Bainbridge Building

Good news for the Bainbridge Building on the corner of Norfolk Street and Surrey Street.

The proposed redevelopment of the former Halifax Bank to create a new hotel and restaurant has been given the go-ahead.

Mitchells & Butchers, supported by WYG and Design Coalition, submitted an application to Sheffield City Council at the end of 2019 for the former bank on Surrey Street.

The building, which is not listed, was originally constructed in 1893-1894, with the structure behind the façade rebuilt in 1977-1978. It has remained vacant following the closure of the Halifax Bank in August 2017.

The application covers the conversion of the property to create a restaurant at ground floor and basement levels and a hotel on the upper floors.

The restaurant is set to operate as a Miller & Carter Steakhouse and comprise 187 covers. It will be located within the former banking hall on the ground floor, with additional covers at basement level.

A total of 20 hotel rooms are set to be created on the upper floors, along with a reception area and a manager/night porter office.

It has been estimated that the development would create 62 jobs (29 full-time and 37 part-time positions). The £2.36m conversion and fit-out of the building is expected to support the creation of further roles.

The building was commissioned by Emerson Bainbridge, a mining engineer consultant and philanthropist, following the death of his wife, Jeffie. It was erected as a memorial to her and opened by the Duke and Duchess of Portland in 1894.

The first floor formed a shelter for waifs and strays, and a large suite of offices on the second floor were given to the local branch of The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, of which Bainbridge was a committee member.

The ground floor consisted of shops that were let out to tenants in order to raise revenue to support the rent-free premises above.

Buildings People

Walter Gerard Buck

This influential character is relatively unknown in Sheffield’s history. A modest person, he was responsible for one of the city’s iconic landmarks.

Walter Gerard Buck (1863-1934) was born in Beccles, Suffolk, the youngest son of Edward Buck. He was educated at the Albert Memorial College in Framlingham, and acquired an interest in architecture, joining the practice of Arthur Pells, a reputable Suffolk architect and surveyor, where he learned the techniques to design and build.

Walter Gerard Buck, architect and surveyor (1863-1934)

Walter, aged 21, realised there were limitations to this rural outpost and would need to improve his talent elsewhere. This opportunity arose in Manchester, the seat of the industrial revolution, where demand for new commercial buildings was great. It was here where he gained several years’ experience in large civil engineering and architectural works, including the building of the Exchange Station, Manchester, as well as the Exchange Station and Hotel in Liverpool.

Liverpool Exchange Street Station and Hotel. The frontage remains and in the 1980s was incorporated into the Mercury Court office development. It has recently been converted into 21st century office space called ‘Exchange Station’. (Image: Alan Young)
Manchester Exchange Station was a railway station located in Salford, immediately to the north of Manchester city centre. It served the city between 1884 and 1969. The station was closed on 5 May 1969. (Image: National Railway Museum)

In 1890, his reputation growing, Walter made the move over the Pennines and into the practice of Mr Thomas Henry Jenkinson at 4 East Parade.

Jenkinson had been an architect in Sheffield for over forty years. He had been responsible for several buildings built in the city centre, taking advantage that Sheffield had been one of the last among the big towns to take in hand the improvement of its streets and their architecture.

Buck’s move to Sheffield proved advantageous. Jenkinson had become a partner at Frith Brothers and Jenkinson in 1862, which he continued until 1898, when he retired. He made Walter his chief assistant and allowed him to reorganise the business and control affairs for several years. During this period Walter carried out work on many commercial buildings and factories in Sheffield.

Initially, Walter boarded in lodgings at 307 Shoreham Street, close to the city centre. He married Louisa Moore Kittle in 1892 and, once his reputation had been established, was able to purchase his own house at 4 Ventnor Place in Nether Edge.

A letter from Walter to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph (8 Nov 1905)

Perhaps Walter Buck’s greatest work also proved to be his most short-lived.

In May 1897, Queen Victoria made her last visit to Sheffield for the official opening of the Town Hall. It also coincided with the 60th year of her reign – Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Year.

The visit caused considerable excitement in Sheffield and preparations lasted for weeks. Shops and offices advertised rooms that commanded the best positions to see the Queen. Not surprisingly, these views were quickly occupied, but the closest view was promised in the Imperial Grandstand, specially designed for the occasion by Walter Gerard Buck.

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee visit to Sheffield in May 1897. The central interest was the newly-built Town Hall where ‘the gilded gates stood closed until her majesty touched the golden key and they flew open’.

This spectacle was built next to the newly-erected Town Hall, opposite Mappin and Webb, on Norfolk Street (in modern terms this would be where the Peace Gardens start at the bottom-end of Cheney Walk across towards Browns brasserie and bar). It was advertised as ‘absolutely the best and most convenient in the city’, with a frontage of nearly 200 feet and ‘beautifully roofed in’. The stand, decorated in an artistic manner by Piggott Brothers and Co, provided hundreds of seats, the first three rows being carpeted with back rests attached to the back. In addition, the stand provided a lavatory, refreshment stalls and even a left luggage office. It was from here that the people of Sheffield saw Queen Victoria as the Royal procession passed within a few feet of the stand along Norfolk Street to Charles Street.

The next day the Imperial Grandstand was dismantled.

The professional relationship between Walter Buck and Thomas Jenkinson matured into a close friendship.

When Jenkinson died in 1900, he left the business to Walter and made him one of his executors. His son, Edward Gerard Buck, eventually joined the business which became known as Buck, Lusby and Buck, moving to larger premises at 34 Campo Lane.

In 1906, Walter was elected to the Council of the Sheffield, South Yorkshire and District Society of Architects and Surveyors and was elected President in 1930. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and a member of the council of that body.

Walter also became a member of the council of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Court of Governors of Sheffield University, a member and director of the Sheffield Athenaeum Club, a member of the Nether Edge Proprietary Bowling Club and vice-president of the Sheffield Rifle Club. It was this last role that he enjoyed best. Walter was a keen swimmer but his passion for rifle shooting kept him busy outside of work.

Apart from architectural work Walter held directorships with the Hepworth Iron Company and the Sheffield Brick Company. These astute positions allowed him to negotiate the best prices for the building materials needed to complete his projects.

A familiar site on Sheffield’s streets. The Sheffield Brick Company had brickyards situated at Neepsend, Grimesthorpe, Wincobank and Wadsley Bridge. Materials were used in many of the city’s buildings including Sheffield University, the Grand Hotel and the Town Hall. (Image: Sheffield History)

However, as the new century dawned, it was a role outside of architecture that occupied Walter’s time.

In 1892 the French Lumière brothers had devised an early motion-picture camera and projector called the Cinématographe. Their first show came to London in 1896 but the first moving pictures developed on celluloid film were made in Hyde Park in 1889 by William Friese Greene. The ‘new’ technology of silent movies exploded over the next few years and by 1906 the first ‘electric theatres’ had started to open. In London, there were six new cinemas, increasing to 133 by 1909.

Not surprisingly, this new sensation rippled across Britain and Sheffield was no exception. This had been pioneered by the Sheffield Photo Company, run by the Mottershaw family, who displayed films in local halls. They also pioneered the popular ‘chase’ genre in 1903 which proved significant for the British film industry. The Central Hall, in Norfolk Street, was effectively Sheffield’s first cinema opening in 1905, but the films were always supported with ‘tried and tested’ music hall acts. Several theatres started experimenting with silent movies, but it was the opening of the Sheffield Picture Palace in 1910, on Union Street, that caused the most excitement. This was the first purpose built cinema and others were looking on with interest.

Walter Buck was one such person and saw the opportunity to increase business by designing these new purpose-built cinemas. One of his first commissions was for Lansdowne Pictures Ltd who had secured land on the corner of London Road and Boston Street. The Lansdowne Picture Palace opened in December 1914, built of brick with a marble terracotta façade in white and green, with a Chinese pagoda style entrance. It was a vast building seating 1,250 people. In the same year he designed the Western Picture Palace at Upperthorpe for the Western Picture Palace Ltd.

The Lansdowne Picture Palace was designed by architect Walter Gerard Buck of Campo Lane, Sheffield. It stands at the junction of London Road and Boston Street and opened on 18th December 1914.  In 1947 the cinema became a temporary store for Marks & Spencers. In the 1950’s it became a Mecca Dance Hall called the ‘Locarno’ later changing into ‘Tiffany’s Night Club’. It had several more reincarnations as a night club with different names and the frontage was painted black, its last name being ‘Bed’. (Image: Cinema Treasures)
The Weston Picture Palace, designed by Walter Gerard Buck in 1913-14. The cinema was on St Phillip’s Road and Mitchell Street and was demolished. (Image: Sheffield History)

With the knowledge required to build cinemas it was unsurprising that Walter Buck was asked to join several companies as a director. One of these was Sheffield and District Cinematograph Theatres Ltd which was formed in 1910 for ‘the purpose of erecting and equipping in the busiest and most thickly populated parts of the City of Sheffield and district picture theatres on up-to-date lines’. Its first cinema was the Electra Palace Theatre in Fitzalan Square with a seating capacity upwards of 700 with daily continuous shows. Their second cinema was the Cinema House built adjoining the Grand Hotel and adjacent to Beethoven House (belonging to A Wilson & Peck and Co) on Fargate, this part later becoming Barker’s Pool. This was a much grander cinema with a seating capacity of 1,000 together with luxuriously furnished lounge and refreshment, writing and club rooms.

Ironically, Walter Buck did not design either of these picture houses. Instead, they were conceived by John Harry Hickton and Harry E. Farmer from Birmingham and Walsall, but the bricks were supplied by the Sheffield Brick Company, that lucrative business where Walter was a director. It should not go unnoticed that this highly profitable company probably made Walter a wealthy man. It had already supplied bricks for the Grand Hotel, Sheffield University and the Town Hall.

Opened as the Electra Palace on 10th February 1911. It was designed by J.H. Hickton & Harry E. Farmer of Birmingham & Walsall. Constructed by George Longden & Son Ltd. (who built several Sheffield cinemas), the proprietors being Sheffield & District Cinematograph Theatres Ltd. (Image: Sheffield History)
Opened in 1913, the Cinema House seated 800 and was one of the smaller city centre cinemas. Boasting a tea room, it had a narrow auditorium and patrons entered from the screen end of the hall. Being narrow, it’s Cinemascope image size was severely restricted. It closed in 1961 and was subsequently demolished. (Image: Cinema Treasures)

The cinema undertaking was not without risk and Cinema House, which opened six months before the start of World War One, always struggled to break even.

In 1920, far from building new cinemas right across the city, the company bought the Globe Picture House at Attercliffe. The following year they reported losses of £7,000 with Cinema House blamed for the poor performance.

At this stage, it is unclear as to what involvement Walter Buck had with Sheffield and District Cinematograph Theatres. He was also a director of Sunbeam Pictures Ltd, designing the Sunbeam Picture House at Fir Vale in 1922, and the Don Picture Palace at West Bar. He was most certainly a director of the Sheffield and District Cinematograph Company  by the late 1920s, and eventually became its chairman. In 1930, absurdly on hindsight, he was faced with a public backlash as the company made the transfer over to ‘talkie’ pictures.

“It was true that some people preferred the silent pictures, but the difficulty was that the Americans were producing very few silent films, or the directors might probably have kept some of the houses on silent films to see if they could hold their own with the talkie halls.”

Located on Attercliffe Common at the junction with Fell Road. The Globe Picture Hall was a venture of the Sheffield Picture Palace Co. Ltd. It opened on 10th February 1913 and was, at that time, one of the largest cinemas in Sheffield. The architects were Benton & Roberts. The owning company reformed on 21st March 1914 as the Sheffield & District Cinematograph Theatres Ltd. and remained owners until closure on 29th June 1959. (Image: Cinema Treasures)
The Sunbeam Picture House was built on Barnsley Road at the junction of Skinnerthorpe Road in the Fir Vale district of Sheffield. The Sunbeam Picture House opened on Saturday 23rd December 1922. It was built set back from the road and was an imposing brick and stucco building, with a large embossed rising sun motif on the facade, set inside an ornamental parapet. A central entrance to the cinema was covered with a canopy. (Image: Sheffield History)
The Don Picture Palace opened on Monday 18th November 1912 with the films “Captain Starlight” and “Monarchs Of The Prairie”. The architect was Henry Patterson and it was situated in what was then one of the main entertainment areas of Sheffield with the old Grand Theatre of Varieties being close by. (Image: Sheffield History)

Walter Buck never retired but died at his home at 19, Montgomery Road, Nether Edge, aged 70, in September 1934. He left a widow, his second wife, Fanny Buck, and three sons – Edward Gerard Buck, William Gerard Buck, a poultry farmer, and Charles Gerard Buck, chartered accountant. Walter Gerard Buck was buried at Ecclesall Church.

It seems the only epitaph to Walter Buck is the Chinese pagoda style entrance of the Lansdowne Picture Palace. The auditorium was demolished to make way for student accommodation, but the frontage was retained for use as a Sainsbury’s ‘Local’ supermarket. Very little information exists about his other work in the city and further research is needed to determine which buildings he designed, and which remain. Any information would be most welcome.

All that remains of the former Lansdowne Picture Palace. The frontage and Chinese-style pagoda were retained for this Sainsbury’s Local supermarket, soon to become Budgens. (Image: Cinema Treasures)

Britannia Printing Works

Photograph by Google Streetview

Here’s a building we regularly pass and never give it a second glance.  This is the NHS Central Health Clinic at the corner of Norfolk Street and Mulberry Street, a structure that has seen better days.

However, most of us will be unaware that this building once had a very different function.

It was built in 1865 for Pawson and Brailsford, once a famous high-class printing firm in Sheffield.

We’ve featured Pawson and Brailsford before, in connection with Parade Chambers, built in 1883-1885 (and still standing) on High Street, near to the Church Gates (now Sheffield Cathedral).

The company was founded in 1855 by Henry Pawson and Joseph Brailsford, both former newspaper men. Pawson had joined the reporting staff of the Leeds Intelligencer, moving to the Sheffield Mercury and later becoming editor of the Sheffield Times. Brailsford had been associated with the Sheffield Independent.

The two opened their first printing and stationary shop at Britannia Printing Works on Castle Street, later moving to these new premises on Mulberry Street.

Also called Britannia Printing Works, the new manufacturing facility was designed by Frith Brothers and Jenkinson, architects, of East Parade.

However, the construction of the Britannia Printing Works wasn’t without its problems and subject of an interesting court case.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

In March 1865, Pawson and Brailsford bought property in Mulberry Street, to the junction of Norfolk Street. Opposite were the new building of the Sheffield Club, and the Mulberry Tavern, an ancient public house. In July, the company proceeded to pull down part of the property, consisting of old workshops, about 24ft in height, occupied by Rhodes and Beardshaw, silver-platers, and a shop at the corner of Norfolk Street, occupied by Mr Shaw, tailor.

The new offices for Pawson and Brailsford extended to four-storeys high, about 50ft, and were set back 5ft, allowing for road widening at the Norfolk Street end of Mulberry Street.

Building work started in the first week of July and continued until 14 November when Pawson and Brailsford received a letter from Mr Unwin, a solicitor, threatening to apply for an injunction from the Court of Chancery to stop construction work.

The letter was sent on behalf of Mrs Senior, owner of the Mulberry Tavern, who claimed £500 in damages due to loss of light caused by the new building, and the devaluation of her property.

Failing to obtain a satisfactory response from the owners, the claim was filed on the 5 December, by which time the building had reached its full height, and before it went to a hearing on 21 December, the building was ready for its roof. The case wasn’t argued, but Pawson and Brailsford were ordered to progress carefully, with an intimation that if work proceeded it would be at their own risk.

Attempts were made to settle the case, but Mrs Senior adhered to her demands for £500, although at one stage had indicated she might be willing to settle for £250.

Pawson and Brailsford maintained that they hadn’t harmed the value of the Mulberry Tavern but had enhanced it instead. They offered to pay Mrs Senior £1,000 for the public house, a £200 profit on what her late husband had paid for it and offered to guarantee her possession by giving her a lease. However, she declined to sell for not less than £1,300.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

The case stood over until November 1866 when it came up for hearing before Vice-Chancellor Sir Page Wood.

Mrs Senior claimed that she was compelled to light up the Mulberry Tavern with gas during the daytime, a claim refuted by Pawson and Brailsford. According to her testimony, the sunshine only came on her property ten minutes a day as against 7-8 hours before. She also provided several witnesses, including George Lawton, a corn miller, and Mr R. Bunby, corn dealer, both providing convincing evidence that it “was no longer possible to see samples of corn,” when conducting business inside the inn.

Mulberry Tavern. Demolished in the 1960s. Photograph by Picture Sheffield

In the end, Sir Page Wood said there was no answer to say, as the defendants did, that the plaintiff’s property was increased in value by their building, and that she was entitled to all the additional value given to her property by recent improvements in the town. It was clear from the evidence that she had suffered material damage from interference with the ancient light.

However, considering that Mrs Senior had been given notice in April of what Pawson and Brailsford intended, Sir Page pointed out that it had taken her until December, when the new building was nearly completed, to make a claim, and that there was no case for the building to be pulled down.

Sir Page ordered that Pawson and Brailsford pay compensation, decided by the Chief Clerk, and to pay costs of the suit and the inquiry.

Pawson and Brailsford, on finding that a decision wouldn’t be made straightaway, now offered to give Mrs Senior £1,300 for the Mulberry Tavern, the figure she had originally suggested, and a lease on the property. She now, however, refused to sell, and would accept no settlement except payment of damages.

The company offered Mrs Senior £250 in damages, and she demanded £300, but ultimately the settlement was made at £275.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

With peace restored, Pawson and Brailsford completed the building and when business increased the property was considerably enlarged in 1870, taking the top stories of offices at the corner of Norfolk Street, together with rooms at the top of Alliance Chambers.

The ground floor was used as paper stores, warehouse, packing room and counting house. On the first floor, letterpress printing and wood engraving were undertaken, with lithographic printing and copper plate engraving carried out on the second floor. The top storey was used for book-binding and storage of completed work, with machinery used for rolling, cutting, paging, blocking and ruling.

The basement was occupied by Mr Favell, wine merchant, along with a portion containing steam engines and boilers to work the machinery throughout the building.

The Britannia Printing Works looks less grand than the day it was built, particularly the roof space, probably the result of a series of unfortunate fires.

Shortly after completion, a fire started when a workman thrust a lit pipe into a drawer to avoid being found smoking. And in 1881, a significant fire destroyed the upper floor, and caused considerable damage to floors below. Another blaze, in 1903, caused even greater destruction, once again obliterating the top floor, as well as destroying the roof.

Photograph by the British Newspaper Archive

Rebuilt on each occasion, Pawson and Brailsford refurbished the building in 1930, transferring the stationary department from its High Street premises and creating “a new and commodious showroom and sales shop.”

The new shop had entrances from Norfolk Street and Mulberry Street, both allowing access into “beautifully fitted” departments.

“Since the days when a spike file and an old ledger, a stool and an old-fashioned desk were the principal furniture of a counting house, there has been a wonderful development in office equipment. Desks, filing and card index cabinets, steel furniture, loose-leaf and account books, ruled sheets and forms, safes, cash boxes, calculators, commercial, legal, technical and Government publications, form a few of the items stocked.”

Pawson and Brailsford also made a speciality of drawing office materials, and architects and surveyors were able to source all kinds of instruments, and the motorist wasn’t forgotten either, agents by special appointment for Government Ordnance Survey Maps.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

By the 1960s, the building had transferred to another Sheffield institution, Wilks Brothers and Company, ironmongers, founded in 1744, who remained until 1972.

In March 1974, approval was granted to the Maternity and Child Welfare Centre for the rental of the Wilks Building as replacement premises for ones at Orchard Place (now the site of Orchard Square).

The building was converted, including the removal of shop windows on Norfolk Street and obliterating all traces of its previous history.

The NHS facility opened in April 1974, known as the Central Health Clinic, offering advice on contraception, pregnancy, sexual health and sexuality. It is now used as a health centre.

Photograph by Google Streetview

The Ruskin Building

This attractive building at 97-101 Norfolk Street is known as the Ruskin Building. However, this was once the premises of one of the country’s leading wine merchants. Mr J.T. Gunn, a Sheffield merchant, originally opened a store at 47 Norfolk Street for the sale of Sicilian produce. Wines and fruits from Sicily were attracting considerable attention in Georgian times so Gunn went directly to producers in Italy for supplies, and early in 1829 shipped his first cargo of produce from Palermo to Goole onboard a freight ship called the Cythia. His relation,

Alexander Hay, entered into the partnership in 1849 , and in 1871, his son, Captain Charles H. Gilbert Hay (1850-1925), took over the management and expanded the firm’s connections abroad in America, West Africa, Russia and the Far East. In 1876, Hay and Son, wine merchants, commissioned Sheffield architects Flockton & Abbott to construct new premises, the building we see today.

Captain Hay regularly visited wine-producing districts and carefully selected the best vintages, imported back home and distributed throughout the country. As well as being present on Norfolk Street, Hay and Son also opened premises on London Road, Deepcar, Eckington and Tinsley, as well as opening an office at Glasgow in 1905.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph visited Norfolk Street in 1925 and reported that there were “thousands and thousands of bottles stowed away, three rows deep in some places, and leaving but a narrow pathway.”

Hay and Son continued until 1970 after which the building was vacant for a time. It was restored in 1985 when it became home to the Ruskin Gallery, displaying minerals, paintings, ornithological prints, drawings, manuscripts and architectural plaster casts, assembled by John Ruskin (1819-1900), the Victorian art critic, draughtsman, watercolourist, social thinker and philanthropist. The museum closed in 2002 and is now located at the Millennium Gallery.

These days the building survives as offices, ironically its biggest tenant being Hays Recruitment, with no connection to the wine merchant.


Sheffield and Hallamshire Savings Bank

One thing is certain. They won’t build banks like this anymore, if they build any new banks at all. We know this old building as the Head of Steam, on Norfolk Street, but like so many bars it wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for banking.

The story of this building goes back to 1819, when the Sheffield and Hallamshire Savings Bank was established by subscription, the business being carried on at the Cutlers’ Hall until 1832, and afterwards in Surrey Street.

It was founded largely due to the influence of James Montgomery (1771-1854), newspaper editor and poet, whose friend was the Rev. Henry Duncan, who had set up the world’s first commercial savings bank (eventually becoming TSB). The Savings Bank appealed to working people (largely steelworkers) whose savings were too small to be accepted by other banks.

When the Sheffield and Hallamshire Savings Bank outgrew the Surrey Street premises, it bought a plot of land on nearby Norfolk Street, hosting a competition in 1858, asking for someone to design brand new facilities.

The challenge was won by Thomas James Flockton, whose plan was for a two-storey cube of three bays, flanked by single-storey entrance wings with projecting porticoes. It was embellished with a rusticated stone front with round and square Corinthian columns on the ground floor. “One of the first buildings in the town centre with any pretension of elegance.”

The new bank was built out of surplus funds of the Bank at a cost of £5,500, opening in June 1860, its business hours being 10am until 2pm daily and on Saturday evenings from 5 to 7.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Bank engaged in small-scale expansion by opening several branch offices. It wasn’t until after the Second World War, however, that significant growth occurred with 15 new branches opening.

In 1974, a rear extension was built (now leading into Tudor Square) by Mansell Jenkinson & Partners, part of a massive refurbishment programme that retained the façade and the dentilled cross-beam ceiling interior.

The TSB Act of 1976 led to the restructuring of savings banks across the country, and the Bank was amalgamated into the Trustee Savings Bank (TSB) the following year.

By the 1990s the Bank had closed, a small branch in a massive network, but the building deemed suitable for conversion into a bar.

The Fraternity opened in the late 90s, changing into the Old Monk at the Fraternity House, before becoming the Old Monk. The bar was operated by the Old Monk Company, founded by Gerry Martin, younger brother of Tim Martin, boss of the high-profile, larger J.D. Wetherspoon, but which collapsed into administration in 2002.

Gerry Martin bought back the Old Monk in Norfolk Street, along with bars in Cardiff and Birmingham, setting up a new company called Springbok Bars. In December 2015, Hartlepool-based Cameron’s Brewery bought the Old Monk in Sheffield, opening it as their eighth branded Head of Steam bar in April 2016.


The Ruskin Building

A few weeks back we looked at 95-101 Norfolk Street, constructed by Flockton & Abbot for Hay and Son, wine merchants, in 1876. The business lasted until 1970 and was restored to become the Ruskin Gallery in 1985. The museum closed in 2002 and the collection is now housed at the Millennium Gallery.

In recent times, it has been home to several businesses, the ground floor occupied by Handlesbanken, a Swedish commercial bank.

Now, the Ruskin Building is undergoing further renovation as The Bank, operated by Sheffield Theatres Trust.

The Bank is part of Sheffield Theatres’ The Making Room project, a network of local artists in collaboration with Theatre Deli, The Bare Project and Third Angel. The new venue will be used as a theatrical and reading space, a rehearsal area and basement storage. This is where the next generation of creative talent will be nurtured.

The project has been made possible after a financial gift from long-standing Sheffield Theatres supporters, Jo and Chris Hookway.

The former Handlesbanken bank was separate to the former Ruskin Gallery, divided by a partition wall. This will be reconfigured and allow the extension of The Crucible Corner, an adjacent bar and restaurant, providing room for 20 extra covers. The remaining part will be used for The Making Room venture.

The opening of The Bank, scheduled for late November, does not affect the historic fabric or architectural features of the Grade II-listed building.


Central Hall

The next time you settle into a seat at one of our multiplex cinemas, take a moment to consider that there are still traces of Sheffield’s original cinema.

Head down to Norfolk Street, and look at part of Brown’s Brasserie and Bar. Above one of the plate glass windows is the name New Central Hall, the remains of a former decorative arched entrance.

This part of the building, just around the corner from St. Paul’s Parade, was built in 1899 by architect John Dodsley Webster as the Central Hall for the Sheffield Workmen’s Mission, established by Pastor A.S.O. Birch in 1880 at the old Circus on Tudor Street. (The building was constructed by James Fidler, contractor, of Savile Street).

The cost, exclusive of land, was about £4,000, made possible by a £3,500 loan from Mr F.E. Smith, “trusting those who will attend the hall to repay him when they can.”

The Central Hall had a frontage of 46 feet, the ground and first floors devoted to the main hall, which contained a gallery, and seating accommodation for 500 people. The second floor was occupied by five classrooms and an office, while the basement was taken up by a large kitchen and store-rooms.

It had been designed as a place of public worship; the Mission having previously held services at the Montgomery Hall on Surrey Street and opened in December 1899.

However, no sooner had it opened when, somewhat unexplainable, the Workmen’s Mission left and taken up residence at the Albert Hall in Barker’s Pool.

It was left to John Dodsley Webster to advertise the Central Hall as being available to buy or let on lease, “suitable for conversion to offices, flats or business premises.”

It wasn’t until November 1904 that we find evidence that the building was in use again.

Nelsons Ltd, “The Pensions Tea Men,” advertised that it was opening its drapery, ready made clothing and boot and shoe departments at Central Hall. It was another short-lived scheme, because in March 1905, the shop had gone into liquidation.

Nonetheless, there was somebody waiting in the wings who saw Central Hall as a long-term answer to a conundrum.

Henry Jasper Redfern (1871-1928) is almost forgotten now, but he packed a lot into a relatively short life. Here was a man who had made a fortune with a long list of business successes – “optician, refractionist, manufacturer of optical, photographic and scientific instruments, photographer, expert in animated photography and Rontgen rays, electrician and public entertainment.”

Born in Sheffield, Redfern trained as an optician, opened a business on Surrey Street, and later added a photography shop nearby.

However, he was more famous in the realms of cinematography, a subject he studied in its early stages, and became a pioneer in exhibiting moving pictures.

Alongside his daily routine, he toured the country with “Jasper Redfern’s world-renowned animated pictures and grand vaudeville entertainment” show.

Redfern decided that a permanent venue was required, and Central Hall provided a convenient solution.

In July 1905, New Central Hall opened to great flourish with the showing of the “Royal visit to Sheffield in its entirety,” shown twice nightly, along with a complete programme of live variety entertainment.

In the following months, there were screenings of more moving pictures, with titles like “Winter Pastimes in Norway” and “North Sea Fishing”, as well as resident acts, such as the two French conjuring midgets and songs by Madame McMullen and Lawrence Sidney.

New Central Hall attracted big houses twice a night, much to the dismay of Smith and Sievewright, clothiers, which occupied the shop next door, and took Redfern to court complaining that the queue of waiting patrons was detrimental to their business.

But, by 1912, the cinema was in financial difficulties, although its company secretary, Norris H. Deakin, found backing to improve amenities, increasing the size of the stage and adding a proscenium arch, and increasing seating capacity to 700.

Jasper Redfern & Company Ltd was wound up and replaced with the New Central Hall Company in early 1913, with Deakin as managing director. At what stage Jasper Redfern left is uncertain, but he emerged elsewhere in the country, his life story worthy of a separate post.

The tenancy of New Central Hall quickly passed to yet another company, Tivoli (Sheffield) Ltd, and the cinema reopened in January 1914 as the Tivoli, newly decorated and improved, with variety acts stopped a year later.

The Tivoli was a success but suffered a disastrous fire during the night in November 1927. Four fire engines raced to the scene, one using a new £3,000 ladder, and attempted to put out flames coming from the roof. However, parts of the roof were destroyed, the balcony was a charred mass, and the ground floor was a mass of burning woodwork.

The cinema was rebuilt and opened in July 1928 as the New Tivoli, completely refurbished with carpets by T. & J. Roberts of Moorhead, theatre furnishings by L.B. Lockwood & Co, Bradford, and lighting effects provided by J. Brown & Company, of Fulwood Road.

In the following decade, a Western Electric sound system was installed and because of a penchant for screening cowboy films, the New Tivoli was popularly known as “The Ranch.”

The curtain finally fell on the cinema on 12 December 1940, the result of Blitz fire damage. It was never rebuilt, the cinema area adapted for offices, restaurant and shop.

All that remains of the original Central Hall is its frontage, and the only nostalgic reminder of its cinema days being the stone-carved sign.


St Paul’s Building

Completing this week’s look around the Peace Gardens, we look at the elaborate building on St. Paul’s Parade, which runs between Pinstone Street and Norfolk Street.

This walkway once ran alongside St. Paul’s Church, demolished in 1938 and replaced with St. Paul’s Gardens, later Peace Gardens, and known as South Parade.

It was renamed St. Paul’s Parade in 1901, largely because of John Dodsley Webster’s new building that had just been completed, the second stage of a development that ran around the corner into Norfolk Street, started by the construction of the Central Hall for the Sheffield Workmen’s Mission in 1899.

Ruth Harman and John Minnis in Pevsner’s Architectural Guide to Sheffield (2004), suggest that the warm-coloured brick with red sandstone dressings, was an unusual combination for Sheffield, where the buff Yorkshire and Derbyshire sandstones were much more common.

The St. Paul’s Building comprised shops, offices and residential flats, along with a gallery and studio, although only the original facades remain following redevelopment behind.

It retains the arcaded shopfronts with carved stone piers and arches, with the faces of lions and rose, shamrock and thistle emblems still decorating the spandrels.

When it was completed, the building was home to James Moore’s Art Classes, which took place in a “beautifully lighted” new studio, its customers promised painting and drawing from live models, portrait and figure compositions, as well as flower and still-life subjects.

Over one hundred years later, the St. Paul’s Building, still retains pretty much the same use, although there have been unsuccessful attempts to have it demolished.

Had it been, the redevelopment of the Peace Gardens as part of the Heart of the City project, might have been very different.

Shops aplenty have occupied the ground floor, the most famous being the Army and General Store, famously sited at its rounded corner with Norfolk Street, later occupied by the Ha Ha Bar, and now Brown’s Bar and Brasserie.

There can be no denying that this area is one of the city centre’s most attractive, St. Paul’s Building sitting comfortably alongside the Prudential Assurance Building, built in 1895 on Pinstone Street.

NOTE: St. Paul’s Building is now referred to as St. Paul’s Chambers. However, when the building was constructed in 1901, St. Paul’s Chambers would have been associated with a completely different building, one that had been demolished to make way for the Town Hall between 1890 and 1897.


Odeon Cinema

If World War Two hadn’t intervened, then this building might have looked very different. The structure that houses Mecca Bingo, on Flat Street, has stood since 1956, but its foundations and steel structure were put in place in May 1939.

It had been intended to complete the building by April 1940, but war meant construction was halted, and not resumed until 1955.

In 1937, Oscar Deutsch (1893-1941), the founder of Birmingham-based Odeon Cinemas, had his sights on South Yorkshire. New cinemas were to be built in Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham.

The Sheffield Odeon, on a wedge-shaped strip of land on Flat Street, promised to be an Art Deco masterpiece.

Plans were drawn up by Odeon-architects Harold William ‘Harry’ Weedon and William Calder Robson for a 2,326-seat cinema, containing four shops and a three-storey office block.

When war started in September the main steel frame was already up, but building was immediately halted by the cinema chain.

By November, it announced that work would recommence, but ongoing shortages of building supplies and labour meant it remained a building site for the next seventeen years.

When building recommenced in 1955, the plans had been re-drawn by Harry Weedon and his new partner, Robert Andrew Bullivant, for a 2,319-seat cinema without the shops and office block.

The Odeon Cinema opened in July 1956, by which time the chain had been sold to the Rank Organisation after Oscar Deutsch’s death.

The opening was attended by actress Dinah Sheridan and her husband, Sir John Davis, chairman of the Rank Organisation, the occasion memorable for a guard of honour provided by personnel from RAF Norton. A suitable tribute because the first film shown happened to be Reach for the Sky.

The Odeon might have looked a little less impressive than originally intended, but it was typical of 1950s construction, unusual for having a single-storey wedge-shape glass foyer projecting in front of the brick-clad auditorium.

There were 1,505 seats in the stalls and 814 in the balcony. Lighting was via three rows of light fittings hanging close to the ceiling and from concealed lights in two decorative panels each side of the proscenium opening.

The cinema was equipped with Todd-AO equipment, a widescreen, 70mm format developed by Mike Todd and the American Optical Company in the mid-1950s to compete with Cinerama. The process meant that there were long runs for classic movies like South Pacific and Cleopatra.

By the start of the 1970s, the Rank Organisation had two cinemas in the city centre, the other being the Gaumont in Barker’s Pool. Attendances had fallen, and not for the last time, the company decided to consolidate with one cinema in Sheffield.

The Sound of Music was the last film shown at the Odeon, reputedly ending a phenomenal fourteen month run. It closed in June 1971, and following refurbishment became a Top Rank Bingo Hall that opened three months later.

Later renamed Mecca, the building will soon celebrate fifty years, making it one of the longest surviving bingo halls in the country.


Odeon Cinema

The Odeon Cinema, on Flat Street, was built between 1955-1956, later becoming the Top Rank Bingo Hall in 1971, and subsequently re-branded as Mecca.

However, the building’s history is strange because the structure we see today is a pale imitation of what was originally intended.

In 1938, Oscar Deutsch, the founder of Odeon Cinemas, set up a subsidiary company called Odeon (Sheffield) Ltd, registered at 39, Temple Row, Birmingham, intending to build an extravagant cinema on land bordering Flat Street and Norfolk Street.

Deutsch employed architects Harold ‘Harry’ Weedon and William Calder Robson to design an Art Deco theatre, making use of the unusual shape of land, incorporating four shops and a three-storey office block.

Harry Weedon was responsible for overseeing the Art Deco designs of Odeon Cinemas in the 1930s, and this artist sketch shows that his know-how was going to be applied in Sheffield.

Back then, it was called an “ultra-modern” design, with neon lighting to illuminate the spectacle at night-time. The tower-like device – known by architects as a fin – was to be the centre of the lighting scheme.

The building itself was designed in the shape of a flat iron, the point of which would form the frontage, with luxurious foyers to accommodate patrons who otherwise would have had to queue in the street.

A biscuit-coloured mottled faience was to be used on the Norfolk Street elevation, while the Flat Street side would be partly built in the same material, and partly in 2inch facing bricks.

A black faience was to have been used to form a base, and green and blue faience bands forming a background to the coloured neon tubes.

Inside there were to be 2,326 high-quality seats of the same design – 1,502 in the stalls, 824 in the circle – all divided into three blocks, the only difference in price being governed by the position of the seat.

In addition, there was to be a ladies’ boudoir, as well as several changing rooms.

Plans were made to install a “scientific scheme of acoustic correction,” ensuring perfect sound reproduction as well as a system of B.T.H. earphones for the deaf.

Work started on the cinema in May 1939, the main steelwork in place by the time war was declared in September. Construction was halted, and a shortage of materials and labour meant that it didn’t recommence until 1955.

By this time, the Rank Organisation owned the Odeon chain, and conscious of costs and changing trends, asked Harry Weedon to liaise with architect Robert Bullivant to create another cinema using the original steelwork and footprint.

The result was modern by 1950s standards, less spectacular than the 1930s design, but has stood the test of time, surviving longer as a bingo hall than it did as a cinema.

But, and we may ponder, what a building it would have been had the original design been built.