I’ve always said that what interests me most about old buildings is not what you get to see, but what you don’t. It’s about those hidden rooms, above and below, that get forgotten over time.
The next time you walk down Fargate, look up, and wonder what happened in those rooms above shops. What secrets do they hold?
And so, I’m delighted that 20-26 Fargate, subject of an earlier post, has thrown up interesting photographs, including a disused lift shaft, going back to the Victorian times of Robert Foster and Sons, milliners and furniture sellers, and a quite unexpected staircase.
Sheffield City Council has submitted a planning application for proposed alterations to 20-26 Fargate. The council bought the building in 2021with the intention of turning it into a cultural hub which supports and offers additional opportunities to use external events space.
The intention is to provide a part community, part commercial offering, which will function as a blueprint and catalyst for further regeneration of Fargate.
The council intends to repair, refurbish, and re-clad the existing building, retaining the existing structure where possible, and ensuring that alterations are kept to a minimum.
It was constructed in the late 1800s as Robert Proctor & Sons, a large drapery and furniture store running from 16-30 Fargate, adjacent to Coles Corner. It survived the 1940 Blitz, although suffered fire damage, and as a result was altered by the 1950s.
After Proctors left, the shop was used by various retailers including Chelsea Girl in the 1970s, and more recently Clinton Cards and KIKO (later Elite Vapes & Phones).
However, by the time the COVID pandemic hit in 2020 the building was standing empty.
20-26 Fargate is a five storey building (6 including the basement level) with a deep footprint that extends back towards Cutlers Hall. It sits mid-way along Fargate and stands taller than its immediate neighbours and benefits from glazing to the rear (north) facade, providing additional daylighting to the floor plates on levels 3 and 4, as well as views across to the cathedral.
A flat roof area presents the potential to bring daylight to the rear of the second floor also using roof lights. The architecture is of a mid-19th century construction with a stone tiled facade above. The fourth storey is set back from the main facade and was constructed later. The building is currently in need of significant refurbishment, to meet current building regulation requirements.
The main architectural intervention has been to introduce a double height glass entrance to provide active frontage along Fargate and to increase visibility into the building.
A new stone feature surround is proposed at ground and first floor level to retain the impression of a single feature entrance and to acknowledge the original historic façade that was later damaged and subsequently remodelled.