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Buildings

Cairn’s Chambers – the Tudor-Gothic style Victorian building is up for sale

Here’s a nice development opportunity in the heart of Sheffield city centre. The Cairn’s Chambers building, built in Tudor-Gothic style, on Church Street, is up for sale (offers invited).

Grade II listed Cairn’s Chambers was built between 1894-1896 by Charles Hadfield, of M.E. Hadfield, Son and Garland, for Henry and Alfred Maxfield, solicitors. It was built in scholarly Tudor-style, a favourite of Hadfield’s, featuring decorative stonework by Frank Tory Sr., including a four-foot statue of Earl Cairns, a former Lord Chancellor.

Henry and Alfred Maxfield occupied a large suite of offices, but it was also built to accommodate other businesses, a common trait of Victorian entrepreneurship.

The offices were used for almost 40 years by Charles Hadfield’s own company, C & C.M. Hadfield, architects, and later by Hadfield and Cawkwell. It was also where John Dodsley Webster, another Sheffield architect, had his office with an entrance at the back, on St James’s Street.

The Hadfield company remained until World War Two, leaving after the building was damaged by a German bomb in 1940. The rear of the property was almost destroyed, but the decorative front survived.

Afterwards, Cairn’s Chambers became a branch of the District Bank, subsequently becoming NatWest until its closure.

Most recently, the ground floor was occupied by Cargo Hold, a seafood restaurant.

Last year an offer was accepted for the building, and subject to planning permission, was to be turned into a restaurant, with up to a dozen luxury apartments on the first, second, and third floors.

However, the development appears to have stalled and the building is now on sale at Knight Frank.

Cairn’s Chambers, Church Street, Sheffield. Images: Knight Frank

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Canada House – Thank you for the music

Canada House, Commercial Street, Sheffield. Image: DJP/2022

The year is 1874, and on a road, yet to be named, there is a conspicuous addition to Sheffield’s public buildings.

“Heavy? Well, a light and airy edifice would hardly bear the weight of the abominable clouds of smoke that smother the locality, and that make one shudder to see a handsome building exposed to their defilement,” said the Sheffield Independent.

“Externally the building is almost finished, and as nearly all the scaffolding has been removed, its architectural features are now fully revealed. Whether considered from an architectural point of view or simply as a business establishment, the building is undoubtedly the finest erection in town.”

People of my generation must hang our heads in shame because we have woefully neglected this building over the past fifty years, and it is in a sorry state.

It was completed in 1875 for the Sheffield United Gas Company, and after the expansion of works at Neepsend, and new works at Grimesthorpe, there was no longer any need for its original works at Shude Hill. It coincided with the town council’s ambitious road improvements programme and the creation of Midland Railway’s new station in the 1870s.

Four new approach roads were created to what is now Sheffield Station, including one from Haymarket down to Sheaf Street, and required the construction of a bridge over Shude Hill, and allowed construction of new offices and showrooms for the gas company.

When it was built, the new road still lacked a name causing the Independent’s ‘Spectator in Hallamshire’ to say, “What is the name of that street? I never know how to call it?”

It became Commercial Street, the history of which I’m currently preparing for the Sheffield Star, and so will avoid further comment here.

Gas Company Offices, now known as Canada House, Commercial Street, Sheffield. Image: Picture Sheffield

The building (without fittings) cost £25,000.

The architects (Hadfield and Son) adapted a style of architecture affected by old Venetian merchants; the general effect was bold and massive; the details, not without their elegances, were in perfect keeping, while the granite doorways and monolithic pillars – some 14 feet in height and of splendid Mull of Ross stone – were quite imposing. The carving on the front elevation was sculpted by Thomas Earp, who worked on many Gothic churches and is perhaps best known for his 1863 reproduction of the Eleanor Cross which stands at Charing Cross in London.

The interior of the building seemed admirably adapted for its purpose.

A few steps led into what was the general office, a magnificent room capable of accommodating fifty clerks. The ceiling was handsomely coved and surrounded by a spacious dome which was filled with glass, designed by John Francis Bentley, and brilliantly painted with heraldic designs. All the desk fittings were fine Spanish mahogany. To the left of the entrance was the show room, fifty feet in length.

General office with restored glass dome, 2019. Image: Creative Heritage Consultants
Carved door case in the
General Office. Image: Creative Heritage Consultants
First floor staircase hall, and Ground floor hall looking east through entrance lobby, 2019. Image: Creative Heritage Consultants
Main entrance. Image: DJP/2022

From the vestibule or entrance hall, was a handsome corridor, with finely coffered ceiling, leading to a grand staircase, the steps of which were Hopton Wood marble.

At the top of the stairs there was another hall, which communicated with the board room, with coved ceiling by Hugh Stannus, the engineers’ drawing office, and several other rooms, all of which could be thrown together ‘en suite’ if desired.

Board Room ceiling 2019. Images: Creative Heritage Consultants

The foundations were in Shude Hill, a great depth below the level of the new street; and the two storeys down there provided storage space.

Canada House: Shude Hill elevation. Image: DJP/2022

By 1890, the company had extended its premises northwards along Shude Hill, with a contrasting red-brick warehouse, and in 1938 a white Portland stone extension to the offices was built on the west side of the Commercial Street building. In the characteristic art deco style of the time, it has carvings by Philip Lindsey Clark, and is no longer connected to the original building.

The 1948 Gas Act brought together over one thousand privately owned and municipal gas companies and created twelve area gas Boards, and these offices and showroom were used by East Midlands Gas. It lasted until 1972 when the British Gas Corporation was created and moved elsewhere.

It attracted no buyers, was listed by English Heritage (now Historic England), but despite this, was identified for demolition. It survived a 1977 inquiry and was sold to a local businessman who had plans to convert it to a hotel and conference centre, which never materialised but in the 1980s, the ground floor was converted to ‘Turn Ups’ nightclub and ‘Bloomers’

The Shude Hill warehouse wing became Tower Cash & Carry. And in 1990 the building was acquired by Canadian Business Parks of Bedfordshire with plans for restoration.

The building adopted its new name, Canada House, but notwithstanding regeneration of the city, the company hit financial difficulties and the building was never developed.

Vacancy led to dereliction through rainwater ingress caused by the stripping of lead from the roof by vandals, and the theft of period fireplaces.

The council served an urgent works notice to effect repairs to the building’s owner in 1996, and ownership was subsequently secured by English Partnerships, the government’s regeneration agency.

It was most recently used as a head office by owner Panache Lingerie, with a Chinese buffet on the ground floor. It is now occupied by just one commercial tenant, who occupy the first floor of the Shude Hill wing only.

However, the future looks the brightest it’s been for many years because plans have been lodged to convert it into a new music hub.

Section through Commercial Street block looking east, through new performance space building in the courtyard (Live Works, from early feasibility study). Image: Creative Heritage Consultants
‘What if….’ Images from the Pre-Application document showing re-use of internal spaces. Image: Creative Heritage Consultants

The proposed ‘Harmony Works’ development, from Sheffield Music Academy and Sheffield Music Hub, aims to create a home for music education in the region.

Planning permission is sought for the refurbishment, change of use and extension of the Grade II* listed building.

The proposed development would include a performance space for an audience of 300, two rehearsal rooms accommodating 80 musicians, 15 smaller ensemble rehearsal rooms, 20 individual practice rooms and a substantial instrument store.

Plans also include office space, a café, breakout spaces and ancillary accommodation.

Initial concept sketches produced as part of the feasibility works carried out in 2017/2018. Image: Sheffield School of Architecture / Live works

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings Streets

38-40 Fargate – Still here, 140 years after being built

‘Fargate of the present’ declared the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent in 1884. It showed the recently constructed shop for Arthur Davy. Image: British Newspaper Archive.

We have covered this building before, but as always happens, new material surfaces.

Take a close look at this sketch from 1884. It looks different these days but stands proudly as ever. This is 38-40 Fargate, erected in 1881-1882 for Arthur Davy, and described at the time as the largest retail provision store in Great Britain. Since the 1970s, it has been occupied by WH Smith.

It was erected because of Sheffield Corporation’s Street Widening Programme of the late 1800s that encompassed Pinstone Street, Fargate, and later, High Street. In modern terms, this might be considered to have been Sheffield’s original Heart of the City redevelopment.

Before this, Fargate was much narrower, the street line on the north side extending much further forward into what is today’s pedestrian precinct.  In fact, there was a ‘pinch-point’ in front of old shops that previously occupied the site. When these were demolished, Arthur Davy’s building was built much further back along a straight line of new buildings, most of which survive.

We also know which shops were demolished to make way for the new building. These were R. Goodson, a mantle shop (formerly E. Moses), a vacant unit (they even had empty shops then), E. Scott, feather bed warehouse, and George Bradley, watch and clockmaker.

Former buildings where 38-40 Fargate now stands. The old line of shops was demolished and the street made wider. Note the empty shop that was used for advertising purposes. Image: British Newspaper Archive

Pevsner describes John Dodsley Webster’s design for the new building as ‘economic handling of a late Gothic style, with carved animal heads advertising hams, potted meats and pork pies for which it was famous.’ Look carefully, these are still visible above WH Smith today.

Where stationary, magazines, and books, line the interior today, we must use our imagination as to what it used to look like.

The ground floor sales shop was 75ft long and 40ft wide, lined with Minton’s White Tiles. On the right was a counter for the sale of hams, bacon, butter, cheese, eggs, and tinned goods. On the left was the counter for pork, polonies, sausages, pork, veal and ham pies, brawn, pork, and lard. There was also a room in which to hang 50 pigs, 4000 hams, 2000 sides of bacon, besides a considerable number of polonies and sausages.

An entrance via Exchange Gateway (the small lane that exists to the left) led to a slaughterhouse, where Royal Pigs were killed, the carcases lowered through a trap door into a room below, where they were opened and dressed, and hung upon rails at the back of the shop.

Another room held the bakehouse where the crust for pork pies was made and baked in two Jennison Smokeless 2-Deckers, capable of baking 12cwt of pies per day.

It’s hard to believe, but where many of us remember WH Smith’s record department, this used to be where sausages and polonies were made, as well as the curing of ham and bacon. These were conveyed to the shop above by hydraulic lift.

In later years, the upper floors also became Davy’s Victoria Café, used for light refreshments, luncheons and afternoon teas.

Carved panels above the first-floor windows and open quatrefoils in the parapets either side of the central gable. Carved animal heads advertise hams, potted meats, and pork pies that Arthur Davy was famous for.

Sadly, Davy’s closed in 1972, and converted into WH Smith, complete with a flat canopy outside that has long-since been removed. In recent years, the shop had to close for a significant period, temporarily relocating to Pinstone Street, after roof supports failed and had to be replaced.

See the previous post about Arthur Davy here

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Haymarket – and one of the most unusual planning applications

Here is one of the most unusual planning applications we’ve seen for a while.

Plans have been submitted to convert the first and second floors, above the former Fultons Foods shop in Haymarket to become 22-bed student accommodation. It has been presented by DnA Group on behalf of Leaworks East Limited, Nottingham.

The property is a 1960’s flat-roofed building with glazed apertures at the front, side, looking into a courtyard at the first floor, with large roof lanterns throughout the second floor.

There are currently separate entrances from both Dixon Lane and off the higher level on the Haymarket, but the proposal is that both floors will be served from Dixon Lane, with a new canopy and lighting to its base.

Both floors have been unused for a considerable time, and are empty shells.

Images: DnA

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Two hundred years of history about to be replaced with apartments

Broad Street proposal. Image: Falconer Chester Hall

Once upon a time, in 1822, a public house opened on Broad Street, Park, called The Harrow, containing an adjacent cottage and workshops. It was held on lease under the Duke of Norfolk for ninety years. No doubt it was named after the heavy agricultural tool dragged over ploughed land to break up clods.

By the 1850s, it had been enlarged and stabling added, but the character of the pub had changed entirely. Now called ‘The Old Harrow,’ it briefly lost its licence in 1852 because of the misconduct of its tenant, James Potts.

The charm of the area was lost, with dense back-to-back housing spreading across the Park district, and providing a raft of thirsty drinkers for the pub, but still attractive enough to show the celebrated prize pig ‘Champion’ in 1858.

There were ups and downs at The Old Harrow: successes, failures, bankruptcies, deaths, burglaries, and numerous inquests held on persons who had died in the vicinity.

The slum housing was subsequently replaced with the sprawling Hyde Park and Park Hill flats, but to keep the allure of days past, the pub became known as Ye Old Harrow.

But customers eventually dried up, and the pub closed in 2008, falling into disrepair, and was victim of an arson attack in 2019.

Ye Old Harrow (just about) remained standing, gaining a reputation as Sheffield’s most haunted pub, and only entered by those with their wits about them – urban explorers who captured the blackened interiors on film.

Ye Old Harrow. This year marks two hundred years since it was built

A year ago, the pub and accompanying land was put up for auction with a guide price of £225,000, and its prime location near to Park Hill, Park Square, and the city centre, meant it was quickly snapped up.

Now, D&S Properties SPV has submitted a full planning application for the construction of a new building of up to seven storeys. It will mean the demolition of Ye Old Harrow and its replacement would comprise 55 one-bed and two two-bed private rented sector (PRS) apartments, together with an office and residential gym on the ground floor.

The good news is that Granelli’s ice cream and sweet shop, at the bottom of Broad Street, remains unaffected.

Broad Street proposal. Image: Falconer Chester Hall

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Revised development plans for site on Fitzwilliam Street

Proposal for 81-85 Fitzwilliam Street, Sheffield Image: Cartwright Pickard

In April 2020, I reported on a planning application for a thirteen-storey block of 209 student studio apartments on Fitzwilliam Street.

The site was bound to the east by Bowdon Street, adjacent to The Washington pub to the north, and commercial units to the south.

The application was granted, but students have been ditched, and revised plans have been submitted by Trustees of Ashdell Pension Scheme and Crosslane Residential Living for a four-ten-and eighteen storey building, comprising 140 build-to-rent (BTR) apartments. The project team includes Urbana and Cartwright Pickard.

Associated amenity space, including an external roof terrace and pavilion, would be provided.

A planning statement submitted as part of the application says:

“The applicant has reached an optimum design, tenure type and scale of building through meeting the necessary requirements needed for the commercial viability of the scheme, and for the freehold of the site to be released. The previously consented scheme was unable to be implemented due to this, and so this revised scheme presents the opportunity for the scheme to be implemented.”

The application also includes the demolition of the existing buildings on the land.  Whilst people won’t mourn the loss of modern industrial and retail units, there are concerns about a residential property being built next to the Washington pub.

It has objected stating, “Any existential threat to our to our trading times, ability to operate as we currently do, or to the business in general, puts jobs at risk.”

Proposal for 81-85 Fitzwilliam Street, Sheffield Image: Cartwright Pickard
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Buildings

Upper Chapel – serenity in the city centre

Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield. Image: DJP/2022

Once upon a time, this building was on the edge of town, but looked very different to what it does now. And it faced Fargate, not Norfolk Street, as it does now.

Upper Chapel is Sheffield’s oldest Nonconformist chapel. It was built in 1700 and the original brick wall sides still form part of the building.

The congregation was formed by followers of James Fisher, Vicar of Sheffield during the Commonwealth, after he was ejected in 1662 in the Great Ejection, during the restoration of the monarchy, for refusing to subscribe to the Act of Uniformity. Around a tenth of his parishioners followed him in becoming Dissenters, and several more splits ensued, but by the 1690s, the dominant group of non-conformists was led by Timothy Jollie.

Prior to this they probably met for worship in each other’s houses, and the worship grew to such an extent that the faithful few in Sheffield ventured to build a place of worship called New Hall (at the bottom of Snig Hill) – the first Dissenting meeting house in Sheffield.

The congregation grew to such an extent that a bigger chapel was built that faced ‘Farrgate’ and was called New Chapel, the back of it looking across Alsop Fields.

On the death of the Rev. Timothy Jollie in 1714, its members numbered 1,163, the largest group in Yorkshire, and the Trustees of New Chapel appointed the Arian John Wadsworth, causing some dissenters to breakaway and build a new chapel nearby. This was Nether Chapel that gave modern-day Chapel Walk its name.

With two chapels so close to each other, New Chapel became known as Upper Chapel, being farther up the hillside, and in its grounds was the tombstone of Timothy Jollie with the inscription, ‘an eloquent and Evangelical interpreter of the word of God, a man divinely gifted to preach the fundamentals of Christian doctrine.’ The grounds, which form the present day courtyard, were originally used as a burial ground until 1855, when a law was passed preventing further town centre burials.

By the 1840s, Upper Chapel was described as having ‘a dingy aspect externally, and peculiarly inconvenient in the arrangements of the interior.’

In 1847-8 it was completely rebuilt by Sheffield-architect John Frith, a member of the congregation, the style of architecture being ‘Italian, simple and plain in its detail.’

His biggest change was to extend the building to the east and reverse the building to face Norfolk Street.

The principal front, built of cleansed stone, was divided into three compartments, the centre one being composed of an Ionic portico of four columns, over which there were a group of circular-headed windows. It had a slight projection and was surmounted with a pediment. The flanks of the chapel were raised eight feet higher than the former building with architrave moulding, frieze, and cornice, that ran on one level around all the outer walls, with exception of the pediment in the principal front.

The body of the chapel was divided into three compartments by two aisles, commencing at the entrances and terminating on each side of the pulpit and communion table.

A three-sided oval gallery was introduced, the columns supporting it set five feet back from the line of the gallery front and allowing a view of the minister from every part of the chapel.

The interiors were enhanced by later additions and fittings, and according to Pevsner, included pews in1882, the vestry in 1900, and an organ console and central pulpit elevated on Doric columns in 1907, all by Edward Mitchell Gibbs.

From 1890 onwards, 16 stained glass windows were installed, including one re-installation in 2001 of a window found in storage under stairs. Nine of them, all on the ground floor, were designed by Henry Holiday. Further windows were added by Hugh Easton (Liberty and Truth), in 1948, installed either side of the pulpit as replacements for bomb damaged windows.  

Upper Chapel is now a member of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, the umbrella organisation for British Unitarians. Its trustees still own many freehold properties in Sheffield, and the chapel is connected by staircase to Channing Hall on Surrey Street.

In the courtyard are three sculptures by George Fullard – ‘Running Woman,’ ‘Mother and Child,’ and ‘Angry Woman,’ all sited in 1985.

Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield. Image: DJP/2022

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

42-46 Fargate – where a Green Dragon once stood

42-46 Fargate. Image: DJP/2022

I have a memory from the 1970s of an old building on Fargate being demolished, and seeing a huge gap, and then the construction of a new one. When looking at 42-46 Fargate, I found I was correct. But the memory also plays tricks. Because I have no recollection of the replacement building also being demolished in the 1990s and substituted with what we see today.

This story starts in 1868 when Robert Henry Ramsden opened a shop in Barker’s Pool as a hat and cap dealer. He had no business experience but established himself  with a reputation for the quality of his goods, and the reasonable prices at which he sold them.

He only allowed cash transactions, and avoided bookkeeping , and by not incurring loss by bad debts, he could afford to sell his goods at a lower rate of profit. He styled himself as ‘The Reasonable Hatter’ and later his advertisements declared that ‘Cash is King.’

He became very successful and opened other shops across Sheffield and Rotherham, and added boots and shoes, and other goods, to his stock.

When important improvements were taking place on Fargate, he purchased a large plot of land, on which was a portion of the old Green Dragon Hotel. Here, he built new shops in which to carry on a portion of his business with a ‘Grand and Sumptuous Hotel.’

The new Green Dragon Hotel was built in 1884, from designs by Thomas Jenkinson, architect, East Parade. Ramsden held the hotel in his name, but it was managed by his son Samuel.

Green Dragon Hotel. Drawing from 1884. Image: BNA

Mr Ramsden’s hat shop was to the right, and the boot and shoe shop to the left, the windows of which extended some way down the passage in the centre, which led to the hotel.

All the floors were laid with encaustic tiles, at the entrance to the hotel being a dragon rampant, with the words ‘Green Dragon Hotel’ beneath. To the right in the passage was the luncheon bar, and to the left a second-class bar, at the end being the smoke room.

The walls and panelled ceilings of these rooms, as well as the passages, were covered with Lincrusta Waltona, with painted decorations. Around the rooms, mirrors were arranged, the seating being upholstered in maroon velvet and lit with massive brass gas chandeliers and brackets manufactured by John Horton and Sons, Sheffield.

The bar was to the right of the smoke room, and the kitchens beyond.

The billiard room, on the first floor, contained two Cox and Yeaman’s tables. A corridor on each side contained a cloakroom, as well as other rooms, leading to the grand dining hall which was 40ft long and 18ft wide, capable of serving 80 people. It was also lined with Lincrusta Waltona, of a handsome figured design with bronze enrichments, the panelled ceiling being painted and gilded. The fittings were mahogany, ebony, and gold, and the mirrors were lit with two massive 6-light brass chandeliers.

Fargate including No 58, former premises of Hartley Brothers, Exchange Gateway, No 56, J. Preston, Nos 54-46, William John N. Smith, Milliner, No 44, Green Dragon Hotel (later became Winchester House), No 40, Davy’s Buildings. Image: Picture Sheffield

On the floor above were club rooms, sitting rooms, bedrooms, store rooms, bathroom, housemaids’ rooms, and lavatories. In the basement were extensive cellars for the storage of wine and beer. A lift ran from the cellar to the top floor, and each room was equipped with electric bells and speaking tubes.

The walls of the hotel were such a thickness that air shafts ran from top to bottom, allowing ventilation for each room, and to conduct bad air into the drains, instead of being carried from the base of the building to the premises above.

All doors to the principal rooms were panelled with elegant cut plate glass with a dragon rampant device.

The hotel aimed to provide the public with refreshments of every description, from a 3d. sandwich or pie, to an elaborate eight or ten-course dinner; and from a glass of beer or bottle of mineral water, to the most costly wines of the best vintages.

Ramsden adopted the same business principle as his other businesses. This was the cash system, allowing him to offer the best at the lowest possible prices.

He died in 1922, aged 82, at 8 Herbert Road, Nether Edge, but his trustees relinquished the licence, and the building and contents of the hotel were auctioned in July 1925.

It was adapted to become Winchester House, the former hotel rooms becoming offices and studios.

The Winchester Restaurant was operated by the Little Tea Shop Company but failed in 1928. And there were several important names that had offices within, including John J. Jubb, accountants, and the Sheffield College of Voice Training.

They were joined in the 1930s by Yates and Henderson (Photographers), the Christadelphian Room, the Sheffield School of Operatic, Classical, and Ballroom Dancing, but its largest tenant became the Berlitz School of Languages, with its name displayed across the front of the building.

Fargate looking towards High Street and Kemsley House in 1937. Fargate including No 42/46, Winchester House and No 38/40, Arthur Davy and Sons, Provision Dealers, Davy’s Building (now WH Smith), left. Image: Picture Sheffield

During the 1950s and 1960s, Winchester House became offices for the Provincial Insurance Company, founded by Sir James Scott in Manchester in 1903.

Provincial Insurance Company, Winchester House. c1960. Image: Picture Sheffield

The two shops at the front changed hands several times and some are worth mentioning, including Maison Sonia at No. 46 in the 1930s, later becoming Paige Gowns and Lovell’s Confectioners at No.48.

However, by the 1960s the building was in serious decline. Most of the offices were empty, with no inclination to find new tenants. Worst of all, the building had become dangerous, with masonry crumbling from above, and it was boarded up at ground level to prevent serious injury to passers-by.

Fargate, the scaffolding on Winchester House being due to masonry falling off the building. Next door is the Golden Egg cafe and coffee shop, May 1971. Image: Picture Sheffield
Upper levels of Winchester House, 1971. Image: Picture Sheffield

Inevitably, it was demolished and replaced with a standard 1970s design. It contained a large shop at ground level, occupied by Dolcis, with modern offices above.

It never fitted in with adjacent Victorian architecture, and was itself demolished in 1996-97, replaced with the present building, and occupied by New Look until its closure.

Now, like the rest of Fargate, it is in limbo, occupied by a short-term let, but its offices are empty. It is for sale with an asking price of around £800K, with potential to extend the upper parts.

But while it waits the renaissance of Fargate, remember the site’s rich history, and of what came before.

No. 42 Fargate, formerly Dolcis shoe shop awaiting demolition in 1996. Image: Picture Sheffield

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

33-35 Fargate – this 1937 building is being converted into offices

No. 33-35 Fargate. Now a branch of Superdrug, with the remaining four floors now being converted into premium office space called Ratoon. Image: DJP/2022

Yesterday’s post about the demolition of the former Next building on Fargate caused a bit of a hubbub. Redevelopment is also taking place nearby, at 33-35 Fargate, better known to us as the former Topshop/Topman building.

Part of the ground floor is now occupied by Superdrug, but you may have noticed building work going on in the rest of the property. This is going to be new office space called Ratoon – its name meaning a new shoot or sprout springing from the base of a plant, especially sugar cane, after being cut.

The main entrance, and former escalator access to Topman on the first floor, is being turned into a new opening for office space above, much of which has been empty for years.

The £6.5m project is being financed by fund manager Nuveen on behalf of Medical Research Council Pension Fund. Sheffield City Council has also provided a £900K grant as it seeks to reinvent Fargate and High Street.

Offices will be rented as a whole, or floor-by-floor basis, with a rooftop terrace garden with views over St Marie’s Cathedral and Fargate. A lightwell will be installed over the stairs and an orangery-style roof lantern will shed light directly onto the upper floors.

Newspaper advertisement from June 1937. Image: British Newspaper Archive

But more about the history of the site.

If we go back to the beginning of the twentieth century the site was occupied by J.B. Eaton, well-known drapers at No. 33, and a public house called Old Red House, at No. 35. The pub closed in 1903 and the whole site developed as a purpose-built shop for J.B. Eaton.

The draper closed in the early 1930s and the site was bought by the British and Colonial Furniture Company. It demolished the former shop and built a new property for James Woodhouse and Son, known for selling furniture of modern and attractive design, and opened in May 1937.

The new Woodhouse building had five floors of spacious and well-lit showrooms providing nearly 40,000 square feet of floor space.

The shop fronts with large arcades, specially designed for the display of furniture, were of modern character, equivalent in size to a window nearly 200 feet long.  A bronze and illuminated canopy protected shoppers and added to the dignity of the building.

The elevation, on classical lines, was constructed of Portland stone, with ornamental windows, and was floodlit at night.

Inside, staircases of polished oak were features of each floor, which were also served by express lifts.

The architect is unknown, but likely to have been the same one used to design many of James Woodhouse’ similar-looking stores.

Construction was by Sheffield-based George Longden and Son, who had also cleared the site, using materials of ‘British and Empire origin,’ and incorporating nearly 200 tons of British steelwork for the frame. Ornate plastering inside was completed by Hudson and Dore of Crookes.

James Woodhouse and Son, house furnishers, Nos. 33-35 Fargate. 1950-1955. Image: Picture Sheffield

British and Colonial was created after it bought James Woodhouse of Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as furniture retailers in Newcastle, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland. James Woodhouse is recorded in the records of Gillows of Lancaster, and it is thought he carried out his apprenticeship here.

The company traded as James Woodhouse and Son and expanded throughout Great Britain, Toronto, Quebec, and in 1936 had opened a New York  store on West 34th-Street, Fifth Avenue. Its success was due to selling modern furniture at the lowest price, and by providing convenient and economical means of payment.

In 1945, British and Colonial was bought by Great Universal Stores and Woodhouse lasted on Fargate until the late1970s/early 1980s. Its eventual closure, and that of its sister company Cavendish, was the result of GUS divesting much of its physical retail subsidiaries to concentrate on mail order, property, and finance. In 2006, it was split into two separate companies. Experian which continues to exist, and Home Retail Group which was bought by Sainsbury’s in 2016.

33-35 Fargate eventually became Topshop/Topman, and for a while had a branch of Dorothy Perkins. It closed in 2020, a few months before the collapse of Philip Green’s Arcadia Group.

And so, the next time you walk past, look at this old building, and remember its overlooked history.

Fargate looking towards Town Hall Square from outside Nos 33/35, James Woodhouse and Son, House Furnishers, 1950-1955. Image: Picture Sheffield, and a similar view today. Image: DJP/2022

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

45-47 Fargate – the building’s secret is revealed after demolition

Site of 45-47 Fargate. The building has been completely demolished. Image: DJP/2022

It’s all gone wrong at 45-47 Fargate, better known as the former Next store.

When the chain store relocated from the corner of Fargate and Norfok Row, the building was earmarked for a £1.5m makeover. It was to become a café/restaurant with external alterations including replacement facades, second floor extension and the formation of a roof terrace, with provision for a rooftop plant enclosure.

The application was made by Woodhead Investments and work started last year.

Architect design of proposed building. Image: Woodhead Investments

But in April, David Walsh, in The Star, showed photographs of the site, and the building had been demolished.

Owner David Woodhead of Woodhead Investments explained they had encountered structural problems. Original cast iron columns they hoped to reuse had proved too weak, forcing them to start from scratch.

However, the photographs revealed something interesting.

Demolition revealed old brickwork that didn’t fit in with what most of us thought to be a nineteen sixties construction. And the inclusion of cast iron columns certainly raised questions.

The site was once occupied by the “Lord’s House” which incorporated a Catholic Chapel. This was demolished in 1815 to make way for commercial buildings.

And digging deeper, we find that historical maps show an amalgamation of properties from the middle of the 19th Century onwards… and these formed the structure of the building recently demolished.

Demolition revealed brickwork that suggested the building was much older than appeared. Images: Top – DJP/2022, Bottom – Sheffield Star

According to the planning application, remnants of the original shops fronting Fargate were visible in the basement, where substantial stone walls were incorporated into the existing framed structure.

And we find that underneath the early 1960s façade was the framed structure of the original three-storey shop, although the pitched roofs had been replaced with a flat roof.

We must be grateful to Picture Sheffield because we can see what the building looked like. In a photograph, taken between 1915-1925, it was occupied by Robert Hanbridge and Sons, hosiers, hatters, and glovers.

In 1953, it was purchased by Joseph Hepworth and Son, tailors, of Leeds, for £100,000, and after reconstruction and modernisation opened as a branch of Hepworths. The company rebranded to Next in the 1980s and stayed here until its closure in 2019.

The building was not deemed worthy of architectural interest and the sixties development destroyed much of its original character. However, we have lost another piece of Sheffield history, even if we didn’t know it still existed.

The building at the corner of Fargate and Norfolk Row was occupied by Robert Hanbidge and Sons Ltd., Hosiers and Glovers, in the early twentieth century. Image: Picture Sheffield
Opening advertisement for Hepworths in 1952 showing the original look of the building. Image: British Newspaper Archive
Hepworths was rebranded as Next in the 1980s and remained until 2019. Image: Realty

UPDATE –
David Walsh, writing for The Star, said that construction of a new building was due to re-start in July 2022 after a four month delay. The project was held up due to the unexpected requirement for steel girders and soaring prices. Original columns they hoped to reuse turned out not to be steel but cast iron which was too weak, forcing them to start from scratch. It is hoped that the building might be completed in January 2023.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.