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Places

Little Sheffield

Fairbanks’ Map of Little Sheffield in 1808. South Street became The Moor. The road marked Little Sheffield is now London Road. There are some familiar road names in the top half of the map. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Once upon a time there was a small hamlet near Sheffield town that went by the name of Little Sheffield.

During the early 1800s, Sheffield’s rapidly growing population needed to expand outside the historical boundaries, and Little Sheffield disappeared.

We know where Little Sheffield was, but its boundaries blurred over time, with experts long contesting where it started and finished. The area has never been clearly defined, like those forgotten places of Port Mahon and Hallamshire.

We must go back to olden days when Sheffield was a town surrounded by fields and countryside. It gradually expanded until its southern edges skirted a gorse-clad swampy common called Sheffield Moor.

Today, we know this marshy land as The Moor with its surrounding streets.

A path was made by throwing up two embankments, between which was a deep ditch, with only a footbridge over Porter Brook.

By the 1760s, travellers had to go down Coal Pit Lane (Cambridge Street) and Button Lane (long disappeared) to Little Sheffield – a group of poor and time-worn cottages. The road to it ran across Sheffield Moor, thence up a sharp rise to Highfield. The only house you came to after passing Moorhead was Mr Kirkby’s, standing on Button Lane (opposite where the ramp to Sainsbury’s car-park on Charter Row now stands). There was one other building nearby, with a bowling green attached to Sheffield Moor. Beyond was Little Sheffield, the outlying hamlet.

By the nineteenth century, the fields around Little Sheffield had been swallowed up for the working classes, a poor and densely populated area, its houses with roofs of stone slabs, low windows, and red brick walls.

Nowadays, we can define Little Sheffield’s northern boundary as being where the Moorfoot Building stands, taking in Young Street, South Lane, St Mary’s Gate, London Road, and surrounding streets like Hermitage Street, Sheldon Street, Hill Street, John Street, and Boston Street (once called George Street), up towards its southern boundary at Highfield.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Chubbys: An obvious link with the pub next door

Chubbys, Michelin Three Star cuisine for the inebriated, is to close after 40 years.

The legendary takeaway on Cambridge Street will shut for the last time on Bank Holiday, August 31.

It has been a long journey for Mehran Behizad, Iranian by birth, who first came to Sheffield in 1973, to study industrial design at the polytechnic, but met his Sheffield-born wife and decided to stay and raise a family.

He set up Chubbys in 1980 with a few business partners but eventually became the sole owner. When it opened, it was only one of two late-night takeaways in the city centre, arguably the first place to get a kebab.

However, the staying power of Chubbys means we do not look beyond the familiar sign above the door.

The takeaway shares the same building as the empty Tap & Tankard (formerly The Sportsman) next door. Both ground floor units have two storeys above, with white painted red-brick and mock Tudor detailing, with applied black timber over Chubbys.

The date of construction is unknown, but we can trace The Sportsman’s Inn (later to become The Old Sportsman’s Inn and then The Sportsman) to 1828, which might suggest that the whole building was once used as a public house.

It also suggests that this is one of the oldest buildings on Cambridge Street, tracing its origins back to the days when it was still called Coal Pit Lane.

Before Chubbys, the unit had many uses, but had strong links with food and drink, at one time being a grocery shop, George Alfred Webster’s Dining Rooms, and the Cambridge Coffee House.

It is now subject to a compulsory purchase by Sheffield Council to make way for the ambitious Heart of the City II project and 70-year-old Mehran is using the opportunity of the enforced closure to retire.

The good news is that the building will be incorporated in the adjacent Leah’s Yard restoration, while the bricked-up former works below Chubbys will be demolished and become an open-space linking to the soon-to-be-restored Bethel Chapel.

And there is a suggestion that after the Covid-19 crisis subsides Chubbys might resurrect itself somewhere else in the city centre.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
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.