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.
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.
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.
For those that don’t know, Moorfields is the short stretch of ring-road between Gibraltar Street and Shalesmoor and is at risk of being forgotten because most people have never heard of it. Once upon a time this was a small piece of common land, but as the city expanded it became one of the poorest districts of Sheffield.
Its name survives in the 1930s block of flats that wouldn’t look out of place in the London suburbs.
Moorfields Flats were built in 1933-1934 as part of Sheffield’s big slum clearance scheme. It was anticipated that those living in the back-to-back terraces around Scotland Street would move here. But there was a problem. People with families didn’t want to go into the flats, preferring instead to move to new council estates that were being constructed at Woodthorpe and Arbourthorne, which came with gardens.
Nor were the flats without its critics.
“The flats were not buildings of which Sheffield Corporation could be proud. No person in his right senses would choose to live in the Moorfields flats and they would be a standing disgrace to Sheffield for all time,” said Alderman C.W. Gascoigne in 1934.
It was a slight on its designer, city architect W.G. Davies, who had created 37 flats, built over three storeys above seven shops that fronted the building.
Each flat had two or three bedrooms, kitchen, scullery, and were cheaper in price than new council houses, although comparable in size.
“Each flat had a washing copper and provision for drying the weekly wash in either the courts at the back of the flats, or by means of a clothes line along the front balconies attached to the flats.”
But people refused to live in them and by October 1934 the council had only managed to sign up twenty tenants while the shops were described as a ‘white elephant’ with only one application of interest.
A letter from Darrell H. Foxton also reached the Sheffield Independent: –
“The rents of the Moorfields Flats are 8s 7d. and 9s 8d., according to size, and although they are a paradise in comparison to the squalid hovels which the present tenants are used to, so many are on relief or unemployment that it is quite impossible for them to furnish the rooms adequately. On many of the floors are neither carpet nor linoleum.”
The flats were eventually occupied, as were the shops beneath, but correct me if I am wrong, Moorfields flats have never really been loved, and are definitely showing their age.
But there is a potential twist to the story and that involves the advancement and gentrification of Kelham Island that is almost upon the back of the property.
Might we see the block sold, demolished, and replaced with twenty-first century apartments? Or might we see the flats sold to a developer to turn into trendy private apartments in the same way as Park Hill?
Sheffield’s past and the future. A new office block rises beside the city’s oldest house. The Old Queen’s Head in Pond Hill is known as a public house, but its origins are different.
Stand in its spot today and exercise the modern development and fill the space with farms, cottages and meadows, and the sweep of the Park hill in the background with its avenue of stately walnut trees leading up to the Manor House over the crest of the hill; the bastions of Sheffield Castle over to your left.
The ‘Hawle-in-the-Poandes’ may well have been the castle lodge, or a fishing lodge. There is some support (in an agreement of 1773) for the tradition that it was the laundry of the 1644-besieged, 1648-demolished castle.
And certainly, that tragic resident of the castle, Mary Stuart, would frequent these pond-strewn precincts where the streams purled from the nearby slopes.
The hall was built in 1450 at the latest, possibly considerably earlier, and is mentioned in the ‘wardroppe men’s’ inventory of the contents of the castle and the manor made for Mary’s custodian, the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, in 1582, while she was still in Sheffield.
The ponds, which formed in the area where the Porter Brook meets the River Sheaf, are now gone, but gave rise to the local names Pond Street, Pond Hill (formerly Pond Well Hill), and Ponds Forge.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century the building was being used as a house. In 1840, a pub called the Old Queen’s Head was opened in the building next door. Sometime after 1862 the pub expanded into the former Hall i’ th’ Ponds and late in the 19th century, alterations and additions were made to the rear of the building.
In 1950, the public house was restored by John Smith’s Taddington Brewery, which held it on a long lease from Sheffield Corporation, and the hand-made brickwork on the Pond Hill frontage, and interior dimensions, indicated that at one point the hall had been significantly reduced in size.
Removal of coats of whitewash and layers of lath and plaster on the yard frontage also uncovered oak stanchions of the original building.
Prior to this the building was virtually supported on props while new foundations were put in place.
An old two-roomed cottage inside the north corner was converted into a smoke-room panelled with oak from Thornbridge Hall in Derbyshire.
Two years later, the building was Grade II* listed and was further refurbished in 1993 when it was controlled by the Tom Cobleigh pub company. It is now controlled by Thwaites Brewery.
“I have for some time been struck with the large number of ill-cared for boys and girls in the streets of Sheffield, who, doubtless only represent a small proportion of the large number who are constantly neglected.
“Beyond this, of course, is the great question of neglected training, in consequence of which many of these children are destined to lives of poverty and crime.
“I propose to erect and establish, at some suitable point in the town of Sheffield, a Children’s Refuge, which I would erect in memory of my late wife, and it might be possible to have her name connected to it.”
The words of Emerson Muschamp Bainbridge (1845-1911), a man who made his fortune in coal mining, speaking a few years after the death of his wife in 1882.
The result was the Bainbridge Building, at the corner of Surrey Street and Norfolk Street, designed by John Dodsley Webster, and built between 1893-1894. There were shops on the ground floor, the rents funding the Jeffie Bainbridge Children’s Shelter on the floors above, and opened by the Duke and Duchess of Portland.
It became the Halifax Building Society in 1914 and the exterior was reclad in blue and red Aberdeen polished granite.
After Halifax Bank closed in 2017 the building has stood empty but will find a new use when it finally opens as a Miller & Carter Steakhouse restaurant and 20-bed hotel on April 14.
Sometimes a building is more interesting for the land it stands on rather than what we see now. Anchor Point, built at the corner of Bramall Lane and Cherry Street in 2007, isn’t particularly attractive. It contains 188 residential apartments, twelve family houses, office accommodation and a convenience store.
The u-shaped complex gets its name from a long-forgotten brewery that once stood on Cherry Street.
Anchor Brewery was founded in 1889 by Henry Tomlinson and manufactured fifty barrels of beer a day using water sourced by the Aqua and Diamond Rock Boring Company.
However, the brewery seems to have been ill-fated. Not least because Henry Tomlinson committed suicide two years later. He wandered to the home of an employee called Arthur Podgson on nearby Shoreham Street, where he killed himself with a knife.
The brewery continued and became a limited company in 1894.
Its fate was sealed during the Blitz of 1940 which destroyed most of the operation, and forced it to merge with another local brewer, Carter, Milner, and Bird to become the Hope & Anchor Brewery in 1942 with an extensive estate of public houses.
The old brewery was used as a packing station for export beer to troops in 1945.
Afterwards, the site was occupied by Arnold Laver, timber merchants although its outer walls still retained the Anchor Brewery sign.
When Arnold Laver wanted to relocate to new premises at Halfway, it developed the site as Anchor Point, although it retained its head office in the new development.
The sun shone and it finally felt like spring. A handful of people sat on contemporary seating, mostly looking at their mobile phones, and two down-at-heel men basked in the sunshine and said what a lovely place it was. A City Centre Ambassador joked with them, but warned that she wouldn’t tolerate street drinking, or ‘needles,’ under any circumstances.
The sound of children filled the air. They excitedly climbed the three-by-eight metre climbing boulder, reminiscent of a Peak District rockface, and played on two large pyramids, stainless steel slides, climbing structures, playhouses, a seesaw, and wheelchair-accessible play equipment.
Sheffield’s latest green space has opened in time for Easter. Pounds Park, on the site of the old Wellington Street Fire Station and Headquarters, is named after John Charles Pound (1834 -1918) who was the city’s first Fire Superintendent responsible for laying the foundations of Sheffield’s modern fire service.
It may have to temporarily close later this month to allow for power and water connectivity that will allow new public toilets to open and for water play features to be turned on.
It was an exceptionally cold evening, and the light was starting to wane, but this building stood out, magnificent against the clear sky, and all the time, a gentle warmth emanated from within its walls.
“I’ve never noticed it before,” said someone who has lived in Sheffield all his life. “When you think about churches in the city centre, you think about Sheffield Cathedral and St Marie’s. I would be hard-pressed to name others.”
I understood what he meant, but there are several churches besides, including this one, for which we will start at the beginning.
There was once a piece of land extending from Carver Street to Backfields and separated from Division Street by a row of shops known as Division Street market. Houses stood upon this land – some of them notorious dens of vice – but by 1855, these had been cleared and a church built in its place.
In the early years of this century, Carver Street surrendered to change, with most of its historical buildings on its upper section with West Street converted into bars. Nowadays we refer to it as Sheffield’s ‘Party Street.’
Further down the road, where thieves, prostitutes and urchins once scrabbled an existence, life is quieter and simpler, and St Matthew’s Church is still with us.
Late at night, each weekend, Street Pastors congregate here before going out to care for those youngsters who have succumbed to the ‘demon drink.’
The Parish of St Matthew’s was created in 1848 when the original Sheffield parish (now the Anglican Cathedral) was subdivided. Its first Vicar, J.F. Witty, held early services at the National School on Carver Street (now Viper Rooms), but sufficient funds were raised to build a permanent church.
“Since I came to this district, at the invitation of my friend, Rev. T. Sale, Vicar of Sheffield, I have always looked upon it as a missionary appointment – as one calling for more arduous labours than any regular organised district or parish. When I see that there is a population large enough to fully occupy the time of three ministers – that the population is suffering from negligence of years past, and from deep-rooted prejudice and gross ignorance, the alienation of the intellect as well as moral pollution, I see that there is great labour ahead of me.”
The foundation stone was laid in 1854 by H.M. Greaves, of Banner Cross, who was presented with a silver trowel which had on one side a view of the proposed church, and on the other an inscription.
The church was designed by Flockton and Son and was consecrated on 6 June 1855 by the Archbishop of York, Thomas Musgrave.
It cost £3,297 to build, the main benefactor being snuff-maker Henry Wilson of Westbrook Mill who contributed £1,020. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners granted £200 and the Incorporated Church Building Society gave £250. The rest of the money had to be raised by Witty and his congregation.
St Matthew’s was described as in the perpendicular gothic style of architecture, consisting of a nave, chancel, and aisles, with a small gallery in the tower at the west end.
It abutted adjoining buildings which meant that it had to be lit solely from windows in the clerestory and those at the west end where an octagonal tower was built – the first in Sheffield – surmounted by a spire of 65 feet, making a total height to the top of the spire 121 ft.
St Matthew’s survived German bombs in World War Two, but many nearby houses were not so fortunate, and those that remained were later demolished. Without a residential congregation, its fortunes dwindled, surviving a fire in 1956 and the threat of demolition to make way for a new road in the 1970s.
Its circumstances have improved with houses and flats returning within parish boundaries, and there have been several restorations since it was built.
“I often think about those who built these old buildings,” said my colleague. “I wonder what they would think to see that their work is still here all these years later.”
I too, think about those people, long dead and forgotten, and it always provides pleasure to seek out those responsible, each with a story to tell.
Mason’s work, James Powell; carpenter’s work, John Dutton and William Heald; plumbers, John Johnstone; slating, Roger Brown; plastering Thomas S. Harrison.
It’s funny that a building should survive so long without attracting attention. And we only notice it when there are plans to demolish it.
I’m talking about 136-138 London Road, a modest building, which is deceptive because alterations in the 1960s make it look ordinary and disguise its fascinating past.
However, this was once the Highfield Cocoa and Coffee House, built in 1877 by Sir Frederick Thorpe Mappin to designs by M.E. Hadfield & Son.
Now there are plans to demolish it and build a five-storey building consisting of retail use at ground floor with twenty-two apartments above. The new development would also use the site of the former Tramways Pub which was demolished in 2015. The new building would link with plans to refurbish and extend an adjacent office building behind, on Broom Close, to create further accommodation.
Now that plans are in the spotlight, there are several heritage groups with objections, including the Victorian Society, and Hallamshire Historic Buildings that has already applied to have it added to the South Yorkshire Local Heritage List.
But there are likely to be objections from bodies interested in modern architecture. The Modernist Society has already pointed out that the building also includes interesting twentieth century artwork.
“Where buildings look as good as this one, complimenting the street scene as they do – and where they are so intimately connected with Sheffield’s history of social reform, we need to keep them,” says Hallamshire Historic Buildings. “ The building is a reminder for future generations of what Mappin did for Sheffield. It’s rare to find such an interesting person and such an interesting story all tied up in one building. History matters, and heritage counts in planning, as do appearances. The building has architectural merit and adds important character to the area.”
The Highfield Cocoa and Coffee House opened in April 1877 and was featured in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent: –
“The house is two storeys high. Though there is not much exterior ornamentation, the house being simply of brick with stone dressings sparingly used, it is a decided improvement upon the houses in the immediate neighbourhood.
“On the ground floor fronting the street are two rooms but may be used as one large room. The first is to be called the coffee room and the other a reading room. Both are fitted with armchairs and with marble-topped circular tables, like those seen in clubs in the better class of refreshment rooms. The ‘bar,’ which, however, will only dispense non-intoxicants, is at the rear, and near the kitchen.
“A spacious staircase leads from the coffee room to the second storey, which comprises a capital billiard room, and an excellent reading room. The latter will be supplied with local and other newspapers, magazines, etc., and in the billiard room there are to be three tables, chessmen, and cards. The two rooms are connected by folding doors, so that they may be thrown together in the event of their being required for lectures and entertainments.
“The rooms are lofty, and much ingenuity has been exercised by the architects in accommodating the plan to the exigencies of a very irregular site. In the rear of the building is a piece of ground which is now being covered with a light roof of glass and iron, and which will be used as a skittle alley.
“It will throw open its doors each morning at half past five and will remain open every night till eleven o’clock. No charge whatever will be made for admission to any part of the building, but a small fee will be taken for billiards and other games.
“Refreshments will be supplied at the cheapest possible rate. Thus, a pint of coffee or cocoa can be obtained for a penny, or a smaller cup for a half-penny. Tea can also be had at an equally cheap rate, and so can bread and butter, and other eatables. But it is not at all necessary that persons making use of the house should purchase food. This they can bring with them and eat it there.
“Coffee, cocoa, and tea will be sold ‘off the premises.’ This is the object in view in having the building open so early in the morning, as it is believed working men on their way to work will bring their breakfast cans with them and take away a supply of coffee or cocoa instead of waiting to have it prepared at home.”
While Frederick Mappin spent over £4,000 to buy the land and pay for its construction, there is evidence to suggest that the idea might have been the brainchild of Rev. Lamb, vicar of St Mary’s Church on Bramall Lane, who wanted a place where working men could meet and socialise without being enticed into public houses. The two of them visited establishments in Liverpool, Oldham, and London, and refined the model for Sheffield.
The Highfield Cocoa and Coffee House thrived, popular with workers from nearby Portland Works and Stag Works, but by the new century there were ‘modern cafes’ opening, and business declined.
By the time it closed in 1908 it was known as Highfield cafe, and operated by the Sheffield Cafe Company which said it was too large for the requirements of the district.
“The improved facilities for going to and from the centre the city have not been beneficial to such institutions standing midway between the city and suburbs.
“Apparently, coffee houses have never succeeded in catching the public-house popularity; and this coffee house at Highfield can hardly have realised the expectations of its revered founder.”
The building was taken over by Hibbert’s confectioners and then by George Barlow & Sons, shopfitters, in the 1950s. They first decided to impress potential clients by updating the ground floor frontage with tiles, and then in 1967 added frieze panels.
“These are a bit of an enigma,” says The Modernist Society. “Who made them, and how? Someone out there knows the artist or recognises the style. Was the pattern carved in a wet medium, such as Faircrete?
“If anything is meant to be depicted, it seems industrial. There’s a rosette feature picked up from the 19th century terracotta detail, made to look a bit like a factory extractor fan. There may be some cocoa pods – or are they crucibles? If the latter, they are matched by part of a stylised crucible furnace. That might even be a bandsaw over to the right. As for those rough-textured linear features, could they represent that most Sheffieldish of by-products, crozzle?”
And so, a thought-provoking building, echoed a hundred years later by the likes of Starbucks and Costa Coffee, and the use of recyclable coffee cups.
What a shame it would be if we allowed it to disappear!
If all goes to plan, Sheffield will reveal its official Covid memorial in the spring.
The sculpture will sit within the planted garden at Balm Green Gardens, on Barker’s Pool, and provide a focal point to the space for people to pay their respects and place tributes and memories and be a symbol that people from all cultures can understand and relate to and be accessible to everyone.
The existing Balm Green Gardens will be upgraded alongside this project, including creating better accessibility for anyone with a disability.
The winning commission, chosen out of 14 entries, is by George King, an architect and sculptor, of George King Architects, who submitted a positive and confident application. He will use stainless steel to create a design based on a willow tree and has already begun work on creating the sculpture.
The unique memorial will be a meaningful, long-lasting, and creative tribute to those who have lost their lives, those who have worked above and beyond to keep people as safe as possible and those who have been affected by Covid.
“When we thought about Covid and how the pandemic affected so many people, the willow tree idea was powerful to us,” says George.
“A willow has a strong trunk which symbolises how people worked together to create the strength that was needed at such a difficult time. It is also a flexible and resilient tree, whilst also being delicate.
“When a storm hits, the tree bends with it. Its long branches sweep all the way to the ground and when it rains the droplets fall all the way down the branches like tears to the ground.
“When you stand underneath a willow tree you feel embraced and protected.”
The memorial will be constructed using cast or fabricated metal to reflect the city’s heritage and will include other durable materials. Its design will allow people to connect with it either by reading the stories and messages it holds or by attaching temporary messages or ribbons.
George King is an award winning chartered architect who has worked on projects in Europe, US, Australia, the Middle East, and Russia.
Prior to forming GKA, George was senior architect at Zaha Hadid and has exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Detroit Design Festival, London Festival of Architecture and Sculpture by Sea where his design, House of Mirrors, won the Andrea Stretton Memorial Invitation.
George has taught extensively, both at Undergraduate and Master’s level, leading programs at Lund University in Sweden, The Bartlett School of Architecture in London and Monash University in Australia. He currently runs an undergraduate studio at The University of Greenwich.
Balm Green Gardens, also known as Barker’s Pool Garden and Fountain Square, is 400 square yards in size, and would never have been created had it not been for the opening of the City Hall in 1932.
The land was owned by the adjacent Grand Hotel, the plot used as a carpark enclosed with advertising hoardings. But J.G. Graves, that famous city benefactor, thought it was an “eyesore”, obstructing the view of the splendid new City Hall from the Town Hall and the top of Fargate.
His solution was to negotiate the purchase of the land from the hotel and gift it to Sheffield.