Ban-Thai. Like so many old buildings, its original use is overlooked

Ban Thai restaurant, on the west side of St. Mary’s Gate, is known to many, but like many old buildings, its original use is overlooked.

It was built in 1894 for the Sheffield Union Bank at the corner of Cemetery Road and Ecclesall Road. The postal address is still No.1 Ecclesall Road and goes back to when it stood adjacent to the Sheffield & Ecclesall Co-op building, demolished to make way for the Safeway (Waitrose) supermarket, and before the widening of St. Mary’s Gate.

Sheffield Union Bank was established in 1843, taking over the business of the Yorkshire District Bank. Its first branch opened in Retford in 1846, and expanded across Sheffield, Rotherham, Penistone, and Chesterfield.

This office was confusingly referred to as the Sheffield Moor branch and after the bank’s amalgamation with the London City & Midland Bank in 1901, it operated as the Midland Bank. The branch was offloaded to the Trustee Savings Bank in the later part of the twentieth century.

When the bank closed, it became Robert Brady, outfitters, before becoming Barbarella’s restaurant and bar and then Ban Thai. The upper floors were converted to provide two storey student accommodation in 1995.

The design of the Grade II listed building was the work of architects J.B. Mitchell-Withers & Son, whose practice was on Surrey Street.

John Brightmore Mitchell-Withers (1838-1894) came from the family of Samuel Mitchell, a name often mentioned in Hunter’s Hallamshire, and the son of W.B. Mitchell. He was educated at Collegiate College, later tutored by architect Samuel Worth, and set up on his own as an architect and surveyor. 

By the will of his aunt, Sarah Withers, he inherited her Sheffield property with the stipulation that he took the name of Withers.

Mitchell-Withers’ work can still be seen across the city. He was responsible for the extension to the Cutlers’ Hall after winning a competition in 1888. There are also Town Hall Chambers on Pinstone Street (1885), Firs Hill Junior School, the Licensed Victuallers’ Association Almhouses, Abbeydale Road South, as well as St John the Baptist Church, Penistone Road, St. Silas Church, Broomhall Street, and restorations to the nave of St. Mary Church at Ecclesfield. He also built his home,  Parkhead House (then called Woodlands) on Ecclesall Road South.

He was an enthusiastic watercolour painter with involvement in the local art scene. He became president of the Sheffield School of Art and the Sheffield Society of Artists and was vice-president and treasurer of Sheffield Society of Architects and Surveyors. The Duke of Devonshire engaged him to supervise the restoration of painted ceilings in the state rooms at Chatsworth House.

This branch of the Sheffield Union Bank was one of his last commissions and he died of a heart attack in the year it was built. Another commission for Union bank on Langsett Road had to be completed by his eldest son, also called John Brightmore Mitchell-Withers in 1895.

John Brightmore Mitchell-Withers (1865-1920) succeeded his father and initiated several distinguished buildings. These included extensions to Central Schools on Orchard Lane between 1893-1895 (now adjacent to Leopold Square), High Court on High Street, John Walsh’s department store (bombed), and Clifford House at Ecclesall Road South.

As a boy, he was educated at Rugby where he won several prizes and gained his cap in rugby football at the school. After joining his father’s practice, he passed the examination of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1890.

Mitchell-Withers Jnr was a member of Hunter Archaeologist Society and like his father, was involved with the Sheffield Society of Artists and became president of the Sheffield Society of Architects and Surveyors, representing them on the council of RIBA.

He became an honorary lecturer on English Gothic architecture at Sheffield University and a council member with the Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society.

Mitchell-Withers was also an agent for the Burgoyne estate and the Duke of Devonshire’s land near Dore.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


New use proposed for empty Endcliffe Sunday School

The former Endcliffe Sunday School on Ecclesall Road. Photograph: Axis Architecture.

Axis Architecture, on behalf of developers, has submitted a planning application to convert the former Endcliffe Sunday School, next to the old Endcliffe Methodist Church, on Ecclesall Road, into apartments and townhouses.

It was originally built at a cost of £8,000 as the Sunday School Hall. It was designed by John Charles Amory Teather, who placed copies of religious and local newspapers, a circuit plan, and a programme of the day’s proceedings in a cavity, when the foundation stone was laid on 6 October 1927.

In later years it was sold to the University of Sheffield and, in 1985, became the Traditional Heritage Museum. The museum closed in 2011 and the building was last used by the university in 2016, but remains vacant.

The building, on the market for six years, is in a state of disrepair and is currently unusable in its current physical state.

Proposed Ecclesall Road frontage. Photograph: Axis Architecture.

The proposed development of 605 Ecclesall Road will involve the partial demolition at the rear of the former Sunday School building – this is the area internally previously used as a stage, with the rear wall in its new position, re-built utilising salvaged stonework. That part of the site, along with the existing walled car-parking area, will then be given over to the construction of four terrace townhouse dwellings, facing Neil Road with gardens at first floor level and additional roof gardens.

“The Ecclesall Road frontage would be preserved, with new extensions set back to minimise their impact. The church building is considerably taller than the existing Sunday School building and it will be possible to extend the building upwards by at least two storeys without detracting from the setting of the local landmark building.

“Most of the existing building will be retained – the roofs are the only major elements which would be replaced, to allow for upward extension. The later, brick built elements at the rear would also be removed.”

There is a passageway between the church and Sunday School leading from Ecclesall Road to Neill Road which would remain open for members of the public.

The empty Sunday School building. Photograph: Axis Architecture.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Buildings Companies

Banner Cross Hall

In July 1932, the fate of Banner Cross Hall, on Ecclesall Road South, had been in the balance.

The old house had been on the market, subject of many rumours, and people in Sheffield feared that it would be demolished.

However, the announcement that Charles Boot, of Henry Boots and Sons, the famous firm of builders, had purchased the hall, did much to alleviate concerns.

The area of the land was just under four acres, and it was intended to accommodate all the firm’s staff from its original Moore Street premises.

In an interview with the Sheffield Daily Telegraph at his home, Thornbridge Hall, near Bakewell, Charles Boot (1874-1945) said that certain structural alterations for office purposes had already started.

“The front of the hall will be somewhat altered, but it is not my intention to do anything to destroy the amenities of the district,” he said.

Banner Cross Hall was begun in 1817 for Lieutenant-General William Murray by architect Jeffry Wyatt (afterwards Sir Jeffry Wyatville), who claimed it to be his finest work, and stood on the site of an ancient mansion.

It appears to have got its name from an ancient cross which stood near to the house, and in the time of Queen Elizabeth I (1558) was known as Bannerfield, referred to as Banner Cross in the time of James I (1603).

General Murray had purchased the interests of the Athol family, and after building the hall, retired here with the intention of “spending within its tranquil shades, the evening of an active and honourable life.”

However, he died a year later and General Murray, by his will, gave Banner Cross Hall to his sister, Anne, the wife of the Rev. William Bagshawe.

The Bagshawe’s were a prominent family within Derbyshire and Yorkshire, with estates in Castleton, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Ford, Hope, Norton and Wormhill; and in Ecclesall Bierlow, Fulwood and Sheffield.

Banner Cross Hall had remained with the Bagshawe family until going to market.

Tenants of the hall included Douglas Vickers, industrialist and politician, Colonel Henry Kenyon Stephenson, MP and businessman, and David Flather, an engineering firm owner, the hall’s last occupant from 1922 to 1932.

The history of Banner Cross Hall and the names of the distinguished families who occupied it are maintained in the naming of roads in the vicinity, the likes of Tullibardine, Murray, Glenalmond, Blair Athol, and Ford roads.

Eighty-eight years later, Banner Cross Hall is still the headquarters of Henry Boot.