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Bethel Chapel – Operator sought for live entertainment venue

An operator is being sought for a new live entertainment venue as part of Sheffield’s Heart of the City scheme.

Sheffield City Council and its strategic development partner Queensberry are inviting interest from potential operators for Bethel Chapel.

Located on Cambridge Street, the Bethel Chapel building, which dates back to the 1830s, is currently being refurbished and will become the latest addition to the strong tradition of live music and performance spaces in Sheffield when it opens next year.

The venue represents a key component in Heart of the City’s ‘cultural and social’ focal point in the area, and is set to complement the Cambridge Street Collective food hall development, and the independent retail, studio and maker spaces in Leah’s Yard, which will also both open next in 2023.

The successful operator of Bethel Chapel will be responsible for curating all events and social activities – expected to be live music, comedy and other live arts.

Alongside the live entertainment space on the ground floor, there will be a bar and café area on the first floor and the top floor will also have an external roof terrace and balcony. A new outside space at the rear will have seating areas for Bethel Chapel and the adjoining Cambridge Street Collective.

The foundation stone for Bethel Chapel was laid in July 1835 and opened for services in June 1836. The Primitive Methodist Bethel Chapel existed for just over a century and its final service was on Sunday 20th September 1936.

It was briefly empty before George Binns, an outfitter at Moorhead, bought the old chapel to relocate its business. The small churchyard at the front was swept away, including iron railings and stone pillars, and probably a few gravestones. In 1938 a two-storey extension was added to the front of the chapel, with stone initials on its parapet showing ‘GB’ and the date ‘1868’, the year the business was founded.

By the 1960s the shop had transferred to Lawsons Outfitters and in 1977 it was acquired by Cole Brothers (later John Lewis) to alleviate pressure on its store across the road.

Bethel Chapel. The original chapel can be seen behind the 1930s extension. Image: Picture Sheffield
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Buildings

Planning permission submitted for Leah’s Yard

Planning permission has been submitted for Leah’s Yard on Cambridge Street to be transformed into a new creative hub for independent businesses, with a slew of independent stores set to surround a public courtyard.

The venue will be operated by Tom Wolfenden, CEO of SSPCo, and James O’Hara of the Rockingham Group, who were appointed to the project by Sheffield City Council.

If approved, Leah’s Yard will be refurbished true to its current form, with a courtyard surrounded by small boutique shops, with the first and second floors hosting approximately 20 independent working studios.

The oldest buildings on the Leah’s Yard site are the two former houses fronting Cambridge Street that date from the early nineteenth century. The industrial legacy of Leah’s Yard began with George Linley in 1825 as a small shear and tool manufacturing complex during the early nineteenth century. The houses fronting the street were later converted to offices and shops, and the complex as a whole is characterised by piecemeal additions and alterations dating from the nineteenth and twentieth century.

Cambridge Street was known for its horn works, and James Morton, a horn dealer, became the major sole occupier about 1842.

Leah’s Yard was occupied from about 1891-92 by Henry Leah and Sons, a manufacturer of die stamps for silverware. By 1911 there were 23 occupants (little mesters) on site producing slightly different goods, and undertaking different processes yet all contributing to the cutlery trade.

The site was predominantly used for production associated with the metal trades well into the mid to late twentieth century. The Leah family remained in part of the complex until the 1970s when they merged with Spear and Jackson; they sold the site in the 1990s. The Cambridge Street frontage of the complex had been used as shops in its last few years of occupation, and takes into account the former Sportsman public house and Chubby’s recently closed takeaway.

As part of Heart of the City II, Leah’s Yard will sit alongside the upcoming Cambridge Street Collective and Bethel Chapel developments – both currently under construction – that will feature a contemporary food hall, cookery school, fine dining experience and live entertainment spaces.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Bethel Chapel: a new beginning for a hidden building

Sometimes there is more to a building than meets the eye. This former shop on Cambridge Street hides an interesting past and will be reborn soon.

We know it as the former Sports and Toy Departments of Cole Brothers, more recently as a city centre outpost for Stone the Crows, but this empty shop is a 1930s front extension to the Bethel Chapel which stands behind.

From John Lewis’ car-park you can look down and see that the chapel, built in 1835, still survives behind the street frontage.

The chapel owes itself to John Coulson, the first leader connected with the Primitive Methodist Movement in Sheffield. A small society had been formed and services held in a building in Paradise Square. The movement seized hold of the working classes and later bought an existing old chapel in deprived Coal Pit Lane (later to become Cambridge Street), about 1823.

A few years later plans for a new building nearby were prepared and the mainly poor congregation helped demolish an existing house that had been converted into tenements. The foundation stone for the new chapel was laid in July 1835 and opened for services in June 1836.

The Primitive Methodist Bethel Chapel existed for just over a century and was latterly connected with Sheffield Methodist Mission. Its final service was on Sunday 20th September 1936.

(Image: picture Sheffield)
(Image: Picture Sheffield)

It was briefly empty before George Binns, an outfitter at Moorhead, bought the old chapel to relocate the business.

The small churchyard at the front was swept away, including iron railings and stone pillars, and probably a few gravestones.

In 1938 a two-storey extension was added to the front of the chapel, with stone initials on its parapet showing ‘GB’ and the date ‘1868’, the year the business was founded.

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

By the 1960s the shop had transferred to Lawsons Outfitters and in 1977 it was acquired by Cole Brothers (now John Lewis) to alleviate pressure on its store across the road.

With a short spell as Stone the Crows, the building has been vacant for several years, with the ‘ghost name’ of ‘Lawsons’ revealing itself above shop windows.

(Image: Graham Soult)

Now subject of compulsory purchase, Sheffield City Council, with its partner Queensbury, is now looking for occupiers to run it as a performing arts venue as part of Block H in the ongoing Heart of the City II development.

The question. How much of the old chapel interior remains?

NOTE: Bethel Walk is between Bethel Chapel and the former Bethel Chapel Sunday School, a listed building also included in Heart of the City II plans.

(Image: Picture Sheffield)
(Image: Picture Sheffield)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.