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Buildings

Brightfield House: a ‘doomed’ house that survived

Brightfield House and to its right, the soon-to-be-demolished Highfield Club in 1885. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

In 1885, a large and commodious house situated at the bottom of Sharrow Lane was threatened with demolition. The Sheffield Independent printed an article, ‘Doomed Houses at Highfield’, highlighting the plight of Brightfield House, along with an adjacent property fronting London Road, once a family residence, and in its declining years used as the Highfield Club.

“Brightfield House is one of the few remaining examples of comfortable homes of well-to-do manufacturers at Highfield, in the time when it was quite a journey to go ‘over Sheffield Moor’ to that region ‘then a bit of country.’ Where now are long rows of brick houses stood the mansions of the Brights, the Woodheads, the Henfreys, the Lees, and others.

“A long, square house, standing in its own grounds, reminds one of the olden times. It is a pleasant break in the landscape; but appearances point to its early demolition, the builder approaching perilously near with his army of mortar men ‘to make the old order give way to the new.’”

Astonishingly, it wasn’t demolished, the Highfield Club was, and Brightfield House still stands, a monument to Sheffield’s forgotten past. Today, it goes by the name of Wisteria Gardens, divided into apartments, but to many it is known as the former Charnwood Hotel.

Brightfield House, now called Wisteria Gardens. (Image: Rightmove)

As will be explained, Brightfield House lost its name in the 1870s, renamed Highfield House, until losing its identity altogether.

It was erected about 1788 for John Henfrey, a prominent scissor-smith, whose family had been involved in the scissor trade for generations. He became a Freeman in 1753 and was the fourth generation to be apprenticed by The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire. He went on to train his brother and his sons in the Brightside area, and was listed in the 1787 trade directory as having premises in Norfolk Street.

“He built for himself a country mansion at Highfield and being asked by his friends if he was not afraid of going over Sheffield Moor after dark, he replied that he took good care always to get home by daylight.”

Brightfield House, the Sharrow Lane home of Dr Gwynne in 1885. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

At that time Sheffield Moor was ‘a shocking road for coaches’. There was quite a steep slope from the Moor head to the Horse Dyke (at the bottom of what eventually became Ecclesall Road), Sharrow Lane being the only road for wheels. Coaches coming from the south were often met by two extra horses at Heeley, to pull them up Goose Green to Highfield, and then up Sheffield Moor. It was a crooked road, with houses few and far between – there were practically none past Little Sheffield, and the surrounding area was rural.

It was no coincidence that John Henfrey built his house opposite Mount Pleasant, built for Francis Hurt Sitwell a few years earlier. This was on the Buxton Road which ran via Sheffield Moor, to Highfields, up Sharrow Lane, along Psalter Lane and up Ringinglow Road.

When it was built in the 1780s, Wisteria Gardens was in the countryside. (Image: Cocker & Carr)

Brightfield House was named after the field it was built in, the suggestion being that Henfrey wanted to call it Highfield House, but a house of that name belonging to the Wilsons of Sharrow already existed at the top of the hill looking towards what became Sheaf House (yes, the pub on Bramall lane) with a large lawn bordered with fine sycamores and horse chestnut trees.

John Henfrey’s family was involved in a scandal when in 1791-92, one of his daughters eloped to Gretna Green with Thomas Leader, ‘one of those dashing young men of the time,’ a young Colonel in the Sheffield Volunteers.

John Henfrey (Image: The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire)

After Henfrey’s death, Brightfield House became home to William Wilson, a member of the same family at Highfield House.

Following Wilson’s death, the mansion was offered at auction but failed to sell for several years, the empty house left in the care of a servant, and subjected to burglaries.

“Comprising drawing room, dining room, and breakfast room, lofty and well-lighted. Seven bedrooms, with closets and dressing rooms. Principal and secondary staircases, capital kitchens, dry cellars, bathroom, water-closet, and brewhouse.

“The views from the house, notwithstanding its proximity to the Town, are extensive and diversified, comprising, in front, the Park, studded with mansions and villas, and the line of the hill stretching towards Norton, and behind, ranging over Sharrowhead, the Botanical Gardens, Broomhill, Crookes, etc.”

The big houses of Highfield. The original Highfield House was demolished. (Image: National Library of Scotland)

It appears that Brightfield House was still in the possession of the Wilson family until the 1870s until bought by John Parkinson Mawhood, of Farm Bank, in 1874. He was head of Stevenson, Mawhood and Company, tool manufacturers, of Pond Street and later the Palm Tree Works at Attercliffe.

His tenure was short-lived and following the failure of the company in 1879 it was bought by Dr Charles Nelson Gwynne, an Irishman, who came to Sheffield in 1875 when he purchased the practice of Dr Webb at Highfield, and built up connections in Sharrow, Highfield, and Heeley.

Gwynne became Honorary Medical Officer at the Children’s Hospital in 1879, after completing a special study of diseases in children.

In 1879, the nearby Highfield House estate was available for development, suggesting the mansion had been demolished, allowing Gwynne to rename Brightfield as Highfield House.

Gwynne died in 1906, and Highfield House became home to Dr George Scott Davidson, who ran a practice here with his son, Dr John Davidson, of Repton Lodge, in Sharrow.

Later this week we’ll look at a remarkable event that took place at Highfield House during Dr Davidson’s tenure.

Davidson practised for over thirty years, his son later moving into Highfield and taking over the practice, the house remaining a surgery until the 1970s.

It became the 22-bed Charnwood Hotel in 1985, opened by Chris and Valerie King, and operated almost 20 years as a wedding venue, along with two top restaurants, Brasserie Leo and the smaller more upmarket Henfrey’s.

Charnwood Hotel in 2004. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

The Charnwood Hotel closed in December 2004 after being unsuccessfully marketed for £1.3 million. It was turned into apartments in 2005 and renamed Wisteria Gardens.

The house and adjoining former coach house are Grade II listed by Historic England.

Wisteria Gardens. A survivor of Georgian England. (Image: Redbrik)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

A brighter future for Tapton Court

Tapton Court. (Image: BNP Paribas Real Estate)

Some time ago, I wrote about Tapton Court, off Shore Lane, a big house that had fallen on hard times.

Tapton Court was built in 1868 as a residential villa before being converted into nurses’ accommodation in the 1930s. It was later taken over by the University of Sheffield and used as a hall of residence for student nurses.

Speaking at the opening of Tapton Court as a nurses’ home in 1934, J.G. Graves spoke of a Royal connection, seemingly forgotten today.

“Tapton Court is a historic house. It once belonged to Henry Steel, who was a friend of King Edward, and King Edward visited and probably stayed here.”

Those days of grandeur are long gone.

The approach to the Main House. (Image: PJ Livesey)

Today, Tapton Court lies empty, damaged by fire in 2010, and although the University of Sheffield carried out repairs, it is on Sheffield Council’s Buildings at Risk register and large sections of the site have been boarded up to prevent damage and vandalism.

Main House tower and detail above southern entrance. (Image: PJ Livesey)
Main House feature window above the south entrance. (Image: PJ Livesey)

Now plans have been lodged for the redevelopment of the grade II-listed building to create new housing.

PJ Livesey Holdings, supported by Pegasus Group, has submitted full planning and listed building applications to Sheffield City Council for the change of use and conversion of the buildings for residential use.

The application site includes the main house and adjoining terrace wall and conservatory , as well as the Ranmoor House Annexe, former stables block and lodge building.

Tapton Court would be converted to create 14 apartments, with a further 18 in the Ranmoor House Annexe. The Stables and Lodge would be converted into individual residential units. Four new houses would also be built to the north-west of the main building.

See also Tapton Court: a ‘brass castle’ above the fog of the town, and Tapton Court: When the nurses moved in

Photograph of Tapton Court taken from the 1915 sales particulars. The house was built in 1868 for John Henry Andrew, a steel manufacturer. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Another old building falls victim

Admire this old building while you can… because its days are numbered.

Down it will come, to be replaced with a 27-storey residential development that will provide accommodation for more than 500 students.

Niveda Realty has been granted planning permission for the Calico Sheffield development on the site bounded by Hollis Croft and Broad Lane in the city’s St Vincent’s Quarter.

It will mean demolition for this 90-year-old building, originally constructed for the Hallamshire Tyre and Motor Company in 1930, and recently occupied by Sytner Sheffield.

The smell of oil, grease and petrol is a vague memory for the art-deco building, remarkable for the clever configuration of ground-floor windows that reduce in height with Broad Lane’s incline.  

A familiar site for over 90 years (Image: David Poole)

This area was once considered a slum, with an outbreak of cholera in 1832 blamed on poor sanitation. This caused an exodus of the better-off and the area became the preserve of the working-class poor, with a large influx of Irish immigrants seeking work in the growing cutlery trade in the years following the potato famine.

The site eventually became the Royal Oak public house, fronting Hollis Croft, with access to Court 2, Broad Lane, and a blacksmith. By 1928, they had been replaced with a large building for the Dunlop Rubber Company and shortly afterwards Nos. 2-4 Broad Lane were built alongside for the Hallamshire Tyre and Motor Company, tyre and tube repairers, petrol and oil dealers, motor-car, and electrical engineers.

It was owned and operated by Charles M. Walker, of Whirlowdale Road, and Maurice F. Parkes, of Hoober Road, who turned it into a limited company in 1932.

Hallamshire Tyre & Motor Co in 1939 (Image: Picture Sheffield)

The firm became the Hallamshire Motor Company, specialists in Standard, Triumph, Ford, and Vauxhall cars. It subsequently became an Austin-Rover dealer on a new site, on the opposite side of Hollis Croft, until the franchise was transferred to Kennings who built a showroom next door.

The Hallamshire Motor Company became the Sheffield dealer for BMW, modernising the old workshops to sell used cars, and in 1995 was acquired by Nottingham-based Sytner Group to become Sytner Sheffield.

Sytner transferred to purpose-built premises at Brightside Way in 2017 leaving the old site vacant for development.

Awaiting demolition. 2-4 Broad Lane. (Image: David Poole)

Had the building been anywhere else, it might have been suitable for use as an exhibition or art-space (reminiscent of the Kenning’s Building on Paternoster Row), but the area’s multiplying student accommodation meant the outcome was predictable.  

The new development will replace the old garage. (Image: den architecture)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings People

Alwyn Henry Holland

A few of us might argue that Sheffield has never been at the forefront of cultural excitement. This was never more apparent when, over a century ago, Alwyn Henry Holland put his money into the Howard Gallery.

His determination to give us an alternative exhibition space came at a cost and ended with the collapse of the family business.

Holland’s far-sightedness didn’t resonate with the public, and the only reminder of his folly is a stone relief set in a small portico above a doorway on Chapel Walk.

For many years, Alwyn Henry Holland (1862-1935), was the Hon. Sec. and member of the Council of the Sheffield Society of Artists, and probably the most enthusiastic artist in the city at the time. He was also a lay member of the Society of Architects, and Hon. Sec. and trustee of the Croft House Settlement.

He was born in Sheffield, the son of Alwin Hibbard Holland, provisions merchant, and was brought up as an architect.

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

The family home was at 11 Broomgrove Crescent, and he was educated principally at Brampton Schools, Wath. He then became a pupil, and afterwards assistant, with architect John Dodsley Webster.

On the death of his father in 1883, however, he succeeded to the business of A.H. Holland, at No. 9 Fargate.

Shuttered up during this year’s pandemic. This was once the main entrance to the Howard Gallery, with the original stone relief above the door.

In its day, A.H. Holland, was one of Sheffield’s finest grocery stores, famous for its high-class goods at low prices, and awarded three prize medals at London exhibitions.

He ran the business with his mother, Eliza, and, with Thomas Flockton, designed new shop premises as part of the Fargate widening scheme in 1889.

Like many Victorian businessmen, Holland dipped into the property market, and when land became available adjacent to No. 9 Fargate, on Chapel Walk, he designed and built eight single shops in English Renaissance style.

At the time of construction in 1897, Henry Fitzalan Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk, was Mayor, and later Lord Mayor, of Sheffield, and the inspiration for naming the new art gallery that Holland built above the shops.

The gallery comprised two exhibition spaces, both 60ft in length, separated by a staircase, with light supplied by a lantern roof above. The main entrance was on Chapel Walk, with a separate carriage entrance around the back on Black Swan Walk.

The inclusion of the art gallery satisfied Holland’s notions as a watercolour painter,  providing more suitable environs to display artwork, rather than on the walls of the shop that had previously been the case.

The Howard Gallery never intended to be a showcase for his own work but was to be used for rotating exhibitions of works by other artists.

Holland’s plans were extravagant, seeing it as a northern rival to the big London galleries. There were those who mocked his plans, but even the fiercest critics were astonished when the Howard Gallery announced its opening exhibition in April 1898.

William Marchant, manager of the Goupil Gallery in Regent Street, was persuaded to bring a collection of pictures and drawings to Sheffield – and the samples of work seem inconceivable today.

“The exhibition contains examples of Gainsborough, Constable, David Cox, Turner, Landseer, Corot, Guardi, J. Maris, Mauve, Israels, Whistler, and J.M. Swan,” wrote the Sheffield Daily Telegraph.

The opening exhibition at the Howard Gallery. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

Public opinion was favourable, the critics silenced, but William Marchant struck a note of caution that pinpointed what lay ahead:

“I must say that when I decided to take this collection to Sheffield, I was fully aware of the fact that I was not catering for the popular taste, and I may add that several people who witnessed my preparations laughed and predicted total failure. I cannot say that much of Sheffield’s gold has found its way into our coffers, and the visitors have been, if select, very few, but I must own that I never expected to meet with so publicly expressed an appreciation.”

Opening advertisement for the Howard Gallery. (Image: Sheffield History)

Despite the lacklustre support the Goupil Exhibition was extended past its May closing date, with several works removed and replaced with new works by Peter Graham, John Syer, Henry Dawson, Niemann and E.M. Wimperis. Several local artists were also represented including Austin Winterbottom, James Moore, Frank Saltfleet, and Jean Mitchell.

In June 1898, Thomas Agnew and Sons, fine art dealers, brought an exhibition to Sheffield, including Gethsemane ‘Jesus In the Garden’, painted by Tom Mostyn, and the engravings from the canvases of Landseer, Peter Graham, and Rosa Bonheur.

The Howard Gallery hired glass cases for its next exhibition of artistic book-bindings, obtained on loan from the Ruskin Museum Library, and which had rarely been seen.

And so, there followed a cycle of short-lived seasonal exhibitions – Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter – all of which cost a lot of money and poor return.

The interior of the Howard Gallery. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

In June 1899, Holland closed the East Gallery claiming that previous exhibitions had been too large for art lovers to properly view, but finances were diminishing and, apart from the annual Sheffield Society of Artists’ Exhibition, the major showings dwindled away. But the local press remained optimistic:

“There had been sneers at the Howard Gallery as a mere commercial speculation, but they only exhibit a complete ignorance of the motives with which it was founded, and their absurdity is as patent as their injustice,” wrote ‘Le Flaneur’ in the Sheffield Independent.

Holland launched a Winter Exhibition in December 1901, using the West and East Gallery, which had been used as a restaurant, and showing nearly 250 oils and watercolours, but, apart from a Frank Saltfleet exhibition in January 1903, the galleries were advertised as being available to hire for dances and evening entertainments.

Music recitals became a mainstay of the gallery, a popular home for the Sheffield Chamber Music Society, as well as for meetings including those of the Alliance Francais.

The principal use, from 1903, was for the Sheffield Gentlemen’s Club during the rebuilding of their premises on Norfolk Street. It occurred to Holland that the comforts and conveniences of the club might be appreciated by the public, so, with necessary alterations and additions, the Howard Gallery, and adjoining Rutland Institute (above No.9 Fargate) were transformed into a café and restaurant.

Holland auctioned his collection of paintings, pewter, and pottery, as well as fixtures and fittings, and the gallery became The Meerah Café in December 1904.

A list of contents sold by Alwyn Henry Holland following the closure of the Howard Gallery. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

Once again, the undertaking received support from the local press:

“Mr Holland is an architect of considerable repute, and in the extensive range of rooms has given free play to his artistic ideas. The place is full of artistic surprises. They seem to meet you at every turn. The old-fashioned windows he has so daintily worked into his scheme, the many snug retreats, the originality displayed in the lighting and the decorations, all breathe art. The very atmosphere seems artistic. Even the furniture has all been studied with an artist’s care. The late William Morris designed some of the most comfortable of the chairs which will be found in the gentlemen’s quarters; but Mr Holland has designed the remainder of the furniture. The tables of solid old oak, also breathe of art. The names of the rooms sound artistic. There are the York Room, the Howard Room, the Wharncliffe Room, and the Rutland Room. Music is provided by Charles Callum.”

The café and restaurant fared marginally better than the Howard Gallery, but the overindulgences of the exhibition space and subsequent conversion, played heavily on the finances of A.H. Holland.

Alwyn and Eliza invited shareholders into the business, and it became Hollands Ltd in 1906, but the company went into voluntary liquidation three years later.

The shop and café were closed, and the contents auctioned to help pay off the creditors.

The contents of the cafe were auctioned after the company went into liquidation. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

The last hurrah appeared in the Sheffield Independent:

“’It is a tragedy, that is the only word for it,’ said an old customer. The Wharncliffe Room of Holland’s Café was half filled with buyers, and about a dozen men hung about waiting for jobs to remove the purchases. A couple of dogs, which had strayed into the room, surveyed the scene, and made a faint effort to wag their tails. The firm, business-like tones of the auctioneer rang out, and soon the artistic fittings, pictures, crockery, and cutlery, were auctioned off.

“Hollands was well known for the original designs of the interior of the premises, Mr Holland being quite ambitious in this direction. The shop was regarded as an example of the art doctrines of Ruskin and Morris. Indeed, Holland made a special effort to introduce art into ordinary matter-of-fact business. Unfortunately, the effort failed.”

Alwyn Henry Holland in 1925. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

Afterwards, Alwyn Henry Holland faded into obscurity, no doubt chastened by his experience, and spent time walking, playing tennis and golf, and sketching.

His legacy is forgotten, his work little-known.

Some of his work hangs at the Cutlers’ Hall which had commissioned him to paint views of the banqueting halls as well as its exterior. Perhaps his most famous painting is Sheffield from above the Midland Station, included in the Sheffield Museum collection.

Sheffield from above the Midland Station by Alwyn Henry Holland (1909). (Image: Museum Sheffield)

Holland died in 1935 at Patrington, near Hull, aged 73.

The Howard Gallery returned in name only, used by British Westinghouse and the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company as showrooms, and part of it used by Thomas Monkman and later H.C. Hibbert as a billiards hall.

In the time since, the gallery space has been sub-divided, but the Howard Gallery carving remains, as does the long glass roof, visible only from above.

This aerial photograph shows the length of the two rooms at the Howard Gallery. Parts of the glass roof remain above one of the galleries. (Google)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

King’s Tower

A dramatic change to the High Street. King’s Tower, a 39-storey tower block, that has been granted planning permission.

Prepare for a major new addition to the Sheffield skyline, and its location may come as a surprise.

King’s Tower, at 51-57 High Street, will be a 39-storey tower, comprising 206 apartments, with space for a ground floor commercial unit, drinking establishment or hot food takeaway.

It is probably the first regeneration step for one of the most unkempt parts of the city centre.

King’s Tower will be a significant change to the High Street.

The building will be on the site of what many of us know as the former Primark building, and even further back, the one-time Peter Robinson department store.

When the wrecking balls arrive, there will likely be cries of contempt, but in the eyes of planners, the existing building has no architectural value.

In fact, when researching this post, it was discovered that it was always meant to be a temporary structure, even though it’s lasted almost sixty years.

King’s Tower will be on the site of the ancient market adjacent to Sheffield Castle, first established as the result of a Royal Charter of 1296. The market stall and buildings that occupied the site were demolished in 1786 to make way for the construction of the Fitzalan Market (also known as ‘The Shambles’), which underwent improvement about 1855.

Fitzalan Market was demolished in 1930 when the new Castle Hill Market opened, and a new shop was constructed on the corner of Angel Street for Montague Burton, of Burton Menswear, in 1932. The shop occupied the lower floors while the upper tiers were home to the City Billiard Hall and ‘The City’ Roller Skating Rink.

The grand-looking Burton Building, built at the corner of High Street and Angel Street in 1932. A billiard hall and roller-skating rink occupied the upper floors. (Image: Sheffield Telegraph)

The Burton building was badly-damaged during the Sheffield Blitz of 1940, and stood as an empty shell for many years, its replacement held up by funding and lack of building materials. By the 1950s, Sheffield Corporation insisted that plans for an alternative building would only be granted if it were of ‘temporary character, and not as before,’ because it had plans for a new roundabout intersecting Angel Street, High Street and what would become Arundel Gate.

After being badly damaged by German bombs in 1940, the Burton Building remained empty for many years. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

It was eventually demolished and replaced by a new steel-framed building, clad in concrete and tile panels, and opened in 1962 as a Peter Robinson department store. The chain store had been founded in 1833 as a drapery, soon expanding with a flagship store at Oxford Circus, London, and bought by Burton’s in 1946.

The shop in Sheffield was part of Peter Robinson’s nationwide expansion, at its height having 39 stores across Britain.  

Whilst the building may not be considered of architectural importance, it most certainly played a part in shaping High Streets across the country.

It was here, in 1964, that a new department was launched on the third floor, Top Shop, a youth brand, selling fashion by young British designers such as Polly Peck, Mary Quant, Gerald McCann, Mark Russell and Stirling Cooper.

The Top Shop name was later used for a large standalone store on Oxford Street, London, and expanded into further Peter Robinson branches at Ealing, Norwich, and Bristol.

It was not until 1973 that Top Shop was split from Peter Robinson, the Top Shop (later Topshop) brand flourished, subsequently becoming part of Phillip Green’s Arcadia Group, whose demise dominates present-day headlines.

Alas, by the end of the 1970s, the Peter Robinson name had all but disappeared.

The steel-frame of the Peter Robinson department store during construction in the early 1960s. (Image: Picture Sheffield)
Completed. Peter Robinson dominated this High Street corner. In 1964, the first Top Shop was opened on the third floor. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

From 1974, the adjacent C&A store absorbed the upper floors of Peter Robinson, while furniture retailer Waring & Gillow occupied the ground floor.

After C&A vacated in the 1990s, it became Primark until it relocated to The Moor in 2016, leaving the old department store empty.

During the 1970s C&A occupied the upper floors while Waring & Gillow sold furniture at ground level. (Image: Picture Sheffield)
Primark, originating from Dublin, took over the premises when C&A pulled out of the UK. (Image: Google)

On a final note, that proposed roundabout eventually became Castle Square, with the famous ‘Hole-in-the-Road’ linking into the building, filled in to accommodate Supertram in 1994.  

As part of the works to build King’s Tower, King Street, to the rear, will be improved with the market retained and access for vehicles.

Artist impressions of King’s Tower.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

No. 9 Fargate

No. 9 has stood at the end of Fargate all our lives. It is the tall, detached building standing between Chapel Walk and Black Swan Walk and is in a sorry state.

It is hard to imagine that this building was part of the Victorian renaissance of the old town centre, one that marked the widening of Fargate and set the building line for later High Street improvements.

Plans to widen Fargate were proposed in 1875, but it was not until the late 1880s that work started. Old buildings on the east side were flattened extending back from Fargate for distances varying from 60ft to 240ft.

A glamorous view of the widened Fargate (not Fragate as the photograph says) with A.H. Holland on its single plot between Chapel Walk and Black Swan Walk. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

It would appear that Lot 4, a plot of land containing about 150 square yards on the north side of Chapel Walk and south of a foot road (Black Swan Walk), with a frontage of 19ft to Fargate and 72ft to Chapel Walk, had been the site of the Black Swan Public House.

In 1887, Sheffield Corporation paid William Davy, the licensee, £11,160 for the land and demolished the pub.

The freehold was bought in 1888 by A.H. Holland, Provisions Merchant, founded in 1844 by Alwin Hibbard Holland, whose previous shop had been at No. 3 Fargate, one of those flattened for street widening.

Alwin Hibbard Holland had died in 1883, the business continuing through his wife, Eliza, and youngest son, Alwyn Henry Holland. (His eldest son, Kilburn Alwyn Holland, also had a provisions business, but appeared to have played only a small part in the family business).

Eliza Holland played an important role in the success of A.H. Holland, but it was Alwyn (whose story will be covered in a future post) who established the business in new premises at No. 9 Fargate.

Alwyn had been educated at Brampton Schools, Wath upon Dearne, before becoming a pupil, and afterwards, assistant to Sheffield-architect John Dodsley Webster.

After his father’s death, he joined A.H. Holland which he ran with his co-executors, and co-designed the new premises along with Flockton, Gibbs and Flockton.

Thomas James Flockton had negotiated the purchase of the property and acted for Sheffield Corporation in the resale to Alwyn Holland, a fact that did not go unnoticed to sharp-eyed citizens.

A.H. Holland fronted Fargate and stretched down Chapel Walk. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Building work started in early 1889, with Sheffield-builder George Longden and Son chosen for the work, but progress was hampered when bricklayers and labourers went on strike demanding more money.

The new shop was eventually completed and opened to an expectant public on 9 November 1889 selling the ‘highest class goods at the lowest possible prices’. As well as the shopfront on Fargate, the premises extended down Chapel Walk occupying Nos. 1 to 15. The firm was awarded prize medals at the London International Exhibition and the International Dairy Show, sufficient for it to become sole agent for Lord Vernon’s Dairy (from Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire).

In 1891, the Rutland Institution occupied rooms overlooking Fargate above the shop. It was named after the Duchess of Rutland, who opened it, and was formed in connection with the Sheffield Gospel Temperance Union.

Busy days on Fargate with A.H. Holland’s awning stretching to the road. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

As well as being a shopkeeper, Alwyn Holland was a watercolour artist and his work was displayed inside the shop, ‘displaying marked originality both as an architect and an artist’.

It might have been Holland’s aspirations as an artist that ultimately led to the downfall of A.H. Holland.

With a sizeable income the firm built new property on adjoining Chapel Walk, renting out eight shops at ground level with a large suite of assembly rooms upstairs, including the Howard Gallery, for high-class art exhibitions, and Holland’s Restaurant.

The gallery opened in 1898 but proved a failure, closing its doors in 1904. By this time, the Rutland Institution had moved out, and the entire upper floor was extended into rooms above No. 9 Fargate and remodelled as tea rooms.

Advertisement for A.H. Holland – ‘The Provisions Store’ – on Fargate and Chapel Walk. (Image: Sheffield History)

In 1906, a new company was created, Hollands Ltd, to take over the business carried on by Eliza Holland and Alwyn Henry Holland at No. 9 Fargate and Nos. 1 to 15 Chapel Walk, as well as the restaurant business carried on by Alwyn at 17-23 Chapel Walk (and also at Sheffield University Rectory).

Joining Eliza and Alwyn as directors were Smith William Belton, a provisions merchant from Market Harborough, William Whiteley, a Sheffield scissor manufacturer, Richard P. Greenland, Liverpool soap manufacturer, Arthur Neal, Sheffield solicitor, and George Shuttleworth Greening, accountant.

A second grocery and provisions business were established on Whitham Road at Broomhilll, but despite new investment things did not go particularly well for A.H. Holland, and in 1909 the business slipped into voluntary liquidation.

Net losses since the formation of the new company amounted to £3,826 and directors attributed poor performance to deficient continuity of management, shortness of working capital, and consequent loss of business due to the depression in Sheffield.

Sad times after the demise of A.H. Holland. No. 9 Fargate and properties on Chapel Walk were sold at auction. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

The following year the freehold of No. 9 Fargate was offered at auction, as was the leasehold portion on Chapel Walk, once home to the Howard Gallery and Holland’s Café.

By the end of the year, No. 9 Fargate was used as an auction house by Arnold, Prince, Bradshaw and Company, and the following year fell into the hands of Sykes and Rhodes, costumiers and furriers, which remained until 1924.

Sykes and Rhodes (Image: RIBA)

By this time, the building had suffered from Sheffield’s age-old problem of black soot, darkening the stone, making it rather ‘dull-looking’.

However, the building was about to be reinvented with the opening of a shop in Sheffield by one of Britain’s leading tailors.

“A cynic has remarked that one of the reasons why Austin Reed Ltd have opened a shop in Fargate is because the male members of the community in Sheffield need attention in sartorial details.”

Austin Reed opened in Sheffield in 1924. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

The business had been founded by Austin Leonard Reed (great grandfather of Asos founder Nick Robertson) and claimed to be the first menswear store to bring made-to-measure quality to the ready-to-wear market. Its first store was in London’s Fenchurch Street and by 1924 had branches in all the most important towns and cities of England.

“Time is not so long distant when Sheffield relied on its old-established businesses, handed on from father to son, but, with the passing of the war, there came a change, and today, as quickly as premises can be acquired, firms with world-wide reputations are erecting palatial buildings, limited only by the space at their disposal.”

Austin Reed had illuminated signs fitted to the front of the building. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

The company spent a small fortune converting the building, the designs drawn up by P.J. Westwood and Emberton, of Adelphi, London, and involved the original builder, George Longden and Son.

Outside included a beautiful marble front erected by Fenning and Co., Hammersmith, made of Italian Bianco del Mare and Belgian Black Marble. The entrance lobbies contained lines of non-slip carborundum inserted into marble paving.

The building consisted of a basement, three sales floors, and an office situated at the top. They were linked by staircases and the lift, a survivor from A.H. Holland days.

The basement was used for dispatching, the ground floor for the tie, collar, and glove department, the first floor was for hats, shirts, and pyjamas, while the second floor formed the ‘new’ tailoring department.

Austin Reed, Fargate, in 1925. (Image: RIBA)

“Inside, everything blends and tones; there is nothing garish to the eye. The ground-work is of oak panelling, staircase, and fittings. On the ground floor, the firm has arranged six windows nicely furnished with parquet beds, the door at the back being glazed with embossed glass to the architect’s design.

“The window lighting – admired by thousands – is worked with x-ray window reflectors, and each window has a special plug for ‘spotlights’ or experimental lighting effects.”

The front of the shop was also illuminated with a ‘Dayanite’ electric sign installed by the Standard Electric Sign Works. This, and the window lighting, was controlled by a revolutionary time switch that allowed them to be switched off on Sundays.

A remarkably different Fargate with Cole Brothers on the opposite corner. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

While the outside was impressive, the interior had the latest shop-fittings made of lightly fumed oak, with polished edged frameless mirrors, supplied by George Parnall of Bristol and London.

The coat cabinets worked on an American principle where doors opened and disappeared into the sides of the cabinet, and a large rack, laden with coats on pegs, was drawn out and slowly revolved.

The counters had small reflectors and low-voltage gas-filled lamps, manufactured by G.C. Cuthbert of London, that provided white light and gave a brilliant effect to the goods.

Another innovation was an electric hat cleaner whereby a visiting customer with a hard felt hat could have it cleaned and renovated in three minutes.

The narrow-gabled front reflects the width of plots preserved from much earlier development on Fargate. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Customers were most impressed with Austin Reed’s new payment and receipt system.

When an item was purchased the assistant placed the money, bill and duplicate into a cartridge that was inserted into pneumatic tubes, similar to those used in newspaper offices, that within ‘three second’ had reached the top of the building. The office assistant then placed the receipt and change in the cartridge and the procedure reversed.

The smart oak interior with bespoke counters at Austin Reed in 1925. (Image: RIBA)

Austin Reed also used several local contractors.

Decoration was completed by F. Naylor, of Abbeydale Road, plumbing by George Simpson and Co., from Broomhall Street, electrics by Marsh Bros., of Fargate, and the structural engineers were W.H. Blake and Co., from Queen’s Road.

Austin Reed remained at No. 9 Fargate the 1970s, the building becoming a Salisburys bag shop and subsequently a victim of the relentless ‘chain store shuffle’, its last incumbent being Virgin Media.

As I write, it is a pop-up Christmas store, in darkness due to Covid-19 restrictions, with a sun-tanning parlour above.

No. 9 Fargate. A pop-up Christmas shop in November 2020. Closed due to Government restrictions. (Image: David Poole)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

The new Isaacs Building takes shape

Scaffolding and new steel work support retained Victorian fronts on Pinstone Street. (Image: Heart of the City II)

A photograph that tells a story. The remains of the Victorian facade at the lower end of Pinstone Street in Sheffield city centre. Everything behind has been demolished, and the famous old fronts preserved for posterity.

Block C of the Heart of the City II masterplan is located between Pinstone Street, Cambridge Street and Charles Street.

It incorporates two historic building blocks which form the southern end of the Pinstone streetscape.

The combined façade and its dramatic roofscape is an excellent example of Sheffield brick and terracotta architecture. It occupies a prominent position and is visible from the Peace Gardens through to The Moor.

Block C will be home to 39,000 sq ft of premium Grade A office space, serving 450 employees, plus six premium retail units comprising over 8,000 sq ft.

It will be known as the Isaacs Building, named after Edwardian-era paper-hangings merchant David Isaac, and is scheduled to be completed in 2021.

Categories
Buildings

Old name, new look: the Gaumont Building

How we’ve loved to hate. The Odeon Building built in 1986-1987.

Back in the 1980s it was an important part of Sheffield’s regeneration, but after completion was universally hated. The steel and concrete building in Barker’s Pool opened as the Odeon, replacing the Gaumont Cinema, built in 1927 (as The Regent) for the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres circuit, and demolished in 1985.

A tear or two was shed, but its severe appearance could never keep up with the go-getting eighties.

We enjoyed its bright new replacement, but it didn’t last long, closed in 1994 in favour of Odeon’s multi-screen complex on Arundel Gate. And then came its reincarnation as a nightclub.

The Regent Theatre was built in 1927 for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres and was the first major cinema designed by architect William Edward Trent. Taken over by Gaumont British Theatres in 1929 it retained the Regent name until 1946. (Picture Sheffield)

If memory serves correct, it was vilified by Prince Charles, but fiercest criticism came from Sheffielders. It was considered downright ugly.

Over thirty years later, disapproval never waned, and the once-futuristic appearance looks as much out of place as it did then.

But that might be about to change.

A planning application proposing a significant facelift to the Gaumont building (as it has wistfully been renamed), has been submitted to Sheffield City Council.

The improvement works fall within the wider Heart of the City II development scheme – led by the Council and their Strategic Development Partner, Queensberry. Plans would see the building’s current red steel frame completely removed and replaced with a contemporary design.

The new façade proposals for the building, designed by Sheffield-based HLM Architects, who are also working on the Radisson Blu hotel, take inspiration from the building’s origins as the Regent Theatre (although I see no resemblance whatsoever).

Gone is the glass and steel. An artist’s impression of the new design of the Gaumont Building. (Sheffield City Council)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings Streets

The widening of High Street

High Street as it was during the 1880s. (British Newspaper Archive)

Back in Victorian times, High Street and its approach was compared to a bottle, of which the approach was the body and the street the neck.

From the Churchgates (Sheffield Cathedral) the road tapered away until constricted at what was known as ‘Grundy’s Corner’ – the bulging portion of which had been an eye-sore for years.

Horse-drawn traffic was the problem, and every year the neck became increasingly congested.

Plans to divert traffic away from High Street were considered impossible, and the Town Council had considered an ambitious widening of the street as far back as 1875.

However, it involved demolishing buildings and prompted objections from shopkeepers concerned about compensation and property boundaries, and it wasn’t until the 1890s that work started.

These two illustrations from 1890, both taken from Coles Corner, showed High Street as was, and the proposed widening of the street.

The proposed High Street widening from 1890. (British Newspaper Archive)

It was completed in 1895-1896 and involved demolition of buildings on the south side (to the right), replacing them with elegant Victorian structures, including the Foster’s Building.

Sadly, the Blitz of World War Two destroyed most of the property and we are left with twentieth century replacements including what was once Walsh’s department store, an old Sheffield name that mutated into Rackhams, House of Fraser, eventually handed over to TJ Hughes.

Only one building survives both sketches and is as familiar today as it was then. Parade Chambers, built for Pawson and Brailsford by Charles Hadfield, and constructed by George Longden & Son between 1883-1885.

High Street before the street widening of 1895-1896. (Picture Sheffield)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Old Coroner’s Court

A miserable end for a fine old building. (Image: The Jessop Consultancy)

It is sad to be writing about a building that will soon be no more.

The Old Coroner’s Court on Nursery Street is to be demolished and replaced with 77 apartments, after a Government inspector overturned Sheffield City Council’s decision to halt the development.

Firestone, the developer, has been given permission to demolish the building as it is not listed, or in a conservation area.

It will be a miserable end for the building built in 1913-1914, one damaged during the Blitz, the subject of severe flooding, and an arson attack.

This grainy photograph was taken in 1914 shortly after the coroner’s court and mortuary had opened. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

At the end of November 1912, it was agreed by Sheffield Corporation that a new Coroner’s Court and Mortuary should be built on surplus land remaining after the widening of Nursery Street.

Prior to this, the land had been an area of mixed domestic, retail and industrial buildings, a far cry from the days when this was “a green and pleasant land, when salmon could be caught in the Don, and flowers gathered in the meadow” of Spittal Gardens, or the Duke of Norfolk’s Nursery.

The new Coroner’s Court was championed by Dr W.H. Fordham, of the Heeley Ward, chairman of the special committee set up to build it. The urgency was to replace the old coroner’s court that had stood on Plum Lane, off Corporation Street, since 1884, and had long been a disgrace to the city.

The building was designed by Sheffield’s first city architect, Frederick Ernest Pearce Edwards (1863-1945), who had previously held a similar position with Bradford Corporation.

The Coroner’s Court in 1914. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

Built of brick and stone, it drew on the design of Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, and Baroque traditions of the nineteenth century. Construction was by George Longden and Son and cost £5,000 to build.

The main courtroom was 30ft x 20ft and 25ft high. Within the building were various mortuaries, waiting rooms, jury retiring rooms, coroner and doctor waiting rooms, viewing rooms, coach and motor houses, stables, and a caretaker’s house.

It was furnished throughout in oak and contained all the ‘up-to-date’ appliances, including fixed and revolving tables in the post-mortem room.

The coroner at the time was Mr J. Kenyon Parker, but the first case held here was in May 1914 when Dr J.J. Baldwin Young, deputy coroner, investigated the death of Edward Villers, a labourer, and determined that he ‘hanged himself while of unsound mind.’

Buildings behind were added in the 1920s, and following bomb damage in December 1940, new plans were drawn up by W.G. Davis, city architect, in 1952-1953 to extend the courtroom buildings.

There is a chance that the developer will preserve the original date-stone. (The Jessop Consultancy)

The opening of the Medico Legal Centre on Watery Street, Netherthorpe, in the 1970s, brought an end to grisly proceedings on Nursery Street.

It became Sheffield City Council, Employment Department, Enterprise Works, and was subsequently sub-divided into 36 principal rooms. In later years it was known as the Old Coroner’s Court Business Centre.

Unfortunately, little remains of the original internal detail, but the outside is virtually untouched apart from minor restoration.

The building has been empty for several years and the developer had hoped to incorporate it into the new development, but this was considered unpractical.

And so, we lose another one of our historic buildings, to be replaced with something considered to be “favourable towards the character and appearance of the area.”

The inside of the building was sub-divided and this space once formed part of the old courtroom. (Image: The Jessop Consultancy)
The proposed development on the site of the Old Coroner’s Court. (Firestone)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.