It seems incredible that a city that promotes itself as an ‘Outdoor City’ won’t have any refreshment facilities in its largest park. I refer to the sudden closure of the Rose Garden Café in Graves Park, a story breaking across the media.
The reason behind the closure, and its shielding behind metal railings, is the unsafe condition of the building.
The council estimates that it will cost at least £550k to repair the building and they only have £200k. A consultant report says that there is significant roof sag, dormer windows leaning inwards, leaking roof, blocked drains, bulging of the soffit beams both sides of the entrance, and a long list of other problems. According to the report, “It has reached the end of its design life.”
“It is not recommended to refurbish the Rose Garden Café,” says the report. “Unless it is considered to be of sufficient historic interest and additional funding is readily available. Any building can be repaired but at a cost. The café is not listed but the repair details involved would be as if it was listed. It is recommended that the café and rear kitchen/store extension be demolished and the newer toilet block retained. For comparison a new build modular of 500 square metres will be circa £425,000.”
The Rose Garden Café was built as a pavilion and tearoom in 1927 by Sheffield Corporation’s Parks Committee to the designs of city architect W.G. Davies.
It was constructed by Reeves Charlesworth Ltd at a cost of £2,500.
The pavilion was built close to Summerhouse Wood, in the old orchard of a summer house. It was here that park keepers used to toll the bell to warn users that the park was closing. After this the gates would be locked, and you were not allowed in.
According to Ian Rotherham, from Sheffield Hallam University, the summer house survived until demolition by Sheffield City Council in the early 1970s.
“We believe that this may have been a possible Tudor hunting tower for the old deer parks alongside the now Hemsworth Road.”
The opening ceremony for the pavilion was on July 29, 1927, when David Flather, Master Cutler, handed the Lord Mayor, Alderman J.G. Graves, a gold key, a gift from the building contractor. Flather said that the Cutlers’ Company had the greatest admiration for the work which the Lord Mayor was doing for the city. It was J.G. Graves who had gifted the park to Sheffield in 1925.
The Lord Mayor said he regarded the building of the pavilion as a remunerative undertaking and not as a luxury expenditure. If the Council continued to encourage the public to make use of the natural advantages of the city and to indulge in healthy recreation, then there would be less spent on hospital services, the drink and gambling evils would decrease and there would be less policemen needed.
“We have facilities for accommodating considerable numbers of our fellow citizens from the more distant parts of Sheffield. We could, with the help of the Tramways Committee, who will, I am sure, be reasonable, provide facilities for bringing parties of people from all parts of the city, particularly the East End. I refer to mothers’ unions, old folks’ treats, and others. I hope it will be possible to entertain 100 or 150 people at given dates in advance and that the facilities will be taken advantage of at ordinary times.”
A year later, in 1928, the rose garden was laid out in front of the pavilion, prompting J.G. Graves to say that he hadn’t seen anything better outside Regent’s Park.
Happy times. But in the 95 years since, Sheffield City Council has woefully neglected Graves Park.
“Like the rest of Graves Park, the cafe building belongs to The Graves Park Charity,” says the Friends of Graves Park. “The problem has always been that the trustees of the charity are Sheffield councillors, and whilst they are required to make decisions in the best interests of the charity there have been many occasions where some might suggest they put the interest of the council first.”
J.G. Graves will rightly feel miffed in his grave (no pun intended), because the condition of the old pavilion is a shocking indictment.
Buildings should last longer than 100 years (although many don’t) and with careful maintenance will be structurally safe. On hindsight, the construction of the pavilion may have had design defects and the build quality may have been inadequate.
Allegedly, the current tenant has paid over £400K in rent and a share of his profits to Sheffield City Council over the past 14 years, but no maintenance on the building has been completed.
I suspect the likely outcome will be demolition, and with inadequate funds in the budget for a replacement, the park might be left without any facilities.
It might be the case, as in some other cities around the world, that any development is handed to private enterprise, to build, and operate, a replacement facility. And might this create an opportunity to rebuild incorporating parts of the old pavilion?
©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.