A few weeks ago, Sheffield councillor Chris Rosling-Josephs, called on developers to be ‘more creative’ and build a 50 storey tower block so the city can have taller buildings than Leeds.
This might well happen, but for the time being the tallest building in Yorkshire is Altus House in Leeds, at 374ft. Sheffield’s tallest building is City Lofts, or St Paul’s Tower, at 331ft.
But the tallest building crown will switch to Sheffield soon.
Work has started on Code Sheffield, three blocks of 12, 17 and 38 storeys costing £100m. Foundations are being dug on the site which borders Rockingham Street, Wellington Street, and Trafalgar Street, and adjacent to Kangaroo Works. Once completed it will be 383ft tall.
It is a significant change for this part of the city centre which was once developed with terraced back-to-back housing and small factories.
The site of Code Sheffield is no different, except that the eastern part of the site was once Mount Tabor Chapel, with a small steel works (Foundling Works or Samuel Buckley Styrian Steel Works) to the south-east along Rockingham Street.
The Chapel was built in 1837-1838 for the Reverend Robert Aitken, a Wesleyan minister. The Wesleyan Reformers purchased the chapel in 1853 and redecorated it as the Mount Tabor Chapel but did not alter the layout. A Sunday School was later built on the land to the west. Both buildings are shown on 1923 and 1935 OS maps and there were plans to improve it in the 1940s, but by the 1950s it had been replaced by the Mount Tabor Printing Works.
The printing works were recorded in the trade directories of 1948 and 1957 as belonging to Saville Press Ltd and Greeting Card Ltd. This building was demolished in 1962-63.
Later buildings on the site included the telephone exchange, which replaced back to back housing, last occupied by the South Yorkshire Housing Association, and Wellington House, which contained Clark and Partners, providers of mobility aids and services.
The One-Stop garage at 210 Rockingham Street was recorded as a garage in 1968 and later as motor radiator repair shop for W.H. Tyas, subsequently occupied by Marston Radiator Services.
All these buildings were cleared in advance of present building work.
However, there is a further twist as to which city will have the tallest building. Plans have already been approved for a 43-storey tower block in Leeds.
Next year, people will start moving into a new residential complex in Sheffield City Centre. When they do, the occupants of Kangaroo Works, a 364 apartment development, will have one of the oddest postal addresses in the city.
Designed by Whittam Cox Architects, with construction underway by Henry Boot, Kangaroo Works is the latest building in Sheffield’s Heart of the City II development. The building, with frontages to Rockingham and Wellington Streets, is designed around the vernacular Sheffield courtyard plan, and provides a stepped roofscape, responding to the sloping typology of the site and forming a transition between the formal city centre and more historic Devonshire Quarter.
The block has a peak of 14 storeys whilst a unique brick façade, taking inspiration from Sheffield’s urban heritage, supports the Masterplan palette and industrial heritage of the original Kangaroo Works site, which the development now stands on.
Kangaroo Works was home to Robert Sorby and Sons, makers of edge tools, later becoming a merchant and steel maker, that had set up on Union Street in 1828 and then moved to Carver Street in 1837.
About 1896 it moved a short distance to this site at the corner of Trafalgar and Wellington Streets.
Their products included adzes, axes, augers, edge tools, joiners’ tools, saws, scythes, hooks, sheep shears and crucible steel. The company sought markets worldwide, and the Kangaroo brand, which was used until the 1980s, was adopted to emphasise the company’s interest in Australia.
Robert Sorby and Sons was acquired by Hattersley and Davidson in 1923, and vacated Kangaroo Works in 1934 to share a site on Chesterfield Road. It still survives in premises on Athol Road at Woodseats.
The former Kangaroo Works became dilapidated and converted for multi-use, and remained so until demolition in 2008, after which it was used as a car-park.
But what happened to the famous stone-carved Kangaroo trademark that once stood over the gateway on Wellington Street?
It was rescued and re-erected at Kelham Island Museum, slightly shorter in height so that it would fit into the restored Russell Works building that houses the Ken Hawley Collection of tools, cutlery and silversmithing made in Sheffield.
And so, the name lives on, and Kangaroo Works will occupy pride of place overlooking Pound’s Park, the new urban green space also under construction.
Once upon a time, the Sheffield construction company, George Longden and Son, might have been chosen to build a new park. From Victorian times, the company was the powerhouse behind many city landmarks. But it lost its way, and the name is all but forgotten.
Instead, the creation of a green space in the city centre will fall to another stalwart of Sheffield construction.
Henry Boot has been appointed to deliver Pound‘s Park, the landmark new public space, and work gets underway this month.
Sheffield City Council sees this as a key piece of the Heart of the City programme, and it is another project that Henry Boot has been involved with. The builder is underway with the residential development at Kangaroo Works, the Elshaw House office development and the Cambridge Street Collective – a food hall and restaurant destination.
Pound’s Park is named after Sheffield’s first Chief Fire Officer, Superintendent John Charles Pound, and is being built on the former fire station site between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street.
As we move forward, Pound’s Park probably won’t be the only new green space in the city centre.
Projects like this are seen as a critical tool in revitalising cities, regenerating poor areas, bringing nature into the city, rejuvenating neighbourhoods, creating a space for physical interaction in our increasingly digital world, and improving city sustainability.
“They are almost being viewed as like anchor stores, as a way of bringing people into a certain part of town,” says Dr Danielle Sinnett, director of the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments at the University of the West of England.
Previously, she reckons, there was some tendency for green space to be tagged onto the end of developments where land was left over. Not so much anymore. “Now it is being seen as key infrastructure in and of itself,” she says.
As well as being a green space, Pound’s Park will have a childrens’ play area, water features, and a new bus interchange. It will also provide an accessible new home for the William Mitchell frieze, which was removed from demolished Barker’s Pool House.
This building on West Street is typical of inter-war buildings. Plain and simple. The excessive cost of construction materials during the 1930s meant structures had to be functional rather than decorative. The substantial use of red-brick was symbolic, and certainly conceived in the architects’ department at the Government’s Office of Works.
Revenue Buildings was built in 1937 for the Inland Revenue to replace nine district offices. In June of that year over 300,000 files of the District Valuer were moved here, as were something like 100,000 files of the Inland Revenue. Once completed, it housed all departments of the Board of Inland Revenue in Sheffield, including Tax Inspectors, Collectors, and Valuation.
It occupied the four upper floors, and the west part of the ground floor was used as motor vehicle and tractor showrooms for Samuel Wilson & Son. Motor vehicle retail appears to have continued until recent times, although this part is now occupied by Players Bar.
The Inland Revenue merged with HM Customs & Excise in 2005 and the site handed over to the Department for Work and Pensions. It later vacated the site (now known as Rockingham House) and most office space became vacant.
The block was sold in 2011 and the new owner granted planning permission in 2019 for conversion and extension of the building for student accommodation. This has been replaced with a new application to convert and extend the property into 162 build-to-rent studio apartments with a modern two-storey roof extension.
This is Bungalows and Bears, on Division Street, a popular bar with students, but you might not be aware that in 2028 the building will celebrate its centenary. In Pevsner’s Architectural Guide to Sheffield, Harman and Minnis describe it as ‘bloodless, Neo-Georgian,’ typical of inter-war building. Sadly, it’s not looking its best these days.
This was the former Fire Brigade Headquarters, built in 1928 at a cost of £39,000, and opened by the Lord Mayor, Alderman H. Bolton in July 1929.
It would be interesting to know how much remains of its interior since its conversion to flats and ground-floor bar in the 1990s.
The fire station was designed by the City Architect, W.G. Davies, and was intended as an extension to an adjacent station on Rockingham Street (1883-1884). A row of shops fronting Division Street from Rockingham Street to Rockingham Lane was purchased and demolished.
The new Division Street frontage was 155ft long, of which 60ft was occupied by the engine room, with accommodation for 10 engines. Inside, the engine room had white-tiled walls, tastefully picked out in blue, a floor of terrayo, and huge teak doors that opened onto the road.
Adjoining the engine room was the ‘watch room’ – a private telephone exchange and switchboard, with automatic fire bells for calling out the firemen.
On each side of the buildings were stairways and sliding poles of stainless steel fitted on each floor, enabling the men to reach the engine room from the first and second floor firemen’s quarters. There was a children’s playground at the rear of the first floor, while the third floor housed a recreation hall, gymnasium, and more firemen’s quarters.
Electric clocks were fitted throughout, as well as a lighting system controlled by the watch room that ensured that when an alarm sounded emergency lights were switched on automatically.
Outside the engine house, in Division Street, two solid bronze flamboyant torch-fitting electric lamps were fitted, each consisting of three torch-shaped, red-tinted electric lamps.
At the back was a courtyard with a 70ft high brick tower used for drill purposes with Pompier and hook ladders.
The building work was undertaken by Messrs. Abbott and Bannister, Ltd., general builders, and public works contractors, of Machon Bank, using Stairfoot Double Pressed Red Facing bricks, and stone supplied by Joseph Turner of Middlewood Quarries. A green Westmorland slate roof was installed by W.W. Fawcett of Hale Street.
The next time you go past, have a look for five different carvings on the building. They include the Sheffield Coat of Arms and representations of four of the old Fire Marks, all executed by Frank Tory and Sons, architectural sculptors, of Ecclesall Road.
The fire station survived until 1983 when a replacement building was opened on Wellington Street, subsequently demolished in 2010, with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue moving to its current Eyre Street headquarters. Now used as a car park, the Wellington Street site is earmarked to become Pound’s Park, named after Sheffield’s first Fire Superintendent.
The Heart of the City II programme moves forward, and this artist impression shows Pound’s Park, a new public space that will be created on the site of the demolished Wellington Street fire station.
It will be on the western side of the Heart of the City masterplan, located between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street, and will create another green space in the city centre, as well as creating children’s’ play areas, water features, and a new bus interchange.
The Park will also provide an accessible new home for the William Mitchell frieze, which was removed from Barker’s Pool House a few months ago in preparation for the construction of the new Radisson Blu hotel on Pinstone Street.
A lot has been written about Pound’s Park, but I’d like to focus on the man it is named after.
John Charles Pound (1834 -1918) was the city’s first Fire Superintendent, and responsible for laying the foundations of our modern fire service.
He was born at Sittingbourne in Kent and served for eight years in the Navy and Mercantile Marine Service, and as a man-of-war took part in operations in the Crimea.
Leaving the sea, he joined the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in its earliest days. He was engaged at the memorable Tooley Street fire in 1861, where his chief, Captain Braidwood, was killed by a falling wall just minutes after Pound had been talking to him. (It was referred to as ‘the greatest fire since the Great Fire of London,’ and occurred at Cotton Wharf where many warehouses were situated. It attracted a crowd of more than 30,000 spectators).
“This was in the early days of fire brigade work, and long before the extinguishing of fires had been the object of practical and scientific studies. The Metropolitan firemen learnt engineering by travelling on locomotives and receiving instruction from engine drivers. The scheme had been adopted by Captain Braidwood, and John Pound was one of those who familiarised himself in engineering. When proficient he was appointed to a responsible position on one of the brigade’s river floats.”
He applied for a position at Nottingham and was appointed as engineer of the first steam fire engine, staying two years before coming to Sheffield in 1869 to form the Corporation’s first fire brigade. The decision of the Corporation to take over and run the Fire Brigade was brought to a head by a series of large fires between 1865 and 1869.
Pound established the fire brigade over 26 years, with trained firemen, and the introduction of the best firefighting appliances. His biggest fires included Portland Street Confectionery Works (George Bassett and Co) and at G. H. Hovey and Sons (drapers and house furnishers) in Angel Street in the winter of 1893 in which six large shops were destroyed.
Superintendent Pound was injured at the Park Club fire, on Bernard Street, in February 1895 when he fell against a kerbstone whilst handling a jet. His injuries were at first thought to be bruising of the ribs, but later he suffered difficulty in breathing. He retired from the Fire Brigade shortly afterwards.
“He may now begin to feel the need of rest and relief from being in a state of incessant preparedness, and the Micawbian attitude of ‘waiting for something to turn up,’ and the good wishes of the citizens will follow him in retirement.”
John Charles Pound died from influenza at his home on Tullibardine Road in 1918. His coffin was shrouded in the Union Jack and conveyed on a horse-drawn fire brigade tender, with Indian Mutiny veterans, firemen and police taking part in the cortege. He was buried at Sheffield General Cemetery.
A fitting tribute that Sheffield’s first fire officer should be honoured with a park, and on the site of a former fire station.
Our city centre may take on a new look if plans to pedestrianise large swathes of it get the go ahead. Sheffield City Council want to make foot and bicycle journeys easier and quicker, while streamlining public transport services.
The proposals include pedestrianisation to Pinstone Street and Leopold Street, linking Fargate with the Peace Gardens, as well as Charles Street between Union Street and Pinstone Street. The pedestrianisation of Surrey Street would create a traffic-free Town Hall Square.
Work would include more greenery, replicating the ‘Grey-to-Green’ scheme already seen between Castlegate and West Bar.
Bus gates would be installed in both directions on Furnival Gate, and along Arundel Gate to Norfolk Street
Rockingham Street would get a new bus hub with improvements to pavements, green planting, a pocket park, and bus stops.
Of course, there are benefits to the scheme – improved air quality, better accessibility to shops and businesses, a more attractive city centre, and public spaces that create city uniqueness.
Artist impressions paint a bright picture, but there are notes of caution.
Sheffield city centre is at a midpoint in its regeneration, with the pandemic decimating footfall, and placing even more uncertainty on retail, hospitality, and office space requirements.
The city centre is a travesty of its former self, Covid-19 exposing retailers already reeling from Meadowhall and the internet. And, after restrictions are eventually lifted, how many pubs, bars, and restaurants, will have survived?
Half-hearted attempts to open cycle lanes at the heart of the city, further reducing traffic flow, have met with lukewarm response. With respects to cyclists, our seven hills make four wheels the favoured choice in and out of the city.
The key to any redevelopment must take into consideration transport links.
Cars are already deterred from entering due to over-complicated traffic flow and the extortionate cost of parking. Our buses remain empty, not least because nobody knows where they go, or where to catch them anymore. Our elderly citizens must walk a distance to catch a bus, and the question remains whether they will bother anymore?
We must tread carefully, mindful that change must happen if our city centre is to be revitalised.
Any changes must take place before 2023 to qualify for a Government grant, managed by Sheffield City Region, and must be subject of public consultation.
The Fitzwilliam Street part of Sheffield city centre was developed in the early 19th century, from agricultural fields into Victorian terracing and warehouses. Of significance, is that the area was heavily bombed during World War Two and as a result was cleared and remained largely undeveloped until the 1970s and 1980s.
The boom in student accommodation has resurrected the area in the past decade, not least with another new planning application submitted to Sheffield City Council for a thirteen-storey block of 209 student studio apartments. If all current applications are approved, the area will once again revert to residential use.
But what is the history of Fitzwilliam Street?
Back in 1874, Samuel Everard, a prominent citizen of the town, made the following observations: –
“As we pass Bright Street, Fitzwilliam Street and Rockingham Street, let us know them as illustrations of the origin of our street names. They at once indicate the ownership of the soil by the house of Wentworth (of Wentworth Woodhouse).”
The last Marquis of Rockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth, married Mary, the daughter and heir of Thomas Bright, of Badsworth, near Pontefract, in 1752, who in her own right was Lord of the Manor of Ecclesall and owner of extensive estates in the vicinity.
It was said that the Marquis, when once taunted with marrying a woman of no blood, had replied, “If she had no blood, she had plenty of suet.”
The marriage brought the land into possession of the Marquis of Rockingham and it descended to his nephew, William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam.
The names of Fitzwilliam Street and Rockingham Street are familiar to us all, but Bright Street, named after the Lord of the Manor of Ecclesall, has long disappeared.
It ran directly from the bottom end of Fitzwilliam Street towards Cumberland Street, crossed by South Street (that we now know as The Moor). It broadly spanned the same line as does Fitzwilliam Gate today.
The Carver Street Chapel (now Walkabout) was built on green fields in 1805, with the Sunday School premises of Red Hill constructed in 1812, and 73 years later additional vestries built behind the chapel. In 1897, new schools and classrooms were erected on Rockingham Street (now Soyo), to meet the ever-growing needs of the chapel and district.
In 1912, the centenary of Red Hill Schools, plans were discussed to enlarge its premises at Carver Street, but the outbreak of World War One delayed progress.
By the 1920s, the original scheme had entirely been remodelled and new premises were built on West Street, officially opened in 1929.
Designed by architect W. J. Hale, of St. James’ Row, the large block constituted shops at ground level with rooms above.
It was constructed by the William G. Robson Building Company, of Bamforth Street, a firm that had built cinemas, dance halls, institutes, hospitals, warehouses, showrooms, hotels and houses throughout the country.
Another firm that played an important part in the construction was the Sheffield Brick Company, of Rutland Road, providing an extensive range of plastic stock, “Winco” and rustic facing bricks.
The whole of the precast fireproof concrete flooring was “Armoured” Tubular Patent Flooring, made by John Cooke and Son, Huddersfield, its main advantage being “fireproof, soundproof, warm and well-tempered.”
At this stage, architects were realising the importance of aggregate concrete in building construction. This structure was no exception, with graded sands and gravels provided by the Yorkshire Amalgamated Products company, the largest quarry owner in the county, with offices on Queen Street.
The contract for the whole of the plumbing had been executed by George W. Rusling and Son, at Brook Hill, with a reputation of 40-years standing in plumbing, glazing, gas-fitting, and sanitary work.
The whole of the building was electrically lit, but it was the heating that was a novel feature for the time. Instead of the usual hot water pipes, a new system of tubular electric heaters had been installed, two inches in diameter. All this work had been undertaken by Charles Ross Ltd, of Heeley Bridge.
The decorative scheme inside was executed by W.J. Wollerton, house and church decorators and furnishers, of Stratford House, at Broomhill. Church decoration was a speciality of this firm, using Sanderson Fast-to-Light wallpapers and treating woodwork with “Durolave” paint.
The main entrance to the Institute was in Rockingham Street. On the first floor, at the top of the stairs, a room was set apart for the Deaconess, where young women and girls were able to take their difficulties and hopes and discuss them with Sister Hilda Morris.
To the right was the Girls’ Institute Room, a spacious room with polished floor, carpeted here and there, with beautiful curtains at the windows, the work of “Painted Fabric.” This was a large drawing room, open nightly for girls over 14 years of age. They had their own kitchen and cooking arrangements, with supervision from helpers. A Rest Room, Library and Handicraft Classes were included in the scheme.
Adjoining the Girls’ Room was the Primary – for children from six to eight years of age, a bright square room, and the Beginners’ Room, for tiny tots, aged three to five years.
“There, while watching the fairies on the walls, they will take in the simple stories that form the basis of all true life.”
The top portion of the Institute was the men’s department. One large room running practically the whole length of the building, containing six billiard tables at one end, and the other arranged with tables for chess, draughts and books.
More importantly, voluntary workers used the new Institute for various organisations, including the Lads’ Guild, the Boys’ Brigade and the Reserves, Girl Guides, Brownies, two Bands of Hope, Children’s Play Hour, Gymnasium, Girls’ Club, Men’s Institute, Wesley Guild, Teacher’s Preparation and fellowship Classes.
In every spare room, always tucked in and arranged like a jigsaw puzzle, were committees and working parties.
Many ministers were realising that it was impossible to expect poorer youngsters to spend all their spare time in prayer meetings, therefore it looked to involve them in activities to keep them occupied. These included three football teams, a cricket club, tennis club, and a playing field up at Hagg Lane.
The cost of the building was over £17,000, with £8,500 already raised through fund-raising, and the remainder underwritten by renting out nine shops, fronting West Street.
All the shops were roomy and contained basements that were easily accessible. These were let by W.F. Corker and Son, estate agents, of 19 Figtree Lane. One of the first to take advantage of the shops was F. Wallis and Son, furniture sellers.
The confusingly named Carver Street Wesleyan Institute opened on February 7, 1929.
Times changed, the kids moved on, and as you might have seen from Gordon Mason’s comments on a previous post, the first and second floors eventually became Unemployment Benefit Offices in the 1980s.
The shops below changed hands numerous times, with the largest development about to take place at ground level, with a new German-themed bar, comprising several units, due to open this year.
The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on Carver Street, was built at Cadman’s Fields in 1804, then green fields and trees, and a meeting place of political demonstrations.
The development of Sheffield westwards proceeded slowly until the end of the century, by which time the Carver Street Chapel was surrounded by housing, factories and shops.
These days we recognise the chapel as Walkabout, a vibrant city centre bar.
This was the biggest chapel in the town, and it expanded to meet the increasing popularity of Methodism.
The Carver Street Chapel built the Red Hill Sunday School on nearby Rockingham Lane in 1812, also adding an extension to the original building in 1885.
The Sunday School was one of 34 Wesleyan schools operating in Sheffield, with 1,096 teachers and 5,694 children across the city.
By the end of the century, the Red Hill Sunday School was considered too small, and in 1896 plans were made to build new facilities adjacent to it, fronting onto Rockingham Street.
Although the chapel had been in debt for most of its existence, it had consolidated its finances through generous donations and fundraising.
In 1898, the Carver Street Chapel was temporarily closed and the outside thoroughly cleaned of industrial grime. It was also the same year that the Methodist Sunday School was opened on Rockingham Street at a cost of £4,000.
Designed by Herbert W. Lockwood, this was a massive end of three-storeys with a tall gable, containing a lecture hall and 24 classrooms.
It proved to be a valuable addition in consolidating and expanding the work of the church.
“The area was indebted in no small measure for its record of successful spiritual work in a crowded district to the ability and zeal of its distinguished ministers and laymen.”
We’ve already seen that the Carver Street Chapel is now a bar, and these old schoolrooms also survive in a similar capacity.
These days the old building is home to Soyo, another trendy bar, making use of the exposed brick, and seemingly a million miles away from its Methodist roots.