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Berona House: It’s business as usual for this unpretentious building

Berona House. One of the survivors of Pinstone Street’s Victorian building boom. Similar properties have had their interiors removed as part of the Heart of the City II project. Photograph: DJP/2021

We all know it, we all pass it, and we tend to overlook it. This building has stood at the corner of Pinstone Street and Charles Street for generations, and while the shops have repeatedly changed hands, we know little about it.

Berona House, or to be more precise, 95-107 Pinstone Street/31-35 Charles Street, has worked hard to hide its history.

The appearance of the building has remained unchanged since it was built, including the rounded first-floor corner windows. Photograph: Google

In 1897 the last plot of vacant land on Pinstone Street was sold by Sheffield Corporation to a private company. Prior to this, the corporation had systematically bought old properties on narrow Pinstone Lane, demolished them, and created the Pinstone Street we know now.

The land, opposite the Empire Theatre, was used to build a block of shops and dwelling houses. With brick and stone dressings and distinct first-floor corner arched windows, it was designed by Sheffield architects Holmes & Watson and constructed by George Longden and Son.

Edward Holmes (1859-1921) was in partnership, 1893-1908, with Adam Francis Watson (1856-1932), and were responsible for the City (later Lyceum) Theatre, Leopold Chambers, Norfolk Market Hall, as well as being associated with the city’s improvement scheme as valuers and advisers.

Harry Cassell, furriers, about 1910 (above) and (below) different names above the doors in the 1950s. Photographs: Picture Sheffield

The building was completed in September 1898 at a cost of £10,000 and consisted of seven shops and a restaurant – five shops on Pinstone Street, one at its corner with Charles Street, and one shop and the restaurant in Charles Street.

The list of shops that occupied ground floor premises is extensive, but one of its earliest occupants was Harry Cassell, furriers, which did a big trade in sealskin jackets. Later shops included Neville Reed, Lea-Scott opticians, Bradleys Records, and Colvin male outfitters.

It is perhaps fitting that the upper floor flats, later converted into offices, were adapted into apartments again in 2002-2003.

And maybe somebody might be able to explain the meaning behind its current name – Berona House.

Berona House, with the recent addition of a Post Office on Charles Street. Photograph: Google

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

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Buildings

Leopold Chambers

Leopold Chambers. An important, but forgotten, part of Sheffield’s Victorian architecture. (DJP/2021)

At the corner of Church Street and Leopold Street is a building typical of Sheffield’s Victorian architecture.

Leopold Chambers was built in 1893-1894 as new offices for Webster and Styring, an established firm of solicitors set up by George Edward Webster and Dr Robert Styring. The imposing four-storey Renaissance building, in mellow golden sandstone, provided a handsome rounding to the corner, with four shops built beneath the offices.

The building neatly rounds-off the corner of Church Street and Leopold Street. The latter street had only been constructed a few years before. (DJP/2021)

The architect was Andrew Francis Watson (1856-1932), designer of many well-known buildings in Sheffield, including the Norfolk Market Hall, the old Fitzwilliam Market, Westminster bank, High Street, showrooms for Mappin and Webb, and the offices of Messrs Vickers and William Jessops on Brightside Lane. He was also the architect for the London and Midland Bank in the Sheffield District and responsible for 1-9 High Street that survives as an extension of Lloyds Bank.

A native of Lamport, Northamptonshire, he came to Sheffield in his twenties and eventually went into partnership with Edward Holmes (creating Holmes and Watson, and no apology to Arthur Conan Doyle).

The partnership between Webster and Styring was dissolved after George Webster’s retirement in 1908, and Leopold Chambers (typically blackened by Sheffield’s sooty air) was later taken over by the Bradford Equitable Building Society (later to become Bradford & Bingley).

Following their departure, the offices were sub-divided and more recently converted into student accommodation, with shops at ground level.

Leopold Chambers subsequently became home to the Bradford & Bingley Building Society. Seen here in the 1970s. (Picture Sheffield)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.