Categories
Buildings

King’s Tower

A dramatic change to the High Street. King’s Tower, a 39-storey tower block, that has been granted planning permission.

Prepare for a major new addition to the Sheffield skyline, and its location may come as a surprise.

King’s Tower, at 51-57 High Street, will be a 39-storey tower, comprising 206 apartments, with space for a ground floor commercial unit, drinking establishment or hot food takeaway.

It is probably the first regeneration step for one of the most unkempt parts of the city centre.

King’s Tower will be a significant change to the High Street.

The building will be on the site of what many of us know as the former Primark building, and even further back, the one-time Peter Robinson department store.

When the wrecking balls arrive, there will likely be cries of contempt, but in the eyes of planners, the existing building has no architectural value.

In fact, when researching this post, it was discovered that it was always meant to be a temporary structure, even though it’s lasted almost sixty years.

King’s Tower will be on the site of the ancient market adjacent to Sheffield Castle, first established as the result of a Royal Charter of 1296. The market stall and buildings that occupied the site were demolished in 1786 to make way for the construction of the Fitzalan Market (also known as ‘The Shambles’), which underwent improvement about 1855.

Fitzalan Market was demolished in 1930 when the new Castle Hill Market opened, and a new shop was constructed on the corner of Angel Street for Montague Burton, of Burton Menswear, in 1932. The shop occupied the lower floors while the upper tiers were home to the City Billiard Hall and ‘The City’ Roller Skating Rink.

The grand-looking Burton Building, built at the corner of High Street and Angel Street in 1932. A billiard hall and roller-skating rink occupied the upper floors. (Image: Sheffield Telegraph)

The Burton building was badly-damaged during the Sheffield Blitz of 1940, and stood as an empty shell for many years, its replacement held up by funding and lack of building materials. By the 1950s, Sheffield Corporation insisted that plans for an alternative building would only be granted if it were of ‘temporary character, and not as before,’ because it had plans for a new roundabout intersecting Angel Street, High Street and what would become Arundel Gate.

After being badly damaged by German bombs in 1940, the Burton Building remained empty for many years. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

It was eventually demolished and replaced by a new steel-framed building, clad in concrete and tile panels, and opened in 1962 as a Peter Robinson department store. The chain store had been founded in 1833 as a drapery, soon expanding with a flagship store at Oxford Circus, London, and bought by Burton’s in 1946.

The shop in Sheffield was part of Peter Robinson’s nationwide expansion, at its height having 39 stores across Britain.  

Whilst the building may not be considered of architectural importance, it most certainly played a part in shaping High Streets across the country.

It was here, in 1964, that a new department was launched on the third floor, Top Shop, a youth brand, selling fashion by young British designers such as Polly Peck, Mary Quant, Gerald McCann, Mark Russell and Stirling Cooper.

The Top Shop name was later used for a large standalone store on Oxford Street, London, and expanded into further Peter Robinson branches at Ealing, Norwich, and Bristol.

It was not until 1973 that Top Shop was split from Peter Robinson, the Top Shop (later Topshop) brand flourished, subsequently becoming part of Phillip Green’s Arcadia Group, whose demise dominates present-day headlines.

Alas, by the end of the 1970s, the Peter Robinson name had all but disappeared.

The steel-frame of the Peter Robinson department store during construction in the early 1960s. (Image: Picture Sheffield)
Completed. Peter Robinson dominated this High Street corner. In 1964, the first Top Shop was opened on the third floor. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

From 1974, the adjacent C&A store absorbed the upper floors of Peter Robinson, while furniture retailer Waring & Gillow occupied the ground floor.

After C&A vacated in the 1990s, it became Primark until it relocated to The Moor in 2016, leaving the old department store empty.

During the 1970s C&A occupied the upper floors while Waring & Gillow sold furniture at ground level. (Image: Picture Sheffield)
Primark, originating from Dublin, took over the premises when C&A pulled out of the UK. (Image: Google)

On a final note, that proposed roundabout eventually became Castle Square, with the famous ‘Hole-in-the-Road’ linking into the building, filled in to accommodate Supertram in 1994.  

As part of the works to build King’s Tower, King Street, to the rear, will be improved with the market retained and access for vehicles.

Artist impressions of King’s Tower.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

The Viaduct Scheme

Markets on a grand scale. The proposed retail markets sketched by Alwyn Holland for E.M. Gibbs. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

The former Castle Market site lays in transition waiting for the day when a park is created between Castlegate and Exchange Street.

It was demolished in 2015 allowing the few remains of Sheffield Castle to be excavated in detail.

The area might be run-down and demands attention, but had an extravagant scheme been completed over a century ago, the place might look vastly different now.

In 1911, Sheffield Corporation drew up plans to create a new street running from Great Central Station (Victoria Station) into the centre of the city. Objections were made by the Markets Committee that any such road would have made it impossible to complete its proposed new market scheme.

In response, the Sheffield architect Edward Michel Gibbs created an alternative plan whereby, instead of building the street at ground level, a new road could be carried on a viaduct, allowing the site beneath to be developed for market use.

“The street to the station would be similar in position to that recommended by the committee. It would run from Haymarket to Blonk Street, nearly in a direct line for the station, but instead of descending 26 feet to Blonk Street and then ascending 20 feet to the station yard, it would be carried on a viaduct on the level of Haymarket, then by a bridge over Blonk Street (26 feet high), and forward to a viaduct over the side of Smithfield Market to the station yard.”

A plan of the proposed Viaduct Scheme linking Great Central Station with Haymarket. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

The viaduct road would have resulted in level access to Great Central Station, avoiding traffic congestion in Blonk Street, and allowing for the expansion of the markets.

It was a radical scheme that also allowed for the creation of brand new market halls. A wholesale market would have been constructed underneath the viaduct, covering an area of 13,960 square yards, and built on part of the River Sheaf.

On top of the viaduct were to be retail markets, with bold balustraded parapets, and set back 40 feet on each side of the new street, fronting onto a decorative space almost as big as Fitzalan Square. With 5,555 square yards of selling space, the markets would have been bigger than the combined areas of the existing Norfolk Market Hall and Fitzalan Market.

A sketch of E.M. Gibbs’ Viaduct Scheme, drawn by local artist Alwyn Holland. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

Gibbs estimated the cost of the Viaduct Scheme to be £351,000, inclusive of land, road, viaduct, markets, and a new River Don Street from Blonk Street to Lady’s Bridge.

Unsurprisingly, Sheffield Corporation recoiled over the estimated cost (equivalent to over £16 million today) and refused to consider the scheme.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph favoured the proposal and filled column inches with reasons why the council should at least consider it.

“There can be no doubt that the streets abutting onto the station approach are a disgrace to the town. They are dangerous, congested and filthily dirty, and they give the visitor to Sheffield a first impression of squalor and sordidness.

“If they alight at the station, what do they see? On the right a piece of wasteland: on the left a road that dips under the railway and is flanked with ugly stone walls; straight before them a sloping road leading to a narrow street of dingy, mean-looking buildings, with a dirty, battered ‘convenience’ of the worst and most ancient type standing proudly as a centrepiece.”

Gibbs published a pamphlet to convince people about the scheme and the council eventually agreed to discuss the proposal. However, the projected cost had increased to £398,000 and the Corporation went for the cheaper option.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph was unimpressed.

“The Corporation have before them a scheme which is only a tinkering with an admitted evil, not a bold and generous attempt to extirpate it. It will suffice only for a generation or so.”

Unfortunately, World War One halted all plans for the markets, and it was not until 1930 that Castle Hill Market opened, subsequently replaced by Castle Market in 1959.

Castle Hill Market seen from the air in 1933. The new River Don Street in E.M. Gibbs’ Viaduct Scheme was the only part of the plan adopted by Sheffield Corporation. It was built in 1930 and became known as Castlegate. (Image: Historic England)

© 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.

Categories
Sculpture Streets

King Edward VII Memorial

Photograph © 2020 David Poole

Despite the mixed fortunes of Fitzalan Square, one structure has stood proudly for well over a hundred years. The King Edward VII Memorial in the centre of the square was erected in October 1913, Sheffield’s commemoration of the King who had died three years before. The bronze statue has seen out two World Wars, surviving the destruction of the immediate area during the Blitz.

It might seem hard to believe now, but Edward was a popular King with Sheffield people. His mother, Queen Victoria, had been a relative stranger to the city, but as the Prince of Wales, he had opened Firth Park in 1875, and attended the opening of an industrial exhibition by the Cutlers’ Company in 1885. There were also stories of Edward’s incognito visits, including those to friends in the suburbs and a town centre hostelry.

He visited again in 1905, this time as Monarch, to open the University of Sheffield and to unveil the Boer Monument to the York and Lancaster Regiment outside Sheffield Parish Church (now the Cathedral).

After his death in 1910, it seemed appropriate that Sheffield should honour him with a statue. As always,  the proposal sparked debate amongst its people.

Photograph by The British Newspaper Archive

Sheffield Corporation made it known it intended to add an equestrian statue and fountains at both end of Fitzalan Square, already upgraded in 1909. However, opinion was divided because of the poor reputation the square had long held.

A grander scheme had also been proposed for a new King Edward Square nearby, on the site of the Fitzalan Market (where the easyHotel stands today). This scheme would have cost excess of £100,000 and after much deliberation was abandoned.

Any memorial to King Edward had to be funded through voluntary public subscription, and so Fitzalan Square was deemed more suitable as the cheaper option.

Sheffield Corporation had already been solicited by artists keen to work on the memorial, including Benjamin Creswick, Albert Bruce-Joy, Frederick Pomeroy, and Adrian Jones.

In March 1911, the city architect, Mr Edwards, invited artists to submit designs for both an equestrian statue and a standing figure. As well as those proposals already received, there were others from Alfred Drury, Francis Derwent Wood, William Goscombe John, Henry Alfred Pegram, Paul Raphael Montford, Thomas Brock and Charles John Allen.

It became known that King George preferred non-equestrian statues of his late father, and Sheffield respected those wishes with its choice.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

The winning design was by Alfred Drury (1856-1944), a sculptor with a fine reputation in London. He quoted between £1600 and £2000 for the design, and £2000 as his fee, although he eventually received 2000 guineas.

A photograph of the design was published in December 1911, and the following month Fitzalan Square was officially announced as the chosen site.

Fundraising was slow, and the project might have faltered, had it not been for a £5,000 donation from Samuel Meggitt Johnson, of George Bassett and Co, on the condition that a home and school for ‘crippled’ children also be built in the city.

The statue was winched into place in October 1913, quickly covered, and officially unveiled by the Duke of Norfolk at a high-profile ceremony on 28 October, the same day that the Duchess of Norfolk laid the foundation stone of the ‘Cripples’ home in the Rivelin Valley.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

Thousands of people turned up for the ceremony, curious to see the uncovering of a statue, something that was not commonplace in Sheffield. At the time, there were only three other statues on display – Queen Victoria opposite the Town Hall (now at Endcliffe Park), James Montgomery and Ebenezer Elliot. Sheffield had only recently possessed wider streets, and the old narrow congested roads had always been unsuitable for statuary.

Before the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, the vast crowd was entertained by the bands of the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters and the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons, playing in turn, while troops lined the enclosure around Fitzalan Square.

At 3.30pm there were speeches by Samuel Osborn (Lord Mayor), Colonel Henry Kenyon Stephenson (Chairman of the Memorial Committee), Thomas W. Ward (Master Cutler), Alderman William Henry Brittain (Town Collector), and Alderman John Hobson (Deputy-Lord Mayor).

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

The Duke of Norfolk drew the cord which allowed the covering to fall from the statue, to an outburst of cheering and the playing of the National Anthem.

“I highly esteem the honour of being allowed to unveil in this great city the statue of a great King. We have assembled to place a lasting remembrance in the centre of the city which will bring home to the minds of other generations who will only hear of him as a memory of the past, and as a historical character, the personality of their late King.”

The King Edward VII statue (2.9 metres high) was made of bronze, situated on top of an Aberdeen Kemnay Granite plinth (4.27 metres high), designed by a local architect, similar to one Drury had designed in Aberdeen, but also thought better to withstand Sheffield’s industrial pollution.

There are four panels in stone on all four sides of the plinth – ‘Fame and Truth’, ‘Philanthropy, ‘Unity’ and ‘Peace’, with the word ‘Peacemaker’ incorporated into a banner across one of the bronze reliefs.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Photograph of the King Edward VII Memorial in 1918 by Picture Sheffield
Photograph © 2020 David Poole