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Buildings

Cairn’s Chambers – the Tudor-Gothic style Victorian building is up for sale

Here’s a nice development opportunity in the heart of Sheffield city centre. The Cairn’s Chambers building, built in Tudor-Gothic style, on Church Street, is up for sale (offers invited).

Grade II listed Cairn’s Chambers was built between 1894-1896 by Charles Hadfield, of M.E. Hadfield, Son and Garland, for Henry and Alfred Maxfield, solicitors. It was built in scholarly Tudor-style, a favourite of Hadfield’s, featuring decorative stonework by Frank Tory Sr., including a four-foot statue of Earl Cairns, a former Lord Chancellor.

Henry and Alfred Maxfield occupied a large suite of offices, but it was also built to accommodate other businesses, a common trait of Victorian entrepreneurship.

The offices were used for almost 40 years by Charles Hadfield’s own company, C & C.M. Hadfield, architects, and later by Hadfield and Cawkwell. It was also where John Dodsley Webster, another Sheffield architect, had his office with an entrance at the back, on St James’s Street.

The Hadfield company remained until World War Two, leaving after the building was damaged by a German bomb in 1940. The rear of the property was almost destroyed, but the decorative front survived.

Afterwards, Cairn’s Chambers became a branch of the District Bank, subsequently becoming NatWest until its closure.

Most recently, the ground floor was occupied by Cargo Hold, a seafood restaurant.

Last year an offer was accepted for the building, and subject to planning permission, was to be turned into a restaurant, with up to a dozen luxury apartments on the first, second, and third floors.

However, the development appears to have stalled and the building is now on sale at Knight Frank.

Cairn’s Chambers, Church Street, Sheffield. Images: Knight Frank

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Cairn’s Chambers: the renaissance of a forgotten building

Damon Wiseman pictured outside Cairn’s Chambers on Church Street in Sheffield city centre, which he is planning to turn into luxury apartments with a new restaurant on the ground floor. Photograph: Sheffield Star

Cairn’s Chambers on Church Street, a building slowly deteriorating these past twenty years or so, has had an offer accepted, and subject to planning permission, will turn it into a restaurant, with up to a dozen luxury apartments on the first, second, and third floor which will be available to rent.

The man behind the scheme is Damon Wiseman who came to the UK in 2016 from Zimbabwe to study real estate and later ended up working for a Russian goldmine company. He lives in Sheffield and has successfully invested in rental properties in Burnley and Manchester.

Wiseman’s offer of £800,000 has been accepted and is understood to have the backing of wealthy overseas investors. He estimates that once completed, the scheme will have cost a total of £1.5m.

Grade II listed Cairn’s Chambers was built between 1894-1896 by Charles Hadfield, of M.E. Hadfield, Son and Garland, for Henry and Alfred Maxfield, solicitors. It was built in scholarly Tudor-style, a favourite of Hadfield’s, featuring decorative stonework by Frank Tory Sr.

The sad decline of Cairn’s Chambers is highlighted by the small tree growing out of a chimney-pot. Image DJP/2020

Henry and Alfred Maxfield occupied a large suite of offices, but it was also built to accommodate other businesses, a common trait of Victorian entrepreneurship.

The offices were used for almost 40 years by Charles Hadfield’s own company, C & C.M. Hadfield, architects, and later by Hadfield and Cawkwell. It was also where John Dodsley Webster, another Sheffield architect, had his office with an entrance at the back, on St James’s Street.

The Hadfield company remained until World War Two, leaving after the building was damaged by a German bomb in 1940. The rear of the property was almost destroyed, but the decorative front survived.

Afterwards, Cairn’s Chambers became a branch of the District Bank, subsequently becoming NatWest until its closure.

Most recently, the ground floor was occupied by Cargo Hold, a seafood restaurant.

The crowning glory of Cairn’s Chambers was the statue of Hugh McCalmont Cairns (1819-1885), 1st Earl Cairns, an Irish statesman, and Lord Chancellor of Great Britain. Photograph: DJP/2021

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

William Bush and Sons

Hard times. Built for William Bush and Sons, auctioneers, in 1895. At some point in time a pediment was added to the roofline. (Image: David Poole)

What would our Victorian ancestors think of Sheffield now?

A tree grows out of the roof of this building on Church Street, a sad reminder that over a century since it was built, we’re guilty of turning our backs on impressive architecture.

Times change, and Church Street with its impressive collection of beautiful buildings, has suffered more than most.

In fact, Church Street possesses the finest empty buildings anywhere.

Barely a glance is given to the Sheffield Estate Salesrooms and Auction Mart, built in 1896 for William Bush and Sons.

An artist’s impression of the new William Bush and Sons salesrooms appeared in a Sheffield newspaper in 1895. The Gladstone Building is to the right and Cairn’s Chambers on the left. (Image: British Newspaper Archive)

William Bush was an enterprising individual who started his working life with Schofield and Son, a firm of auctioneers, and subsequently bought the company. He later entered partnership with Charles Dixon (Dixon and Bush) and when this dissolved in 1867 he practised alone.

William Bush traded on East Parade and was joined by his eldest son, George Frederick Bush, in 1884, and by another son, Frank Sleigh Bush, in 1895. Never a public figure, he became Sheffield’s oldest auctioneer, as well as a director of William Stones, the Cannon Brewery.

William Bush, auctioneer (1827-1903). (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Such was the success of William Bush and Sons that in 1895 he commissioned the architect Thomas Henry Jenkinson to build a new salesroom on Church Street.

Built in Italian style of the 16th century period, the outside walls had a surface of red brick pleasantly relieved with Yorkshire stone dressings.

It was constructed by Ash, Son, and Biggin, a large building, covering 6,400 square ft with a frontage of 80ft on Church Street.

A photograph from 1897. The entrance to the salesrooms was alongside access to offices above. Two shops are shown at ground level. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

When completed in 1896, it was an inspiring if not different approach to Victorian architecture, sandwiched between the more imposing Gladstone Building and Cairn’s Chambers (built at almost the same time). However, the auction house interior was typical of the day.

Entering from Church Street through folding oak doors, the visitor found themselves in a bright vestibule with mosaic floor. To the right was the cashier’s office and to the left a telephone room. Through a passage past the cashier’s office were the private rooms of the principals of the firm.

The vestibule reached a well-lit, lofty corridor, constructed to double as a picture gallery, its walls, as in other parts, lined with Austrian wainscot oak installed by Johnson and Appleyard.

A mosaic floor and Austrian wainscot oak panelling lined the main corridor. The main salesrooms were to the left and right. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Leading off the corridor on either side were two large salesrooms. The right one was the general salesroom and on the left the estate mart. Both rooms took advantage of the best lighting and acoustics under dome-shaped roofs.

The handles on the doors were Italian bronze, representing a dragon’s head, by Charles Green, the artist and modeller.

At the end of the corridor, running at right angles with it, was another salesroom used for the sale of shrubs, trees, and plants, and used as a warehouse for the reception of goods.

A hydraulic lift took goods from the basement, where there were large storerooms fitted out to be salesrooms if required, and a fireproof strong room.

The sales rooms had natural light from above. At some point the building was redeveloped and the glass atriums replaced. An aerial view of the building today shows a plain flat roof. (Images: Picture Sheffield)

William Bush died in 1903, the business continued by both sons, but the popularity of salesrooms had started to wane in the new century.

George Frederick Bush left the business, and it became Frank Bush and Company, subsequently Bush and Company.   

It might be that overheads connected with the building’s construction obliged Frank to look for tenants.

In December 1913, Lloyd’s Bank opened its Church Street branch here, the Bush auctions functioning in the remainder of the building. However, by the 1920s it had been renamed Lloyd’s Bank Chambers, and Bush and Company had relocated to Orchard Place.

Sadly, Frank Sleigh Bush was declared bankrupt in 1927, his reasons being “a change of business premises, slump in trade, illness, and lack of capital.”

The old salesrooms faded into memory, the ground floor sub-divided into shops, but Lloyd’s Bank remained until its recent departure to Parade Chambers on High Street.

Today, the ground floor units are empty, only Amplifon occupies what was the old vestibule, with little sign of life in the offices above, and with post-pandemic uncertainty, it looks like a long road back to glory.

There is a question that intrigues me more than anything.

How much, if anything at all, remains of the old auction house interiors?

Church Street possesses the finest empty buildings anywhere. (Image: David Poole)
The old auction rooms are to the left of the photograph from 1993. Lloyds Bank was still evident. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.