My favourite walkway in Sheffield. Cheney Row, running alongside the Town Hall and Peace Gardens. It is a name transferred from Cheney Square, a group of nice houses destroyed when Surrey Street and the Town Hall were in the making during the 1890s. One of them was the residence for many years of Hugh Cheney, a doctor. The site of Cheney Square, being on the fringe of a small town, developed after the breaking up of Alsop Fields (a long-lost name), and with the building of St. Paul’s Church and the laying out of its large burial ground. The church stood on the site of the Peace Gardens and was demolished in 1938.
A relic of the past. Cheney Row runs alongside the Town Hall adjacent to the Peace Gardens. It is an old thoroughfare, a survivor from the days of Cheney Square, demolished during the construction of the Town Hall in the 1890s.
Cheney is a very old Sheffield name, being found in the accounts of the Burgery as far back as 1645.
There is a record that says one Edward Cheney, in 1725, bought surplus land left over from the building of St. Paul’s Church, which stood on the site of the Peace Gardens and was demolished in 1938.
The land was known as Oxley Croft before the church was built, but that name disappeared and, in its place, we had New Church Street (also gone) and Cheney Row and Square.
In some old directories the name appeared as China Square, probably the result of a ‘politically-correct’ compiler believing that Cheney was a derivation of China.
And again, the name Cheney has been traced to Dr Hugh Cheney, originally from Bakewell, one of the first surgeons at the Royal Infirmary, who lived in a house at the corner of Cheney Square about 1803. But it was Cheney Square before his time.
There is little doubt that the Edward Cheney, who bought the surplus land of Oxley Croft, built the houses and called two of the thoroughfares after himself.
In January 1886 the Town Council decided that a site bounded by Pinstone Street, (New) Surrey Street, Norfolk Street, and Cheney Row should be utilised for a new Town Hall, and that New Church Street, Cheney Square and an unnamed lane should disappear.
Somewhere underneath Sheffield Town Hall there are likely to be the remains of a dark, narrow, cobbled lane with the sweet-sounding name of Cabbage Alley.
Its existence is almost airbrushed from history, partly because those that used it back in the day didn’t even know that it had a name.
This photograph remains the only image of Cabbage Alley, reproduced in a newspaper in 1931, taken from an old painting by William Topham in 1877, of which its current existence is unknown.
The picture is a view down Cabbage Alley, looking towards the south. In the background can be seen St. Paul’s Church, built in the 1720s and demolished in 1938. In its place we now have the Peace Gardens.
Cabbage Alley ran from New Church Street, both demolished when the Town Hall was built in the 1890s, and Cheney Row, a walkway that survives.
The painting that emerged in 1931 belonged to Mr Ambrose James Wallis, head of Ambrose Wallis and Son, whitesmiths, of Norfolk Lane. His father, who commissioned the artwork, had set up business in Cabbage Alley in 1867 and remained there until about 1889.
“Cabbage Alley was an old-fashioned street even in those days,” he told the Sheffield Daily Independent. “The gutter ran down the centre instead of at the sides.
“A strange thing was that nobody seemed to know its name, and it was not until the notices for us to quit were received, that we learned that we had been living in Cabbage Alley.”
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.
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.
The biggest surprise is that it wasn’t until 1985 that the Peace Gardens were formally named. Created in 1938, originally called St. Paul’s Garden, the name was at first suggested, then adopted by the people of Sheffield. It appears that nobody was in any hurry to suggest anything different.
But it wasn’t the case in the beginning.
The gardens stand on the site of St. Paul’s Church, demolished in 1938, when inner city slum clearance resulted in falling attendances. Quickly swept away, Sheffield Council laid out pathways, flower beds and grassed areas within the old churchyard walls.
It was a short-term solution, the council buying the land for £130,000, and designating it for a proposed Town Hall extension.
The name, Peace Garden, was proposed in response to the Munich Agreement.
This was a treaty, concluded at Munich on 30 September 1938, by Nazi Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, that allowed Germany to claim the “Sudeten German territory” of Czechoslovakia. Most of Europe celebrated the agreement, because it prevented the war threatened by Adolf Hitler, who had announced it was his last territorial claim in Europe, the choice seemingly between war and appeasement.
The country thought that war had been averted, a pretence, because hostilities started a year later.
The name was suggested at a formal dinner by Alderman Ernest Rowlinson, the proposal immediately mocked by Mr Slater Willis, who thought it would be taken by many to mean the commemoration of Charles Peace, the Sheffield-born burglar and murderer.
There were critics of the garden scheme, Herbert Oliver, standing as Progressive candidate for Crookesmoor said, “I would rather we built 5,000 homes for old age pensioners than use the money making a garden on St. Paul’s site.”
An offer had already been made that the grounds of Brincliffe Towers at Nether Edge, a gift to the city by Dr Roger Styring, should be used as a Peace Garden instead.
The Sheffield Evening Telegraph was also cynical, writing that, “As for peace, this has never, since the Great War, been in graver danger.” It also suggested a better name – “the Appeasement Garden.”
But the Peace Garden name stuck, and after completion there were congratulatory comments in local newspapers.
“There isn’t much to be proud of in the centre of the city so far, which will render this garden the more surprising and impressive to strangers,” said one correspondent.
Bob Green said that, “The Peace Garden is a boon to old age and workers of the city at dinner hours. I’ve been informed that the garden is only temporary. But I hope the garden will continue and not be built on. I say, ‘Long Live the Peace Garden’.”
Another said, “May I suggest that the garden is illuminated or floodlit at night, also a drinking fountain, and a few more seats would be welcome.”
A year later, the city’s residents seemed satisfied with the Peace Garden, and even the Sheffield Evening Telegraph had changed its tune.
“The suggestion that it should be called the Peace Garden was received with ribald mirth. Whatever its official title may be, it is undoubtedly a delightful and peaceful spot, rich with flowers.”
But there were worrying developments that would blight it for decades to come.
“This morning at 8 o’clock it looked like a battlefield. Seats were overturned and the whole place a disgrace. Last week the gardener put in some thousand bulbs and the next morning most of the beds had been trampled on.”
Another correspondent also expressed concern. “I have occasion to come through this morning before the cleaning process begins and it is not a pretty sight – cigarette ends, empty cigarette boxes, matches, and matchboxes, waste-paper round each seat, and a lot of it blown to the grass.”
And there were still critics of the scheme.
“It may surprise a good many to know that the garden is going to cost this generation, and the next, just about £6,000 a year, quite apart, or rather in addition to upkeep, gardeners’ wages, renewals and the like. That is £16 a day in order that a few people may sit there for about seven or eight weeks in the year.”
The Second World War curtailed any plans for Town Hall expansion, although the ‘Egg Box’ extension appeared nearby in the 1970s.
The Peace Garden, or Peace Gardens as they became, survived the war and became subject of civic pride, all-year round planting schemes, grass to lay on and a place to sit and talk.
However, the garden also attracted undesirable characters – the homeless, drunkards and unruly gangs.
When the Heart of the City project came about during the 1990s the Peace Gardens were at the centre of the scheme. In 1997-1998, they were redesigned by the council’s Design and Property Services, a series of water features, pathways, balustrades and artworks, built in Stoke Hall sandstone, the same material used in the Town Hall.
The new garden, without traditional flower beds and less maintenance, were slightly sunk to mask the noise of buses from Pinstone Street.
Its centrepiece is the Goodwin Fountain, 89 individual jets of water, dedicated to Sir Stuart and Lady Goodwin, and the Holberry Cascades, named after Chartist leader Samuel Holberry, including eight large water features located on either side of the four main entrances.
The Bochum Bell, in the Peace Gardens, was presented to the people of Sheffield in 1985 by our twin city of Bochum in Germany to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the link between the two cities. The steel bell was made by apprentices at the Krupp AG Works and reflects the shared heritage of the two cities in the manufacturing of the highest quality steel and steel artefacts. The bell is located in the top flower-bed along Pinstone Street. A Bochum Bell also exists at Donetsk in the Ukraine, another sister city.