Sheffield City Council has submitted a planning application for proposed alterations to 20-26 Fargate. The council bought the building in 2021with the intention of turning it into a cultural hub which supports and offers additional opportunities to use external events space.
The intention is to provide a part community, part commercial offering, which will function as a blueprint and catalyst for further regeneration of Fargate.
The council intends to repair, refurbish, and re-clad the existing building, retaining the existing structure where possible, and ensuring that alterations are kept to a minimum.
It was constructed in the late 1800s as Robert Proctor & Sons, a large drapery and furniture store running from 16-30 Fargate, adjacent to Coles Corner. It survived the 1940 Blitz, although suffered fire damage, and as a result was altered by the 1950s.
After Proctors left, the shop was used by various retailers including Chelsea Girl in the 1970s, and more recently Clinton Cards and KIKO (later Elite Vapes & Phones).
However, by the time the COVID pandemic hit in 2020 the building was standing empty.
20-26 Fargate is a five storey building (6 including the basement level) with a deep footprint that extends back towards Cutlers Hall. It sits mid-way along Fargate and stands taller than its immediate neighbours and benefits from glazing to the rear (north) facade, providing additional daylighting to the floor plates on levels 3 and 4, as well as views across to the cathedral.
A flat roof area presents the potential to bring daylight to the rear of the second floor also using roof lights. The architecture is of a mid-19th century construction with a stone tiled facade above. The fourth storey is set back from the main facade and was constructed later. The building is currently in need of significant refurbishment, to meet current building regulation requirements.
The main architectural intervention has been to introduce a double height glass entrance to provide active frontage along Fargate and to increase visibility into the building.
A new stone feature surround is proposed at ground and first floor level to retain the impression of a single feature entrance and to acknowledge the original historic façade that was later damaged and subsequently remodelled.
It is a landmark on the Sheffield landscape but may not be the most welcome. This is the Sheffield Energy Recovery Facility on Bernard Road, a stone throw from the city centre.
It can treat up to 240,000 tonnes of the city’s household waste per annum, and its incinerator supplies heat to a local district heating scheme. Owned by Sheffield City Council, the plant is operated by Veolia under a 35 year contract.
Waste is tipped into a waste storage bunker and fed into a single incineration unit where it is burned in excess of 850ºc. A large boiler above it is heated to produce superheated steam at 400ºc. A condensing steam turbine uses this steam to generate electricity for the National Grid and produce hot water for the District Energy Network.
Facilities like Ponds Forge, Park Hill Flats, the Lyceum Theatre, Millennium Galleries, Weston Park Hospital, and Sheffield City Hall, all benefit with heating from the system, delivered through more than 44km of underground pipes.
In 2001, Greenpeace declared it the worst incinerator in England, and painted ‘Toxic Crime’ on the chimney. The council had to privatise the plant because it could not afford the cost to upgrade it. The contract passed to Onyx (later Veolia) which replaced it in 2006 with modern plant to meet strict environmental standards.
However, Sheffield Green Party claimed it was still responsible for 31,308 tonnes of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Further controversy surfaced in 2017 when Veolia was forced to admit that it was diverting recyclable waste from household waste recycling centres to the incinerator. In addition, it began accepting waste from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire after difficulty finding enough local waste to feed it.
The controversies appear to have quietened down, and people like me, assume that smoke belching from the large chimney is ‘safe.’
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.
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.
Temperatures are set to fall this week, with ice and possibly some snow forecast, and Sheffield’s gritters are ready to treat the roads. One thing is certain, we’ll all have a good moan if they get it wrong.
There are five weather stations across the city providing up-to-the-minute weather forecasts. This helps Streets Ahead contractor Amey to determine when there is a need to grit our roads.
Contrary to belief, over 60% of the city’s highway network is gritted in priority order. That is 610 miles of urban and rural roads and can take up to 8.5 hours to complete a full gritting run. Priority 1 routes include main arterial roads linking Sheffield to other towns and motorways. Priority 2 routes are bus routes, link roads, roads where public service facilities are located, and rural routes. Snow is also cleared from city centre pavements, but pavements across the city are not gritted anymore.
As the temperature drops to near freezing point the gritters will be out, but it isn’t grit they are spreading. It is rock salt. And the salt used comes from mines of ancient underground deposits in Cleveland, County Antrim, and below the Cheshire town of Winsford, and lowers the freezing point of moisture. Pure salt is the most effective pre-treatment, but grit is often added once snow has started to lay and compact.
The pre-treating of the highway network mitigates the formation of ice and snow, although traffic is needed to make it effective. Very often, when an area has slush or rainfall, it washes the salt away and makes the road vulnerable again, necessitating them to be re-gritted a second time before the weather freezes.
In 2003, the Highways Act 1980 was amended to place Sheffield City Council (and others) under a legal obligation to keep the roads clear. According to the amendment: “A highway authority are under a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.”
It is a far cry from Victorian times when sand was shovelled off the backs of horses and carts, and although the switch to motor vehicles greatly improved operations, it wasn’t until the development of the first spinning salt distribution gritter in 1970 by Ripon-based Econ Engineering that the process was speeded up.
Today, Econ supply 85% of the UK’s rock salt spreaders and even have a dedicated gritting museum with fully restored vintage road maintenance vehicles, gritters, spreaders and snowploughs.
Whilst rock salt has been the choice for generations it can have a negative effect on soil and plants, interfering with the nitrogen cycle, and causing roots to absorb salt instead of important minerals. Salt water can also drain into soil affecting insects and can disturb the eco-system in watercourses. In addition, sodium chloride can be harmful to animals. And let’s not forget that it can cause damage to road surfaces.
As you might expect, alternative methods are being sought including urea (used in the production of fertilizer), potassium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium acetate (all incredibly expensive), beet juice, cat litter (yes, you read right), sand, ashes, and stone grits. Other eco-friendly alternatives being explored are cheese brine, garlic salt, potato juice, pickle brine and coffee grounds.
But for now, it seems rock salt will be here for a while because it remains cheap and readily available.
Finally, the truth surrounding gritter lorries in the summer. In very hot weather when tar is at risk of melting the gritters spread salt. This absorbs moisture from the air and cools the tar and creates a non-stick road surface.
Last week, a top Sheffield businessman urged Sheffield City Council to work fast to secure a £100m proposal to convert the vacant John Lewis department store into ‘Sheffield Rules’ – a museum celebrating the city’s roles in the origin of the game, have-a-go football experiences with celebrities, community pitches on the roof, and bars and restaurants on the ground floor opening onto Barker’s Pool.
The building would be revamped with ‘football architecture’ including a central column to represent a halfway line and a tunnel leading to the roof. The proposal could also see the John Lewis car park replaced by a residential tower.
Patrick Abel, corporate finance partner, at Hart Shaw Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, compared delaying the potential deal with failed plans by developer Hammerson to build Sevenstone shopping centre.
Unfortunately, there may be more questions to be asked rather than the simple decision-making process.
John Lewis announced it would not be reopening its Sheffield store in June, and with the lease due to revert to the council, it quickly appointed Fourth Street, a placemaking company which provides strategic and commercial advice to unique destinations and unusual property developments. The result of its work won’t be released until early next year, and the public will be consulted on plans.
The ‘Sheffield Rules’ plans, complete with artistic impressions of the development, have appeared barely five months after the announced closure and states that the company behind the scheme is a global sports brand. This might suggest that the idea was in place long before John Lewis announced it wouldn’t be opening its doors again.
Is the ‘Sheffield Rules’ proposal part of Fourth Street’s work to recreate the former department store? I think not. “The response (to Sheffield City Council) has been positive,” says the developer, “But they can’t commit because they are going through their own processes.”
Why hasn’t the global sports brand been named? The involvement of a credible sponsor would surely add weight to any development. Remember, there is already the National Football Museum in Manchester, and might we seriously expect tourists to choose between the two?
And, of course, there are problems that surround the empty shop. Rumours abound of its poor condition – lack of investment by John Lewis and the presence of asbestos – and without compensation agreed, any plans might be a while away yet.
Call me sceptical, but I think the announcement came too soon, and we need to know more about its integrity before we get too excited. The ‘Sheffield Rules’ idea is brilliant, I hope it comes to culmination, but we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.
Moorfoot is a brute of a building, dominating the Sheffield skyline, and 40 years after it opened, remains one of the city’s most controversial structures.
Its origins are in 1973 when Edward Heath’s Conservative Government created the Manpower Services Commission (MSC), to co-ordinate employment and training services in the UK through a ten-member commission drawn from industry, trade unions, local authorities and education interests.
Pat Duffy, the Labour MP for Attercliffe, excited by the prospect of 2,000 jobs, campaigned for the new headquarters to be built in Sheffield. Two years later, Harold Walker, Under Secretary at the Employment Department, told the House of Commons, “The decision has been made to locate the headquarters in Sheffield.”
It was an accomplishment for a down-at-heel northern city, but the citizens of Sheffield weren’t prepared for what came next.
The futuristic new headquarters was designed by the Government’s Property Services Agency – “A truly monolithic brutalistic office building. Red brick bands between rows of windows separated by concrete panels.” – eleven storeys high, with stepped levels across east, west, and north wings. Something of a pyramid, it earned nicknames like the ‘Aztec Temple’ and ‘Dalek City.’
That it would be built on land at the bottom of The Moor was even more controversial, cutting off Sheffield’s main shopping street from busy London Road, and depriving road and pedestrian traffic of a popular and historic route.
To compensate, it was designed to allow pedestrian access through the building, starting with an elevated ramp near the corner of Young Street and South Lane, before proceeding via a tunnel through the building, exiting above the car park, and using ramps to ground level on The Moor.
The route never opened, allegedly because IRA activity posed a threat to a government building, and the upper parts of the elevated walkway were left suspended mid-air before eventual removal.
The MSC opened in 1981, and for such a high-profile building, it was shrouded in mystery. Apart from the cavernous office-space, restaurant, bar, and basement squash court, were there really underground nuclear bunkers and a luxury apartment for Government hierarchy? Even today, the amount of information available about the building is incomplete – no floor plans, no design architect, no history forthcoming.
The MSC building was famous for its management of the Youth Training Scheme and various other training programmes intended to help alleviate the high levels of unemployment in the 1980s, but after 1987 the MSC lost functions and was briefly re-branded the Training Agency (TA), before being replaced by a network of 72 training and enterprise councils.
The MSC Building gave way to other Government agencies, including the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Home Office. However, it was too big and expensive to maintain, with departments vacating over a twenty year period.
In the late 2000s, the MSC Building was bought by Sheffield City Council, and with demolition in mind, wanted to create a new financial services district in its place.
The timing could not have been worse, and the monetary crisis of 2007-2008 prompted a rethink, and the building was overhauled, renamed Moorfoot, with potential office space for 2,600 council employees, and consolidation of various departments from around the city centre.
As for the Moorfoot’s future, it is likely to stay, worthy of a facelift and a bit of greenery might not go amiss. The iron gates at ground level could be opened to allow public access between The Moor and London Road. And, as the aerial photograph shows, there is a chance to create a green square in front of its main entrance (demolition required).
Jean Lois Legrand, is a bit of an embarrassment to the village of Serre-lès-Puisieux, and he’s also a nuisance to the French police. The volatile farmer works land near Sheffield Memorial Park in northern France where there are memorials to the famous Pals Battalions of World War One.
To reach the Pals’ Battalions memorial, which is owned by Sheffield City Council, visitors must use an unmade public right of way that crosses land owned by Legrand. The path is owned by the town of Serre whilst the park itself is looked after and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
The fiery farmer has been threatening visitors who use a track that leads to it, shouting at them, starting fires – and even driving his van towards them at high speed.
The matter is yet to be resolved, the French aren’t happy about him, and it clouds this quiet place on the Somme battlefields.
On the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 men of the 12th battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment (“the Sheffield Pals”) were entrenched ready to launch an attack on the German position in the fortified hilltop hamlet of Serre. The troops met with devastating machine gun fire and by the end of the day, the Battalion reported 248 killed, 246 wounded and 18 missing.
In 1927, Alderman Wardley chaired the Sheffield-Serre Memorial Park committee which raised £978, part of the proceeds for which came from a friendly football match between Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town, and a gift of £60 from Sheffield Town Trustees.
The Park on land at Railway Hollow, near Serre, where the Pals had been entrenched on the 1 July 1916, contains a cemetery with the graves of 107 British and two French soldiers. Only some of the graves are of Sheffield soldiers because the practice was adopted of burying those who could be identified near where they had fallen, irrespective of their nationality or regiment.
Sheffield Memorial Park was opened in May 1931 by Mr J. Lawson, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who represented Sir Fabian Ware, Chief of the Imperial War Graves Commission, and the dedication service was conducted by the Rev. Edward Cattell, of Sheffield. Also present, was bugler Heber Joseph Revitt, the Sheffield man who sounded the ‘cease fire’ call in France on 11 November 1918, and who rang the Last Post and Reveille on the same bugle.
Sheffield’s greatest benefactor, J.G. Graves, presided over the ceremony:
“Let me say how grateful we all feel to the former owner of this land for his kindness in making its use for this noble purpose. So now we may count this little plot of ground ‘Forever Sheffield’.
“Well may we count this soil sacred and desire that it shall remain forever consecrated and apart as an altar on which was offered the greatest sacrifice our city has ever made in the cause of right and freedom.”
The memorial represented some 10,000 men whose names were inscribed in a roll of honour (4,898 from Sheffield) kept in a stainless-steel casket given by Sir Robert Hadfield and placed in a teak case with a glass front presented by Walker & Hall in a shelter, designed by Mr F. Ratcliffe, an original member of the Sheffield Battalion.
Observers will notice that the shelter we see today is different to the one unveiled in 1931.
During the Second World War, Sheffield Memorial Park didn’t suffer as badly as it might have. The Germans allowed a Commission gardener, Mr B.M. Leach, to maintain the grounds, and he hid the memorial casket and roll of honour in his tool shed and at the end of hostilities deposited it at the nearby Chapel of Notre Dame de Treile, Serre, but was found to be in damp condition. This casket is now in the Town Hall at Puisieux. However, the shelter didn’t fare so well, and was eventually replaced with a more modest structure.
The Sheffield Memorial Park is a wooded area where the original frontline trenches and the shell-holes in the ground have been preserved. There is an information tablet placed by Sheffield City Council near the front of the park. This has a coloured map, showing the positions of the various battalions here on July the 1st 1916, along with the German trenches and machine-gun positions they advanced against.
The memorial park slopes downhill, and the land still bears the scars of battle, with shell-holes and vague outlines of other trenches still visible today. Within the park are several memorials to the various “Pals” battalions that fought here or near here that day, including the Accrington Pals, the Barnsley Pals, and the Y (Chorley) and Z (Burnley and District) Companies of the 11th East Lancashire Regiment.
There are many war memorials and plaques located around Sheffield, including the City War Memorial in Barker’s Pool. All of these are cared for by Sheffield City Council, but did you know that it also maintains the Sheffield Battalion Memorial in Serre-lès-Puisieux, a village in northern France.
On the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 men of the 12th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment (“the Sheffield Pals”) were entrenched ready to launch an attack on the German position in the fortified hilltop hamlet of Serre. The troops met with devastating machine gun fire and by the end of the day, the Battalion reported 248 killed, 246 wounded and 18 missing.
This tiny village has been indelibly stamped on the pages of Sheffield history – stamped with the blood of city sons, for in a fruitless endeavour to take Serre, the Sheffield City Battalion suffered enormous losses.
In October 1920, the Lord Mayor of Sheffield received the following correspondence from the Mayor of Puisieux:
“I am happy to send you the resolution by which the Municipal Council of Puisieux has decided unanimously to offer to the City of Sheffield the ground necessary for the erection of a monument. This monument will perpetuate among the population of Puisieux a souvenir of your dear lost ones. Believe me sincerely, that even without this monument they will not be forgotten.”
After World War One, the area around Puisieux was one of the saddest and most desolate-looking heaps of ruins. It looked like it had been dead for many years! Very little signs of life or vegetation, the once beautiful, wooded country was just a collection of dead stumps and bits of trees—a few odd ones standing here and there, but all dead, as the asphyxiating gas used by the Germans killed every living thing.
Serre was really part of Puisieux, but had no inhabitants left. Puisieux had about 250 but before the war had a population of over 1,000. The reason they had not returned was the lack of money to work their devastated fields into order again. Sheffield had given a steam tractor, but it was at Arras because no one knew how to drive it, but a man had been sent from Puisieux to take lessons.
A Sheffield-Serre Memorial committee, chaired by Alderman Wardley, raised funds for the memorial, and Major C.B. Flockton, architect, offered a prize of five guineas for the best design, won by J.S. Brown, of Barnsley Road, an ex-serviceman studying in the Department of Architecture at Sheffield University.
The memorial, in Villebois stone, was erected on a slope overlooking the field where within an hour the battalion suffered 600 casualties. On its inscription, in English and French:
“To the memory of the officers and men of the 12th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Sheffield City Battalion) who fell before Serre 1916.”
Above were four bronze plaques, representative of Sheffield’s Coat of Arms, those of Serre, and the regimental badge of the York and Lancasters.
The memorial was unveiled on Monday 21 May 1923. The gathering of Frenchmen and Englishmen included about a hundred people from Sheffield, among them a company of survivors of the battalion, besides parents and friends, and citizens who occupied prominent positions during the war.
It was unveiled by Lieutenant-Colonel G.H. Wedgewood, D.S.O., commanding the 1st Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, and was dedicated by Dr H. Gresford Jones, Bishop of Kampala (who was Vicar of Sheffield from 1912 to 1920).
Perhaps the saddest moment of all was the sounding of the Last Post and the Reveille. As these well-known notes rang over the battlefields, thoughts fled back to the happy days at Redmires, and again to the long rows of little wooden crosses in the valley yonder, beside stinted, and blasted trees that had once been copses.
In 1926, a large wooden hut was erected nearby, much to the disappointment of survivors, and even the Mayor of Puisieux, who complained that it overshadowed the memorial. After months of negotiation, the owner of the land adjoining the memorial agreed to remove two huts after he was paid 3,000 francs, the cost met by the Sheffield ‘Twelfth Club’ (made up of ex-servicemen) on condition that the owner would not erect anything else of a similar nature.
Serre-lès-Puisieux was slowly rebuilt, but only as a hamlet of houses dotted along the road. The Sheffield Battalion Memorial survived World War Two and remains as a tribute to Sheffield’s lost sons – still honoured by the French who regularly lay flowers and wreaths around it.
In 2006, the memorial was restored and re-dedicated by the Right Rev. Jack Nicholls, Bishop of Sheffield.
(The Sheffield Battalion Memorial isn’t the only dedication to those lost in France, and in a future post we’ll look at the nearby park owned by the City of Sheffield).
Sheffield City Council has granted planning permission for a 23-storey apartment block on the edge of the city centre, and it will change the appearance of what was once known as Granville Square.
The 336-apartment build-to-rent development – known as The Meridian – will be built on the site of the British Rail Club Sports Ground, on a triangular parcel of land bound by Farm Road and Queens Road, next to Grosvenor Casino.
It will include one, two and three-bedroom modern open-plan apartments, 94 of which will have private balconies. There will also be a concierge reception, co-working spaces, residents’ only lounge and gym, a landscaped roof garden and plaza, 358 cycle storage spaces and 29 car parking spaces.
An 1824 map shows the site within open countryside, with the boundaries of Queens Road and Farm Road already established routes at this time. Small settlements began to grow to the west, with the east defined by a large house known as ‘The Farm,’ giving origin to the road name (demolished in 1967, and now the site of Sheffield College).
By 1921 the site was surrounded by urban buildings to the west and the introduction of the railway defined the boundary to the east.
The site is an open space derived from its historic use as a bowling green and historic maps indicate that no buildings have existed within the site boundary.
Planning permission has been submitted for Leah’s Yard on Cambridge Street to be transformed into a new creative hub for independent businesses, with a slew of independent stores set to surround a public courtyard.
The venue will be operated by Tom Wolfenden, CEO of SSPCo, and James O’Hara of the Rockingham Group, who were appointed to the project by Sheffield City Council.
If approved, Leah’s Yard will be refurbished true to its current form, with a courtyard surrounded by small boutique shops, with the first and second floors hosting approximately 20 independent working studios.
The oldest buildings on the Leah’s Yard site are the two former houses fronting Cambridge Street that date from the early nineteenth century. The industrial legacy of Leah’s Yard began with George Linley in 1825 as a small shear and tool manufacturing complex during the early nineteenth century. The houses fronting the street were later converted to offices and shops, and the complex as a whole is characterised by piecemeal additions and alterations dating from the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Cambridge Street was known for its horn works, and James Morton, a horn dealer, became the major sole occupier about 1842.
Leah’s Yard was occupied from about 1891-92 by Henry Leah and Sons, a manufacturer of die stamps for silverware. By 1911 there were 23 occupants (little mesters) on site producing slightly different goods, and undertaking different processes yet all contributing to the cutlery trade.
The site was predominantly used for production associated with the metal trades well into the mid to late twentieth century. The Leah family remained in part of the complex until the 1970s when they merged with Spear and Jackson; they sold the site in the 1990s. The Cambridge Street frontage of the complex had been used as shops in its last few years of occupation, and takes into account the former Sportsman public house and Chubby’s recently closed takeaway.
As part of Heart of the City II, Leah’s Yard will sit alongside the upcoming Cambridge Street Collective and Bethel Chapel developments – both currently under construction – that will feature a contemporary food hall, cookery school, fine dining experience and live entertainment spaces.