Grinders Hill – while you were sleeping last night

Grinders Hill. Lonely at 3am. A shortcut for our ancestors… a shortcut for us now.

But it nearly wasn’t.

November 1935. “The City of Sheffield. Notice is hereby given that a certain public highway to wit a footway known as ‘Grinders Hill’ situate in Sheffield and running in a south-westerly direction between certain other public highways known as Paternoster Row and Leadmill Road shall be entirely stopped up as being useless and unnecessary for the public.”

The motion failed, and Grinders Hill is still with us.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Sheffield Hallam University

Block D will become a key anchor for Howard Street and
gateway building to the city and campus. This requires a
building facade that is both civic but restrained in its nature. (BDP)

News of a significant proposed development within Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter Conservation Area.

Sheffield Hallam University has submitted a planning application for the erection of three new higher education blocks within its city campus on the existing Science Park site and adjacent surface car park. Blocks A, BC and D are planned around a new public green space provisionally named University Green. It forms a revised Phase One of SHU’s campus masterplan, initiated in 2017/18, and considers changes to the workplace because of the pandemic.

The site covers an area bordered by Paternoster Row, Howard Street, Arundel Street and Charles Street, and is alongside the Hubs complex.

The ground floor plan illustrates public entrances,
key internal spaces, range of activities and location of key
green spaces (internal yards and University Green). (BDP)

Block D will become a key civic gateway building to the city and campus. In response to this, the tallest part of the development is located at the key junction between Howard Street and Paternoster Row to symbolise a new gateway and reference to the old clock tower of the Arthur Davy & Sons building that once stood on part of the site.

The architectural expression of Block BC is three simple
masses that step down from University Green towards the
Globe Pub.
Block A has showcase opportunities on Charles Street and
Arundel Street where applied learning functions such as SHU
Law may be showcased. (BDP)

This area was once known as Alsop Fields where ancient hunting rights were claimed. In the late 18th century, the Duke of Norfolk set about his ambitious and grand plan to develop the neighbourhood into a fashionable residential district in response to the growing wealth of manufacture. The masterplan was prepared by James Paine. He proposed a rigid grid framework incorporating a hierarchy of streets, with main streets and a pattern of smaller ones for each urban block, serving mews to the rear of the main houses.

In the 1780s, work on the Georgian estate grid commenced to the north of the site beginning with the parallel routes of Union Street, Eyre Street and Arundel Street from the town centre, extending to Matilda Street (formerly Duke Street). However, the masterplan didn’t transpire largely because Sheffield’s inhabitants didn’t want or couldn’t afford the properties as planned.

Despite the masterplan never being wholly built, the legacy of the Duke of Norfolk is retained in many of the streets being named after his family members.

The site designated for redevelopment became a series of factories, workshops, small shops, as well as the site of the County Hotel. Much of the land was cleared during the 1980s, with the creation of Sheffield Hallam University’s Science Park (1996) in red brick by Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson. This will be swept away in the proposed development.

The Campus plan was developed around a number of
Campus plan Principles that are embedded in the design of
blocks A, BC, D and University Green. (BDP)
Illustrative photomontage view looking from Park Hill. (BDP)
Entrance to the Science Park on Howard Street. If planning permission is granted, the site will be cleared and replaced with the new development. (Wikimedia)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Showroom Workstation

We all know this art-deco building as the Showroom Workstation, but to an older generation this was once called Kenning House. It was designed in 1936 by Frederick William Tempest, a Mansfield architect, as a garage and showroom for Kennings Ltd.

The building was officially opened in December 1937 by William Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield, the millionaire founder of Morris Motors, and a friend of George Kenning (1880-1956), a Clay Cross businessman who started by hawking paraffin in Derbyshire villages, progressing by way of bicycles, motor-cycles and motor cars.

By the time this Sheffield garage was built, George Kenning was head of thirty companies, which owned between 30 and 40 garages, and was the biggest distributor of Morris Cars in the provinces.

The Sheffield Independent reported that Kenning House was “an imposing structure which struck a pleasing modern note with its cream faience intersected with black faience dressings.”

It was called Sheffield’s ‘wonder garage,’ designed “to show London, Paris, New York – the whole world, the way in garage development.”

The building was the brainchild of George’s son, Frank Kenning, built on three floors with frontages on two main thoroughfares. Two street levels had to be overcome in construction – the ground floor approached from Leadmill Road, the middle and upper storeys from Paternoster Row.

Kenning House had equipment never equalled at any garage in the British Isles. In addition to state of art repair bays, the ground floor contained a 126-foot long chain-driven car valeting line, manned by a squad of thirty men, washing and lubricating at a rate of one car every eight minutes. (A massive 5,000-gallon water tank was installed to service the plant).

“The businessman has no time or inclination to wash his own car and give it the attention by which alone he can expect a long life from it,” said George Kenning. “By this new equipment he can have his car serviced while he smokes a cigarette.”

At the end of the conveyor, a three and a half ton lubricating unit and flush-fitting lift was installed, while a covered petrol pump station was built near the main entrance.

Built at a cost of £100,000, this was undoubtedly Kennings flagship garage and showroom.

The huge structure, using 650 tons of steel, was designed, fabricated and erected by Plowright Brothers of Chesterfield. Construction was by C.H. Hill and Sons of Mansfield, while bricks were provided by the Woodside Brick Company on Chesterfield Road.

Hodkin and Jones supplied 20,000 pre-cast terrazzo tiles and the metal windows, ‘Eclipse’ patent roof glazing and lantern lights were provided by Mellowes & Co of Sheffield. Industrial lighting was installed by the General Electric Company.

In the 1960s a roof extension was added, but the garage closed in the 1970s, overtaken by out of town developments. It stood empty before Sheffield City Council bought the property in 1983, intending to develop the site as a long-term replacement for the Anvil Municipal Cinema at Charter Row.

In 1989, the ‘Showroom Project’ was launched by Sir Richard Attenborough, initial structural work starting the following year, with plans devised by Allen Tod and Tatlow Stancer.

Screens one and two were opened by Sir Sydney Samuelson, the first British Film Commissioner, in 1995, and two more screens launched by actor Pete Postlethwaite three years later.

The entrance foyer from Sheaf Square leads into an atrium created from the original vehicle lift to the first-floor repair shop.

Nearly a quarter century later, the Showroom Workstation continues to be an independent cinema, café bar and creative workspace, central to Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter.