Buildings Streets

Church Street

Look carefully at this photograph. Two Sheffield landmarks we are familiar with today. To the left, the Cutlers Hall, built in 1832 by Samuel Worth and Benjamin Broomhead Taylor, and on the right of the gateway, the former Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank, most recently known as the Church Street branch of HSBC (now closed). Together they provide an imposing façade facing Sheffield Cathedral.

However, if we go back to 1878, things didn’t look quite as straightforward.

In October 1878, the Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank had just opened a new extension, built on the site of an old rope works and wire shop. Designed by Henry Dent Lomas, the four Ionic columns and the Renaissance gateway seen here, mirrored the building’s original design (not seen in the picture), created by Samuel Worth in 1838.

Most people think the iron gate as being part of the Cutler’s Hall, but it was built as access to bank buildings behind.

Back in 1878, the Cutler’s Hall was also much smaller.

The frontage we see today was created in 1888 by J.B Mitchel-Withers, once again the result of an extension. The two Ionic columns to the right of the doorway mirrored the 1832 construction on the other side, cleverly placing the Cutler’s Hall entrance (once to the right) at the centre of the masterpiece.

Together, these buildings provide an insight into Victorian ingenuity, where two buildings were cleverly transformed by adding identical extensions.

But, the period between 1878, when the Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank extension was built, and 1888, when the Cutler’s Hall was extended, meant there was an unsightly presence between the two buildings. A blot on the landscape.

Said the Sheffield Independent in 1878: –

“Few persons can have passed down Church Street since the extensions of the Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank took definite shape, without wondering how the paltry brick shop wedged in between that and the Cutler’s Hall, has managed to hold its own, to the disfigurement of the handsome buildings on either side.

“It has not even the respectable appearance of a ham sandwich; it reminds us of nothing so much as a parched bit of unappetising Chicago beef spoiling two pieces of good bread.

“When things looked as if the Cutler’s Company meant neither themselves to swallow this up in some credible fashion, nor let the Hallamshire Bank have the chance of engulfing it, the public were inclined to be a little indignant at seeing a good street spoiled.

“For this relic of the middle-period Church Street, is not old enough to be picturesque and not substantial enough to be handsome.

“It is a specimen of domestic architecture at its worst period – if an erection of bricks, with holes left to do duty as windows, be worthy to be called architecture at all – and it breaks with unsightly violence, the most imposing row of buildings of which this not very beautiful town can boast.”

The Cutler’s Company did eventually purchase the shop and premises next door, demolishing it, and replacing it with the extension of 1888.


Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank

A reminder of our past. The Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank was founded in 1836 with small premises at Hartshead. Two years later, the bank moved to new premises on Church Street, designed by Samuel Worth. By 1878, the premises were inadequate to meet the needs of the business. The bank turned to Henry Dent Lomas (1818-1901), an architect on Norfolk Row, to add an extension to its left-hand-side. Later to become the Midland Bank and subsequently HSBC. It has been empty for twelve years, except for Tesco Express that occupies part of the building.


Cairn’s Chambers

We pass this building on Church Street and probably don’t give it a second glance. This Grade II-listed property is looking unloved these days, its condition deteriorating. Look at the windows left open to the elements, and the tree growing out of the chimney pot. A sad reminder that this was an impressive and important Sheffield building.

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 structure was described in Builder in 1897, as “very quiet and self-restrained, it also remarked that “this architect’s detail is always markedly good, particularly in the matter of scale.”

In 1916, Wilfrid Randolph, an architectural critic, considered Cairn’s Chambers as being one of Hadfield’s finest pieces. “Its quiet composition and detail, stands as an admirable application of traditional English forms to present day purposes, unspoiled by the straining after effect which mars so much contemporary street architecture.”

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. Another long-serving tenant was Septimus Short and Co, a Sheffield agent for the Sun Insurance office.

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.

The building stood empty for 15 years before the ground floor was taken over by Eua De Vie Leisure Ltd, which opened it as Cargo Hold in 2018, a seafood restaurant.

Alas, Cargo Hold closed earlier this year, the Cairn’s Building empty once again, and craving for a new occupier.

Buildings Sculpture

Cairn’s Chambers

We’ve already had a look at the history of Cairn’s Chambers on Church Street, a Grade II-listed building that has been empty for most of the past sixteen years.

Built between 1894-1896 by Charles Hadfield for Henry and Alfred Maxfield, an established Sheffield firm of solicitors.

Almost unnoticed these days, are the decorative features that emblazoned the building, and which survived a Second World War German bomb.

The stone carvings, at the front, were the work of Frank Tory and Sons, Sheffield-based architectural sculptors, operating from the early 1880s until the 1950s, consisting of Frank and his twin sons Alfred Herbert and William Frank.

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. He became a Q.C. in 1856, Solicitor-General in 1858, and was knighted in May of the same year, becoming Attorney-General in 1866.

The statue looks extremely miserable these days, weather-beaten, covered with dirt, and with some parts missing.

As well as the statue of Cairns, the building also features a sundial, and the heads of the then Prince and Princess of Wales, later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.


Stone House

Let’s not dwell too much on the recent history of the Stone House pub on Church Street. Famous in the seventies and eighties as the must-go-to bar on a Saturday night, and memorable for the courtyard that gave you the impression that you were standing underneath a star-filled sky.

The courtyard disappeared in the 1980s after the building of Orchard Square, the Stone House refurbished as a trendy establishment that lasted until 2005.

It was bought by the owners of Orchard Square, London & Associated Properties, for £2.5million, space given for the expansion of T.K. Maxx, and the older, listed part, left empty.

It’s a sad time for this Grade II-listed building, seemingly unloved, and not likely to attract a new tenant soon.

There is some confusion as to the date when the Stone House was built.

A band inscribed across the front states “1795, White & Sons, late Thomas Aldam.” But, the two-storey building we see today dates from the 1840s.

Over the doors, round-arched panels are inscribed with “The Stone House” and “Private Lodgings.”

Thomas Aldam, an importer of wines and spirits, moved here in the 1840s, continuing until his death in 1858.

The business was taken over by Dunkelspiehl Brothers & Company in 1867, trading from the site until the late 1870s.

The business transferred to J.B. White and Sons; an old Chesterfield company that had been established in 1795 (hence the date seen on the building today).

The name of the Stone House first appeared in 1913 following the acquisition of J.B. White and another Sheffield wine merchant, William Favell and Company, by brewer Duncan Gilmour and Company.

The two companies became White Favell and Company, wines and spirits merchants and cigar importers, operating in the front of the building. More importantly, the rest of the building became the Stone House public house.

White Favell and Company was later run by J. Lomax Cockayne, the managing partner in what became White, Favell and Cockayne.

Duncan Gilmour and Company was taken over by Leeds-based Tetleys in 1954, the wines and spirits business gradually being phased out and part of its old windowed frontage bricked up.

An illustrious past for the building, now waiting for a new lease of life.


Cole Brothers

Our younger readers might not be acquainted with Cole Brothers, but for generations this name was recognisable across Sheffield.

Better known now as John Lewis, the beginning of this department store goes 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.

The shop expanded along Fargate and around the corner into Church Street, the main block rebuilt in 1869 with two extra storeys added. Later, the premises of Thomas Watson and Sons, grocers, were procured, and the bookshop occupied by Thomas Widdison was added in 1892.

To accommodate its growing business, works and stables were acquired at Pinfold Street in 1861, later enlarged by the addition of the old Canterbury Music Hall in 1889.

Skelton Cole died in 1896, John Cole two years after in 1898, the same year that Cole Brothers became a limited company.

The Pinfold Street works were soon inadequate and subsequently sold, with new premises on Norfolk Street bought from Harrison Brothers and Howson in 1901.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, two Cole sons – Thomas and Thomas Skelton – were in charge, leading the store through a period of change.

In 1909, the first women were employed in the shop and offices, its first motor delivery van was obtained in 1911, and the first cash registers were installed during 1916.

The Cole family were fervent Methodists and instilled disciplines within the business. Up to World War One, it was daily practice for staff to say prayers before trading began, but change was about to come.

‘The London shop invasion begins,’ said one Sheffield newspaper when it was announced that Cole Brothers had been sold to Harry Gordon Selfridge, the exalted storeowner, in October 1919.

The glitzy American, immortalised recently by ITV’s Mr Selfridge, had already acquired a dozen department stores across Britain, including shops in Liverpool, Leeds, Watford, St. Albans, Peterborough and Windsor.

The addition of Cole Brothers to Selfridge Provincial Stores was a surprise, and one that promised to bring the department store new riches. The London house had been modelled on American lines and was described as supplying anything, from a needle to a haystack.

Thomas Cole and Thomas Skelton Cole retired from the business, but the family retained an interest with the appointment of Arthur U. Cole and Maurice Cole as directors.

Almost immediately, the shop premises were extended and restructured, Harry Gordon Selfridge’s drama and flair embraced by his son, Harry Gordon Selfridge Jr, the man tasked to manage the provincial stores.

Newspaper advertisements were lavish, publicising Cole Brothers as ‘One of the Selfridge stores,’ and consequently increasing sales.

The golden age of Cole Brothers lasted until 1940, when war and loss of family control over Selfridges, caused Harry Gordon Selfridge Jr, to return to the United States. The Selfridge Provincial Stores were sold to the John Lewis Partnership, which rather abruptly found itself 15 stores better off overnight.

While many Sheffield department stores suffered during the Sheffield Blitz, Cole Brothers survived unscathed, remaining at Fargate and Church Street until the 1960s when it was announced that it was moving to a new shop as its old premises were outdated.

A site was bought from Sheffield Corporation at Barker’s Pool, once occupied by the Albert Hall until destroyed by fire in 1937, and at one time earmarked as new law courts.

Designed by Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardall, the white-tiled building was opened on 17 December 1963. Spread across five floors, the new Cole Brothers store contained sixty departments, with access to each level from a multi-ramp carpark, accommodating 400 cars.

In 1974, offices were moved into Barker’s Pool House, later connected by a landmark bridge, and a warehouse was opened at Tinsley. The store also moved its sport and toy departments to a site in Cambridge Street in 1977-1978.

The 1980s and 1990s saw a decline in Cole Brothers fortunes, not helped by the opening of Meadowhall, but a refurbishment and ensuing rebrand to John Lewis reversed its fortunes.

Alas, retail is suffering now, with department stores particularly hurting, and despite reassurances there is an air of uncertainty over John Lewis’ future in Sheffield city centre.

Companies People

Cole Brothers

It was August 1930, Cole Brothers at the corner of Fargate and Church Street, had been part of Selfridge Provincial Stores (owned by Harry Gordon Selfridge) for ten years.

There was excitement with news that Miss Amy Johnson’s aeroplane, a Gypsy Moth called ‘Johnnie’, was travelling overnight by lorry to go on display in Cole Brothers shop window.

The plane had been presented to her in Hyde Park, London, by Air Vice-Marshal Sir Sefton Brancker, Director of Civil Aviation, and was a replica of the ‘Jason’ machine in which Amy Johnson had made her epoch-making flight to Australia. She intended to use the aeroplane for pleasure flying.

It had been funded by the Daily Sketch, with the help of readers of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph and Yorkshire Telegraph and Star, and had been on view at Selfridges in London.

‘Johnnie’ was displayed at Cole Brothers for one week, creating enjoyment for the huge crowds that gathered in front of the store.

But there had already been an Amy Johnson connection with Sheffield.

She graduated from Sheffield University in 1925 having studied Latin, French and Economics. She then became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia after buying a single engine De Havilland Gypsy Moth aircraft naming it ‘Jason’.

Amy Johnson died in 1941 after a plane she was flying crashed into the Thames Estuary.