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Buildings

Royal Victoria Crowne Plaza

(Image: David Poole)

In 1860, James Radley, founder of the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, suggested to architect Matthew Ellison Hadfield that Sheffield required a first-class hotel. “Merchants from America, the Continent, and elsewhere, have frequently returned to Manchester and Liverpool, instead of remaining in the town.”

This spurred the Sheffield architect into action, enlisting local businessmen, and choosing a site next to the Victoria Station.

The Duke of Norfolk supported the scheme, but not wishing to be a speculator, gave a £1,000 donation. Encouraged by this, about forty shareholders invested, and the Sheffield Victoria Hotel Company was founded.

However, once plans were made public, there was a negative response from the public.

“An hotel let us have by all means, but pray don’t build it where the first visit will most assuredly be the last.”

This reflected the proposed location of the hotel close to the railway, rolling-mills, forges, and factories, all of which belched gases and smoke from chimneys.

There were also concerns that the “putrid water beneath it,” would make it a most uncomfortable place. A reference to the polluted waters of the River Don.

And there were cries that the site was too far away from the town centre where it might have been more sensible to build a new hotel.

It later emerged that a rival consortium had planned to build a large hotel in the town, with a suggestion that negative press had originated here.

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

The Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company granted the site next to the Victoria Station on favourable terms. Nevertheless, there were obstacles to be overcome, not least the fact that the land had previously been the site of a dam, and subsequently the solid foundations for the hotel ended up costing the company £1,500.

As a director, Matthew Ellison Hadfield, designed the new hotel and work started in 1861.

The first board meeting of the Sheffield Victoria Hotel Company was held in the boardroom at Victoria Station in February 1862. Those attending were Charles Atkinson (chairman), John Brown (mayor), William Frederick Dixon, Thomas R. Parker, Henry Wilkinson, John Jobson Smith (M, S and L Railway Company) , Michael Joseph Ellison, Frederick Thorpe Mappin, James Willis Dixon, Francis Hoole, John Hobson, Robert Younge, Matthew Ellison Hadfield, and Bernard Wake (law clerk).

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

With work underway, the company looked for somebody to take over management of the hotel. With the help of James Radley, who had committed £500 to the project, the company appointed George Meyer, proprietor of the Queen’s Hotel at Alderley Edge, Cheshire, built for the London and North Western Railway Company.

The Victoria Hotel consisted of a front and two-wings. It rose four storeys above the entrance to the Victoria Station with a basement.

A covered passage was built from the station platform to the north wing, leading into a lobby which ran through the building. From this were all the various trappings of a fine hotel – coffee rooms, two sitting rooms either side of the main entrance, dining room, assembly room, bar, and smoking room.

The staircases and corridors, illuminated with gas lamps, were built of stone.

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

The fifty bedrooms on the first, second and third floors occupied the front and outer portions of the building, in addition to servants’ apartments and ten sitting rooms. There were two water closets on each floor as well as a communal bathroom. Luggage was conveyed to each floor using a hoist. The first floor bedrooms and sitting rooms were furnished with mahogany, the second and third floor rooms kitted out at lesser cost.

The kitchen was built behind the front portion of the hotel and contained two stoves and two plate-heaters. The basement extended underneath the kitchen. Half of this was occupied with servants’ rooms and the remainder used as a wines and spirits cellar. A passage with iron bar gates ran through the cellar with perforated zinc windows for ventilation.

(Image: Eventbrite)

George Meyer brought with him a considerable sum of money used to furnish the Victoria Hotel.

“I learned a lesson some years ago from the Emperor of the French. It was said that when Queen Victoria visited, she found all the rooms fitted up so much like those of her own palace that she had difficulty in realising that she was not at home. I hope that this will be just the feeling which all would experience who visited the Victoria Hotel.”

He spent about £15,000 on furnishings. The dining room had chandeliers and silver gas brackets with richly decorated walls. Splendid services of pottery and glass were manufactured in Staffordshire and silver-plate supplied by James Dixon and Sons.

The Victoria Hotel opened on July 28th, 1862. At the invitation of Meyer, a number of leading gentlemen and their families were invited to visit and a sumptuous déjeuner was prepared for them.

“The whole establishment has about it an air of comfort and elegance, and we may add of cleanliness, which in the midst of our smoky atmosphere will not be maintained without considerable exertion.”

(Image: David Poole)

An official inauguration ceremony took place in September 1862 when leading gentry and manufacturers were invited to a banquet “with a profusion of the good things of this world, and adorned with silver-plated epergnes, fruit and flowers, presenting a scene of almost Eastern luxuriousness.”

Despite the misgivings about its location the Victoria Hotel was a success. It was visited by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1875 and hereon it was called the Royal Victoria Hotel.

Shareholders got their money back with a little over 3 per cent interest and hardly a share changed hands while under ownership of the Sheffield Victoria Hotel Company.

Their 24th annual general meeting in 1889 was their last because by negotiation the hotel had practically passed into ownership of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway.

“In the hands of the railway company the hotel will continue to be that great boom to the town which it had been from the outset.”

George Meyer had died in 1873, and his wife chose to retire.

It was the railway company’s first venture into hotel management setting a precedent for the Great Central Railway’s (as it became) later hotels at Nottingham and Marylebone.

The Royal Victoria Hotel was enlarged in 1898, later passing to London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) and on nationalisation was owned by British Transport Hotels.

When the Victoria Station closed in 1970 the hotel might have gone the same way. However, it was sold in 1972 and for a long time was called the Royal Victoria Holiday Inn.

Most of the station’s buildings were demolished by 1989 allowing a new extension to be built and connecting to the main hotel by a covered passageway much the same way as passengers used to leave the platform.

The hotel and the retaining wall and approach ramp of the old railway station were Grade II listed in 1995 and in March 2019 the hotel was rebranded as the Royal Victoria Crowne Plaza.

(Image: IHG Hotels and Resorts)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings Sculpture

The William Mitchell abstract relief

(Image: Patrick Crowley)

A photograph for posterity by follower Patrick Crowley. The William Mitchell abstract reliefs are today being removed from Barker’s Pool House on Burgess Street.

Installed in May 1972 the ten panels were commissioned as part of the office and supermarket development. They were constructed in the latter period of Mitchell’s first phase of practising in Britain, following his work as design consultant with London County Council.

“A minor example from a cycle of works produced in Faircrete, a new form of concrete developed at the John Laing Research and Development headquarters.”

It has an Egyptian appearance, a characteristic of his work, first evident in an office building entrance mural for London’s Barbican, in the early sixties.

William Mitchell (born 1925) subsequently left Britain, returning in the 1990s to work with Mohammed Al Fayed of Harrods.

Ironically, he died in January with the fate of his Sheffield work still undecided. It will now be restored and incorporated somewhere in the Heart of the City II development.

(Image: Reddit)
Categories
Buildings People Sculpture

Victoria Station Memorial

The original memorial outside Victoria Station. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

In our investigations into the Victoria Station one structure appeared on old photographs that deserved further investigation.

This was an elegant memorial that stood at the entrance of the railway station. The classical portico, with colonnade, contained nine columns with the names of workers of the Great Central Railway who died in World War One.

The names of 1,304 men were inscribed on tablets of French marble, and the memorial was unveiled by Earl Haig on Wednesday 9th August 1922. He had commanded the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front from late 1915 until the end of the war.

Sheffield had been chosen for the memorial because it was the centre of the railway’s operations. About 8,000 people turned up for the ceremony, including hundreds of relatives of the fallen.

Haig inspected a guard of honour composed of over 200 ex-servicemen employees who had gained decorations for gallantry in the field.

“The day will come when we in our turn will have passed on, but these stones will still stand as evidence of the splendid sacrifice and glorious achievement of the 1,300 brave and gallant men whose names they bear.”

The ceremony was presided by Lord Faringdon, chairman of the Great Central Railway, who said the memorial had been subscribed by no fewer than 3,000 shareholders and servants of the company as far afield as Canada, India, Australia, and Africa. He pointed out that over 10,000 employees had gone to war.

Canon Houghton dedicated the memorial, after which wreaths of remembrance were laid, and the service closed with a rousing rendition of the National Anthem.

They would have been forgiven that the future of the memorial was secured. However, within two years the marble had crumbled, and some names were already illegible.

In 1925, the London North Eastern Railway (LNER), which had absorbed the Great Central Railway, graciously replaced the tablets with Kupron bronze plaques. The memorial stood on its own until 1938 when LNER improved the station, extending the booking hall, so that the memorial became its eastern wall. (I presume the memorial was reversed and the tablets were relocated inside).

It remained until the Victoria Station’s closure in 1970 and might have been lost with subsequent demolition.

Remains of the memorial before demolition in 1980. The plaques had been removed to the underneath of Wicker Arch. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

A handful of survivors campaigned for it to be saved and the bronze tablets were re-erected (somewhat hidden) underneath Wicker Arch, where it was rededicated in November 1971. The magnificent portico, in which they had stood, was sadly lost).

The decline of The Wicker is well publicised, and the memorial suffered from neglect and vandalism. Various locations were suggested as an alternative site, but it was the owners of the Royal Victoria Holiday Inn (the former Victoria Station railway hotel) that offered it a permanent home.

The memorial plaques underneath Wicker Arch. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

With support of the hotel, sponsors and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Great Central Railway Society organised rescue of the plaques and relocation to its new home, almost on the site of the original memorial.

It was rededicated on Remembrance Day 2008 and remains outside the Royal Victoria Crowne Plaza. A Roll of Honour for all the men listed, collated by the Great Central Railway Society, can be found inside the hotel.

(Images: David Poole)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Victoria Station: “Prosperity to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, and the Grimsby Docks.”

Image: Picture Sheffield

There is a photograph from January 1970 that shows a train driver, sitting in reflective mood on a bench at Sheffield’s Victoria Station. He was waiting to take out one of the last passenger trains from Sheffield Victoria to Manchester.

Once it had departed the lights went out and darkness descended on a railway station once considered the city’s ‘pride and joy’.

An eventual victim of cuts initiated by Dr Beeching, almost nothing remains today, but if you know where to look, and use a bit of imagination, you can see where once Sheffield folk hopped on a train across the Pennines and down to London’s Marylebone and King’s Cross stations.

Image: Picture Sheffield

The Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway was engineered by Joseph Locke and opened in 1845, the line originally terminating at Bridgehouses Station (the site on waste land above the lower end of Derek Dooley Way).

In 1847, it merged with two other railway companies to form the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway, prompting an extension of the line and construction of a new railway station about 1km to the east.

It was developed by Sheffield-born John Fowler, engineer-in-chief, and included a 40ft-high, 750-yard long, viaduct over The Wicker (Wicker Arches) and was completed in 1847-1848. The new Victoria Station opened on September 15th, 1851.

The railway station was opened for the convenience of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire, the Great Northern, and the south traffic of the Midland Company. It occupied a space between Wicker Arches to the canal, crossing the river, the site of the old Blonk Dam, the cattle market, and fairground, and the back of Sheaf Works.

Image: Picture Sheffield

Built on arches by Miller, Blackie and Shortridge, it rose 40ft above the level of The Wicker, the station fronting south-west with prominent views of the Corn Exchange, the New Market Hall, and canal warehouses.

The approaches to the station and the platforms were the work of John and Amos Ridal, and the station buildings were erected by Robert Tomlinson Carlisle, the builder of Beighton Viaduct and the New Market Hall.

It was not the magnificent station envisaged by Fowler. The architects, Weightman, Hadfield and Goldie, were asked to reduce costs, probably the result of high expenditure engineering the approach to the station.

The front of the Victoria Station was destitute of ornament, being simple in architectural character. It was approached from Blonk Street by a straight incline, built upon the arches, 50ft wide, 220-yards long, and rose at a rate of 1 in 30. As the road approached the station it opened out into an extended area.

The station consisted of a centre and wings, the latter being extended with a high fence wall, with gateways for the exit of arriving passengers, and beyond these, on each side, covered by stands for horse-drawn cabs.

The length of the masonry front was 400ft, built of rock-faced Greenmoor stone, with chiselled beds and joints, and facings of ashlar stone from Wadsley.

A covered veranda, with glazed roof supported by iron brackets, extended the whole length of the centre building, to allow carriages to set people down under cover.

The entrance, or waiting hall, was 50ft by 30ft, and 25ft high, having an enclosed office for booking clerks. Tickets were issued at three windows. At the centre, first-class passengers of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway got their tickets, and on the right-hand side, second and third class passengers got theirs. The left-hand window was for Great Northern passengers.

Image: Picture Sheffield

In the eastern wing were refreshment and waiting rooms, public conveniences, parcels office, and on the chamber floor the station master’s house. The refreshment rooms were rented by Mr Moyes, the landlord of the Great Northern Hotel at Lincoln.

In the western wing were the telegraph and station master’s office, rooms for lamps and porters, guards etc., and the engineer’s office. Above these were the boardroom and other offices.

Having passed through the booking office and reaching the platform, the passengers were greeted with ample light and a conveniently arranged station.

The platforms were covered with a light roof of iron and glass, 83ft wide and 400ft long, regarded as one of the “first fruits of the Crystal Palace.” It was the work of Fox, Henderson and Company, a ridge and furrow roof, with Paxton gutters, designed to carry away rain and condensation underneath (used for water closets and urinals), and the centre of the roof was raised to permit a line of ventilation.

The roof was not supported by pillars, but its principals were set 25ft apart, resting on the inner wall of the station buildings on one side, and a lofty wall on the other. The glass was strong crown glass, about the thickness of ordinary pottery, and extended to an area of 34,600 sq. ft.

Through the station ran four lines of rails – two for passenger trains and two for spare carriages. Two other lines were laid outside the north-eastern wall for goods traffic.

The exits were closed by sliding gates, opened only when a train arrived and thus preventing ‘idlers’ entering the platforms, which themselves were divided by iron railings through which only passengers with tickets could pass.

With the building of Victoria Station, the Bridgehouses Station was converted into a goods, cattle and minerals station that operated until the 1960s.

Victoria Station decked out for the visit of the Prince of Wales to open Firth Park in 1875. Image: Picture Sheffield

The Victoria Station opened on Monday September 15th, 1851. Although not fully completed, the station was elaborately decorated with flags, some bearing loyal inscriptions, others wishing good wishes for the prosperity of the railway and docks, while others were simple decorative banners.

The first train to leave the station was an early morning service with 500 passengers bound for Hull and Grimsby. About 9am, a pleasure train with 2000 travellers set off for Worksop, and in the early afternoon a special train left for London. Combined with local services the station was a scene of bustling activity, soon tested by the presence at the same time of two through trains and two Eckington trains sharing the same platforms.

With formalities out of the way, and the Victoria Station left to its daily business, Robert Tomlinson Carlisle, the builder responsible for the station buildings, entertained 500 of his men at the New Market Hall.

His workers were treated to a substantial dinner of beef and ham provided by Mrs Outram of the Black Swan in Snig Hill.

The ceremony was attended by John Fowler, engineer-in-chief, the man responsible for the massive project.

Robert Tomlinson Carlisle gave a toast to “The Queen, Prince Albert, Albert – Prince of Wales, and the rest of the Royal Family; Prosperity to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, and the Grimsby Docks; Success to the Sheffield Markets, the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Yarborough.”

Charles Anderson Worsley Anderson-Pelham, 2nd Earl of Yarborough, former MP, was the chairman of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway. His Lincolnshire estate was adjacent to the line and had been responsible for the development of the track through the county, especially its extension to Grimsby Docks

The Victoria Station was a success and received a new roof spanning main line platforms in 1867. Three years later the Midland Railway opened the Midland Station and it received its first real competition. Victoria was enlarged by Logan and Hemingway in 1874 and received a new frontage in 1908.

Image: Picture Sheffield

The Great Central Railway came into being when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway changed its name in 1897, anticipating the opening in 1899 of its London Extension. Interestingly, for a short time afterwards Victoria Station was renamed Great Central Station but as was often the case, old names refused to go away, and it reverted to its original name. The Great Central Railway was later grouped into the London and North Eastern Railway.

In 1948 the railways were nationalised, and it brought wholesale change to the network, as governments committed to the elimination of steam traction in favour of diesel and electric power.

After World War Two, the Victoria track was the first main line in the UK to be electrified, reaching Victoria Station by 1954.

Image: Picture Sheffield

Over time, with the growth of the road haulage sector, passengers replaced freight (especially coal transport) as the railways’ main source of income, and Victoria’s glory period was in the 1950s.

The Manchester London Road to London Marylebone service, via Victoria Station, used the Great Central Line. Other expresses ran to King’s Cross over the East Coast main line, and The Master Cutler, The Sheffield Pullman and The South Yorkshireman all served the station.

However, by the end of the decade expresses to Marylebone had either been cut or re-routed to King’s Cross and by the mid-1960s many local and express services had been transferred to the Midland Station. It left Victoria with just one hourly Manchester service and the daily Liverpool-Harwich ‘Continental’.

Percy Williamson. The last Station Master. Image: Picture Sheffield
Image: Picture Sheffield

The Beeching Report of 1963 resulted in the closure of a third of the rail network and originally favoured closing Midland Station. However, in the ensuing years Victoria Station became the chosen casualty instead, the Hope Valley line between Sheffield Midland Station and Manchester preferred because it served more communities. There was a suggestion that the cost of upgrading Victoria’s obsolete electric line was too expensive, but there were also suggestions that politics decided its fate. After much wrangling, and a two-year enquiry, passenger services were withdrawn from Victoria Station on January 5th, 1970.

Image: Picture Sheffield

Goods traffic still ran through the station but all tracks (except one that still exists nearby) were lifted in 1983, and the station buildings demolished in 1989 to make way for extensions to the nearby Royal Victoria Hotel.

Image: Disused Stations

Perhaps we should mention HS2. The long-running saga of Britain’s next generation railway originally had plans for a station at Meadowhall, but Sheffield City Council wanted a city centre location.

For a brief time, it seemed that Victoria Station might have been resurrected but alas, once again, its old rival, the Midland Station (now Sheffield Station), became the preferred option instead.

And so, to the present. Much of the site of Victoria Station’s former  buildings and platforms is now lost under modern hotel buildings and car-parks. However, the elegant sloping approach to the Crowne Plaza Royal Victoria hotel remains much the same as it did when the station existed.

Image: Signal Boxes
Image: Nigel Thompson

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings People

A church in Madrid with Sheffield connections

St George’s Anglican Church in Madrid. Built in 1926

It might be out of the question now, but if you get chance to visit Spain’s capital city there is a Sheffield connection.

The answer lies in a tablet over the south door of St George’s Anglican Church, on the corner of Calle Núñez de Balboa and Calle Hermosilla in the barrio Salamanca district of Madrid.

It reads:

“To the memory of William Edgar Allen. Born March 30th, 1837. Died January 28th, 1915. By whose generosity, this church was completed A.D. 1925.”

William Edgar Allen is a familiar name in Sheffield history. In 1868, he founded the firm of Edgar Allen and Co, Imperial Steel Works, at Tinsley. Taking advantage of his knowledge of continental firms, he soon obtained extensive orders for foreign arsenals, dockyards, and railway companies.

Besides other donations, Allen gave, in 1909, the Edgar Allen Library to the University of Sheffield, contributed £10,000 to Sheffield hospitals, and founded, in 1911, the Edgar Allen Institute (in Gell Street) for Medico-Mechanical treatment, the first institution of its kind in this country. It proved especially beneficial during the First World War; a great number of soldiers having recovered the use of their limbs through the effectiveness of the treatment.

In 1913, Edgar Allen, staying in Madrid, asked Edward Mitchel Gibbs, the famous Sheffield architect at Gibbs, Flockton and Teather, to visit the Spanish city and draw up plans for a Protestant Church.

The church, in Early English-style was to have seated 150 people, funded entirely by Edgar Allen. Unfortunately, the estimates for the building amounted to £10,300, a larger amount than Edgar Allen had anticipated, and the plan was abandoned.

However, at the suggestion of the architect, Edgar Allen, who was in failing health, bequeathed a legacy of £6,000 for a new church to be built.

Edgar Allen died at Whirlow House two years later, and his bequest was put towards the building of St George’s Church, the church of the British embassy, completed in 1925.

Spain was a Roman Catholic country, and rules as to the building of churches other than those of the Roman Catholic communion, were strict. Because St George’s was built on the premises of the British Legation, such restrictions did not apply.

“The workmanship and material of the church throughout were the best, and everything was in excellent taste.”

St George’s was designed by the Spanish architect Teodoro de Anasagasti, who blended elements of the Spanish Romanesque style (cruciform plan, semi-circular apse, bell tower, tiled roof) and the characteristic brick-and-stone construction of the uniquely Spanish “Mudéjar” tradition with specifically Anglican forms.

The chaplain of the church was the Rev. Francis Symes-Thompson, who received a grant of £250 per annum from the Foreign Office.

St George’s Madrid

William Edgar Allen (1837-1915), Founder of the Edgar Allen Institute. (Image: Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust/ArtUK)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings People

Edward Mitchel Gibbs

Edward Mitchel Gibbs (Image: Picture Sheffield)

“If you want to see a monument to this man, look around you.”

Here is a man once described as “one of the makers of Sheffield,” for he was responsible for many of its principal buildings and played a leading part in changing the shape of the city.

His long list of work can be seen around Sheffield today.

In his earlier years, Edward Mitchel Gibbs was architect for the branch libraries at Upperthorpe and Highfield, and later designed the Mappin Art Gallery, St. John’s Church at Ranmoor, the University of Sheffield, the Sheffield Telegraph Building, Lodge Moor Hospital, Channing Hall, Glossop Road Baths, Foster’s Building in High Street, and the White Building at Fitzalan Square. He was also responsible for some of the finest shops of the time in High Street and Fargate.

Sheffield Telegraph Building (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

E.M. Gibbs (1847-1935) was born in Sheffield, educated at the Milk Street School, and articled to architects Flockton & Abbott between 1862 to 1868, remaining as principal assistant. He attended classes at Sheffield School of Art and subsequently spent time in London, studying at the Royal Academy Schools and assisting in the offices of Alfred Waterhouse.

Gibbs worked as Superintendent of Works to Archibald Neill of Leeds from 1868 until 1872, when he was taken into partnership by Flockton & Abbott.

He continued in partnership with Thomas James Flockton after the retirement of George Lewslie Abbott in 1875, and the partnership was joined by Flockton’s son, Charles Burrows Flockton, in 1895.

Gibbs became senior partner in 1902 (as Gibbs & Flockton), and the partnership was joined by John Charles Amory Teather in 1908, and Gibbs’ son, Henry Beckett Swift Gibbs, in 1921.

Mappin Art Gallery (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Like all good men, it was only after his death that people appreciated his contribution to the city.

His funeral in December 1935 was held at the Unitarian Upper Chapel on Norfolk Street (in which Gibbs had designed much of its interior) where the Rev. Alfred Hall paid tribute:

“Gibbs’ aim was to make Sheffield beautiful. All his artistic insight and architectural skill were devoted to that end, and, though tastes and fashion had changed, all men would acknowledge that the buildings he conceived and erected were dignified and noble.”

The funeral achieved national attention because Rev. Hall read out a document left by Gibbs:

“Born of Unitarian parents, I was a staunch supporter of the Unitarian precepts for many years, but under the teaching of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer became an agnostic. I hope the Minister, if he accepts the responsibility of conducting my funeral, will do so in the simplest manner possible, remembering that I die an agnostic.”

The clergyman admired his “sterling honesty” after which Gibbs’ remains were taken to City Road for cremation.

During his lifetime Gibbs thought positively and deeply and was a man of definite views. He was afraid that the country might fall into the hands of extremists and had the foresight to see the danger it faced arising out of Germany’s ambitions.

Highfield Library (Image: Picture Sheffield)

But he was not just an architect.

Gibbs had knowledge of property values and was retained by Sheffield Corporation in all cases of arbitration under the Tramways and Street Widening Act of 1897.

He also published essays: ‘The Town Planning of Sheffield’ and ‘The Finance of Housing and Reform of Rating’. In 1895, he presented a scheme for a central railway station in the vicinity of Haymarket. The plans were dismissed, as was his big scheme for housing.

Gibbs’ grand expansion plan was based on garden city principles with radiating main roads linked by a ring road with suburban settlements at its junctions.

Foster’s Building, High Street. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

As well as being a city magistrate, he was a trustee of Woofindin Homes, a director of the Gladstone Buildings Company and a governor of the University of Sheffield, where he was awarded a Master of Arts, and was instrumental in establishing the Department of Architecture.

He was admitted to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1892 and was also president of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Society of Architects and Surveyors. Gibbs also succeeded Thomas James Flockton as Consulting Surveyor to the Town Trustees, for which he designed the Fulwood Park estate.

The White Building, Fitzalan Square. (Image: David Poole)

Gibbs was married to Lucy, daughter of a manager at the Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank, who died a year before him, and lived at Woodcroft, 7 Riverdale Road. On his death he left gross estate of £52,939 (about £3.8 million today).

St John’s Church, Ranmoor. (Image: St John’s Ranmoor)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Other People

Sheffield Legends

(Image: David Poole)

We walk over them regularly, and might be guilty of not giving them a second glance.

These are the Sheffield Legends, stars that line the pavement outside Sheffield Town Hall.

This is Sheffield’s Walk of Fame, honouring those who have achieved national or international acclaim. As in the Hollywood version, there are plaques with people’s names on them and why they are celebrated.

The idea was first suggested in 2005 when the people of Sheffield were asked who should be honoured after a local resident suggested honouring the footballer Gordon Banks, who grew up in Sheffield.

(Image: David Poole)

Nominations are considered by an independent selection board representing various sectors across the city such as the arts, sport, education, media, and business, and chaired by the Lord Mayor.

To date, the inductees are:

Gordon Banks – England’s World Cup winning goalkeeper
Sean Bean – film and TV actor
Joe Cocker – singer
Sebastian Coe – Olympic medal winner and President of the International Association of Athletics Federation
Derek Dooley – Footballing legend for United and Wednesday
Dame Margaret Drabble – internationally respected novelist and critic
Dame Jessica Ennis – Olympic Champion, double Outdoor and Indoor World Champion athlete
Professor Barry Hancock – OBE, world renowned cancer expert
Brendan Ingle – world famous boxing manager and trainer
Def Leppard – top-selling rock band
Nick Matthew – world squash champion
David Mellor – internationally renowned cutlery designer
Michael Palin – famous film and television personality
Steve Peat – champion downhill mountain biker
Helen Sharman – first British astronaut
Joe Simpson – renowned mountaineer, author, and motivational speaker
Joe Scarborough – one of Sheffield’s finest artists
Michael Vaughan – one of this country’s most successful cricket captains
Clinton Woods – world champion boxer
Grace Clough – Paralympic gold medallist, rowing
Tony Foulds – the man who inspired the spectacular flypast to remember those who died in the Mi Amigo wartime plane crash

(Image: David Poole)
Categories
Sculpture

Marti Caine: Sheffield’s only tribute to that gawky and glamorous entertainer

Marti Caine. (Image: David Poole)

It’s remarkable that Sheffield has never officially paid tribute to Marti Caine. However, there is a sculpture at the top of Howard Street, near Sheffield Hallam University, that is named after her.

Marti Caine grew up in Shiregreen and her vocal talents, wit and engaging personality made her a mainstay of the northern club circuit before she leapt to national prominence by winning the TV talent show New Faces in 1975 – a programme she went on to present with great success.

In her later years, she campaigned tirelessly on behalf of cancer charities before succumbing to lymphatic cancer on November 4, 1995, aged 50, after a long illness.

Marti was awarded an honorary doctorate by Sheffield Hallam University in recognition of her contribution to the world of entertainment, and the film Funny Cow, starring Maxine Peake, was loosely based on her compelling life story.

The gritstone and stainless steel sculpture dedicated to her, originally called Sheen, is often referred to simply as ‘Marti’, one of the pieces made for the Stone City Symposium of 1995. It was commissioned by Sheffield Hallam University and was to have been revealed by Marti Caine, who died two weeks before the opening; it was decided to dedicate the sculpture to her instead.

The stainless steel was intended to reflect the changing weather and reflect passing traffic which flicker across the inset steel squares on the Arundel Gate side of the sculpture.

Describing his work at the time, Mick Farrell, its creator said: “Using stainless steel and stone I hope to set up a contradiction within the nature of both materials. This architectural piece would act both as a landmark and a point to view from.”

Marti Caine (1945-1995). Comedian, actress, singer and dancer. (Image: BBC)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
People

Marti Caine

(Image: IMDb)

It’s been a while since we had a look at some of those people with Sheffield connections. Today, the lady once considered to be Britain’s premier comedienne and the clown queen of TV comedy.

Like America’s Lucille Ball and Phyllis Diller, she paved the way for women working in light entertainment, whether it was the tough world of northern clubs or hosting her own television specials.

Born in 1945 at Sheffield, Lynne Denise Shepherd worked as a model, petrol pump attendant and a croupier. She’s better known to us as Marti Caine, her first professional performance aged 18 at a working men’s club in Rotherham, which led to more than 12 years playing the northern cabaret circuit.

Professionally she wasn’t Marti Caine then, or even Lynne Stringer. She was Sunny Smith for all of three weeks, followed by a spell as Zoe Bond. Unhappy with both, she scoured a gardening book for inspiration. Her husband Malcolm Stringer tinkered with tomato cane and came up with Marta Cane. The club she was playing misheard and billed her as Marti Caine.

She became an overnight star at the age of 30 on the TV talent show New Faces. Viewers took to her gawky, but highly glamorous looks and quickfire timing and she soon became a household name on television and starred on her own show, Marti Caine, on BBC2 from the early 1980s.

Marti starred in Funny Girl, in 1989, playing the lead as Fanny Brice, at the Crucible Theatre.

Marti Caine found fame by appearing in the television talent show New Faces. (Image: Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock)

During the last ten years of her life she combined an outstanding career in light entertainment with that of one on the stage and undertook tours including a notable performance in Alan Ayckbourn’s Seasons Greetings. In 1986 she presented her own one woman show, An Evening with Marti, at the Donmar Warehouse in London.

For three years from 1986 Caine hosted ITV’s New Faces, where she was noted for her friendliness and encouragement to young performers appearing on television for the first time.

In 1992 she toured Britain to record BBC’s Joker in the Pack and later completed another series, Your Best Shot, also for the BBC.

Pantomime was one of her first loves and for many years she made the character of the Red Queen a special part in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which played in Cambridge, Bath, Bournemouth and in London’s West End at the Strand Theatre.

She talked about her TV image as if she were an acquaintance, someone she didn’t particularly like, but had grown to accept.

“She drives too fast, smokes too much, her language is a bit choice and she is very ambitious. I am an emotional coward. I don’t like being the centre of attention. When Marti Caine is out under the spotlight, I’m in the wings throwing up with nervousness.”

In 1988, it was made publicly known that she was suffering from cancer of the lymphoid cells which prompted her to ask her doctor “Does this mean I am a lymphomaniac?”

She was given two years to live but refused to stop working and fought against the disease for seven years.

Marti died aged 50 at her home in Oxfordshire in November 1995, her second husband, Kenneth Ives, by her side. A funeral service was held at Sheffield Cathedral. It was attended by showbusiness personalities and a public address system was set up outside to relay the service to those unable to get inside.

“Remember me with a smile. I don’t want any weeping and wailing when I’ve gone. I want people to dance in the aisles.”

The 2017 film, Funny Cow, starring Maxine Peake, tells the story of a female comedian playing working- men’s clubs in the 1970s and is said to be loosely based on Caine’s story.

Caine appearing in Funny Girl at the Crucible Theatre in 1984. (Image: Kevin Holt/ANL/REX/Shutterstock)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Barclays Bank: The grand building that we lost

The one that got away. I bet only a handful of people will remember this building and it might have been one of Sheffield’s finest had it survived. But it didn’t, and you’ll be surprised to learn what stands in its place today.

This was a bank that stood at the corner of Commercial Street and Fitzalan Square, demolished in the late sixties/early seventies to allow for road widening. Nowadays, its location is buried under the road section of Commercial Street, the Supertram tracks alongside following the course of the original road.

(Image: Google)

We can trace the building back to 1879, built for the Midland Banking Company (not to be confused with the Midland Bank, that 20th century institution). Its architect was Salmon Linton Swann whose office was on George Street.

It might have been this building that caused the downfall of the Midland Banking Company.

In 1878, the bank bought The King’s Arms in Commercial Street for £20,000, a portion of the public house demolished to make way for the new building.

The bank invited architects to submit plans. Thirteen architects competed for the design from Sheffield, Rotherham, Stamford, and Nottingham.

The directors awarded the prize to Swann, and the building contract to George Chambers and Son, a Sheffield construction company.

“The building will be of an imposing and handsome appearance, and the arrangements will tend to give privacy and facilitate easy and direct communication with the manager without passing through the bank room or incumbering the principal or main entrance with all the work of the bank.”

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

Its erection was well underway but a tragic accident in December 1879 halted progress and had devastating consequences for the reputations of those involved.

Just before Christmas, a whole length of projecting cornice, about 50ft above ground, fell and crashed through a wooden awning below. A workman, Thomas Moclar, fell to his death with it, and several workmen were seriously injured.

There was an air of complacency from Salmon Swann, who failed to attend the initial inquest and instead sent a letter. “I consider my presence or services not required, as I expect it will be a pure accident and one easily understood.”

The Coroner disagreed and ordered him to attend a few days later.

The jury found Swann censurable for not allowing sufficient tail weight to the cornice, and Chambers blameable for not calling the architect’s attention to such deficiency. However, they found the negligence insufficient to render them criminally culpable and that Thomas Moclar’s death had been an accident.

Construction was halted for a while, and progress hampered by having to rebuild the damaged section. By 1881, the bank was nearing completion and William Derry, a manager at the Huddersfield branch, was brought in to oversee its opening.

However, Derry arrived in difficult circumstances. Shortly before it opened, the Midland Banking Company realised that it was in financial difficulty. Believing it had ‘outgrown its resources’ a rescue was needed, and it came in the form of the Birmingham, Dudley and District Banking Company which amalgamated with it.

The bank opened under its new name, and quickly established a reputation in the city.

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

The height of the building was 70ft, the building preceding the development of Fitzalan Square, and cost about £17,000 to build.

The architecture was adopted from ‘a free treatment of the classic order’, built with Huddersfield stone fronts and brick backs, having bold fluted columns along the front, with moulded bases and carved capitals dividing the wall spaces into panels, relieved by plate glass windows.

At the principal corner of the parapet was an ornamental stone tower with an ornamented panel bearing the Sheffield coat of arms, surmounted by the carved dome, supporting a moulded canopy and finial.

Internally, the wall spaces were divided into panels by means of moulded pilasters, in Parian cement, the panels fitted with the large windows. Those along the blank walls were fitted with silver-plated glass, which added a lustre of light.

The whole was surmounted by a moulded and enriched cornice, from which sprang a deep cove, relieved by a diaper work, supporting a moulded and panelled ceiling, from the centre of which was the dome, filled in with stained glass.

From the centre of the dome a ventilating sunflower fan was suspended to extract air from the bank, and to light the space below.

The whole of the bank floor was constructed with fireproof flooring covered with tiles.

The bank was heated with Perkins’ patent hot water apparatus, the pipes obscured by perforated iron skirting running around the walls.

The whole of the Commercial Street frontage was used as offices for the manager and waiting rooms, which were divided from the bank room with mahogany glazed screens, 10ft high, and covered with light glazed roofs, introducing Tobin’s principle of ventilating tubes for fresh air.

The remainder of the floor was divided and sub-divided by desks and counters, with the rear east wall fitted up with safes. Seats and desks were appropriated for the public under the windows.

Quite unusual for the building was an entrance to a basement (9ft high) in Commercial Street. This was used as a caretaker’s apartment, complete with sitting room, scullery, and bedrooms. There was also a dining room for clerks, two strong fireproof rooms, the hollow walls lined with white glazed bricks, to store ledgers, a bullion room, and toilets. The floor was laid with wood block flooring laid on a bed of concrete, thought more suitable to prevent damp and vermin. Below the basement was the boiler room, coal cellar, and a place to store ashes and dust.

The bank merged with the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Banking Company in 1889 to become Birmingham, District and Counties Bank, eventually becoming United Counties Bank in 1907.

In the same year, a fire almost destroyed the dome after a spark in the built-in chimney set fire to woodwork. It was threatened until firemen managed to haul hoses up to a height of 70ft to extinguish the flames.

United Counties Bank was bought by Barclays Bank in 1916, a name long-associated with the building until its sad demolition.

(Image: Picture Sheffield)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.