Next year, people will start moving into a new residential complex in Sheffield City Centre. When they do, the occupants of Kangaroo Works, a 364 apartment development, will have one of the oddest postal addresses in the city.
Designed by Whittam Cox Architects, with construction underway by Henry Boot, Kangaroo Works is the latest building in Sheffield’s Heart of the City II development. The building, with frontages to Rockingham and Wellington Streets, is designed around the vernacular Sheffield courtyard plan, and provides a stepped roofscape, responding to the sloping typology of the site and forming a transition between the formal city centre and more historic Devonshire Quarter.
The block has a peak of 14 storeys whilst a unique brick façade, taking inspiration from Sheffield’s urban heritage, supports the Masterplan palette and industrial heritage of the original Kangaroo Works site, which the development now stands on.
Kangaroo Works was home to Robert Sorby and Sons, makers of edge tools, later becoming a merchant and steel maker, that had set up on Union Street in 1828 and then moved to Carver Street in 1837.
About 1896 it moved a short distance to this site at the corner of Trafalgar and Wellington Streets.
Their products included adzes, axes, augers, edge tools, joiners’ tools, saws, scythes, hooks, sheep shears and crucible steel. The company sought markets worldwide, and the Kangaroo brand, which was used until the 1980s, was adopted to emphasise the company’s interest in Australia.
Robert Sorby and Sons was acquired by Hattersley and Davidson in 1923, and vacated Kangaroo Works in 1934 to share a site on Chesterfield Road. It still survives in premises on Athol Road at Woodseats.
The former Kangaroo Works became dilapidated and converted for multi-use, and remained so until demolition in 2008, after which it was used as a car-park.
But what happened to the famous stone-carved Kangaroo trademark that once stood over the gateway on Wellington Street?
It was rescued and re-erected at Kelham Island Museum, slightly shorter in height so that it would fit into the restored Russell Works building that houses the Ken Hawley Collection of tools, cutlery and silversmithing made in Sheffield.
And so, the name lives on, and Kangaroo Works will occupy pride of place overlooking Pound’s Park, the new urban green space also under construction.
Once upon a time, the Sheffield construction company, George Longden and Son, might have been chosen to build a new park. From Victorian times, the company was the powerhouse behind many city landmarks. But it lost its way, and the name is all but forgotten.
Instead, the creation of a green space in the city centre will fall to another stalwart of Sheffield construction.
Henry Boot has been appointed to deliver Pound‘s Park, the landmark new public space, and work gets underway this month.
Sheffield City Council sees this as a key piece of the Heart of the City programme, and it is another project that Henry Boot has been involved with. The builder is underway with the residential development at Kangaroo Works, the Elshaw House office development and the Cambridge Street Collective – a food hall and restaurant destination.
Pound’s Park is named after Sheffield’s first Chief Fire Officer, Superintendent John Charles Pound, and is being built on the former fire station site between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street.
As we move forward, Pound’s Park probably won’t be the only new green space in the city centre.
Projects like this are seen as a critical tool in revitalising cities, regenerating poor areas, bringing nature into the city, rejuvenating neighbourhoods, creating a space for physical interaction in our increasingly digital world, and improving city sustainability.
“They are almost being viewed as like anchor stores, as a way of bringing people into a certain part of town,” says Dr Danielle Sinnett, director of the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments at the University of the West of England.
Previously, she reckons, there was some tendency for green space to be tagged onto the end of developments where land was left over. Not so much anymore. “Now it is being seen as key infrastructure in and of itself,” she says.
As well as being a green space, Pound’s Park will have a childrens’ play area, water features, and a new bus interchange. It will also provide an accessible new home for the William Mitchell frieze, which was removed from demolished Barker’s Pool House.
Sheffield City Council has full control of the John Lewis building, and this presents the ideal opportunity to create something special on one of the most prominent sites in the city centre.
In summer 2021, the council appointed experts Arup, Fourth Street and Queensberry to look at the condition of the existing building, the carbon impact and how any options would integrate within the Heart of the City and wider city centre.
There are three broad options: Retention and re-use of the building (and a plan for Sheffield Rules, the football museum, falls into this category), or complete removal of the building, creating a large public space, with the third option being complete removal, with public space and a smaller new building developed on the site.
The plans were put out to public consultation, with 1500 respondents, and according to the council, most favoured replacing John Lewis with a smaller building and outside space at a cost of about £40m.
We won’t know the outcome until the end of the summer, and in the meantime, the scruffy old department store should be clad in full building wrap with printed hoardings around the site.
Considering the implications and cost of reusing the building, I suspect that this option will be the eventual outcome.
Whenever you see an old facade with a new structure behind it, this tells you that a building of distinction once stood there that simply could not be demolished, and the compromise which arose was to keep the front wall. The rise of facadism shows how far the power balance has shifted away from conservation towards redevelopment. Retaining the facade is an unwelcome condition of planning permission when their preference would probably have been complete demolition.
This building, at the bottom of Cambridge Street, Sheffield, shows that the facade is retained while its interior will be replaced with modern concrete and steel. This will apply to almost all the Victorian buildings being redeveloped on Pinstone Street, and planning permission has been granted to do the same to Chubby’s and the Tap and Tankard further up Cambridge Street.
Sheffield city centre has never seen so much demolition and construction. The latest to fall is 1970s Barker’s Pool House, on Burgess Street, once linked to John Lewis by its high covered footbridge. The bridge has already gone, and now the bricks and mortar of the former office block will soon be no more. As part of the Heart of the City II development, it will be replaced by a stylish new Radisson Blu hotel, with its retained Victorian entrance on Pinstone Street. The William Mitchell ten-panel abstract reliefs, commissioned in 1972, were removed last year and will be resited in nearby Pound’s Park once completed.
It seems that nobody liked the former Odeon in Barker’s Pool. The red steel and glass facade never caught the imagination of Sheffielders. If we hated the exterior, we won’t like what was behind – plain boring brickwork – revealed in latest Heart of the City II works.
The whole exterior will be refaced to become the Gaumont Building, supposedly taking inspiration from the previous building’s origins as the Regent Theatre, later the Gaumont Cinema. The new design is by Sheffield-based HLM Architects.
Built by the Rank Organisation in 1986-1987 as a replacement, bosses realised it wasn’t cost effective to run two Odeons in the city centre, and one had to go, closing in 1994, and later becoming a nightclub.
The final use for the building has yet to be confirmed.
Heart of the City II is altering the way our city centre looks. We must go back to Victorian times to see anything resembling the magnitude of this change. Before then, the area around Pinstone Street was a region of dirty, narrow, streets and alleys that led to nowhere. The poor were abundant, and then the jennel known as Pinstone Street was replaced by a broad thoroughfare, and the people who lived under the shadow of St. Paul’s dome (now Peace Gardens) migrated southward. With it came shops and offices that are no longer suitable for the 21st century… and now we are preserving the look, but removing the myriad of old corridors, staircases, and rooms behind.
Once completed, almost the whole of the west side of Pinstone Street will have been touched by redevelopment… and that is quite a remarkable achievement.
One building will remain, oblivious to the change around it, and one that rarely gets a mention.
We can trace Pinstone Chambers (Nos. 44-62 Pinstone Street), at its corner with Cross Burgess Street, back to 1891, when the Salvation Army ‘planted the flag’ on a piece of land bought from Sheffield Corporation. A year later, a ceremony took place to turn the first sod. ‘The waste piece of ground has been as free of turf as a billiard ball is of hair, it was hard to see where the sod would be found.’
The foundation stones were laid in September 1892, and formed part of an inner wall, the inscriptions on them visible in the entrance hall by which the Sheffield Citadel behind was approached from Pinstone Street. By this, we know that this building was steadfastly linked with the Salvation Army’s place of worship, one that survives in disgraceful neglect, and awaits its own course of redevelopment.
The architect was William Gillbee Scott (1857-1930), who designed the Gower Street Memorial Chapel (now the Chinese Church in London), and the London and Provincial Bank in Enfield.
The building is curved on plan, has five storeys, and has seven bays at the east return and one along Cross Burgess Street to the south. The building is Classical in style and has red brick elevations with contrasting sandstone dressings. Architectural features include ground floor shopfronts, mullioned fenestrations, casement windows and rusticated pilasters between bays.
The building was erected by Messrs. Thomas Fish and Son, Nottingham, and comprised accommodation on the top floor, offices beneath, and six large shops on Pinstone Street. Painting and decoration were by Thomas Toon, of Nottingham.
The land cost £7,812, and the building work over £16,000, the shops and offices used to bring in considerable income for the Salvation Army.
It was opened by Commissioner Thomas Henry Howard, on 27 January 1894.
The main entrance to the Citadel was from Pinstone Street, flanked by the row of shops. The visitor passed along a vestibule lit by gas in ruby globes. The walls were decorated in green sage, with a deep maroon dado, and the floor was paved in mosaic style. Inserted into the wall on the right were the dozen stones, laid when the building commenced, with the names of those who undertook that duty.
While the temperance rooms at the Citadel are decisively linked with the Salvation Army, the Citadel Building (as it became known) was better known for its commercial activities. Soon after it opened it was occupied by the Wentworth Café and Hotel, moving here from Holly Street, a socialist meeting place famously linked with Edward Carpenter. That association ended in 1922 when the whole of the premises was leased by Stewart and Stewart, the well-known tailors, who extended from next door.
Afterwards, while shops frequently changed hands, the upper floors were used as offices until the interiors of Pinstone Chambers were completely remodelled for city living accommodation.
The Salvation Army moved out of the Citadel in 1999, the crumbling shell still attached to Pinstone Chambers, but the old main entrance and corridor to it long since blocked-off.
Is the ‘foundation stone’ wall still visible in the old vestibule? What survives of the Victorian floor mosaic? Is there any evidence of the sage green and deep maroon decoration?
Planning permission has been submitted for Leah’s Yard on Cambridge Street to be transformed into a new creative hub for independent businesses, with a slew of independent stores set to surround a public courtyard.
The venue will be operated by Tom Wolfenden, CEO of SSPCo, and James O’Hara of the Rockingham Group, who were appointed to the project by Sheffield City Council.
If approved, Leah’s Yard will be refurbished true to its current form, with a courtyard surrounded by small boutique shops, with the first and second floors hosting approximately 20 independent working studios.
The oldest buildings on the Leah’s Yard site are the two former houses fronting Cambridge Street that date from the early nineteenth century. The industrial legacy of Leah’s Yard began with George Linley in 1825 as a small shear and tool manufacturing complex during the early nineteenth century. The houses fronting the street were later converted to offices and shops, and the complex as a whole is characterised by piecemeal additions and alterations dating from the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Cambridge Street was known for its horn works, and James Morton, a horn dealer, became the major sole occupier about 1842.
Leah’s Yard was occupied from about 1891-92 by Henry Leah and Sons, a manufacturer of die stamps for silverware. By 1911 there were 23 occupants (little mesters) on site producing slightly different goods, and undertaking different processes yet all contributing to the cutlery trade.
The site was predominantly used for production associated with the metal trades well into the mid to late twentieth century. The Leah family remained in part of the complex until the 1970s when they merged with Spear and Jackson; they sold the site in the 1990s. The Cambridge Street frontage of the complex had been used as shops in its last few years of occupation, and takes into account the former Sportsman public house and Chubby’s recently closed takeaway.
As part of Heart of the City II, Leah’s Yard will sit alongside the upcoming Cambridge Street Collective and Bethel Chapel developments – both currently under construction – that will feature a contemporary food hall, cookery school, fine dining experience and live entertainment spaces.
Who says that the Heart of the City II development is just about new buildings?
Leah’s Yard is currently undergoing a £6m renovation to breathe life back into the old buildings. Set to open in early 2023, Leah’s Yard will be a destination for independent retail, and showcasing traders, makers and creators from Sheffield.
Throughout the 19th century the yard was used by a horn dealer (who supplied the cutlery handle making trade), Sheffield platers, knife manufacturers and silver stampers. In the 1880s the building was known as the Cambridge Street Horn Works.
In 1892 Henry Leah took over the building as a producer of die stamps for silverware, giving the building the name that it is known by today. Sharing the building at that time was Walter Walker & Co Ltd, who were piercers and stampers; the building was alternatively known as the Cambridge Stamping Works.
Behind the scaffolding, work is quietly progressing to restore what had become one of the city centre’s most endangered buildings.
With work progressing on the Heart of the City II development, it’s time to spruce up some our existing buildings. One already completed is the Telephone House NCP car park in Charter Row, achieved by recladding the facade in Corten coloured wave feature cladding and “goal post” feature frames to the ground floor retail units. These improvements addressed issues with the poor appearance of the existing concrete building (see photo) within the context of the new Charter Square development and assist in the future letting of ground floor retail units.
The former British Telecom tower, which is located above the carpark, was recently refurbished by Vita Student in 2016 to provide upmarket student accommodation.
A planning application has now been submitted to erect a new shop frontage to four existing retail units consisting of new aluminium curtain wall façade within existing feature goal post surrounds.