the city’s hospitals with a cinema, showing full-length feature films, newsreels and shorts to help raise spirits for patients.

On 14th October 1965, the organisation established the Sheffield and District Hospitals Services Charitable Fund, donating annual funds for the purchase and repairs of equipment in hospitals, since donating over £15million to local and national hospitals and charities supporting people’s health and wellbeing.

More change was on the horizon. Due to the rapid expansion of the contributory scheme, it moved into a purpose-built office called Westfield House in 1973, followed by a change of name in 1974 to become the Westfield Contributory Health Scheme.

In 1999, Westfield became pioneers of the corporate paid Health Cash Plan, whereby employers rewarded employees with cashback on essential healthcare and access to health and wellbeing services.

The scheme launched in 2000 and has since become one of Britain’s biggest providers.

Westfield Health moved to bigger offices on Charter Row in August 2016, and celebrated its centenary last year.

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Buildings

Wesleyan Institute Building

The Carver Street Chapel (now Walkabout) was built on green fields in 1805, with the Sunday School premises of Red Hill constructed in 1812, and 73 years later additional vestries built behind the chapel. In 1897, new schools and classrooms were erected on Rockingham Street (now Soyo), to meet the ever-growing needs of the chapel and district.

In 1912, the centenary of Red Hill Schools, plans were discussed to enlarge its premises at Carver Street, but the outbreak of World War One delayed progress.

By the 1920s, the original scheme had entirely been remodelled and new premises were built on West Street, officially opened in 1929.

Designed by architect W. J. Hale, of St. James’ Row, the large block constituted shops at ground level with rooms above.

It was constructed by the William G. Robson Building Company, of Bamforth Street, a firm that had built cinemas, dance halls, institutes, hospitals, warehouses, showrooms, hotels and houses throughout the country.

Another firm that played an important part in the construction was the Sheffield Brick Company, of Rutland Road, providing an extensive range of plastic stock, “Winco” and rustic facing bricks.

The whole of the precast fireproof concrete flooring was “Armoured” Tubular Patent Flooring, made by John Cooke and Son, Huddersfield, its main advantage being “fireproof, soundproof, warm and well-tempered.”

At this stage, architects were realising the importance of aggregate concrete in building construction. This structure was no exception, with graded sands and gravels provided by the Yorkshire Amalgamated Products company, the largest quarry owner in the county, with offices on Queen Street.

The contract for the whole of the plumbing had been executed by George W. Rusling and Son, at Brook Hill, with a reputation of 40-years standing in plumbing, glazing, gas-fitting, and sanitary work.

The whole of the building was electrically lit, but it was the heating that was a novel feature for the time. Instead of the usual hot water pipes, a new system of tubular electric heaters had been installed, two inches in diameter. All this work had been undertaken by Charles Ross Ltd, of Heeley Bridge.

The decorative scheme inside was executed by W.J. Wollerton, house and church decorators and furnishers, of Stratford House, at Broomhill. Church decoration was a speciality of this firm, using Sanderson Fast-to-Light wallpapers and treating woodwork with “Durolave” paint.

The main entrance to the Institute was in Rockingham Street. On the first floor, at the top of the stairs, a room was set apart for the Deaconess, where young women and girls were able to take their difficulties and hopes and discuss them with Sister Hilda Morris.

To the right was the Girls’ Institute Room, a spacious room with polished floor, carpeted here and there, with beautiful curtains at the windows, the work of “Painted Fabric.” This was a large drawing room, open nightly for girls over 14 years of age. They had their own kitchen and cooking arrangements, with supervision from helpers. A Rest Room, Library and Handicraft Classes were included in the scheme.

Adjoining the Girls’ Room was the Primary – for children from six to eight years of age, a bright square room, and the Beginners’ Room, for tiny tots, aged three to five years.

“There, while watching the fairies on the walls, they will take in the simple stories that form the basis of all true life.”

The top portion of the Institute was the men’s department. One large room running practically the whole length of the building, containing six billiard tables at one end, and the other arranged with tables for chess, draughts and books.

More importantly, voluntary workers used the new Institute for various organisations, including the Lads’ Guild, the Boys’ Brigade and the Reserves, Girl Guides, Brownies, two Bands of Hope, Children’s Play Hour, Gymnasium, Girls’ Club, Men’s Institute, Wesley Guild, Teacher’s Preparation and fellowship Classes.

In every spare room, always tucked in and arranged like a jigsaw puzzle, were committees and working parties.

Many ministers were realising that it was impossible to expect poorer youngsters to spend all their spare time in prayer meetings, therefore it looked to involve them in activities to keep them occupied. These included three football teams, a cricket club, tennis club, and a playing field up at Hagg Lane.

The cost of the building was over £17,000, with £8,500 already raised through fund-raising, and the remainder underwritten by renting out nine shops, fronting West Street.

All the shops were roomy and contained basements that were easily accessible. These were let by W.F. Corker and Son, estate agents, of 19 Figtree Lane. One of the first to take advantage of the shops was F. Wallis and Son, furniture sellers.

The confusingly named Carver Street Wesleyan Institute opened on February 7, 1929.

Times changed, the kids moved on, and as you might have seen from Gordon Mason’s comments on a previous post, the first and second floors eventually became Unemployment Benefit Offices in the 1980s.

The shops below changed hands numerous times, with the largest development about to take place at ground level, with a new German-themed bar, comprising several units, due to open this year.

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Buildings

Rockingham Street Methodist Sunday School

The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on Carver Street, was built at Cadman’s Fields in 1804, then green fields and trees, and a meeting place of political demonstrations.

The development of Sheffield westwards proceeded slowly until the end of the century, by which time the Carver Street Chapel was surrounded by housing, factories and shops.

These days we recognise the chapel as Walkabout, a vibrant city centre bar.

This was the biggest chapel in the town, and it expanded to meet the increasing popularity of Methodism.

The Carver Street Chapel built the Red Hill Sunday School on nearby Rockingham Lane in 1812, also adding an extension to the original building in 1885.

The Sunday School was one of 34 Wesleyan schools operating in Sheffield, with 1,096 teachers and 5,694 children across the city.

By the end of the century, the Red Hill Sunday School was considered too small, and in 1896 plans were made to build new facilities adjacent to it, fronting onto Rockingham Street.

Although the chapel had been in debt for most of its existence, it had consolidated its finances through generous donations and fundraising.

In 1898, the Carver Street Chapel was temporarily closed and the outside thoroughly cleaned of industrial grime. It was also the same year that the Methodist Sunday School was opened on Rockingham Street at a cost of £4,000.

Designed by Herbert W. Lockwood, this was a massive end of three-storeys with a tall gable, containing a lecture hall and 24 classrooms.

It proved to be a valuable addition in consolidating and expanding the work of the church.

“The area was indebted in no small measure for its record of successful spiritual work in a crowded district to the ability and zeal of its distinguished ministers and laymen.”

We’ve already seen that the Carver Street Chapel is now a bar, and these old schoolrooms also survive in a similar capacity.

These days the old building is home to Soyo, another trendy bar, making use of the exposed brick, and seemingly a million miles away from its Methodist roots.

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Buildings

Carver Street Methodist Sunday School

In another post we’ve looked at the history of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on Carver Street, better known now as Walkabout, an Australian-themed bar.

The chapel was built in 1804 by Methodist minister-turned-architect, Rev. William Jenkins (1763-1844) and remained in use until the 1980s. It was converted into a bar at the start of this century.

If you take a walk alongside the former chapel, along West Street, and turn left into Rockingham Lane, you will see a brick building on the right with five bays and rounded windows.

Known today as Bishops Lodge, a series of luxury apartments, it was built in 1812 by the Carver Street Chapel for the Red Hill Methodist Sunday School (later extended into Rockingham Street, a building subject to a future post).

The former Sunday School was subsequently occupied by The Samaritans and Grade II-listed in 1995.

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Buildings

Carver Street Methodist Chapel

In this next post we take another look at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on Carver Street, better known now as Walkabout, an Australian-themed bar.

The foundation stone was laid on March 1st, 1804, and once completed was referred to as the Methodist Cathedral of Sheffield. The Rev. William Jenkins, the architect, was also a circuit minister, one of the staff on the Wesleyan “Sheffield Circuit.”

The chapel was opened in 1805, on July 22nd, and a week later the first Sheffield Conference was held here, with 300 preachers assembled in the new building.

The first worshippers looked out on green fields and trees. The site was known as Cadman’s Fields and its selection aroused misgivings and opposition as being too far outside the town.

However, Henry Longden, a Methodist preacher, was quoted as saying that one day the town would spread and swallow up Cadman’s Fields.

And he was correct.

This photograph shows an extension built to the Carver Street Chapel, about 1885, in which band rooms and schoolrooms were built at the rear.

At the back of the Carver Street Chapel, on the opposite side of Rockingham Lane, the Red Hill Sunday School (seen on the right) was built in 1812, and subject of a separate post.