For those that don’t know, Moorfields is the short stretch of ring-road between Gibraltar Street and Shalesmoor and is at risk of being forgotten because most people have never heard of it. Once upon a time this was a small piece of common land, but as the city expanded it became one of the poorest districts of Sheffield.
Its name survives in the 1930s block of flats that wouldn’t look out of place in the London suburbs.
Moorfields Flats were built in 1933-1934 as part of Sheffield’s big slum clearance scheme. It was anticipated that those living in the back-to-back terraces around Scotland Street would move here. But there was a problem. People with families didn’t want to go into the flats, preferring instead to move to new council estates that were being constructed at Woodthorpe and Arbourthorne, which came with gardens.
Nor were the flats without its critics.
“The flats were not buildings of which Sheffield Corporation could be proud. No person in his right senses would choose to live in the Moorfields flats and they would be a standing disgrace to Sheffield for all time,” said Alderman C.W. Gascoigne in 1934.
It was a slight on its designer, city architect W.G. Davies, who had created 37 flats, built over three storeys above seven shops that fronted the building.
Each flat had two or three bedrooms, kitchen, scullery, and were cheaper in price than new council houses, although comparable in size.
“Each flat had a washing copper and provision for drying the weekly wash in either the courts at the back of the flats, or by means of a clothes line along the front balconies attached to the flats.”
But people refused to live in them and by October 1934 the council had only managed to sign up twenty tenants while the shops were described as a ‘white elephant’ with only one application of interest.
A letter from Darrell H. Foxton also reached the Sheffield Independent: –
“The rents of the Moorfields Flats are 8s 7d. and 9s 8d., according to size, and although they are a paradise in comparison to the squalid hovels which the present tenants are used to, so many are on relief or unemployment that it is quite impossible for them to furnish the rooms adequately. On many of the floors are neither carpet nor linoleum.”
The flats were eventually occupied, as were the shops beneath, but correct me if I am wrong, Moorfields flats have never really been loved, and are definitely showing their age.
But there is a potential twist to the story and that involves the advancement and gentrification of Kelham Island that is almost upon the back of the property.
Might we see the block sold, demolished, and replaced with twenty-first century apartments? Or might we see the flats sold to a developer to turn into trendy private apartments in the same way as Park Hill?
The answer will come in the next few years.
©2023 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.