Back in the 1980s it was an important part of Sheffield’s regeneration, but after completion was universally hated. The steel and concrete building in Barker’s Pool opened as the Odeon, replacing the Gaumont Cinema, built in 1927 (as The Regent) for the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres circuit, and demolished in 1985.
A tear or two was shed, but its severe appearance could never keep up with the go-getting eighties.
We enjoyed its bright new replacement, but it didn’t last long, closed in 1994 in favour of Odeon’s multi-screen complex on Arundel Gate. And then came its reincarnation as a nightclub.
If memory serves correct, it was vilified by Prince Charles, but fiercest criticism came from Sheffielders. It was considered downright ugly.
Over thirty years later, disapproval never waned, and the once-futuristic appearance looks as much out of place as it did then.
But that might be about to change.
A planning application proposing a significant facelift to the Gaumont building (as it has wistfully been renamed), has been submitted to Sheffield City Council.
The improvement works fall within the wider Heart of the City II development scheme – led by the Council and their Strategic Development Partner, Queensberry. Plans would see the building’s current red steel frame completely removed and replaced with a contemporary design.
The new façade proposals for the building, designed by Sheffield-based HLM Architects, who are also working on the Radisson Blu hotel, take inspiration from the building’s origins as the Regent Theatre (although I see no resemblance whatsoever).
Back in Victorian times, High Street and its approach was compared to a bottle, of which the approach was the body and the street the neck.
From the Churchgates (Sheffield Cathedral) the road tapered away until constricted at what was known as ‘Grundy’s Corner’ – the bulging portion of which had been an eye-sore for years.
Horse-drawn traffic was the problem, and every year the neck became increasingly congested.
Plans to divert traffic away from High Street were considered impossible, and the Town Council had considered an ambitious widening of the street as far back as 1875.
However, it involved demolishing buildings and prompted objections from shopkeepers concerned about compensation and property boundaries, and it wasn’t until the 1890s that work started.
These two illustrations from 1890, both taken from Coles Corner, showed High Street as was, and the proposed widening of the street.
It was completed in 1895-1896 and involved demolition of buildings on the south side (to the right), replacing them with elegant Victorian structures, including the Foster’s Building.
Sadly, the Blitz of World War Two destroyed most of the property and we are left with twentieth century replacements including what was once Walsh’s department store, an old Sheffield name that mutated into Rackhams, House of Fraser, eventually handed over to TJ Hughes.
Only one building survives both sketches and is as familiar today as it was then. Parade Chambers, built for Pawson and Brailsford by Charles Hadfield, and constructed by George Longden & Son between 1883-1885.
It is sad to be writing about a building that will soon be no more.
The Old Coroner’s Court on Nursery Street is to be demolished and replaced with 77 apartments, after a Government inspector overturned Sheffield City Council’s decision to halt the development.
Firestone, the developer, has been given permission to demolish the building as it is not listed, or in a conservation area.
It will be a miserable end for the building built in 1913-1914, one damaged during the Blitz, the subject of severe flooding, and an arson attack.
At the end of November 1912, it was agreed by Sheffield Corporation that a new Coroner’s Court and Mortuary should be built on surplus land remaining after the widening of Nursery Street.
Prior to this, the land had been an area of mixed domestic, retail and industrial buildings, a far cry from the days when this was “a green and pleasant land, when salmon could be caught in the Don, and flowers gathered in the meadow” of Spittal Gardens, or the Duke of Norfolk’s Nursery.
The new Coroner’s Court was championed by Dr W.H. Fordham, of the Heeley Ward, chairman of the special committee set up to build it. The urgency was to replace the old coroner’s court that had stood on Plum Lane, off Corporation Street, since 1884, and had long been a disgrace to the city.
The building was designed by Sheffield’s first city architect, Frederick Ernest Pearce Edwards (1863-1945), who had previously held a similar position with Bradford Corporation.
Built of brick and stone, it drew on the design of Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, and Baroque traditions of the nineteenth century. Construction was by George Longden and Son and cost £5,000 to build.
The main courtroom was 30ft x 20ft and 25ft high. Within the building were various mortuaries, waiting rooms, jury retiring rooms, coroner and doctor waiting rooms, viewing rooms, coach and motor houses, stables, and a caretaker’s house.
It was furnished throughout in oak and contained all the ‘up-to-date’ appliances, including fixed and revolving tables in the post-mortem room.
The coroner at the time was Mr J. Kenyon Parker, but the first case held here was in May 1914 when Dr J.J. Baldwin Young, deputy coroner, investigated the death of Edward Villers, a labourer, and determined that he ‘hanged himself while of unsound mind.’
Buildings behind were added in the 1920s, and following bomb damage in December 1940, new plans were drawn up by W.G. Davis, city architect, in 1952-1953 to extend the courtroom buildings.
The opening of the Medico Legal Centre on Watery Street, Netherthorpe, in the 1970s, brought an end to grisly proceedings on Nursery Street.
It became Sheffield City Council, Employment Department, Enterprise Works, and was subsequently sub-divided into 36 principal rooms. In later years it was known as the Old Coroner’s Court Business Centre.
Unfortunately, little remains of the original internal detail, but the outside is virtually untouched apart from minor restoration.
The building has been empty for several years and the developer had hoped to incorporate it into the new development, but this was considered unpractical.
And so, we lose another one of our historic buildings, to be replaced with something considered to be “favourable towards the character and appearance of the area.”
The Story of Dr Mariano Alejo Martin de Bartolomé might be straight from the pages of a novel.
Bartolomé (1813-1890) was born in Segovia, Spain, and came from an old Castilian Hidalgo family, his father being the civil governor of the province.
Aged 8, he became a student at the Artillery College of the Alcazar of Segovia and had lined up a commission in the Hussars. However, Spain was in a state of revolution and the representative system was abolished. Ferdinand VII was restored by the intervention of the French, and the Bartolomé’s were driven out of Spain and their estate confiscated.
They sought refuge in England, eventually taking up residence in Jersey.
It was here that Bartolomé met Mary Elizabeth Parker, the daughter of Rev Frank Parker of Dore, and they married in 1834. He had no profession, but Mary paid for him to become a medical student at Edinburgh University.
Bartolomé studied under Professor Sir Robert Christison, regarded as a brilliant physician and chemist, and gained his medical degree in 1838.
The couple moved to Sheffield taking up residence at 3 Eyre Street, popular with surgeons and physicians, and remained here for 45 years.
In 1840 Bartolomé was elected one of the honorary physicians to the Sheffield Hospital and Dispensary (later the Royal Hospital) and in 1846 joined the Sheffield Infirmary, later becoming senior physician. It was said that he rode there on a fine black horse and to have jumped the gate when he found it closed. By the time he retired through ill-health in 1889 it was estimated that Bartolomé had treated more than 750,000 patients.
In 1846, Bartolomé joined the staff of lecturers at the Sheffield Medical Institution, later the Medical School, delivering over 3,000 lectures and becoming its president.
As president he was instrumental in obtaining funds to build a new building in Leopold Street, finished in 1888, and after merging with Firth College and Sheffield Technical School it was renamed University College Sheffield before becoming University of Sheffield in 1905.
His crowning glory was in 1876 when he was elected president of the British Medical Association (BMA) at a meeting in Sheffield. His presidential address was an exhaustive description of Sheffield, its surroundings, some of its trades, their effects on the health of workers, and suggestions as to future legislation.
Bartolomé was painted by artist Bernard Edward Cammell which was presented to him by the Medical School in November 1888.
“I came amongst you as a stranger and an alien, but you stretched out the right hand of friendship towards me, and I stand before you now one of the oldest Englishmen in the room, having been naturalised long before the majority of you were in existence.
“I wish that my portrait may remain in the midst of its givers – those friends whom I have so sincerely and frequently loved.”
Bartolomé moved his house and surgery to Glossop Road in the 1880s, the building on the corner with Hounsfield Road better known now as The Harley bar.
As well as his medical work, Bartolomé was a freemason at the Britannia and Brunswick Lodges (and laid the foundation stone at the Masonic Hall in Surrey Street) and was founder and president of Sheffield Athenaeum club.
In his last few years Bartolomé suffered from heart problems and was forced to give up a lot of work. In 1890, after waking, he attended his invalid son in an adjoining room and died soon after, supposedly “brought on by dressing somewhat hastily in order that he might visit his son.”
His wife, Mary, died in 1863, and Bartolomé married a second time, Mary Emily Jackson, the daughter of Samuel Jackson, who survived him.
After his death, Bartolomé’s family left the city, but his grandson, Dr Stephen M de Bartolomé (1919-2001), a former Sheffield University student returned to Sheffield to work for Spear & Jackson of which he became chairman.
The Bartolomé Papers – a collection relating to the history of the family through both Bartolomés – is held at the University of Sheffield. As a fitting tribute the former Winter Street Hospital (and then St George’s Hospital) became the School of Nursing for the University of Sheffield in 1997, named Bartolomé House in 1998 after Dr Mariano Martin de Bartolomé, and now the School of Law.
Chubbys, Michelin Three Star cuisine for the inebriated, is to close after 40 years.
The legendary takeaway on Cambridge Street will shut for the last time on Bank Holiday, August 31.
It has been a long journey for Mehran Behizad, Iranian by birth, who first came to Sheffield in 1973, to study industrial design at the polytechnic, but met his Sheffield-born wife and decided to stay and raise a family.
He set up Chubbys in 1980 with a few business partners but eventually became the sole owner. When it opened, it was only one of two late-night takeaways in the city centre, arguably the first place to get a kebab.
However, the staying power of Chubbys means we do not look beyond the familiar sign above the door.
The takeaway shares the same building as the empty Tap & Tankard (formerly The Sportsman) next door. Both ground floor units have two storeys above, with white painted red-brick and mock Tudor detailing, with applied black timber over Chubbys.
The date of construction is unknown, but we can trace The Sportsman’s Inn (later to become The Old Sportsman’s Inn and then The Sportsman) to 1828, which might suggest that the whole building was once used as a public house.
It also suggests that this is one of the oldest buildings on Cambridge Street, tracing its origins back to the days when it was still called Coal Pit Lane.
Before Chubbys, the unit had many uses, but had strong links with food and drink, at one time being a grocery shop, George Alfred Webster’s Dining Rooms, and the Cambridge Coffee House.
It is now subject to a compulsory purchase by Sheffield Council to make way for the ambitious Heart of the City II project and 70-year-old Mehran is using the opportunity of the enforced closure to retire.
The good news is that the building will be incorporated in the adjacent Leah’s Yard restoration, while the bricked-up former works below Chubbys will be demolished and become an open-space linking to the soon-to-be-restored Bethel Chapel.
And there is a suggestion that after the Covid-19 crisis subsides Chubbys might resurrect itself somewhere else in the city centre.
Sometimes there is more to a building than meets the eye. This former shop on Cambridge Street hides an interesting past and will be reborn soon.
We know it as the former Sports and Toy Departments of Cole Brothers, more recently as a city centre outpost for Stone the Crows, but this empty shop is a 1930s front extension to the Bethel Chapel which stands behind.
From John Lewis’ car-park you can look down and see that the chapel, built in 1835, still survives behind the street frontage.
The chapel owes itself to John Coulson, the first leader connected with the Primitive Methodist Movement in Sheffield. A small society had been formed and services held in a building in Paradise Square. The movement seized hold of the working classes and later bought an existing old chapel in deprived Coal Pit Lane (later to become Cambridge Street), about 1823.
A few years later plans for a new building nearby were prepared and the mainly poor congregation helped demolish an existing house that had been converted into tenements. The foundation stone for the new chapel was laid in July 1835 and opened for services in June 1836.
The Primitive Methodist Bethel Chapel existed for just over a century and was latterly connected with Sheffield Methodist Mission. Its final service was on Sunday 20th September 1936.
It was briefly empty before George Binns, an outfitter at Moorhead, bought the old chapel to relocate the business.
The small churchyard at the front was swept away, including iron railings and stone pillars, and probably a few gravestones.
In 1938 a two-storey extension was added to the front of the chapel, with stone initials on its parapet showing ‘GB’ and the date ‘1868’, the year the business was founded.
By the 1960s the shop had transferred to Lawsons Outfitters and in 1977 it was acquired by Cole Brothers (now John Lewis) to alleviate pressure on its store across the road.
With a short spell as Stone the Crows, the building has been vacant for several years, with the ‘ghost name’ of ‘Lawsons’ revealing itself above shop windows.
Now subject of compulsory purchase, Sheffield City Council, with its partner Queensbury, is now looking for occupiers to run it as a performing arts venue as part of Block H in the ongoing Heart of the City II development.
The question. How much of the old chapel interior remains?
NOTE: Bethel Walk is between Bethel Chapel and the former Bethel Chapel Sunday School, a listed building also included in Heart of the City II plans.
On this day, 376 years ago, after a short siege, Sheffield Castle was surrendered to the Parliamentarian army by Royalists, and its fate was sealed.
On August 11th, 1644, Major Thomas Beaumont handed the castle over to Major-General Crawford and Colonel Pickering of the Parliamentary army.
“The Castle, with all the fire-arms, ordnance, and ammunition, all their furniture of war, and all their provisions, to be delivered to Major-General Crawford, by three o’clock in the afternoon, being the 11th of this instant August, without any diminution or embezzlement.”
The castle was founded in the late 11th or early 12th century, possibly by Roger de Busli, at the confluence of the rivers Don and Sheaf. The castle became one of the largest and most important in the north of England and was rebuilt and developed by the de Lovetots through the 12th century and by the Furnivals in the 13th. By the 15th century, the castle had passed to the Earls of Shrewsbury and subsequently to the Dukes of Norfolk.
Two years after the surrender, on 30 April 1646, the House of Commons passed a resolution that Sheffield Castle should be made untenable, and on 13 July 1647 a resolution was passed for the castle to be demolished.
Despite considerable demolition work, in 1649 the Earl of Arundel (a title of the Duke of Norfolk) repurchased Sheffield Castle with the intention of restoring it, but the damage was too severe, and was completely razed; for a while it was used as an orchard, and then a bowling green, before being built over.
Following the demolition of Castle Market, the site is an empty space, awaiting its next adventure, with recent archaeological excavations still revealing some of its secrets from centuries ago.
The Wicker Arch is one of Sheffield’s most famous landmarks, and yet, we take it for granted.
It is one of Sheffield’s greatest engineering projects and is a small section of a complex system of 41 arches completed in December 1848. The viaduct is 660 yards-long, and crosses the Don Valley, taking its name from The Wicker which the main arch passes over.
The Wicker Arches were built for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company, extending the railway from an old station at Clay Gardens (Bridgehouses), through the Nursery (Street), across The Wicker, over the River Don, the site of the old Blonk dam, the yard of the Sheaf Works, and the canal. The portion of the viaduct between The Wicker and Effingham Lane had increased width to accommodate the Victoria Station and was about 300 yards in length.
It was the brainchild of John Fowler, the Sheffield-born engineer-in-chief for the railway company, who later designed the Forth Bridge. The arches were made of brick, faced on each side with rows of stone quoins. The piers were massive and described at the time as being “built to withstand a bombardment rather than any pressure from above.”
John Fowler regarded the showpiece of the project as being the arch that crossed over The Wicker and employed Sheffield architects, Weightman and Hadfield, to add ceremony to the design, with construction carried out by Miller, Blackie and Shortridge
It was a wide elliptical arch, 30ft high and 72ft long, with voussoirs, flanked by single 12ft wide round-arched footways, edged by Tuscan pillars, with imposts, key-stones, and hood-moulds. Above each footway arch was a relief panel with a coat of arms. An attached building provided an entrance and staircase to the Victoria Station.
The Wicker Viaduct (as it was known until the 1850s, and later Victoria Station Viaduct) was not without its problems.
Several workmen died during construction, including three men who fell to their death when scaffolding collapsed underneath the right-hand Wicker Arch in 1848.
There were also several archway collapses, including one shortly before its completion, where one of the smaller arches collapsed with a “dull heavy thud.” It was a hazard of Victorian engineering, but nothing like the dramatic collapse of 20 arches at the Rother Viaduct, six miles away, built at the same time.
The project also cost the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway more money than envisaged, and it had to scale back construction to cut losses.
On 12th December 1848, a ceremony was held at the completion of the “great arch,” the final piece of the Wicker Viaduct. It was said that the viaduct contained a greater amount of cubic masonry than any other and was considered the largest piece of masonry ever constructed in Britain.
The Wicker Arch was decorated in banners and those present included Dr Mariano Martin de Bartolomé and Thomas Blake, both directors of the railway company, Thomas Dunn Jeffcock and William Fowler, company land agents, and John Shortridge, the contractor.
As the keystone was lowered into place, Dr Bartolomé acted as chief mason, and gave a brief but animated speech where he stated that “the eastern part of the railway should be characterised for what they had done, rather than for what they had said.”
He complimented the engineer and contractor on the solid character and appearance of the work, and afterwards there were three mighty cheers and “one cheer more” for the success of the line.
Shortly afterwards an engine and two carriages passed over the viaduct for the first time and continued to the junction of the Midland Railway at Beighton.
It is worth mentioning the heraldic carvings on the Wicker Arch, at the time considered by some in the railway company as being unnecessarily expensive and extravagant.
Those on the side of town are the coats of arms of the Duke of Norfolk and of Sheffield. On the other side are the arms of the Earl of Yarborough, chairman of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire railway, and the seal of the company which were grouped in the arms of Sheffield, Manchester, Ashton-under-Lyne, Retford, and Lincoln.
Most of the other arches were later brick infilled and have served as workshops ever since, most now hidden with adjacent buildings.
The main Wicker Arch survived a German bomb that fell during World War Two, and which repairs can still be seen. And who can forget the flood waters that lapped around its piers during the floods of 2007 after the River Don burst its banks causing devastation all around?
The area has changed considerably but the Wicker Arch still imposes itself as it did when first built. Some of the arches were dismantled during electrification, and now it is mainly goods rail traffic that crosses over it.
In 1990 a partnership between Sheffield Development Corporation, Sheffield City Council, British Rail, and supported by English Heritage and the Rail Heritage Trust, restored the arches to their former appearance, although there are concerns about its present condition and preservation.
Here is a story about a Royal visit to Sheffield that to younger generations will appear extraordinary.
In July 1889, the Shah of Persia (now the Islamic Republic of Iran) was invited to Sheffield by the Duke of Norfolk as part of His Imperial Majesty’s visit to Britain.
The welcome given to Shahanshah, Khaqan, Soltane Saheb Quaran, Quebleye alam (or plain old Naser-al Din Shah Quajar) was on a scale only afforded to British monarchs.
His visit to these shores was politically motivated, with the hope that it might lead to Britain developing Persia’s railways and business interests. Despite the pomp and ceremony that surrounded the Shah the country was regarded a poor relation, but one that might offer riches to our Victorian ancestors.
“Politically, Persia is misgoverned, oppressed, and plundered, and is sunk in barbarism.”
The Shah arrived at the Midland Station on Friday 12th July. He had been fatigued in Birmingham and his journey to Sheffield was delayed, causing unnecessary anxiety to those who had organised the schedule. Nevertheless, the people of Sheffield waited patiently, and gave him a rapturous welcome.
“The sight that met the Shah was one rarely witnessed in Sheffield. Not only were there thousands of people pressing against the barriers, but house tops, walls, boards, and almost every point from which a view of His Imperial Majesty could be obtained was occupied.”
From Midland Station, a huge procession, escorted by a squadron of the Yorkshire Dragoons, made its way to the Corn Exchange where a reception was held. Afterwards he visited the Atlas Works of John Brown and Company before heading to The Farm, the Duke of Norfolk’s residence (now the site of Sheffield College), where he stayed overnight.
Saturday was a rainy day, but it did not stop big crowds gathering along the Shah’s route.
“Flags flapped limply about their poles, the bunting drooped ingloriously, the streamers and floral festoons looked bedraggled, and all the bravery of decoration had departed.”
The Shah posed for a photograph at The Farm taken by Herbert Rose Barraud of Oxford Street, London.
“He was dressed in a dark coat fastened with emerald buttons. He wore a shoulder belt across his breast with bars of precious stones including Cabochin emeralds and rubies, the edges bordered with diamonds. Attached to a slender gold chain was the heart-shaped diamond he wore as an amulet; on his breast gleamed a richly jewelled star of the garter. His shoulder straps were studded with emeralds, rubies, and diamonds. He wore a Kolah cap displaying the Lion and Sun of Persia.”
Once again events ran incredibly late, the Shah’s carriages, accompanied by 30 members of the Yorkshire Dragoons, not leaving The Farm until after mid-day.
“Punctuality is the courtesy of Princes, but in Persia it is an unknown quantity. There every man takes his time from the King who, come what may, is never late.”
Despite the long delay, thousands lined the streets as the Royal procession travelled along St Mary’s Road, The Moor and to Norfolk Street where the Shah visited the works of Joseph Rodgers and Sons, including a tour of the vast ivory cellar, before being presented with a handsome sporting knife.
From here, the Shah was transported to the silver plating company, James Dixon and Sons, at Cornish Works, where a whistle-stop tour ended with the presentation of a silver drinking flask.
By his side throughout the visit was a 10-year-old boy favourite of the Shah. It was said that if the opulently decorated boy were beside him no harm could ever befall the Ruler of Persia.
A late lunch was held at the Cutlers’ Hall where toasts were exchanged, with Prince Michael Khan acting as the Shah’s interpreter.
From here he left for Victoria Station which had been gaily decorated, as was the Royal Victoria Hotel, and a guard of honour was formed by the Artillery Volunteers while a band played the Persian National Hymn. His train set off for Liverpool and at Wardsend a battery of six guns was fired to send him on his way.
Sadly, the Shah of Persia was assassinated in 1896 but the monarchy remained until 1979 when it was abolished after the Iranian Revolution.
A few unsuspecting people across Sheffield might not realise that the houses they live in have a connection to Enid Blyton, that infamous children’s author of over 400 titles, 600 million copies sold, and translated into 42 languages.
Our story begins in the 1870s when a Lincolnshire-born linen draper, Thomas Carey Blyton, and his wife, Mary Ann, moved from Kent to Sheffield. They brought with them four children – Bertha Sidney, Thomas Carey, and Sybil – and a fourth child, Alice May, was born here and died at Dore in 1962. The Blyton family lived at Asline Road, Aizlewood Road and finally moved to Machon Bank.
Their son, Thomas Carey Blyton Jr, married a Sheffield girl, Theresa May Harrison, from Monmouth Street, Broomhall, in London in 1896, moving on account of his job as a cutlery salesman. The newly-married couple lived in a small flat above a shop in East Dulwich where Enid Mary Blyton was born in 1897, followed by two boys, Henly and Carey.
They later separated with Enid’s mother telling people that her husband was “away on business.”
It appears that Thomas Carey wanted Enid to be a concert pianist but in 1916, aged 19, she moved to Ipswich and trained as a teacher. However, she had already started writing and her first book Child Whispers was published in 1922.
She went on to write hundreds of short stories, as well as introducing us to Noddy and Big Ears, the Famous Five, Secret Seven and the Malory Towers series.
Her work was loved by children, less-so by critics who regarded it as being “not great literature – but harmless.” However, some libraries and schools banned her works, and the BBC refused to broadcast it from the 1930s until the 1950s because they were perceived to lack literary merit.
The negativity about Enid Blyton continues today – not least tales of her being a ‘bad mother’, and in 2016 the Royal Mint blocked a proposal to honour her with a commemorative 50p coin on the grounds that she was ‘a racist, a sexist and a homophobe’. Millions of children would probably disagree.
Did Enid Blyton ever visit her Sheffield relations? Perhaps not, she became increasingly distant from her mother and with her less direct relatives, although a visit to Meadway Drive at Dore to see Auntie Alice May might not have been out of the question.