Ella Fitzgerald – loneliness and a Sheffield hotel room

“Coming through the years, and finding that I not only have just the fans of my day, but the young ones of today — that’s what it means, it means it was worth all of it.” – Ella Fitzgerald (1917 – 1996)

“If you really wanna know what lonely is, ask an expert, I know!”

This line appeared in ‘Lonely is,’ sung by Ella Fitzgerald in 1968.

These expressive words came to mind after receiving the following story from Ian Bright, whose family lineage goes back to Sir John Bright (1619-1688), a Parliamentarian of Carbrook and Badsworth.

“I spent nearly fifty years in the now nearly defunct cutlery and silverware industry.

“During the 1970s, our then company secretary asked me to take a telephone call from a foreign lady he couldn’t understand.

“I said hello, to which the response came, ‘Hi, this is Ella Fitzgerald. I’m staying at the Grosvenor House Hotel, and have seen some cutlery in your showcase, and could someone come and see me.’

“It was one of the quickest responses to a sales request ever, and minutes later I was knocking on the door of her suite.

“She made me very welcome, and explained she’d spotted some imitation bone white handle cutlery that she thought would be ideal for breakfast use. Business was concluded very quickly, but it was only the start.

“Ella was tired and lonely and obviously wanted company. In the centre of the room was a table full of pills, potions, and fruit. She wore glasses with thick lenses and explained that singing in smoke-filled clubs with glaring lights had taken its toll on her, and the constant travelling made her want to be back home with her family.

“I asked her why she still did it, and she replied with conviction. ‘FOR THE FANS.’

“We chatted about families and life for ages, and I left feeling humbled and lucky to have spent quality time with the best lady jazz singer the world has ever seen.”

Ian believes that this was Ella Fitzgerald’s last UK tour, and at this time, she began to experience serious health problems, but continued to perform periodically, even after heart surgery in 1986.

In 1993, however, her career was curtailed following complications stemming from diabetes, which resulted in the amputation of both her legs below the knees. She died three years later.

I can trace this story to 1974, when she headlined at the Fiesta on Arundel Gate (now Odeon Luxe).

The Grosvenor House Hotel, once Sheffield’s finest, fell on hard times, and was demolished in 2017, replaced with the office block called Grosvenor House, occupied by HSBC, as part of the Heart of the City redevelopment.

Ella Fitzgerald at the Fiesta in 1974. Image: Stuart Penney/Twitter
Opened in 1966 the Grosvenor House Hotel was a familiar landmark of the Sheffield city skyline. Image: Sheffield Star

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Sheffield City Council targets developers for two new Heart of the City sites

Sheffield City Council has gone to market with two new development plots within its transformational £470m Heart of the City masterplan.

The Council and its appointed marketing agent, CBRE, are seeking buyers for two development sites located on the former car park between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street.

The new developments would further contribute to the rapidly growing mixed-use district that is being created through Heart of the City – this includes the already completed Grosvenor House, plus several under-construction office, leisure, and residential developments.

The two new plots are located at opposite corners of the evolving Pound’s Park, having been originally outlined during the Council’s public consultation for this landmark public space last year.

Construction of Pound’s Park is already well underway and is set to complete towards the end of this year. By prioritising the physical and mental wellbeing of its visitors – through a focus on pedestrians, cycling, active play, and relaxation – the new green space is seen as a big draw for potential developers.

The sites are expected to provide active ground floor uses such as cafes and restaurants onto this high-quality public realm with office, hotel and residential uses on the upper floors considered appropriate. Whilst both sites could be developed by a single purchaser, the Council will consider separate or combined offers for the sites.

The largest of the two new sites (Site B) sits on the southeastern side of the park on the corner of Carver Street and Wellington Street.

One of the requirements for this site is that it must incorporate and display the locally cherished William Mitchell Frieze artwork, which was carefully removed from Barker’s Pool House to make way for a new Radisson Blu hotel last year.

The second site (Site A) sits to the northeast of the park on the corner of Rockingham Street and Division Lane.

Buildings Streets

Cambridge Street – while you were sleeping last night

Image: David Poole

Cambridge Street at 3am. The changing face of our city centre.

Grosvenor House, home to HSBC, with the reflection of the almost-complete Isaacs Building opposite. Both buildings form part of Sheffield’s Heart of the City development.

Once upon a time, this was the site of Barrasford’s Hippodrome presenting music hall acts and films projected from the Barrascope. It was soon renamed the Hippodrome Theatre of Varieties and was Sheffield’s largest theatre. 

It eventually became the Hippodrome Cinema, demolished in 1963, and the Grosvenor House Hotel and retail outlets built in its place. History likes reinventing itself, and the hotel was itself demolished in 2016-2017.

Hippodrome Theatre opened 23 December 1907 as a Music Hall. Became a permanent cinema on 20 July 1931. In 1948, came under the management of The Tivoli (Sheffield) Ltd. Closed 2 March 1963 and demolished. Image: Maurice Parkin/Picture Sheffield 

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.