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.
Sheffield’s skyline is going to look very different in the coming years. With several high-rise projects in development, the news comes that planning consent has been granted for a £100million scheme that is set to include the tallest building in Yorkshire.
The plans from Code will include three buildings of 12, 17 and 38 storeys, located on a site adjacent to the Vita building between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Trafalgar Street.
At almost 117 metres tall, the main tower would be taller than a 114-metre Hume House scheme currently under construction in Leeds, which is set to become the tallest in the region.
It would also be 16 metres taller than St Paul’s Tower, Sheffield’s current title holder.
The co-living development is aimed at a mixture of students, post-graduates and younger people. It will feature a 24-hour concierge on site and communal space at both the ground level of the main tower and the top floor of the 17-storey block.
A total of 1,230 apartments will be provided, with the majority being studios but also one- and two-bedroom units.
Sheffield City Council’s planning and highways committee voted to approve the plans at a meeting yesterday (28 January).
Planning Officers had recommended approval after noting the quality of the design, and suggesting the building would act as a positive key marker for the ongoing redevelopment of the neighbouring Heart of the City II area.
Work to bring forward the development is set to begin immediately, with Code aiming to be on site to begin construction this summer. It was supported in its application by Howes Percival and Staniforth Architects.