Categories
Buildings Streets

Leopold Street

Work in progress. The pedestrianisation of Leopold Street (above), Pinstone Street, and Surrey Street, will create a traffic-free Town Hall Square. (DJP/2021)

Our city centre is at a crossroads. The city is in flux and a street that highlights it most is Leopold Street. Buses no longer run along here, and all traffic is halted mid-way. Sheffield is going car-free, and with it our streets become soulless. Nothing is sadder than a street about to undergo pedestrianisation. It is blocked with traffic cones and concrete barriers and unsure what it wants to be.

As far as Sheffield streets go, Leopold Street is relatively new, a pet-project for town planners in 1873.  Back then, access to Fargate and Pinstone Street was via Church Street, along awkwardly narrow Orchard Street, to its junction with Orchard Lane, and dog-legged towards what is now the top of Fargate.

Its making was the result of Sheffield Corporation’s three-street development scheme – the creation of Surrey Street, Fargate improvements, and the construction of ‘modern-day’ Pinstone Street. A new road was needed to link these streets with Bow Street (the road that became the bottom of West Street) and a link between old Sheffield Moor and Shalesmoor.

A long-standing road, South Street, was swept away, the land around it cleared, and the large sloping site bounded by the proposed new road, Orchard Lane, Holly Street and Bow Street (West Street) earmarked for educational purposes. It became the site of Firth College (1879), School Board offices and the Central School (both 1880). Of course, we now know these buildings as the Leopold Hotel and Leopold Square

By May 1880, half its length had been completed, 60-feet wide from Bow Street to Fargate, paved in wooden blocks, and converted to macadam in 1883.

Aerial view of Leopold Street. The Leopold Hotel and Leopold Square are centre. Before 1880, the main route between Church Street and Fargate was along narrow Orchard Street, to the left, which curved at its junction with Orchard Lane (where the mini-roundabout is today). The top-end of Orchard Street (near to Fargate) was absorbed into Leopold Street. (Google)

The Watch Committee recommended that the new street be named after Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (1853-1884), eighth and youngest son of Queen Victoria, who had opened Firth College in October 1879.

The addition of the Sheffield Medical Institution on the other side of the road in 1888 prompted one expert to say that Leopold Street would become a “street of institutions.”

It never became a street of learning. Firth College and the Medical Institution were the foundation stones for the University of Sheffield and moved away. By the late 1970s, the old education buildings were in decline, mostly unoccupied, but spared the fate that befell the nearby Assay Office and Grand Hotel, both demolished, and replaced with office blocks.

A street sign on the wall of what was once Firth College, at its junction with West Street, and now part of the Leopold Hotel. (DJP/2021)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Old Red Lion

One Saturday night, in September 1926, Alfred Henwood finished his pint at the bar of the Old Red Lion on Holly Street and walked out. He returned just after time and said he had left his beer on the counter.

The landlord, Charles Foreman, told Henwood that he had seen him drink his beer. Not satisfied, Henwood picked up another jar of beer, which was not his, and refused to put it down. He told the licensee that if he could not have a pint, he would smash all the glasses. Thereupon he spread his arms around the glasses – five-and-a-half dozen – and every one was smashed.

He claimed in court that it was an accident but was fined £3.

Just another story in the life of an old Sheffield pub.

The Old Red Lion opened in 1822, life and soul for the surrounding houses and small industries. Slum-like flats used to be attached to the property, long demolished and the land vacant ever since.

The Old Red Lion, a William Stones establishment, moved with the times. The locals moved and industry declined but when the City Hall opened in 1934 it became a favourite watering hole.

In the 1980s it was remodelled – knocked through into the property behind – the former works of J.W. Northend, printers, which became a bar known as Barkers (becoming Edwards, later Reflex and now the Slug and Lettuce).

But times are hard now for the Red Lion. A separate property again, it’s nearly ten years since it closed and has been boarded-up ever since. The City Hall clientele prefer the Wetherspoon options at the front, and the Red Lion is stuck at the arse-end of West Street.