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Coming down: the last days of Barker’s Pool House

Demolition underway at Barker’s Pool House on Burgess Street. Photograph: DJP/2021

Sheffield city centre has never seen so much demolition and construction. The latest to fall is 1970s Barker’s Pool House, on Burgess Street, once linked to John Lewis by its high covered footbridge. The bridge has already gone, and now the bricks and mortar of the former office block will soon be no more. As part of the Heart of the City II development, it will be replaced by a stylish new Radisson Blu hotel, with its retained Victorian entrance on Pinstone Street. The William Mitchell ten-panel abstract reliefs, commissioned in 1972, were removed last year and will be resited in nearby Pound’s Park once completed.

The former Yorkshireman public house stands adjacent to Barker’s Pool House. Its own fate is uncertain. Photograph: DJP/2021

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Reuben Thompson’s City Mews

Work is in progress to demolish the interiors of 30-42 Pinstone Street (as well as the adjacent Palatine Chambers) to create a new hotel. (DJP/2021)

The hoardings are up, contractors are in, and Nos. 30-42 Pinstone Street (as well as Palatine Chambers), are about to be resurrected as part of a Victorian frontage to a brand-new Radisson Blu Hotel. The old facades will remain, but everything behind it, including Barker’s Pool House, on Burgess Street, will be demolished and rebuilt.

Until the 18th century, Pinstone Lane (as it was called) crossed fields and rough grazing land. As Sheffield grew, it became a twisting, close, and sinister-looking passage. In 1875, Sheffield started a street widening programme, and Pinstone Lane was transformed into a 60ft wide thoroughfare to match the magnificence of the proposed new Town Hall.

In 1892, Reuben Thompson, of Glossop Road, an established operator of horse-drawn omnibuses, cabs, and funeral director, gave up his lease on premises at Union Street, and purchased a plot of vacant land opposite St. Paul’s Church (now Peace Gardens) from the Improvement Committee, along with adjoining property at the back towards Burgess Street.

The Salvation Army had already started building its Citadel on Cross Burgess Street as well as three large business premises at its corner with Pinstone Street. Thompson bought the land alongside this, and employed Flockton, Gibbs, and Flockton to design a red brick building, with handsome stone dressings, comprising ground floor shops, and offices and flats above.

An old sketch that shows Reuben Thompson’s City Mews to the left. The sign is visible on top of the building. (PIcture Sheffield)

In 1895, he purchased an additional plot of land to build three additional shops. This extended the length of the original building and incorporated an entrance tunnel from Pinstone Street through to stabling and carriage sheds behind, the carriages lifted from floor to floor by a hoist.

It extended the range to fifteen bays, and across the top of the building ran an enormous sign – ‘Reuben Thompson’s City Mews – and was completed in time for the opening of the new Town Hall.

This is the building we still see, although the advent of the motor car, and high petrol prices during the 1930s, saw Reuben Thompson Ltd vacate a property that had become far too big. It consolidated on Glossop Road and Queen’s Road and focused on its funeral business.

Looking up Pinstone Street. Reuben Thompson’s City Mews are on the right of this old photograph. Once again, the large sign is visible across the top of the building. (Picture Sheffield)

Those of a certain age will be familiar with the shops that have occupied this prime location on one of Sheffield’s most prestigious streets.

The Pinstone Street entrance to City Mews, where horses and carriages once passed, was filled-in, and later lost in the frontage of Mac Market (later to become International, Gateway, Somerfield, Co-op, Budgens, and finally, as a temporary home for WH Smiths).

The construction of Barker’s Pool House on Burgess Street in 1969-1970 (on the site of the former stabling and carriage-houses) linked both properties and altered much of the original Pinstone Street interiors. These too will be lost in the latest stage of the Heart of the City II redevelopment.

An old building plan shows Reuben Thompson’s City Mews, with stabling and carriage sheds located at the back of the Pinstone Street premises and stretching through to Burgess Street. This would later become the site of Barker’s Pool House, soon to be demolished. (Goad Insurance Plan 1896/British Library))
In the 1970s, Mac Market occupied three of the old shop units on Pinstone Street. The original carriage entrance passed underneath the offices above and was located where the central window is here. It remained a supermarket until fairly recently. (Picture Sheffield)
A recent image of 30-42 Pinstone Street. All the shops frequently changed hands. The former Mac Market was most recently used as a temporary shop for WH Smith. In 1970, Barker’s Pool House was built behind, and shoppers were able to use an alternative entrance on Burgess Street. Useful for Cole Brothers staff before and after work. (Google)
Proposed principal east elevation (Pinstone Street) for the Radisson Blu Hotel. Fifteen bays once formed Reuben Thompson’s City Mews. Palatine Chambers occupies twelve bays to the right. (Montagu-Evans)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.