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.
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