Kings Tower – Revised plans for city centre high-rise

News of what could become Sheffield’s tallest building, and it’s a development that has featured on this page before.

Revised plans have been lodged for King’s Tower, a 40-storey tower in the city centre.

CJS7 Ltd (trading as Oppidan Life) and SFGE Properties Ltd have applied to Sheffield City Council for development on the site at the junction of High Street, Angel Street, and Arundel Gate, previously occupied by part of the city’s Primark store.

Planning permission was granted in December 2020 for a 39-storey development featuring 206 apartments. However, new plans seek full planning permission for the demolition of the existing building and construction of a new 40-storey tower. It would now comprise 428 co-living units and 33 studio apartments.

Shared facilities would include workspaces, cycle store, private meeting and dining rooms, cinema/presentation rooms, gym, bar and lounges. Roof terraces and balconies would be provided where possible.

The site is of little architectural value, much of its history lost underneath twentieth century developments.

It is 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’).

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 Burton building was badly damaged during the Sheffield Blitz of 1940, and stood as an empty shell for many years

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.

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.

If it is completed it would become Sheffield’s tallest building, a claim that will shortly pass from St Paul’s Tower to Code Sheffield (on the site which borders Rockingham Street, Wellington Street, and Trafalgar Street, and adjacent to Kangaroo Works), at 38 storeys and 383ft tall.

In the meantime, planning is also sought for the temporary display of an illuminated building wrap advertisement around the facing elevations of the existing building for a period of 12 months whilst pre-enabling works take place.

The advertisement will principally display signage relating to the new development – King’s Tower – highlighting the positive change and regeneration the area will experience on completion of the landmark development.

See also King’s Tower

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Short Stories

A Ghost Story: Inspector Woodhead meets Flash Billy

Inspector Woodhead stepped out of the hansom cab that had brought him from the Midland Station to the Thatched House Restaurant. It was a tall, four-storey building, sandwiched between Boots Cash Chemist and an auction house.

He placed his copy of The Times under his arm, doffed his hat at a passing lady, and stepped inside. It was surprisingly quiet for Friday afternoon, but he had no intention of eating. Instead, he made his way towards a staircase that disappeared into the basement.

At the bottom, he pushed open a glass door and walked into a small smoke-filled room. Behind the bar an elderly man stood anticipating his next customer, of which there were few.

Inspector Woodhead nodded to the barman and ordered a tankard of an unusual Sheffield brew. He looked around and found the person he was looking for. A strange young fellow sat at a corner table staring at the glass of whisky in front of him.

Woodhead grabbed his ale and walked over to join him. He sat down beside and carefully placed his hat, newspaper, and pipe, on the table. Then he took a swig of strong northern beer.

“It’s a miserable day,” Woodhead said to his neighbour.

“Do I know you?” scowled the young man.

Woodhead ignored the question. He filled his pipe with tobacco, lit it, and sat back.

“No, sir. You don’t know me, but you could say that I know you.” He puffed at his pipe. “I am Inspector Woodhead of Scotland Yard and I have been looking a long time for you”

“Looking for me? Whatever for?”

“Sir. All in good-time, but first let me get you another drink.”

The young man tugged nervously at the sleeve of his purple suit.

“You are William Burnand Davy, are you not? There are some in this city that call you the Second Marquis of Anglesey behind your back, and in the cafes the waitresses know you as ‘the millionaire.’ You are the grandson of the late William Davy, the well-known proprietor of the Black Swan Hotel and then the Thatched House, a public house that this restaurant is named after.”

“State your business, I cannot sit around all day,” Davy demanded.

“In 1893, your grandfather died leaving a windfall of twelve thousand pounds which came to you when you were 21 years of age.” Woodhead paused to drink. “That was two years ago.”

“Inspector, I cannot see why my financial situation is any concern of yours. What is it you want? Are you demanding money from me? If you are, I must tell you…”

Inspector Woodhead stopped him and smiled.

“You have been a very extravagant young man. You went down to London for a season, spent a good deal of the summer at Bridlington, stayed at the leading hotels in Sheffield, and spent seven months visiting Australia and Ceylon.”

“It was my money to do whatever I wished,” sneered Davy.

“You bought a motor car, and had a chauffeur attired in a striking uniform. The car and its driver were often seen attracting attention outside Sheffield’s hotels. You liked driving, but I understand that you had your licence endorsed in Bridlington for reckless driving.”

Davy swallowed his whisky and the barman brought him another.

“Your ties were the talk of all the ladies, your diamond rings were the price of a manufacturer’s ransom, and your scarf pins included some exquisite gems.” Woodhead paused. “Yes. All eyes were instinctively drawn to you… you were known as carefully-groomed Billy. Trousers that were not properly creased were never worn again, always turned up to show your delicately-coloured silk socks, and your fancy waistcoats and the cut and colour of your suits, might easily have been taken for an imitation of Vesta Tilley.”

“There is no need to be so rude.”

“Facts, my boy, facts,” said the Inspector. “One of your eccentricities was to buy costly presents for girls. Such folly, because after only a few hours acquaintance you’d take her to a jeweller’s shop.”

“My friends told me not  to waste money on them,” Davy conceded, “But I treated it as a joke.”

“Ah, yes. Your friends. Those who hung around you for hours and days and weeks. Do you remember the day you walked into the Ceylon Café and joined six of your fellows? You cried, ‘Let’s all go to London,’ and ‘I’ve plenty of money,’ you shouted, and pulled a handful of gold out of your pocket, and to London you all went.”

Woodhead sat back and puffed on his pipe.

“Inspector, you still haven’t told me the reason for your visit.”

“Ah yes,” Woodhead conceded. “About twelve months ago you met Irene Rose Key, a tall, good-looking girl, well known in West End establishments, and in the neighbourhood of Piccadilly. You became infatuated, and impressed her with stories of your fortune, and last May you persuaded her to marry you at Strand Registry Office.”

“Inspector, I think you have the wrong person, because I am not married.”

“Sir. I think you will find that I am correct. Queenie Key was popular in all the music halls and public houses of Leicester Square. And it might have been a happy marriage had it not been for one simple truth.”

“And what might that be?”

“Because at the time of your marriage your financial position became exceedingly embarrassed. Your money ran out.”

Davy laughed for the first time and shouted for another whisky.

“Inspector, this is a joke. I have all the money I need, and if you care to go outside you will see that I have a six-cylinder Belsize car waiting. And to prove there are no hard feelings, I have a sheaf of bank notes and we’ll share a bottle of champagne.”

“It is not a joke. You both came north, but your family refused to accept Queenie, so you returned to London and lived at hotels. Coming to the end of your resources, however, you separated, she returning to the West End and you wanting her back.”

“I have never been married.”

“And so, the purpose of my calling on you today is to discuss the events of eighteenth November 1908. You met your wife on Wednesday morning at a public house in the Haymarket. You both remained until the evening, dined together, and then took a taxi-cab for King’s Cross, your wife under the impression that she would leave you there, that you would return to Sheffield, and eventually leave the country.”

Davy lit a cigarette. “This is beginning to sound like a fantastic crime novel. What am I supposed to have done next?”

“Your wife was wrong. It was never your intention to leave her. You argued in the taxi-cab as it passed along Shaftsbury Avenue, Hart Street, and Bury Street, and into Montagu Street.” Woodhead puffed harder on his pipe. “And in Montagu Street you seized her by the neck, drew a revolver from your pocket and fired two or three shots at her head.”

“I did what?” Davy laughed. “I’m sure I would remember if I had killed somebody.”

Inspector Woodhead unfolded his newspaper to reveal the headline ‘TAXI-CAB TRAGEDY – MURDERER A SHEFFIELD MAN – FORTUNE INHERITED AND SQUANDERED.” He shifted in his seat and faced the young man.

“Sir, there is a simple reason for you not remembering. After you killed your wife, you turned the revolver against your own head and shot yourself.”

“I shot myself?”

“Yes, Mr Davy. You are quite dead.”

“Am I to suppose you have come to arrest a dead man?”

“No. That is not my style anymore. I simply came to make you aware of your crimes.”

“And I have heard enough.” Davy jumped up, gathered his straw boater, and looked down at Woodhead. “I shall leave now and hope to never see you again.”

“Sir. You will not hear from me again. You are free to go. And when you leave by that door, I shall not be able to follow you.”

“I have never heard such nonsense in my life. Good day, Inspector.”

Davy snatched his cane and strode towards the door. He hesitated before opening it and turned back to face the seated Inspector.

“A most grotesque story if ever I heard one. But I have one more question before I leave. If I shot a woman and then turned a gun upon myself, why am I stood here talking to you, and why won’t you arrest me? … No, Inspector. Please do not answer that. Fanciful rubbish. I am leaving.”

William Davy disappeared through the door, closed it behind him, and Inspector Woodhead looked long and hard at it. Then he folded up The Times, relit his pipe, and decided to finish his ale.

“Sir. You are dead,” he murmured. “You have been dead for many years. Only you had chosen not to remember and have sat by yourself in this little room ever since. It was time for you to face the consequences.”

Woodhead felt tired after his long journey and needed to sleep, but here would not do. He closed his eyes, resisted the urge to doze, and when he opened them, he was in an unfamiliar room.

“Time for me to go as well.”

The Inspector gathered his belongings, placed the hat on his head, and left through the same door he had entered. He climbed strange stairs into the dark restaurant and looked about him. How sad, he thought, that it was not a restaurant anymore. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the shape of a restless black figure.

“Hello, Mr Davy. I see that you are still here. It must be well over a hundred years now.”

Inspector Woodhead stood up straight and disappeared through the glass window that had once been the entrance to the Thatched House Restaurant. Knocked down and rebuilt I should not wonder, he thought.

Outside, the Town Hall clock struck midnight, and Inspector Woodhead turned to look at the building he had just left. BOOTS – PHARMACY – BEAUTY. It was good to see that Boots the Cash Chemist still existed. And then he made his way across High Street, stepped over Supertram tracks, and completely disappeared, never to be seen again.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Will a posh doner kebab kickstart the High Street?

Photograph: German Doner Kebab

The Germans made a mess of High Street during World War Two, we made a mess of it afterwards, and there is an irony that the first seeds of future regeneration might be coming in the shape of a German doner kebab.

The upmarket German Doner Kebab is opening at Telegraph House in space previously occupied by Santander. The former headquarters of the Telegraph and Star were built between 1913 and 1916 by Sheffield architects Gibbs, Flockton & Teather, and constructed by George Longden & Son.

Photograph: Sheffield Star

German Doner Kebab opened its first store in Berlin in 1989, and while we might turn our noses up at a cheap takeaway favourite, these promise to be different. According to its website, the kebabs use beef and meats imported from Germany, enhancing them with ‘secret sauces’ and locally-produced vegetables in a special bread.

The doner kebab was a Turkish creation, but its popularity came from Germany. More than 17 million are now sold throughout the country. In Berlin, there are over 1,000 kebab eateries and they even outsell the city’s most famous snack, the Currywurst.

In the late 1950s, thousands of Turkish workers made their way to West Germany to support a depleted workforce. As the country’s economic fortunes changed in the 1960s, many Turks sought alternative employment in hospitality.

Three of these Turkish workers would have their names intrinsically linked with the introduction of the Döner Kebab.Kadir Nurman opened a small eatery at the Zoologischer Garten train station, Mehmet Aygün claims to have introduced the kebab at his parents Turkish restaurant in 1971, while Nevzat Salim opened a snack stand in Reutlingen – near Stuttgart – back in 1969.

As with any culinary creation, sourcing its actual origin is always problematic – like most things, food and recipes evolve, but now the German doner will finally find its way to Sheffield.

Photograph: German Doner Kebab

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Buildings Companies

Boots: Prescriptions on the High Street for 123 years

A modern-day view of Boots on High Street, Sheffield

Boots might be a Nottingham company, but Sheffield has played an important part in its long history. Established in 1849 by John Boot, it was his son Jesse who built the company into a household name with stores all over the world. Its first chemist branch outside Nottingham was at 17 Spital Hill, in 1884, followed by branches at Snig Hill, West Street, South Street (The Moor), Attercliffe, London Road, Netherthorpe, Abbeydale, and Shalesmoor.

Sheffield was firmly in Jesse Boots’ sights and for a brief time, in the early 1890s, he lived here with his wife Florence. Its most prominent branch opened in May 1898 at 6 High Street, on land owned by John Walsh (of department store fame) between the Fosters Building (erected 1896) and the auctioneers Nicholson, Greaves, Barber and Hastings (now Café Nero). All were constructed as part of High Street widening plans.

The High Street branch opened in 1898 and the illustration shows what the original building looked like. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive

Boots opened its narrow shop alongside the Thatched House Restaurant, taking advantage of heavy footfall between High Street and Fargate. On 8 October 1918, a Government Information Bureau opened in-store. The Bureaux had been established by the government earlier in the year to provide information to the public on matters relating to the First World War; national war aims, national services, war savings, food, labour, and so on. This was one of just twenty such bureau, each located in a prime Boots store, and it required only two square yards of space for its small, pre-fabricated stand.

Boots refitted its store in 1922, but when the Thatched House Restaurant came on the market in 1929 it bought the property and announced plans to extend next door. The plans were radical and involved demolition of both properties, only 33 years after they had been constructed.

The new enlarged building was designed by Percy J. Bartlett, the Boots’ architect, and was constructed by Thomas Wilkinson and Sons, Olive Grove Works, Sheffield.

“Cheap drugs would be dear if they were cheap and nasty. Nasty to the palate many drugs are bound to be; but worse is the nastiness of bad quality.” – Jesse Boot

The handsome elevation was based on the Renaissance style, the modern shop front, the black and silver canopy, the green slates surmounting the lower story, and the blue-green of the windows above, formed a modern building combined with traditional beauty.

It was constructed in Stoke Hall stone, provided by Percy J. Turner from their own quarries at Grindleford. Warm yellow in colour, it claimed to be impervious to the effects of acids in smoke-laden atmospheres.

The shop front was a tribute to Sheffield’s staple industry, completed in Firth Brown ‘Staybrite’ steel, which was as much attractive to the eye as the deeply recessed entrance, and non-slip paving. The steel was used for framing the windows and main entrance doors, and the Boots sign was cast in Staybrite and mounted with neon lights.

The glass and iron canopy decorated in black and silver was capable of illumination at night, and replaced old-fashioned shop blinds, to provide permanent protection against rain.

Photographs: Walgreens Boots Alliance

The interior fittings were chiefly light mahogany, the floors laid in ceramic mosaic on top of ‘bison’ concrete flooring, and heating was generated by rooftop pipes to provide even temperature throughout its three sales floors.

The ground floor was set aside for the principal business of chemist and toiletries. A surgical department, staffed by fully trained nurses, provided a private fitting room and a dispensary.

Photograph: Walgreens Boots Alliance

A staircase in the centre of the showroom led to the basement, where travelling goods, stationary, books, pictures and artists’ materials were displayed. The first floor contained the ‘Booklovers’ Library’ decorated in blue and green, and a fascinating exhibition of artistic gifts, silver, and fancy merchandise. All three floors were served by a staircase and two lifts.

Electric lighting in the store was designed by Harcourts, of Birmingham, based on original suggestions of Percy J. Bartlett. The fittings were arranged to take four one hundred watt Cosmos lamps, with a combination of four crystal etched glass cylinders.

Photograph: Walgreens Boots Alliance

It opened in October 1931, and the address became 4-6 High Street. Two years later a Bargain Basement opened, bringing a modern style of retailing to the store. Further alterations were made in 1936 and it was later extended into the adjacent Foster’s Building.

Photographs: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Those of a certain generation will remember that the basement eventually opened out into a subway that stretched across High Street, and which was eventually lost when Supertram works started.

Sadly, the frontage we see today is the result of the generic modernisation of the retail sector, but remember it only disguises the past.

Boots is now part of the Retail Pharmacy International Division of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.

Percy J. Bartlett, the Boots’ architect, on his retirement. Photograph: Walgreens Boots Alliance
Shop windows as they used to be. Photograph: Walgreens Boots Alliance

See also Walgreens Boots Alliance Archive and Lenton Hall as featured on House and Heritage – the sister site to Sheffielder

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Aldine Court: named after a Venetian printer

Aldine Court looking from High Street. Photograph: DJP 2021.

The glitziness of Sheffield’s High Street has long disappeared, now it’s a modern-day Miss Havisham, whose dilapidated appearance attracts only those of similar behaviour.

As such, we’re not likely to risk cutting along Aldine Court to Hartshead if we can help it. However, it is one of our oldest streets, and although concealed by surrounding buildings, it can tell a few stories.

Up until 1913 Aldine Court meandered from High Street towards Hartshead in so erratic a fashion that historian Robert Eadon Leader suggested its origin could have been from a primeval footpath across the waste.

Aerial view of Aldine Court. Its entrance is to the immediate right of the Telegraph Building on High Street and passes between later newspaper extensions behind. Photograph: Google.

It was Leader who disclosed a deed from Mary Trippett’s time, she was descended from  John Trippitte, yeoman, and Master Cutler in 1794, which revealed the haphazard buildings that had wantonly appeared; a malthouse (once William Patrick, then Thomas Wreaks), a maltkiln, a stable, workshops, and a bakehouse, as well as the old Sheffield Iris newspaper office at the Hartshead end.

“No two buildings were the same shape, the same height, scarcely of the same alignment; yet, decayed and ramshackle, they proved good enough for a typographer.”

Aldine Court had been called Trippett’s Yard, Wreaks Yard, and in 1845, when Joseph Pearce set up a printing works here, was referred to as Wilson’s Yard (probably after George Wilson, of the Sharrow Mills family, who had set up a snuff shop on High Street in the 1830s).

Pearce, the son of a bookseller in Gibraltar Street, was a stationer, printer and part-proprietor of the Sheffield Times before launching the Sheffield Telegraph, Britain’s first daily provincial newspaper, in 1855.

Aldo Manuzio (Aldus Manutius) (1449/52-1515)

The narrow thoroughfare would become forever linked with newspapers, and it was Pearce who renamed it Aldine Court, honouring one of history’s publishing greats.

Aldo Manuzio arrived in Venice in 1490 and produced small books in Latin and Italian, publishing the works of Dante, Petrarch, and Erasmus. Over two decades, his Aldine Press published 130 editions, famous for its imitation of the handwriting of Petrarch, using a typeface called ‘venetian’ or ‘aldine’, but later known by the name we are familiar with today – ‘italic’.

Between 1913-1916, Aldine Court was somewhat straightened to accommodate the Sheffield Telegraph building, and partly covered with later newspaper extensions.

Aldine Court looking towards the back of the Telegraph Building. Photograph: DJP2021.
Aldine Court looking towards Hartshead. Photograph: DJP2021.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Chapel Walk: “With hedges of honeysuckle and hawthorn; the air fragrant with the scent of new-mown hay.”

The current state of Chapel Walk is in stark contrast to when it was Tucker Alley, leading from Fargate into the rural idyll of Alsop Fields. Photograph: Sheffield Star.

Let us dismiss a legend before we go any further. I cannot find any evidence that bodies are buried beneath Chapel Walk, but there again, nor can I prove that they aren’t. The only connection with the ‘dead’ these days is the number of empty shops and lack of pedestrians.

Since the 1990s, the decline of Chapel Walk is the most remarkable example of degeneration in Sheffield city centre. From being a busy thoroughfare, where people struggled to avoid bumping into each other, it has become a ‘ghost’ street, but one that has the most potential to be impressive again.

Chapel Walk is one of our oldest streets, with origins in medieval times, but its importance surfaces in the 1700s.

At that time, every house on Prior Gate (High Street) had long gardens behind them, backing onto Alsop Fields, a rural and agricultural area sloping down to the River Sheaf.

In 1660, followers of Rev. James Fisher, vicar of Sheffield, broke away from Sheffield Parish Church to form the beginnings of Congregationalism. They met in rooms around the town but in 1700 rented a site that faced ‘Farrgate’ and called it the New Chapel, the back of it looking across Alsop Fields.

On the death of the Rev. Timothy Jollie in 1714, the Trustees of the New Chapel appointed the Arian John Wadsworth, causing some dissenters to breakaway and build a new chapel.

They looked to John Tooker, an early Master Cutler, who lived on ‘Farrgate’ and agreed to sell a piece of garden behind his house for £60 to Elia Wordsworth, a prominent member of the seceding independents, to build a new meeting house.

The chapel, across gardens from New Chapel, was built in 1714 within Tooker’s Yard, access being from Tooker Alley (later Tucker Alley), a narrow thoroughfare, with the conveyance ensuring permanent right of way to the chapel from Fargate and Alsop Fields, and that the passage should never be narrower than two yards. Thereafter, Tucker Alley became known as Chapel Walk.

Only Fargate is familiar in this illustration. Tucker Alley became Chapel Walk. Norfolk Street was built at the edge of Alsop Fields. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

Because of their proximity to each other, New Chapel became the Upper Chapel with the one on Chapel Walk called Nether Chapel.

“One regrets that there is no picture available of the Nether Chapel of those far-off days. We can imagine the little congregation during a long sermon on a hot summer’s day being beguiled by the song of birds coming through the open windows. We can see them, through fancy’s eye, coming out after worship into the strong sunlight and indulging in a friendly chat under the shade of neighbouring trees, and then dispersing to their homes in the vicinity along narrow lanes with hedges of honeysuckle and hawthorn; the air fragrant with the scent  of new-mown hay – the silence broken now and again by the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle grazing contentedly in the adjacent fields.”

The chapel was partly destroyed by fire in 1827, and foundations for a New Nether Chapel were laid in May. It cost £4,200 and looked towards Norfolk Street (built at the edge of Alsop Fields) instead of Chapel Walk which had done its duty for 113 years. Dr William Younge sold land fronting Norfolk Street allowing the creation of a new chapel yard.

This illustration shows land purchased for the New Nether Chapel. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.
In 1826, Dr William Younge sold land fronting Norfolk Street for £700 allowing Nether Chapel to be rebuilt and giving them a new frontage. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

Over the next hundred years, Sheffield changed considerably. Gone were those rural delights and solitudes. Nether Chapel now stood in the heart of a city of bricks and mortar. The countryside had been obliterated by factories, workshops, and offices, and Chapel Walk became a popular shopping street.

Chapel Walk was an incredibly busy shopping street during the 1970s. Photograph: Sheffield Star.
In 1931, Sheffield Corporation purchased a portion of the Nether Chapel yard in Norfolk Street for street improvement purposes. An ‘awkward bulge’ was removed bringing the frontage of Victoria Hall (1908), Nether Chapel, and St Marie’s Presbytery, into line. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

In 1963, congregations at Burngreave, Wicker, Queen Street and Nether Chapel resolved to unite and form one church and to build a new chapel in the city centre. Nether Chapel was demolished, and a new Central Congregational Church opened in 1971.

When the United Reformed Church was formed in 1972 from Congregational and Presbyterian denominations the Church became Central United Reformed Church. It was significantly altered in 2000 and stands at the Norfolk Street end of Chapel Walk.

Meanwhile, Chapel Walk has fallen on tough times. Not helped by the Fargate end being shrouded in ‘abandoned’ scaffolding for several years, attempts to regenerate the street have so far failed. However, with the right investment, this slender pedestrian walkway could rise again. Small independent shops?

NOTE:- Upper Chapel was remodelled in the 1840s, turned around to face across fields. It survives in solitude on Norfolk Street.

Norfolk Street end of Chapel Walk in the 1960s. Nether Chapel is on the left, the Victoria Hall is to the right. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


York Street

The entrance to York Street from High Street. The Crown Inn once stood where this photograph is taken. Photograph Google.

York Street is just a street to many of us, a shortcut between High Street and Hartshead. Apart from its long, recently ended, association with the Star and Telegraph, it hasn’t played a significant role in the city centre’s history.

However, despite having few buildings of architectural importance, York Street can still tell a story.

In 1565, documents state that the property between the Church Gates (now Sheffield Cathedral) passed into new hands and was bounded by the churchyard to the west, and on the east by lands belonging to John Skynner of London.

York Street didn’t exist, the land changing ownership many times, steadily developed towards its High Street frontage.

We now come across an old tavern, sometimes called Morton’s, and at others as The Crown, often used for public meetings (and drinking) by the Town Trustees and the Cutlers’ Company.

John Morton, landlord, had the honour of being a Master Cutler and a victualler. He occupied the chair in 1709-10, and during his year, the Archbishop of York seems to have been entertained at The Crown. In 1721, when the Duke of Norfolk entertained leading inhabitants, a substantial amount of plate and table requisites were lent from this inn.

The Crown’s location is found in property deeds from adjacent properties in 1711 and 1735, bounded by the lands of John Morton westwards, and putting it where the opening to York Street is now.

In 1744, Morton’s widow, announcing her retirement from business, advertised in the Leeds Mercury her desire to let ‘that very good, accustomed inn, known by the sign of the Crown, near the Church Gates, with stabling for twenty-four horses.’

Soon afterwards, the inn appears to have closed and in 1770, Thomas Vennor, a Warwick man, bought the Crown property from the owners of ‘The Great House at the Church Gates,’ and established himself as a mercer.

In 1772, he had ‘lately’ made ‘a new street called York Street, leading from High Street to Hartshead,’ which ran through the ground ‘whereon stood the house of John Morton, over its yard, and beyond to Hartshead across a piece of vacant land purchased from the Broadbents.’

We can fix 1770 as the date York Street was created, possibly as a nod to the Archbishop of York’s historical visit, and it appears on Fairbank’s map of 1771.

This photograph dates to about 1890. The spot underwent a complete metamorphosis, with the addition of a bank on the left hand corner and the Sheffield Telegraph offices on the right. The shop shown on the right was that of the Goldsmiths’ Company. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

Its creation was important because prior to construction pedestrians could only pass from High Street to Hartshead through narrow ‘jennels,’ while wheeled traffic had to negotiate Townhead and travel the full length of Campo Lane to reach it.

In this respect, Robert Eadon Leader, that cherished Sheffield historian, regarded him as a ‘public benefactor,’ something not shared by Vennor’s contemporaries, who failed to support his efforts to become a Town Trustee in 1778.

York Street was a busy thoroughfare, with houses, shops, and offices, lining both sides, but there was a darker characteristic.

York Street in 1905, looking towards High Street. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

In 1868, a resident wrote that “the neighbourhood of York Street is infested with night walkers, who won’t let you pass without receiving the grossest insults imaginable.”

The building of respectable Victorian buildings towards High Street improved its reputation, but in 1922 a correspondent to the Sheffield Telegraph said that it was “in a very bad state of repair, and in wet weather large pools of water collect, with the result that not only is property splashed up with dirt (your beautiful white building is an example), but foot passengers have their clothes ruined by every wheeled vehicle that passes up and down. It is the busiest street for motor traffic in the city, and the footpath the narrowest.”

A sight more familar to us. York Street looking towards Hartshead in 1965. The Telegraph and Star Offices are on the right, now apartments. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Buildings Sculpture

The mystery of Mercury

The sculpture of Mercury stands proudly above the portico of the Sheffield Telegraph Building on High Street. It is one of two statues of Mercury in the city centre, the other being on top of the Lyceum Theatre. (Image: David Poole)

Here is a mystery.

This bronze statue of Mercury has stood on top of the portico of the Telegraph Building on High Street since about 1915.

Mercury, Roman god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves, is shown as a nude male figure with wings both side on his hat, and on the outside of his ankles. He carries in his left hand a caduceus, an elaborate winged staff. The statue appears to be about to take off, his toes barely touching the base and his right arm extended with fingers pointing skyward.

But where did the statue come from?

An artist impression from 1913 of the Sheffield Telegraph Building at High Street. The sculpture of Mercury sits above the portico at the corner with York Street. The portico was the entrance to the offices and counting-house which occupied the whole of the ground floor. Most recently occupied by a building society, the corner unit has planning permission to become a restaurant. (Image: British Newspaper Archive)

The bronze statue is said to be much earlier, re-sited here when the Sheffield Telegraph built new offices on High Street between 1913-1915.

A few searches are quite specific that the statue was acquired by the Electric Telegraph Company in 1856 to decorate new premises for the Sheffield Daily Telegraph at the opening to The Shambles. (This is now the site of KFC at the junction of High Street and Haymarket).

The Electric Telegraph Company office seen about 1856. The statues of Mercury (left) and Vulcan (right) can be seen in the niches at the upper level. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Furthermore, it is suggested that the bronze sculpture occupied one of two niches, one on either side of the front elevation of the upper story, the figure of Mercury to the left and Vulcan to the right.

It is said that the Mercury sculpture was moved to the Telegraph Building in 1915, while the Vulcan statue was lost.

Old illustrations of the Electric Telegraph Building clearly show the statues, but at this point the authenticity of the sculpture on the 1915 building comes into question.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph may or may not have had offices at the Shambles, and it is well documented that its early offices were on the site of High Street and Aldine Court, long since vacated by the newspaper.

Further inspection identifies the Electric Telegraph Building on The Shambles as being the Fitzalan Market Hall, that looked up the slopes of High Street and King Street.

Fitzalan Chambers in 1918. Blackened by Sheffield’s smoky atmosphere, the Mercury and Vulcan statues are clearly evident three years after the construction of the Telegraph Building on High Street. The De Bears Schools specialised in shorthand, typewriting, correspondence, and business training. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

In 1856, an account of the opening of the Exchange, News Room, and Telegraph Office was published in the Sheffield Independent:

“This building which has been erected from the designs of Messrs Weightman, Hadfield, and Goldie, by the Duke of Norfolk, terminate the pile of buildings occupying the façade towards the Old Haymarket. On the ground floor it was necessary to retain the old-established wine vaults of Samuel Younge and Co, and to provide shops for fish salesmen in the lower part of the market. The Exchange Room occupies the first floor. The room is entered by folding doors. At the end of the room opposite the entrance is a small apartment fitted up by the Telegraph Company in which the subscribers may write and dispatch their messages to all parts of the globe accessible to this rapid mode of communication.”

There were lengthy descriptions of the interior and finally “Over the market entrances are two niches with figures carved in stone by Messrs Lane and Lewis of Birmingham representing Mercury and Vulcan – typical at once of the wonder-working telegraph and the staple trade of Sheffield.”

From this account we can identify that both sculptures were made of stone and still present when the Fitzalan Market Hall (or Fitzwilliam Chambers as the offices became known) was demolished in the 1930s.

Fitzalan Chambers prior to demolition in the 1930s. The whereabouts of the statues of Mercury and Vulcan is unknown. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

This makes the Mercury atop the Telegraph Building a bit of an unknown.

The design is based on the work of Giovanni da Bologna (1529-1608), better known as Giambologna, noted for his command of sculptural composition, producing figures that were pleasing to view from all positions.

The bronze figure is identical to one on top of the dome above HSBC in Doncaster’s High Street, built in 1896-1897 for the York and County Bank (and according to historians, the sculpture also dating to 1856).

I suspect the origin of the Mercury sculpture on the Telegraph Building lies closer to home and is later in design.

The building was designed by Gibbs, Flockton & Teather and constructed by George Longden and Son in 1915. Both Sheffield firms worked with Frank Tory, responsible for much of the city’s fine stone artwork, but also known to have worked in bronze.

Is it possible that Frank Tory was the man behind the sculpture we see today?

It also leaves another question unanswered.

What happened to the two stone Lane and Lewis statues?

Maybe someone, somewhere, has two fine statues of Mercury and Vulcan in their garden.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


1-9 York Street

Impressive by design. Former premises of the London and Midland Bank. Designed by Andrew Francis Watson and opened in 1895. (Image: David Poole)

The next time you walk up High Street, look at this English Renaissance-style building at its corner with York Street. The official address is 1-9 York Street and causes confusion because it is an extension of Lloyd’s Bank, occupying the ground floor of Parade Chambers, next door.

It is dwarfed by its neighbour, a  five-storey Tudor-Gothic block, built by Pawson and Brailsford in 1885, and looks out of proportion, but, as we shall see, there is a reason why it looks this way.

In 1892, Pawson and Brailsford snapped up a large area of land around Parade Chambers, including the corner plot that had once been a music shop for Alderman William Stacey and as a draper, for Edward Butcher, whose family had lived and traded here for generations.

Looking onto East Parade in the early nineteenth century. Pawson and Brailsford was replaced by Parade Chambers and W. Stacey became the site of the London and Midland Bank. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

At the close of the 19th century the building was long-neglected, but the land it stood on, fronting High Street, was extremely valuable. The plot went to auction and was bought for £12,000 by the directors of London and Midland Bank.

It commissioned Sheffield architect Andrew Francis Watson, of Holmes and Watson, to build a new and commodious bank to replace its Fargate branch, opened in 1889, but three years later, deemed inadequate for its growing business.

However, there was a delay in construction because of unsuccessful consultation with the bank’s neighbour on the opposite corner of York Street. This was due to the privileges of ‘ancient lights.’

It was an old restriction that said that A, an owner of property on one side of a narrow central street, was refused permission to raise his building by B, the owner of the property opposite. As was often the case, no amount of money would tempt him to give up his rights to the lights.

Artist impression of the London and Midland Bank in 1895, making it larger than it actually was. (Image: British Newspaper Archive)
Local newspapers sketched the completed building shortly after opening. (Image: British Newspaper Archive)

Watson made clever use of the site, but the best that could be done, according to the Sheffield Independent, was a “disfigurement, through want of height, to what ought to have been a very fine street.”

Construction began in 1894, built by Fred Ives of Shipley, the materials on the façade being polished black Labrador granite for the base, and red Swedish granite for the pilasters. The stone in the upper part of the building was from Varley’s Huddersfield quarries, thought to be the best to cope with Sheffield’s acidic atmosphere.

The entrance to the bank had a carved panel over the doorway, with heraldic shields representing the arms of some of the towns and cities where the company had offices and banks. A lobby, lined with modelled tiled faience, led to folding walnut doors.

The intricate sculptors that adorn many Sheffield buildings were the work of Frank Tory. This old bank reveals another of his treasures above the old front entrance. Tory was also responsible for woodwork carvings within the building. (Image: David Poole)

The banking house, about 56ft by 28ft, and 18ft high, was lined with polished walnut dido, and above that with Pavanazza and Sienna marbles (supplied by Pattinson of Manchester), with a richly modelled frieze, panelled ceilings, and cornice, with local traditional work of the Jacobean period put into the design.

The fixtures, fittings, counters, and screens were made of elaborately carved American walnut, by Johnson and Appleyard, while the public floor was of marble mosaic, the rest being in red wooden blocks.

Particularly impressive was a fireplace and chimneypiece with carved walnut overmantel and clock case.

Victorian banking made a statement at the London and Midland Bank. (Image: British Newspaper Archive)

The bank occupied the ground floor and basement (with strong rooms), books and cash conveyed from the counters using a tramway system to a lift. The basement bullion room was designed with a passage all around it to avoid mining from surrounding property or the street.

The manager’s office, occupied by Mr H.M. Elliott, looked out onto High Street, was lined with Tynecastle tapestry, and approached through a private inquiry box.

On the first floor were eight offices to let, accessed from York Street by a staircase, while the second floor, still visible from the street, contained the caretaker’s residence.

The London and Midland Bank cost £9,000 to build and opened in September 1895.

Eight years after construction, the London and Midland Bank had succumbed to Sheffield’s sooty atmosphere. The owners of the property where Harpers Stores stands had objected to building the bank any higher because of ‘ancient lights.’ (Image: Picture Sheffield)
The bank seen in 1895, the year it opened. The manager’s office looked out onto High Street. The small dormer window at the top was the caretaker’s residence. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

In 1913, the London, City and Midland Bank (as it had become) amalgamated with the Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank on Church Street and rebranded as Midland Bank in 1923 (now HSBC).

In 1931, Midland Bank transferred its business from High Street to Market Place (now Banker’s Draft), and with the old Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank on Church Street, the presence of three banks close to one other was considered unnecessary.

The building was immediately bought by the adjoining National Provincial Bank as an extension, later becoming NatWest, and is now occupied by Lloyd’s Bank. Its interior became one, with only the exterior providing any clues to its history.

The former grand entrance is now a fire exit to Lloyd’s Bank. (Image: David Poole)
The old bank was Grade II-listed in 1995. (Image: David Poole)
The building only lasted 36 years as a standalone property. It was absorbed into the bank next door in 1931 but remains one of Sheffield’s few original banks. (Image: David Poole)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


No.2 High Street

No.2 High Street. One of Sheffield’s few city centre listed buildings. (Image: David Poole)

The pandemic has claimed another victim. Caffé Nero, a familiar sight at No.2 High Street, won’t be reopening when lockdown restrictions are eased, the retail unit now up to let.

 Our thirst for coffee and cakes might not have diminished, but poor trading conditions have forced the London-based chain to rethink its future.

While it maintains a presence in Sheffield, the outlook for one of the city’s Grade II-listed buildings is less certain.

No.2 High Street was the result of High Street widening during the 1890s, one of several Victorian buildings built by esteemed architects Flockton, Gibbs & Flockton.

Described in Pevsner as “one of their more exuberant ‘fin de siècle’ essays,” it is characteristic for its high mansard roof.

Many people think it was built as a bank, and Barclays did occupy it from the early 20th century until recent times, but its history is more elaborate.

The building featured in an 1896 edition of British Architect with a double-plate spread.

“A massive and imposing appearance, with an elaborate scheme of stone carvings and mouldings. There is a suggestion of the easy and graceful style of French architecture.”

It was built for Nicholson, Greaves, Barber and Hastings, established in 1775, auctioneers, which had conducted property sales at older premises on High Street, as well as holding horse sales at the Horse Repository on Castle Hill.

In August 1896, No.2 High Street was in the process of construction, farther back from the original street line, the auctioneers temporarily transferring business to the Cutlers’ Hall and premises on Fargate.

The firm was Sheffield’s premier auction house, responsible for the sale of important buildings and used by the Duke of Norfolk to dispose of land and property.

It was completed in 1897, a date stone still evident at the side of the building on Black Swan Walk.

An artist drawing of No.2 High Street from the Sheffield Indpenedent in 1896. (Image: British Newspaper Archive)

There were two large auction rooms and offices on the ground floor, with a large basement for storage, a strong-room for jewellery and plate, and two separate store-rooms for furniture.

The façade was enriched with four stories of superimposed columns, the lower ones of red Labrador granite, standing upon a grey granite base.

The base supported a handsome cornice with a broad frieze of black granite, on which the name of the firm appeared in raised gilt letters.

The upper pillars were of stone with carved and decorated capitals, and a considerable amount of carving. The external effect was enhanced by a balcony of ornamental ironwork.

The upper portion of the block was let as offices, with special care given to effective ventilation and warming of the auction room with a Blackburn heater and fan, driven by an electric motor.

Available to let and empty again. No.2 High Street is awaiting a new tenant. (Image: David Poole)

Nicholson, Greaves, Barber and Hastings was made up of four partners, each with interests elsewhere. In 1917, J.J. Greaves and Sons left the partnership and the firm continued trading as Nicholson, Barber and Hastings until the 1950s.

However, Barclays Bank opened a branch here in 1920 and the Estate Mart became a secondary part of the building before closing altogether.

Not much has changed since construction, except for the removal of the balcony railings and the interior completely refurbished for bank use.

After a period as Caffé Nero it now joins a long list of vacant properties in and around High Street and Fargate.

A side view of the building on Black Swan Walk with a date stone. (Image: David Poole)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.