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When Sheffield forced its way into Fleet Street’s golden age

A sketch of the 1901 Sheffield Telegraph building in London’s Fleet Street. The entrance was at the corner of Fleet Street and Fetter Lane. (Picture Sheffield)

Set in the floor, at the entrance to a narrow covered alley on Fleet Street, in the City of London, is a forgotten reminder that the Sheffield Daily Telegraph was once one of Britain’s leading provincial newspapers.

Fleet Street was the centre of Britain’s newspaper industry, and adjacent to Hen and Chicken Court, was the site of the Telegraph’s former London office. It moved here in the early 1890s, occupying a small building at its corner with Fetter Lane. However, in 1901, it was swept away by the Telegraph’s owners, W. C. Leng and Co, and replaced with a piece of Sheffield.

A busy newspaper street. 1906: Fleet Street looking towards Ludgate Hill and St. Paul’s Cathedral. (Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images)

180-181 Fleet Street was designed by Sheffield architects Gibbs and Flockton, and used as offices for the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, the Weekly Telegraph, the Yorkshire Evening Star and Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, and other newspapers and publications belonging to the company.

The site was held on a long lease from the Drapers’ Company, with a 20ft frontage on Fleet Street, and 131ft in Fetter Lane.

The Sheffield Telegraph, 180-181 Fleet Street, London offices of the Sheffield Telegraph, in 1897. (Picture Sheffield)
May 1901. Demolition of the Sheffield Telegraph offices in Fleet Street to make way for the new Gibbs and Flockton building. (British Newspaper Archive)
A rare glimpse of the Sheffield Telegraph building on the right. Although the address was Fleet Street, it had six ground floor shops on Fetter Lane. The buildings to its left survive.

There were six floors, including the basement and roof storey, built with cast-iron standards and steel girders. The ground floor in Fetter Lane was divided into six sale shops, and each of the floors into thirteen offices. The front of the building was faced with creamy white Carrara faience, supplied by Doulton and Co.

It was here that the newspaper rented a private telegraph wire from the Post Office, the first provincial publication to do so. It connected Fleet Street with its head office in High Street allowing 400 words a minute to be transmitted. The wire ran underground to Birmingham then onwards to Sheffield using telegraph poles. It meant that Sheffield was only five minutes behind London when it came to getting the latest news stories.

In 1925, the newspapers were bought by Allied Newspapers, the building sold, and the offices relocated to 136 Fleet Street.

A floor plaque, at the entrance to Hen and Chicken Court, is the only reminder that the Sheffield Daily Telegraph once had adjacent offices.

Surprisingly, very few photographs exist of the Gibbs and Flockton offices, and it was replaced by a modern office block in 1983.

Newspapers were once big business, but no more.

The building was replaced by this modern office block in 1983 and is still known as 180 Fleet Street. Note that old buildings survive to the left. (Buildington)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.