Interest in the former Cole Brothers/John Lewis store in Barker’s Pool exceeded expectations, wrote David Walsh at the Sheffield Star.
There had been ‘fifteen or sixteen credible and exciting bids; according to Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Co-chair of the Transport, Regeneration and Climate Policy Committee at Sheffield City Council.
Such was the interest that any decision on the building would be delayed until November while applications were vetted.
The news almost certainly saved the building, and Councillor Iqbal said he favoured retaining or part-retaining the building, although demolition had not been ruled out. He added that the carpark would come down because it was ‘not safe and posed a safety risk.’
But I wonder how many of those applicants will still be interested today.
This morning, Historic England announced that the former Cole Brothers/John Lewis store had been granted a Grade II listing, meaning that it is of ‘special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it.’
“Historic England was asked to assess the former Cole Brothers’ (John Lewis) department store for Listing,” said a spokesperson. “After careful consideration, our recommendation to The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) was that it should be listed at Grade II.
“It is a rare example of a post-war department store – designed by a leading mid-C20 firm of architects – with clean, crisp Modernist lines and a sophisticated layout for shoppers. It stood out from the crowd and contributed to the city of Sheffield’s vision for a vibrant new environment for its residents. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport agreed with our advice and has today granted the former Cole Brothers’ (John Lewis) Department Store listed status.”
Hallamshire Historic Buildings and the Twentieth Century Society had applied for the designation that also included the carpark.
As far as the C20 Society is concerned, it marks the culmination of a 20 year battle to get it listed.
The building was accepted by Historic England as ‘a good example of early Sixties architecture by an important firm of architects’ but initially turned down for listing in December 2001.
Although further acknowledging the store as an ‘important post-war building’, a Certificate of Immunity from listing (COI) was issued in September 2002, but this lapsed in 2007.
Upon consultation for its renewal in May 2022, C20 Society strongly objected and called for the building to be listed at Grade II.
The change heralds a long-called for thematic investigation by Historic England into the department store as a unique building type, testament to C20’s ongoing Department Stores Campaign and the efforts of other heritage organisations in helping raise awareness of so many underappreciated examples. With the nature of retail and the character of our high streets changing so profoundly in the past two decades, the plight of former department stores has recently become a topic of national conversation.
Designed by prominent post-war modernists, Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall (YRM) – also behind other big commissions like St Thomas’s Hospital in London, Gatwick Airport and Manchester Magistrates Court – the store was built in 1963.
As for the building’s future, it means that any decision must now be taken between Sheffield City Council, Historic England, and all other stakeholders, including the C20 Society, in helping to define potential use.
This might prove a stumbling block for some of the ’15 or 16’ applicants but will not deter serious bidders (look at Park Hill as an example).
Demolition isn’t ruled out, but it would be a long process, the final decision resting with the DCMS. But it has happened before. In 2013, after a long campaign to save it, the Grade II listed Jessops Edwardian building was flattened to make way for the University of Sheffield’s futuristic Diamond block.