Clergy House – “It was a good thing to shut up a public house and get rid of a licence.”

Clergy House, now The Art House. Image: DJP/2023

We recently looked at St. Matthew’s Church on Carver Street that was built in 1854-1855. Next door is an equally important building that is known today as The Art House, a trading name of St Matthew’s House, a charity set up in 2011 to support people with mental health issues and allow them to engage with the creative arts.

It was originally called Clergy House, built in Tudor Gothic style in 1896 as a home and parish rooms for the Rev. George Campbell Ommanney, vicar of St Matthew’s Church between 1882 and 1936, and two assistant priests.

The old vicarage, as far away as Highfield, was sold in 1884, and for several years the vicar and his clergy lived in seedy rented accommodation at No. 71 Carver Street, close to the church.

“A vicar who is willing to make the sacrifice involved in taking up his abode in such a dingy, insalubrious district at that which contains St. Matthew’s ought at least to live in a comfortable house,” wrote the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent in 1896.

At that time, houses beyond those of the very poorest class were scarce in the central parts of Sheffield. All the large ones had been sacrificed to the demands of commerce.

The parishioners sought to remedy the situation, and Rev. Ommanney was able to secure a freehold site adjoining St. Matthew’s Church at a cost of £900. The site had been a public house – the Stag Inn – allowing the vicar to say, “it was a good thing to shut up a public house and get rid of a licence.”

The amount required to build the new Clergy House was £2000 and the vicar used money from the sale of the old vicarage as well as the interest which had accrued against it. The York Diocesan Church Extension Society subscribed £150, and the Sheffield Church Burgesses gave a similar sum. The vicar contributed £450, and two members of the congregation subscribed £100 each. To make up the balance, the vicar intended to borrow £500 from the trustees of Queen Anne’s Bounty, but further subscriptions flooded in and the crowning gift was a grant of £7000 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It allowed the house to be built debt free.

Clergy House was once the site of a public house. “While the public house existed, men frequently came into the church during the Saturday night prayers under the influence of liquor. These visitors joined in the service in such a peculiar fashion and made so much noise, that occasionally Rev. Ommanney had to stop the service, take off his surplice, and eject them.” Image: DJP/2023

The architect was John Dodsley Webster, and it was built in red brick with stone facings. The basement contained the large parish room, on the ground floor were the drawing room, kitchen, and offices, while the first floor contained sitting room, study, bedroom, and bathroom. Five bedrooms occupied the top floor.

Land at the back, on Backfields, was later bought to add parochial buildings, including a Sunday School.

According to the Art House website, time took its toll on the building and the building deteriorated to an extent that a major refurbishment had to be undertaken. A small group of people from the congregation devised a plan to restore St. Matthew’s House to its former glory, and once again play a part in serving the needs of the local community. The Art House Charity was established in 2011 and spent four years raising the £1.5m needed to refurbish the dilapidated building. A modern extension was added to the rear in 2015.

The building is leased to the charity by St. Matthew’s Church at a peppercorn rent.

Modern extension for The Art House. Image: Our Favourite Places

©2023 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Planning application for George Street listed building

35-37 George Street. Image: 5Seventy3

There might be a new use for one of Sheffield’s Grade II listed buildings. A planning application has been submitted for 35-37 George Street, formerly used by the NSPCC.

The application requests internal alterations and use of the first floor as a self-contained residential apartment, and use of the ground, mezzanine and lower ground floor as a private members club providing food and beverages with ancillary living accommodation at mezzanine level.

The building was constructed in 1913-1914 for the Yorkshire and Derbyshire office of the Alliance Insurance Company, established by Nathan Meyer Rothschild and Moses Montefiore in 1824, to rival Lloyds of London.

The George Street site had originally been the workplace of the Sheffield Fire Insurance Company, with offices on the upper floors and the town fire engine, small enough to be drawn up narrow passages, housed below.

The business transferred to the Alliance Insurance Company in 1864, but by the start of the twentieth century the offices were too small.

The insurance company moved into an adjoining building that once formed part of the Athenaeum Club, and the old building was demolished.

The new building kept the whole of the top balustrade of the former structure, comprising pillars with urns bearing the Sheffield coat-of-arms.

The Alliance Insurance Company remained here until the second part of the twentieth century, merging with the Sun Insurance Company in 1959, and finally amalgamating with the Royal Insurance Company to form Royal Sun Alliance in 1996.

No. 35 George Street was later used by Midland Bank as an administrative facility and most recently occupied by the NSPCC as its Sheffield Service Centre.

Artist impression. 35-37 George Street. Image: 5Seventy3
35-37 George Street. Rear elevation on Mulberry Street Image: 5Seventy3

©2023 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


How did that happen? Sheffield tops high street recovery charts

It might not look like it, but we are told that Sheffield has seen a significant increase in footfall in recent months. According to data collected by Centre for Cities, Sheffield city centre saw a huge increase in footfall in September, with the level reaching 89% of the pre-pandemic average – way above the UK urban average of 73%. Footfall figures included not only residents but people venturing into the city from other parts of the country.

Crowds gather to watch performances during the African-Caribbean market last month. Photograph: Sheffield City Council

The Centre for Cities figures were so impressive that Sheffield came out on top with the best high street recovery score of the 63 largest towns and cities in the UK in September.

Whilst Sheffield is still not seeing the footfall of pre-pandemic levels, compared to other big towns and cities we are on the up and doing well considering the circumstances people faced during the pandemic.

And it appears large numbers of people chose Sheffield as a destination to visit while the events were taking place. Occupancy in hotels in and around the city rose to 79.5% – making Sheffield the highest scoring northern city except for York during September.

At the end of October, the African-Caribbean market, the first of its kind put on in the city as part of Black History Month in Sheffield, attracted thousands of people to the city centre.

That week alone, around 180,000 people visited Fargate, with a 30.9% footfall increase, equating to around an extra 30,000 people. There was also a 19.3% increase in footfall at Moor Market, equating to around 10,000 extra people.

Centre for Cities is a leading think tank, set up in 2005 by Lord Salisbury of Turville, dedicated to improving the economies of the UK’s largest towns and cities.

I’m sure we’d all like to know how the data is collated.