Categories
Buildings Sculpture

Heat and Light – A story in Portland stone

A story above. No. 9 Commercial Street, Sheffield. Image: DJP/2022

I recently featured Canada House, on Commercial Street, a well-known building, built in 1874 for the Sheffield United Gas Light Company. Plans have been submitted to convert it into Harmony Works, a home for music education in the region.

However, next door to Canada House is an often overlooked building that was originally an extension to the former gas showrooms.

The building, No. 9 Commercial Street, is no longer connected with Canada House, and was recently used by Jessops photographic shop.

This Portland stone building is conspicuous against its Victorian neighbours, added in 1938 by Hadfield & Cawkwell. It is described as ‘between stripped classical and modern.’ Harman and MInnis in Pevsner’s Architectural Guide describe it as ‘a Greek Key band and flutes representing pilasters combining sculpture by Philip Lindsey Clark of a flying female figure with a sunbeam behind her and a male figure backed by flames.’

Next time you pass, take a good look because the sculpture makes sense when you know what you are looking at.

The life-size sculptural figures represent Heat and Light.

Heat is represented by the male figure with the feet coming out of the earth to suggest the origin of gas. Flames twisting and expanding upwards, with a ‘quivering’ background, convey the suggestion of heat.

The female figure was chosen to represent light, designed to give an impression of light descending in rays controlled by the arms of the figure to shed light on the earth. In the background, a star suggests night turned into day by means of this light.

Philip Lindsey Clark (1889-1977) was the son of sculptor Robert Lindsey Clark, and he worked with him at the Cheltenham School of Art from 1905 until 1910. He later studied at the City and Guilds School in Kennington, had a distinguished record in World War One, and continued his training at the Royal Academy and Salon des Artistes, Paris.

His work from 1930 onwards became more of a religious nature and can be seen in ecclesiastical buildings across the country.

In Sheffield, there are other examples of his sculpture at Church of the Sacred Heart (Hillsborough), the Royal Institution to the Blind in Mappin Street (still retained in the replacement building), and St Theresa of the Child Jesus Church at Manor, including, amongst others, the stone statue of St Theresa above the main door of the church.

Philip Lindsey Clark works on a stone panel for the tympanum of the new Sacred Heart Church in Hillsborough, Sheffield, 12th March 1936. 

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Commercial House – new owner for former Barclays Bank Building

Earlier this week, I wrote about an exciting planning application for Canada House, formerly the Gas Offices, on Commercial Street. It might be some time away, but the regeneration of Fitzalan Square, Haymarket, Commercial Street, and Castlegate, is already on the mind of property developers and investors.

Here’s a recent statement from Connor Rogers, at Cushman & Wakefield:-

“The transformation of the immediate area led by the redevelopment of Fitzalan Square, part of the city’s £5m Knowledge Gateway programme, and the proximity to Sheffield Hallam and the city’s amenities, will allow Glenbrook to adapt its strategy to suit future market conditions.”

He refers to Manchester-based Glenbrook Investments which has made its first acquisition in Sheffield, across the road from Canada House. It has paid £3m for Commercial House, once the Barclays Bank building, that lays adjacent to Ponds Forge International Sports Centre.

Scott Griffiths, investment director at Glenbrook Investments, said: “Commercial House provides a high-quality income return until December 2024 from an attractive building that is well positioned within Sheffield city centre for both access and amenities.

“The ambition of Sheffield City Council to reposition the city through targeted investment makes it a very interesting proposition for investors. We look forward to bringing forward our vision for the building as we seek to maximise its potential as a landmark office.”

The building is predominantly let to law firm Knights plc (formerly Keebles) and comprises 33,000 sq ft arranged over basement, ground and four upper floors.

It is also home to Sheffield Town Trust, one of the oldest charitable organisations in the country, having originally been established in 1297 by Thomas de Furnival, Lord of the Manor of Hallam.

I can date Commercial House to the late 1960s or early 1970s, built for Barclays Bank to replace an older branch at the corner of Commercial Street and Fitzalan Square, and stands behind the site once occupied by the King’s Arms Hotel, both buildings demolished to turn Commercial Street into dual carriageway.

I suspect the new owners will be looking to 2024, when office leases expire, and future redevelopment.

Categories
Streets

“One side of the city centre to the other, and less than a mile. By car, I travelled 2.5 miles.”

The best map of Sheffield’s Inner Ring Road, but spoilt by spelling mistakes.

An unusual post, in so much that we are looking at a road. In fact, a series of roads that form one big one – Sheffield Inner Ring Road.

We might live in Sheffield, but sometimes it’s difficult to see wood for the trees, and this is the case with the inner ring road, because you probably don’t realise its purpose and where it is.

Let’s start in the 1930s when a route around the city centre was first proposed. Truth be known, World War Two stalled plans until the sixties, and in 1969 Sheffield Corporation published an impressive handbook called ‘Sheffield – Emerging City,’ in which plans for a detailed road system were revealed for the first time.

The council intended to pour £65m into the scheme which included bus lanes, pedestrian areas, as well as an urban motorway and motorway links with the M1.

Robert Waterhouse, writing in The Guardian in 1972, said that “Sheffield was as proud of its new roads as of its housing, its clean air, and its flourishing arts. They were all symbols of rebirth after years of stagnation among the ruins of the Industrial Revolution.”

The Guardian article, long forgotten, provides an interesting snapshot into the arguments that raged at the time.

It pointed out that after 1969, things had started to go wrong. In May 1971, a joint report by the city engineer, the city planning officer and architect, and the general manager of the transport department, had taken a gloomy view.

‘Although a large highway construction programme has been embarked upon,’ it said, ‘the growth of vehicular traffic is much greater than the growth of road capacity. The disparity has been obvious for many years and there seems negligible hope of it being ended in the foreseeable future.”

The report estimated that the proposed highway system, capable of carrying about 50 per cent of commuters to work by car, would cost ratepayers another 20p in the pound, which was probably acceptable, but that a system by which nearly everyone went by car could cost £300m, or another pound on the rates, clearly unacceptable. If the ‘compromise,’ £65m system was going to get clogged up anyway, was it worth building at all?

Arundel Gate in 1973 looking towards the Hole in the Road – new barriers erected in attempt to make pedestrians use the subways. Image: Sheffield Newspapers/Picture Sheffield

Waterhouse identified growing opposition within the council.

Sir Ron Ironmonger, Labour’s council leader, admitted that a growing number of councillors were against the scheme, and there had been public exchanges between the planning department and engineers.

The planners, headed by R. Adamson, felt that the engineers were going about the job the wrong way: instead of giving priority to the inner ring road, which everybody thought essential, construction had been advanced near the city centre. This meant that the civic circle – the inner ring road ultimately intended to carry only local shoppers and delivery vans – was being used as a throughway.

But the engineers, under K.D. Wiilliams,  replied that highways the size of the inner ring road – a six-lane urban motorway – didn’t happen overnight.

It seemed that Sheffield residents didn’t know what they were in for but would soon find out. The new interchange between the inner ring road and the Parkway was near completion at the bottom of Commercial Street. Sheffield Parkway was also being built and would be the main route into the city centre from the M1.

Construction of Sheffield Parkway in 1974 looking towards Park Square. Image: Sheffield Newspapers/Picture Sheffield
Sheaf Street/Commercial Street (latterly known as Park Square) roundabout under construction in 1973. Image: Sheffield Newspapers/Picture Sheffield

But the argument in 1971 was that traffic coming into the city centre was being diverted onto newly-constructed roads, because there was no proper inner ring road. And it was causing problems.

On Commercial Street itself, a bridge was being widened to take four lanes of traffic. It joined the civic circle at Castle Square, where traffic and pedestrians were already separated – cars at ground level, pedestrians underground. But before the road got there, it had to pass Fitzalan square, one of the principal routes for shoppers on foot. Everybody agreed this was a problem, but work on widening Commercial Street continued anyway, despite open criticism from Labour councillors.

Widened Commercial Street in 1970s, looking towards the Gas Company Offices on right, Electricity Supply Offices and Barclay’s Bank on left. Shude Hill behind car park on right. Image: Picture Sheffield

There were others also opposed to the scheme. Dr Leonard Taitz, a young South African doctor, working in Sheffield, was convener of the Conservation Society’s national transportation working party. He had started a campaign to bring the road building programme to a halt while a new policy on integrated transportation was formulated.

New roads were being built within the city centre but there were design flaws.

He cited the case of Furnival Gate, also a four-lane highway which, he suggested, was bound to be used by commuter traffic, but which divided The Moor and Pinstone Street, two proposed precinct streets. A subway to take people under the road had already been built, while Charter Row, another radial, had a barrier down its middle which cut a whole segment of the city from the centre.

Furnival Gate at the junction with The Moor showing (middle left) junction with Union Street in the 1960s. Image: Picture Sheffield

He argued that these roads were primarily being used by commuters cutting across town. But Mr K.D. Williams, head of technical design at the engineers, said this wasn’t the case, and that they were a necessary part of an integral system, that will one day be blocked off to prevent through traffic, and channel motorists to off-street car parks.

Whatever the interpretation, the roads were ‘not a pretty site.’ Certainly not ‘Sheffield’s Champs Elysees,’ as a councillor had called Arundel Gate.

Robert Waterhouse asked the important question? Would the new roads ever carry the massive traffic that Sheffield had come to expect? Would the inner ring road be built as a motorway, and would Sheffield get its two, or even three, motorway links with the M1?

Sir Ron Ironmonger pointed out that after 1974, highways would become the responsibility of the new South Yorkshire metropolitan authority and had no wish to make any drastic moves at such a late stage, and cited Nottingham which had done away with  a major part of its road programme. (Sir Ron later became leader of South Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council).

What did happen?

The 1970s proposal for the Inner Ring Road was abandoned because it would have destroyed important heritage assets like Kelham Island and the canal basin, and cash, as ever, was the stumbling block. But we did eventually get an Inner Ring Road, but it took a long time for it to be completed in its entirety. 

We can thank Duncan Froggatt, a Chartered Engineer, in his excellent book, ‘Sheffield – A Civilised Place’ (2018), for providing the timeline.

“The inner relief road had started in the 1960s starting with the dualling of Netherthorpe Road. But the later stages came much later with St Mary’s Gate and Hanover Way widened to dual carriageways in the 1980s.

“Sheaf Street was improved in the early 2000s leading to the improvement of Sheaf Square and subsequently links to St Mary’s Road up to 2009.

“The northern section from Sheffield Parkway to Penistone Road was built in two phases in the 1990s. The phase from the Parkway to The Wicker was completed in 2000, originally called Cutlers’ Gate, but later renamed Derek Dooley Way. The next stage, between the Wicker and Shalesmoor was finished in 2008.

“Once completed, it provided a continuous loop of dual carriageway, clockwise from Granville square in the southeast to Sheffield Parkway in the east, linking all main arterial routes in the city.”

Netherthorpe Road with Netherthorpe Street Flats under construction in 1965, looking towards Netherthorpe High Rise Flats. Image: SCC/Picture Sheffield

All done and dusted, but these days it is what is  happening within the Inner Ring Road that creates the interest.

Mr Williams’ plan for streets to be blocked off to traffic within the city centre did and continues to happen. Fargate and The Moor were the first to be pedestrianised, Pinstone Street is in transition, and Arundel Gate will be downgraded.

But what nobody in the 1970s envisaged was something that had been around for centuries… and that was the bicycle. Cycle routes, and the eagerness to cut car emissions, while greening our urban spaces, means that Sheffield city centre will eventually change beyond recognition.

I leave you with a story. Last week, I had to travel by car from one side of the city centre to the other. By foot it was less than a mile. By car, I travelled 2.5 miles.

Derek Dooley Way. Image: Sheffield Star

“Driving into Sheffield, I was looking forward to my friend’s hen-do. We had booked a city centre apartment, a spa day and a restaurant. What could go wrong? Yet, an hour-and-a-half later, I was bellowing tearfully into my mobile at my boyfriend: “You came to university here. Where AM I?” What had caused this emotional meltdown? Certainly not a fall-out with my friends – I hadn’t even seen them yet. Instead, my fun-filled city break had been spent navigating a series of roundabouts on the city’s ring road which kept spitting me out with increasing ferocity. Sheffield’s inner ring road has been tormenting drivers since 1961. Like many of the nation’s worst ring roads, it twists you round its little finger only to catapult you into bus-only zones or roads that lead you off in the opposite direction to the one you need.” – Jenny Scott – BBC News – 2014

NOTE
Robert Waterhouse is a journalist. Starting on the Guardian in Manchester and London, he turned freelance and was launch editor of the daily North West Times. He is a co-editor of the review Mediterraneans. His books include The Other Fleet Street, a history of national newspaper publishing in Manchester.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Canada House – Thank you for the music

Canada House, Commercial Street, Sheffield. Image: DJP/2022

The year is 1874, and on a road, yet to be named, there is a conspicuous addition to Sheffield’s public buildings.

“Heavy? Well, a light and airy edifice would hardly bear the weight of the abominable clouds of smoke that smother the locality, and that make one shudder to see a handsome building exposed to their defilement,” said the Sheffield Independent.

“Externally the building is almost finished, and as nearly all the scaffolding has been removed, its architectural features are now fully revealed. Whether considered from an architectural point of view or simply as a business establishment, the building is undoubtedly the finest erection in town.”

People of my generation must hang our heads in shame because we have woefully neglected this building over the past fifty years, and it is in a sorry state.

It was completed in 1875 for the Sheffield United Gas Company, and after the expansion of works at Neepsend, and new works at Grimesthorpe, there was no longer any need for its original works at Shude Hill. It coincided with the town council’s ambitious road improvements programme and the creation of Midland Railway’s new station in the 1870s.

Four new approach roads were created to what is now Sheffield Station, including one from Haymarket down to Sheaf Street, and required the construction of a bridge over Shude Hill, and allowed construction of new offices and showrooms for the gas company.

When it was built, the new road still lacked a name causing the Independent’s ‘Spectator in Hallamshire’ to say, “What is the name of that street? I never know how to call it?”

It became Commercial Street, the history of which I’m currently preparing for the Sheffield Star, and so will avoid further comment here.

Gas Company Offices, now known as Canada House, Commercial Street, Sheffield. Image: Picture Sheffield

The building (without fittings) cost £25,000.

The architects (Hadfield and Son) adapted a style of architecture affected by old Venetian merchants; the general effect was bold and massive; the details, not without their elegances, were in perfect keeping, while the granite doorways and monolithic pillars – some 14 feet in height and of splendid Mull of Ross stone – were quite imposing. The carving on the front elevation was sculpted by Thomas Earp, who worked on many Gothic churches and is perhaps best known for his 1863 reproduction of the Eleanor Cross which stands at Charing Cross in London.

The interior of the building seemed admirably adapted for its purpose.

A few steps led into what was the general office, a magnificent room capable of accommodating fifty clerks. The ceiling was handsomely coved and surrounded by a spacious dome which was filled with glass, designed by John Francis Bentley, and brilliantly painted with heraldic designs. All the desk fittings were fine Spanish mahogany. To the left of the entrance was the show room, fifty feet in length.

General office with restored glass dome, 2019. Image: Creative Heritage Consultants
Carved door case in the
General Office. Image: Creative Heritage Consultants
First floor staircase hall, and Ground floor hall looking east through entrance lobby, 2019. Image: Creative Heritage Consultants
Main entrance. Image: DJP/2022

From the vestibule or entrance hall, was a handsome corridor, with finely coffered ceiling, leading to a grand staircase, the steps of which were Hopton Wood marble.

At the top of the stairs there was another hall, which communicated with the board room, with coved ceiling by Hugh Stannus, the engineers’ drawing office, and several other rooms, all of which could be thrown together ‘en suite’ if desired.

Board Room ceiling 2019. Images: Creative Heritage Consultants

The foundations were in Shude Hill, a great depth below the level of the new street; and the two storeys down there provided storage space.

Canada House: Shude Hill elevation. Image: DJP/2022

By 1890, the company had extended its premises northwards along Shude Hill, with a contrasting red-brick warehouse, and in 1938 a white Portland stone extension to the offices was built on the west side of the Commercial Street building. In the characteristic art deco style of the time, it has carvings by Philip Lindsey Clark, and is no longer connected to the original building.

The 1948 Gas Act brought together over one thousand privately owned and municipal gas companies and created twelve area gas Boards, and these offices and showroom were used by East Midlands Gas. It lasted until 1972 when the British Gas Corporation was created and moved elsewhere.

It attracted no buyers, was listed by English Heritage (now Historic England), but despite this, was identified for demolition. It survived a 1977 inquiry and was sold to a local businessman who had plans to convert it to a hotel and conference centre, which never materialised but in the 1980s, the ground floor was converted to ‘Turn Ups’ nightclub and ‘Bloomers’

The Shude Hill warehouse wing became Tower Cash & Carry. And in 1990 the building was acquired by Canadian Business Parks of Bedfordshire with plans for restoration.

The building adopted its new name, Canada House, but notwithstanding regeneration of the city, the company hit financial difficulties and the building was never developed.

Vacancy led to dereliction through rainwater ingress caused by the stripping of lead from the roof by vandals, and the theft of period fireplaces.

The council served an urgent works notice to effect repairs to the building’s owner in 1996, and ownership was subsequently secured by English Partnerships, the government’s regeneration agency.

It was most recently used as a head office by owner Panache Lingerie, with a Chinese buffet on the ground floor. It is now occupied by just one commercial tenant, who occupy the first floor of the Shude Hill wing only.

However, the future looks the brightest it’s been for many years because plans have been lodged to convert it into a new music hub.

Section through Commercial Street block looking east, through new performance space building in the courtyard (Live Works, from early feasibility study). Image: Creative Heritage Consultants
‘What if….’ Images from the Pre-Application document showing re-use of internal spaces. Image: Creative Heritage Consultants

The proposed ‘Harmony Works’ development, from Sheffield Music Academy and Sheffield Music Hub, aims to create a home for music education in the region.

Planning permission is sought for the refurbishment, change of use and extension of the Grade II* listed building.

The proposed development would include a performance space for an audience of 300, two rehearsal rooms accommodating 80 musicians, 15 smaller ensemble rehearsal rooms, 20 individual practice rooms and a substantial instrument store.

Plans also include office space, a café, breakout spaces and ancillary accommodation.

Initial concept sketches produced as part of the feasibility works carried out in 2017/2018. Image: Sheffield School of Architecture / Live works

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Barclays Bank: The grand building that we lost

The one that got away. I bet only a handful of people will remember this building and it might have been one of Sheffield’s finest had it survived. But it didn’t, and you’ll be surprised to learn what stands in its place today.

This was a bank that stood at the corner of Commercial Street and Fitzalan Square, demolished in the late sixties/early seventies to allow for road widening. Nowadays, its location is buried under the road section of Commercial Street, the Supertram tracks alongside following the course of the original road.

(Image: Google)

We can trace the building back to 1879, built for the Midland Banking Company (not to be confused with the Midland Bank, that 20th century institution). Its architect was Salmon Linton Swann whose office was on George Street.

It might have been this building that caused the downfall of the Midland Banking Company.

In 1878, the bank bought The King’s Arms in Commercial Street for £20,000, a portion of the public house demolished to make way for the new building.

The bank invited architects to submit plans. Thirteen architects competed for the design from Sheffield, Rotherham, Stamford, and Nottingham.

The directors awarded the prize to Swann, and the building contract to George Chambers and Son, a Sheffield construction company.

“The building will be of an imposing and handsome appearance, and the arrangements will tend to give privacy and facilitate easy and direct communication with the manager without passing through the bank room or incumbering the principal or main entrance with all the work of the bank.”

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

Its erection was well underway but a tragic accident in December 1879 halted progress and had devastating consequences for the reputations of those involved.

Just before Christmas, a whole length of projecting cornice, about 50ft above ground, fell and crashed through a wooden awning below. A workman, Thomas Moclar, fell to his death with it, and several workmen were seriously injured.

There was an air of complacency from Salmon Swann, who failed to attend the initial inquest and instead sent a letter. “I consider my presence or services not required, as I expect it will be a pure accident and one easily understood.”

The Coroner disagreed and ordered him to attend a few days later.

The jury found Swann censurable for not allowing sufficient tail weight to the cornice, and Chambers blameable for not calling the architect’s attention to such deficiency. However, they found the negligence insufficient to render them criminally culpable and that Thomas Moclar’s death had been an accident.

Construction was halted for a while, and progress hampered by having to rebuild the damaged section. By 1881, the bank was nearing completion and William Derry, a manager at the Huddersfield branch, was brought in to oversee its opening.

However, Derry arrived in difficult circumstances. Shortly before it opened, the Midland Banking Company realised that it was in financial difficulty. Believing it had ‘outgrown its resources’ a rescue was needed, and it came in the form of the Birmingham, Dudley and District Banking Company which amalgamated with it.

The bank opened under its new name, and quickly established a reputation in the city.

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

The height of the building was 70ft, the building preceding the development of Fitzalan Square, and cost about £17,000 to build.

The architecture was adopted from ‘a free treatment of the classic order’, built with Huddersfield stone fronts and brick backs, having bold fluted columns along the front, with moulded bases and carved capitals dividing the wall spaces into panels, relieved by plate glass windows.

At the principal corner of the parapet was an ornamental stone tower with an ornamented panel bearing the Sheffield coat of arms, surmounted by the carved dome, supporting a moulded canopy and finial.

Internally, the wall spaces were divided into panels by means of moulded pilasters, in Parian cement, the panels fitted with the large windows. Those along the blank walls were fitted with silver-plated glass, which added a lustre of light.

The whole was surmounted by a moulded and enriched cornice, from which sprang a deep cove, relieved by a diaper work, supporting a moulded and panelled ceiling, from the centre of which was the dome, filled in with stained glass.

From the centre of the dome a ventilating sunflower fan was suspended to extract air from the bank, and to light the space below.

The whole of the bank floor was constructed with fireproof flooring covered with tiles.

The bank was heated with Perkins’ patent hot water apparatus, the pipes obscured by perforated iron skirting running around the walls.

The whole of the Commercial Street frontage was used as offices for the manager and waiting rooms, which were divided from the bank room with mahogany glazed screens, 10ft high, and covered with light glazed roofs, introducing Tobin’s principle of ventilating tubes for fresh air.

The remainder of the floor was divided and sub-divided by desks and counters, with the rear east wall fitted up with safes. Seats and desks were appropriated for the public under the windows.

Quite unusual for the building was an entrance to a basement (9ft high) in Commercial Street. This was used as a caretaker’s apartment, complete with sitting room, scullery, and bedrooms. There was also a dining room for clerks, two strong fireproof rooms, the hollow walls lined with white glazed bricks, to store ledgers, a bullion room, and toilets. The floor was laid with wood block flooring laid on a bed of concrete, thought more suitable to prevent damp and vermin. Below the basement was the boiler room, coal cellar, and a place to store ashes and dust.

The bank merged with the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Banking Company in 1889 to become Birmingham, District and Counties Bank, eventually becoming United Counties Bank in 1907.

In the same year, a fire almost destroyed the dome after a spark in the built-in chimney set fire to woodwork. It was threatened until firemen managed to haul hoses up to a height of 70ft to extinguish the flames.

United Counties Bank was bought by Barclays Bank in 1916, a name long-associated with the building until its sad demolition.

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings Companies

The rise and fall of Sheffield General Post Office

A sketch of Sheffield Post Office, Fitzalan Square, in 1909. Photograph by The British Newspaper Archive.

In this post, we look at the history of the Post Office in Sheffield, but a question before we start. Do you know where the Central Post Office is in Sheffield? I suspect a few might struggle to answer this, and I was the same. Answer at the end.

There is one certainty in the architectural world – we will never build Post Offices like we used to, if at all. Technology has done away with the need to create lavish buildings.

The story of the growth of the Sheffield Post Office mirrors the development of the city.

In January 1835, a Post Office and News-Room was opened at the Commercial Buildings in High Street (opposite where the Telegraph Building stands today).

A small room was all that was needed in those days, with postage stamps handed through a little door fixed in a hole cut through the wall. The population of Sheffield at this time was 91,692 but by 1851 this had risen to 140,000.

Sheffield’s first Post Office, in the Commercial Buildings on High street. Photograph by The British Newspaper Archive.

The demands on the Post Office increased and the facility was removed to Angel Street, in a part of a building that had once been Shore’s Bank.

The next move was to the top of Market Place (Castle Square), a much grander building that coincided with the increase in postal demand.

Sheffield Post Office, Market Place. Photograph by The British Newspaper Archive.

Sheffield’s industries were rapidly growing, and the population was advancing at an enormous rate. More general use was being made of postal facilities, and the authorities were improving the service, including the postal telegraph service, rates of postage to all parts of the world being reduced and the introduction of parcel post.

While the facilities in Market Place had been a great improvement on any previous office, there was a need for bigger premises.

In 1871, the population had reached nearly 240,000 and a new Post Office opened at the corner of Haymarket and Commercial Street (still standing, more recently home to Yorkshire Bank). However, by 1900 this was also too small and offices in Flat Street were opened and all that remained in the Haymarket was public counter work and the telegraphic department.

The Post Office had bought more land in Flat Street and Pond Hill from Sheffield Corporation as well as acquiring a site occupied by Mappin Brothers. By 1903, the Post Office had about one acre of land, a triangular plot stretching from Fitzalan Square and Pond Hill. Branch sorting offices were provided at Highfield, Broomhill, Montgomery Terrace Road, and Attercliffe, and sub-post offices opened all over the city.

These relieved the work at the central office, but still the business grew, and now, when the population was creeping up to half a million, a new office was provided at the top of Baker’s Hill, on the east side of Fitzalan Square.

The new Post Office, incorporating its Flat Street offices, opened in 1909, a Baroque-style building designed by Walter Pott of HM Office of Works. It coincided with Fitzalan Square improvement works and despite its grandiose appearance did not escape criticism.

In fact, the Post Office had been built on a hillside, and the result was that the greater proportion of the building was down below street level, and what people saw from Fitzalan Square was only the top.

The Post Office closed in 1999 and remained empty for several years before becoming the home to Sheffield Hallam University’s Institute of Arts in 2016. More about this building in a separate post.

And finally, the answer to that question. The Sheffield City Post Office can be found on the 1st floor of Wilko in Haymarket.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Places Sculpture Streets

King Edward Square

Photograph by The British Newspaper Archive

This extraordinary sketch shows a grand municipal square that was once proposed for the centre of Sheffield. The illustration from 1911 was by Alwyn Henry Holland, and showed King Edward Square, considered as a memorial to King Edward VII who died in 1910.

At the time, Alderman George Franklin had suggested that the Fitzalan Market should be swept away and the central block between King Street and Fitzalan Square used as a handsome open square. In its centre was to be an equestrian monument celebrating King Edward with fountains either side.

The proposal would have meant that the main streets of the city would run into the square and afford adequate space for dealing with increasing tram traffic.

Photograph by The British Newspaper Archive

It was understandable that Sheffield considered such a scheme.

The city was often compared to Leeds, with its city square and ornamental embellishments, and the architecture of its public buildings and offices were thought far superior.

Fitzalan Market, dating back to the 18th century, was considered an ‘eyesore’ and described by market traders as being like the “Black Hole of Calcutta.”

The scheme was subject of several meetings at the Town Hall, and serious consideration was given to the plan. Alas, with the cost estimated at £200,000 (nearly £24 million today), the idea was abandoned in favour of the much-cheaper standing figure of King Edward VII in nearby Fitzalan Square.

From the illustration we can determine where King Edward Square would have been.

The road at the centre of the sketch is Commercial Street, leading into High Street, with Fitzalan Square to the left. The road on the right side of the square is King Street. Several buildings are familiar, including The White Building on the left and the York City and County Bank (now The Banker’s Draft) in the centre of the picture. The spire of Sheffield Parish Church, now the Cathedral, can be seen behind.

Fitzalan Market was demolished in 1930 and a large part of the site was acquired by C&A Modes Ltd for a new department store. This was destroyed in the Blitz and replaced with a less spectacular building, later acquired by Primark, and now easyHotel.

NOTE:-
Alwyn Henry Holland (1861-1935) was a little-known painter in watercolours who was initially articled to the architect John Dodsley Webster. He acted as Honorary Secretary of the Sheffield Society of Artists but, on the death of his father, succeeded to the family grocery business. Holland was the owner and architect for the Howard Fine Art Gallery on Chapel Walk, which opened in 1898 for the exhibition of old, modern, pictorial, and applied arts.

Photograph by David Poole

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.