Planning consent has been granted for the former gas board offices on Commercial Street.
Sheffield Music Academy submitted full planning and listed building applications to Sheffield City Council earlier this year for the conversion of the grade II*-listed Canada House on Commercial Street.
The building was constructed in 1875 for the Sheffield United Gas Company and continued to be used as offices by the gas board until 1972. It was converted into a nightclub and pub in the 1980s, while the adjoining Shude Hill warehouse wing became Tower Cash & Carry.
In 1990 the building was acquired by Canadian Business Parks of Bedfordshire, and adopted its new name, Canada House.
The plans cover the refurbishment, change of use and extension of the building.
The development would include a performance space for an audience of 300, two rehearsal rooms accommodating 80 musicians, 15 smaller ensemble rehearsal rooms, 20 individual practice rooms and a substantial instrument store.
Office space, a café, breakout spaces and ancillary accommodation would also be provided.
The design was developed by Live Projects, an initiative at the School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield.
The proposed ‘Harmony Works’ development, from Sheffield Music Academy and Sheffield Music Hub, aims to create a home for music education in the region.
Sheffield Music Hub is a partnership of education and music organisations, led by Sheffield City Council, which provides music education to 176 schools and 80,000 children across the city. SMA is one of 15 Centres for Advanced Music Training in the UK, funded by the Department for Education’s Music & Dance Scheme.
Sheffield City Council made the following comments after granting the application: –
“The proposed development would being a currently vacant grade II*-listed Building in declining condition in a prominent City Centre gateway location back into beneficial use as a music academy.
“The applicant has revised the proposals to overcome initial concerns in relation to the height of the proposed rear extension and the obstructive effect of the previously proposed accessible ramp to Commercial Street.
“It is considered that the benefits of the proposal would significantly outweigh the less than substantial harm to the heritage asset which would be caused by the proposed listed building works and rear extension.”
“I believe that we can recapture the lost beauty of Sheffield. In fact, you are already beginning to recapture it. I thought this morning how greatly improved the city was architecturally and structurally. I noticed that many of the old crofts have disappeared – the old slumdom is going. Watch that you don’t get new slums in their place, and that you don’t let the jerry-builder play his old game and run up his weedy, seedy, respectable-looking, but fever-haunted dens, built on rottenness and breeding illness of all kinds in days to come.”
This is a quote from 1910, by the Rev. S.E. Keeble, of Southport, once a Methodist minister at Brunswick Church in Sheffield between 1893 and 1896, who had returned to speak at the Victoria Hall on Norfolk Street.
In olden days, it had been the fashion to name streets or lanes as ‘crofts’. Sheffield had Pea Croft, White Croft, Hollis Croft, Lea Croft, Sims Croft, Hawley Croft, Scargill Croft, and so on. These were (and some still are) located in the area between modern-day Bank Street and towards Scotland Street.
The ‘crofts’ area developed within plots formed by former fields, and the name was originally respectable and modern, much the same as ‘avenue’ became, but the advent of time led to the term becoming synonymous with slums.
And for this reason, Sheffield started eliminating the term, and under the Government’s Slum Clearance Scheme had eradicated the properties in the early twentieth century.
Scargill Croft, Lee Croft, White Croft, and Hollis Croft survive in very different circumstances, and in some cases the people have returned to live here.
The Bath and Ladle, The Bessemer, The Casting Pit, The Forge, The Hopper, The Hearth and Spoon, The Pig, The Puddle Shop, The Run-Out Table, The Ace of Hearts, The Colossus, The Dramarama, The Futurist, The Prince of Wales, The Jennie Lee, The Sheaf, The Arundel Gate, The New Elizabethan, The New Playhouse, The Stirrings, and The White Elephant.
They were all suggested names submitted by readers of the Morning Telegraph in 1969 to name Sheffield’s new theatre.
The winner was The Adelphi because the theatre stood on the site of the Adelphi Hotel, in which Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Sheffield United, and Sheffield Wednesday were formed. But it was eventually rejected because there were plenty of other Adelphi Theatres across the UK.
It was the publicity manager at the old Sheffield Playhouse, Hilary Young, who came up with the final suggestion, The Crucible.
When the Crucible Theatre went through a £15 million refurbishment between 2007 and late 2009, a new events room above the main entrance was called the Adelphi Room (see photo).
I found out about the ‘voms.’
The Crucible Theatre has two of them, and they lead onto its main stage.
Actors walk up and down them, sometimes they run, some have tripped up and down. A chariot, a car, and goodness know what else, have been driven up them. Snooker players rest in front of them, and when they do, they are seen by millions of people around the world.
They are referred to by actors as the ‘voms,’ the two ‘sally ports’ set into the raked seating at the Crucible Theatre.
On a thrust stage these are called vomitories, and comes from the word ‘vomitory’ or ‘vomitorium’ which meant a passageway in an ancient Roman amphitheatre that connected an outside entrance to a tier of seats.
Alas, vomitory also means a substance that induces vomiting.
Hanover by night
“I believe we now have to break with the past and consign high-rise tower blocks to history. They have served their purpose, but never truly fulfilled their promise, and we have learned valuable and tragic lessons from their brutal, brooding presence in our housing stock.” – Emma Adams.
Hanover House is a single 16-storey block of flats on Exeter Drive, off Hanover Way, built by M J Gleeson on behalf of the Sheffield City Council in 1965-1966. The cladding applied much later to Hanover House was the only tower block cladding in Sheffield which failed fire safety tests and had to be replaced.
The coolest bus in Sheffield
A Heaven 17 design with layout by Malcolm Garrett is adorning this First bus in Sheffield. It pays tribute to the band’s two ground-breaking albums – Penthouse and Pavement and The Luxury Gap.
Heaven 17 are a new wave and synth-pop band that formed in Sheffield in 1980. The band were a trio for most of their career, composed of Martyn Ware (keyboards) and Ian Craig Marsh (keyboards) (both previously of the Human League), and Glenn Gregory (vocals, keyboards).
And talking about Heaven 17
I’ve started reading a book and begun listening to one of the best podcasts out there. Electronically Yours is the name for both, and are the brainchild of Martyn Ware, keyboardist with Heaven 17, composer, arranger, record producer, and music programmer.
The book was written in lockdown and provides charming meditations on culture, humour, travel and sport, Martyn also shares his love of 60s films, explains why Venice is the most beautiful city in the world, and reveals how Sheffield Wednesday has forever been his first and eternal passion.
“And why the title Electronically Yours? I designed the artwork for the front cover of our first Human League single ‘Being Boiled’ and, at that time, I liked the idea of using a strapline or slogan that would humanise the product.”
I’ve listened to several of the 115 episodes that make up the Electronically Yours podcasts, but immediate standouts are lengthy chats with Richard Hawley (in two parts), Mark Radcliffe, Nile Rodgers, and Glen Gregory.
There are no inhibitions, there is a lot of swearing, fascinating stories, and you might easily be in a room with them. And there are loads of stories about Sheffield that will appeal to those of a certain age.
Listening to them makes me realise what is lacking on radio today. Personality. Get a few of these under your belt and you really do think that Martyn is an old friend.
Let us go back to the early 1800s and visit a thoroughfare that was entered under an archway at the top of Haymarket. This narrow sloping lane was lined with squalid houses, little workshops, a few shops, and halfway down, on the left-hand side, was the Nag’s Head public house, that gave the lane its name. Nag’s Head Yard ended in a flight of steps that came out onto Shude Hill.
Despite its proximity to the old town, most folk avoided Nag’s Head Yard, for this was where you were likely to find many of the town’s thieves, brawlers, and drunkards.
Nag’s Head Yard is long forgotten, swept away in the late 1860s, when the construction of a new railway station for the Midland Railway on Sheaf Street necessitated road improvements to it.
Four approach roads were built to what became Sheffield Station. The first was down Howard Street, the second commenced on Sheaf Street, opposite the vegetable market, and passed along the River Sheaf into Harmer Lane. The third was a continuation of Cross Turner Street, emerging at the junction of Shrewsbury Road, Suffolk Road, and St Mary’s Road. And it might surprise you that the fourth approach was from Nag’s Head Yard, passing on arches over Shude Hill, and became known as Commercial Street.
This was one of two brand new roads built by Sheffield’s Street Improvements Committee, the other being Leopold Street.
Historians are easily confused by Commercial Street because there was already a road of the same name in proximity.
In 1834, the inhabitants of Jehu Lane wanted to change its name to something more in the spirit of the times. They asked Town Commissioners to allow street boards to be taken down and be replaced with a new name. Amazingly, the commissioners consented and told the residents to choose a new name. They chose Commercial Street, but this would be short-lived because the council started purchasing and demolishing properties on the east side of Market Street and the south side of Old Haymarket, to create Fitzalan Square, named after the Duke of Norfolk’s family.
This process of compulsory purchase didn’t go well, and Sheffield Corporation was involved in numerous court cases in which displaced residents and businesses demanded better compensation.
Nevertheless, the council pressed ahead with plans for a new 40ft street from the upper end of Old Haymarket, where Nag’s Head Yard was, over Shude Hill, near the gas works by a bridge, and into Sheaf Street.
The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent jokingly said that the new road might be called ‘Wrangle Street,’ but the surveyor of Sheffield Corporation announced in 1870 that the railway approach road would now become Commercial Street.
It confused locals and the Sheffield Independent’s ‘Spectator in Hallamshire’ asked, “What is the name of that street? I never know how to call it.”
Commercial Street allowed the construction of grand new buildings including the Post Office, at its corner with Haymarket, by James Williams in 1871, and offices and showrooms in 1875 for the Sheffield United Gas Company.
One of the most interesting developments involved the King’s Arms Hotel whose frontage faced Jehu Lane (old Commercial Street). The new road cut immediately alongside it, and in a stroke of brilliant business acumen, the proprietors sold the building to the Midland Banking Company for £20,000.
It demolished the front portion of the hotel for a grand new banking hall, designed by Salmon Linton Swann, and redesigned the remaining part of the hotel so that it faced onto new Commercial Street. The bank would eventually become Barclays Bank.
Both the old Post Office and gas showrooms survive but have been empty for years, the latter regarded as one of Sheffield’s finest Victorian buildings, and is now called Canada House, subject of a current planning application to turn it into Harmony Works, a new home for music education in the region.
However, Barclays Bank and the King’s Arms Hotel were both demolished in the late 1960s as part of further road improvements. It had been decided to make Commercial Street a dual carriageway, linking it to Park Square and Sheffield Parkway, and the two old buildings were swept away. The bank relocated to a newly constructed white office block (behind the site of the old King’s Arms Hotel) and subsequently became Commercial House, occupied these days by law firm Knights.
Ponds Forge International Leisure Centre was added to the bottom of Commercial Street by architects FaulknerBrowns for the World Student Games between 1989-1991.
But a few years later, Commercial Street underwent its biggest transformation with the building of Sheffield Supertram. The original line of the street was covered with new tram tracks, a gateway into the city centre, while the carriageway built on the site of the bank and hotel retained road traffic.
The construction of the iconic bowstring steel arch bridge allowed trams to travel over Park Square Roundabout, across Shude Hill, and onwards through the city centre.
Considering that Commercial Street is about 150 years old, building work has been limited, and there is no denying that recent times have been unkind. Empty buildings and graffiti blight the street, but with the redevelopment of Fitzalan Square, the Grey-to-Green project, proposals to develop Castlegate, and its proximity to Sheffield Hallam University, means that the future might be considerably brighter.
We forget about Attercliffe, and so it is inevitable that we forget its lost buildings.
One example is Attercliffe Parish Church, also known as Christ Church Attercliffe, once a grand place of worship, badly damaged in the Sheffield Blitz of 1940 and later demolished.
And we might be forgiven for not knowing where it stood, but its site is plain to see.
We can turn to Pawson and Brailsford’s Illustrated Guide to Sheffield (1868) for details: –
“There is a handsome church at Attercliffe, which is about two miles from the centre of town, on the Doncaster Road. Formerly Attercliffe was a detached village, but now it is practically a busy manufacturing suburb of Sheffield. It was opened in 1826, having been built by means of a Parliamentary grant, at the cost of £14,000. It is a Gothic building, with lancet windows and a handsome groined roof. It will accommodate from 1,100 to 1,200 persons.”
The old chapel-of-ease of the Township of Attercliffe-cum-Darnall, dating from the 17th century, had been replaced by the new church.
Attercliffe, at that time, was a comparatively small place, and largely consisted of lanes and fields, and the new church was one of four churches built in Sheffield out of what was known as the ‘Million Fund.’
The nucleus of the building fund consisted of a grant from an indemnity paid to England by Austria after the Battle of Waterloo.
The first stone was laid by the 12th Duke of Norfolk assisted by the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam in October 1822 and took four years to build. It was consecrated by the Archbishop Vernon Harcourt of York in 1826.
Early directories referred to the church as standing near the bold cliff which overhangs the Don.
“Time was when Attercliffe was a place of sylvan beauty and picturesque repose, of pleasant pastures and stately houses on the banks of a River Don whose waters were clear and transparent.”
“In the church, there are galleries on the sides and at the west end; which, with the pews in the body of the church, contain two thousand sittings. Some of the windows of the church are ornamented with painted glass, containing the arms of Fitzwilliam and Surrey, Gell, Milner, Staniforth, and Blackburn.”
The churchyard closed for burials in 1856 and a cemetery leading down to the Don was opened in 1859.
In 1876, the church was closed for cleaning and redecoration.
“Below the windows the walls are tinted puce, but above they are straw-coloured, with ornamental work above the windows. The groins are picked out in stone and the roof is coloured buff. White is the groundwork of the chancel roof, but other tints are introduced.”
The church didn’t forget the men who served in World War One, and at a cost of £300 a memorial was erected in the form of oak reredos and panelling together with remembrance panels framed in oak, bearing the names of all those who answered the call of their country.
By the time of its centenary in 1926, the parish embraced around 33,000 souls, but it was a different place.
“The mere mention of Attercliffe to those who are closely acquainted with it is scarcely calculated to send them into ecstasies of delight, for the very sound reason that Attercliffe has precious little that appeals to the aesthetic sense. Attercliffe and throbbing, thriving industry are – in normal times – synonymous terms, and when the clang and clatter, the smoke and grime of heavy trades fill the air, Attercliffe, from the casual visitor’s point of view, is a place to get away from rather than to remain at.
“Looking back upon a picture of a rural landscape, with its common (now filled with shops), its thatched cottages, and its sheep grazing on the riverbanks, the individual might well exclaim: ‘All this has changed.’”
The church was in debt for years, especially after the installation of electricity, and following the departure of Rev. A. Robinson in 1930, the church revealed that its finances were “vague and confused,” and that he had left a debt of £550-£600.
Unfortunately, the church was closed after bomb damage in 1940. Most of its contents were destroyed and Sheffield lost one of its finest churches.
The organ from the blitzed church was rebuilt and taken to St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Hanover Street.
The adjacent church hall became the parish church until 1950, and then functioned as a chapel in the parish of Attercliffe-cum-Carbrook until it was closed in April 1981. The new church of St Alban (Darnall) is now the parish church of Attercliffe.
In 1953, the site of the old church and its graveyard was turned into a garden, an area of pleasant green turf bordered by paths. It was opened by the Lord Mayor, Coun. Oliver S. Holmes, who said, “it was inspiration to the whole city that good will make beauty rise from the rubble of war.”
The church site and the garden of remembrance can be seen on Attercliffe Road, opposite the Don Valley Hotel. Access is available into old Attercliffe Cemetery behind and the Five Weirs Walk.
NOTE A rare book, ‘The Church in Attercliffe,’ by Rev. Arthur Robinson, was published to celebrate the church’s centenary in 1926.
I saw this photo from the early nineties. It made me think of a good book I read in the garden, when it was sunny, and we were in lockdown.
“My career was flourishing, I had reached the dizzy heights of compere at the Fiesta, one of the North’s most prestigious night clubs, where I did an hour spot and introduced acts like Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson, as well as all the top British acts. It gave me an opportunity to study the great comics like Tommy Cooper and Dave Allen.
“The Fiesta was as plush back-stage as it was out front. The 2000 strong audience wore full evening dress. It was how I imagined showbiz would be – far removed from the stark reality of Working Men’s Clubs.”
From Marti Caine/A Coward’s Chronicles/1990
I saw a big yellow crane in the Peace Gardens
I visited the Peace Gardens and there was a big yellow crane. Christmas preparations, and the installation of the Alpine Bar. Further evidence that it will soon be upon us. This photograph was posted elsewhere, and somebody said I was colour-blind because the crane was red.
It was dark and quiet, and two students stood talking
The early hours of the morning. A view from Regent Terrace towards Leavygreave Road, and two young men, presumably students, stand talking outside the University of Sheffield’s futuristic Diamond Building.
This time is theirs, but had they been from another era, they might have heard the sound of crying babies, new life, nurses chattering, and tears of joy and sadness from emotional parents. This had been the site of Jessop’s Hospital for Women.
Sheffield Hallam University is going to London
In 1843, the Sheffield School of Design was founded in response to the industrial revolution, in which the town established itself as a leading centre for steel production.
By the 1850s, it had changed its name to the Sheffield School of Art and merged with the College of Commerce and Technology in 1969 to become Sheffield Polytechnic.
It evolved into Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) in 1992, with the right to award its own degrees, and according to latest figures is the fourteenth largest university in the UK with over 30,000 students (seemingly more than the University of Sheffield).
And now it is to open its first satellite campus outside Sheffield in Brent Cross Town, the 180-acre, £8Bn new park town in London.
The town will bring together 6,700 new homes, over 50 locations for retail, food, and drink, provide workspace for over 25,000 people and build a community around three redeveloped schools, health, wellness, and amenity services.
Sheffield Hallam University will occupy the lower 6 floors of the first commercial building at Brent Cross Town and focus its degree-course offering on the subject areas for which the university is renowned, including health and wellbeing, business, finance, management, digital and technological skills.
The focus will be on recruitment of local students, with a significant proportion expected to be from the surrounding area and follows the same strategy as in Sheffield where 40% of the university’s students come from within a 25-mile radius. It is scheduled to open from 2025/26, with the aim of reaching 5,000 students by 2030.
I found out that Alun Armstrong used to visit Sheffield schools
I wonder how many people remember the children’s theatre company, Theatre Vanguard, which toured Sheffield schools with a company of professional actors during the 1960s and 1970s.
It was the brainchild of Colin George, Sheffield Playhouse’s artistic director, and when the theatre closed its doors in 1971, the project transferred with him to the newly constructed Crucible Theatre.
If this brings back memories, as it does me, then you might have seen an up-and-coming young actor called Alun Armstrong, who also appeared in the Playhouse’s last production, I Was Hitler’s Maid.
Since then, his credits have included several Charles Dickens adaptations, and the eccentric ex-detective Brian Lane in TV’s New Tricks.
He spent nine years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, originated the role of Thénardier in the London production of Les Misérables, and won an Olivier Award in the title role in Sweeney Todd.
He’s also known for playing Cardinal Jinette from the Van Helsing franchise, Baltus Hafez in The Mummy Returns, Uncle Garrow from Eragon, the High Constable from Sleepy Hollow and Maxwell Randall in Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire.
And he also appeared at your school assembly hall.
A story about New York‘s Cornelia Street Cafe
Another story about Theatre Vanguard, the Sheffield Playhouse project that toured city schools during the 1960s and 1970s, and later transferred to the Crucible Theatre.
With plays, improvised pieces, and audience participation, the company introduced performing arts to schoolkids.
One of the original troupe members was a London-born actor called Robin Hirsch.
“I taught for a year and a half at a German University when I was very young. When I came back to England, I became an actor at the Sheffield Playhouse, and I was hired partly to be a junior actor on the mainstage, but also to help with what was a pilot program in theatre and education. It was Theatre Vanguard — we went into the community to do stuff and we would bring the community to us.”
In 1977, Hirsch created the New Works Project, a peripatetic experimental theatre company in New York, and, along with two other artists—Irish American actor Charles McKenna and Argentinean-Canadian-Italian painter and sculptor Raphaela Pivetta—he opened a tiny one-room café in New York City’s Greenwich Village: the Cornelia Street Café.
Its size and reputation grew, and it was where singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega started out, as did Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. There were performances from members of Monty Python and the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as singer Jeff Buckley, and it’s alleged that Lady Gaga had a job here.
Hirsch ran the Cornelia Street Cafe for forty-one-and-a-half years until he was forced to close it in 2018 due to rising rent.
An unplannedAttercliffe experience
It was Friday afternoon, and I’d dropped somebody off at Cineworld, and I thought I’d go and take some photographs of the old Adelphi Picture Theatre at Attercliffe (soon to be in council hands).
I realised I’d not really investigated this part of Sheffield, and I was blown away when I discovered Attercliffe Cemetery.
I spent an hour tramping through autumn leaves, between graves, and down to the river.
I didn’t see a soul, but when it was time to go, a man with an Alsatian dog appeared out of the gloom, and said ‘hello’ with a strong Brummie accent.
“If you really wanna know what lonely is, ask an expert, I know!”
This line appeared in ‘Lonely is,’ sung by Ella Fitzgerald in 1968.
These expressive words came to mind after receiving the following story from Ian Bright, whose family lineage goes back to Sir John Bright (1619-1688), a Parliamentarian of Carbrook and Badsworth.
“I spent nearly fifty years in the now nearly defunct cutlery and silverware industry.
“During the 1970s, our then company secretary asked me to take a telephone call from a foreign lady he couldn’t understand.
“I said hello, to which the response came, ‘Hi, this is Ella Fitzgerald. I’m staying at the Grosvenor House Hotel, and have seen some cutlery in your showcase, and could someone come and see me.’
“It was one of the quickest responses to a sales request ever, and minutes later I was knocking on the door of her suite.
“She made me very welcome, and explained she’d spotted some imitation bone white handle cutlery that she thought would be ideal for breakfast use. Business was concluded very quickly, but it was only the start.
“Ella was tired and lonely and obviously wanted company. In the centre of the room was a table full of pills, potions, and fruit. She wore glasses with thick lenses and explained that singing in smoke-filled clubs with glaring lights had taken its toll on her, and the constant travelling made her want to be back home with her family.
“I asked her why she still did it, and she replied with conviction. ‘FOR THE FANS.’
“We chatted about families and life for ages, and I left feeling humbled and lucky to have spent quality time with the best lady jazz singer the world has ever seen.”
Ian believes that this was Ella Fitzgerald’s last UK tour, and at this time, she began to experience serious health problems, but continued to perform periodically, even after heart surgery in 1986.
In 1993, however, her career was curtailed following complications stemming from diabetes, which resulted in the amputation of both her legs below the knees. She died three years later.
I can trace this story to 1974, when she headlined at the Fiesta on Arundel Gate (now Odeon Luxe).
The Grosvenor House Hotel, once Sheffield’s finest, fell on hard times, and was demolished in 2017, replaced with the office block called Grosvenor House, occupied by HSBC, as part of the Heart of the City redevelopment.
It’s hard to imagine Attercliffe with green fields and a beautiful river. It became a village, and when Sheffield’s industry exploded, it turned into a busy suburb. It was almost a town, but when the downturn came, we ignored it, and look at its present sorry state.
This will change because Attercliffe is a development opportunity waiting to happen. It’s close to the city centre, motorway, and Meadowhall, and it’s mostly brownfield site.
Sheffield Council probably thinks the same.
It is buying the Grade II-listed Adelphi building, on Vicarage Road, using some of the £37m government levelling-up funds allocated to the city, to buy and refurbish the site and open it for community use.
And the council says there are other ‘important’ buildings on Attercliffe’s faded high street that it might consider buying.
The Adelphi opened as a cinema in October 1920, built on the site of former vicarage gardens.
It was designed by William Carter Fenton (1861-1959), alderman and subsequently Lord Mayor of Sheffield, and a former corporation surveyor who established the architectural practice of Hall and Fenton.
With a seating capacity of 1,350, it joined four other cinemas at Attercliffe, and it’s first showing was Irving Cummings in Auction of Souls.
According to Cinema Treasures, the red brick building has buff and blue coloured terracotta enrichments on the façade, especially on the small turret dome over the entrance, which also has stained glass windows.
“Internally the features add to its grandeur with detailed ceilings, granite floors and wide staircases. Seating in the auditorium was provided in stalls and circle, and the projection box was in the rear stalls, underneath the circle.
“The cinema was in reverse, and patrons entered the auditorium from behind the screen. The decoration includes pilasters, a segment-arched panelled ceiling and a moulded proscenium arch with a central crest which is flanked by torches. The circle has a lattice-work plaster front.”
The familiar ‘soft carpets that harboured and carried disease’ were replaced with cork carpet and linoleum. But from the standpoint of health, it allowed fresh air and sunshine to be admitted. There were no fewer than 17 windows and between performances these were thrown wide open, and during showings they were covered with dark blinds.
It underwent some restoration in 1936 and a re-decoration in 1939. It received some bomb damage during the second week of the blitz and was closed for around a month. It received further renovation in 1946.
The Adelphi operated as a cinema until 1967 after which it became a bingo hall. The striking art deco building later hosted Sheffield’s famous Gatecrasher club nights, among other events, and was also used as a music teaching centre. It sat empty from 2006 until 2013 and has since been used only for storage.
Last year, CODA Bespoke on behalf of Olympia Wellbeing Academy, was granted permission to convert the building’s ground floor into an educational and sporting facility for children.
It was the 1960s, retail was in ascendancy, and Marks & Spencer, with a small shop on Fargate, wanted to build a new store and expand. To do so, it purchased an adjacent property called Fargate House, and Sheffield lost one of its finest buildings.
“As we drove along, we happened to pass a very splendid building. On looking up, I saw it was the new offices of the ‘Independent’ newspaper,” said the Archbishop of York in 1892, the year it had been built.
In the 1890s, there were two newspapers in Sheffield. W.C. Leng owned the Sheffield Daily Telegraph (forerunner to The Star), and the Leader family were proprietors of the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent. This was a time when newspapers sold thousands of copies daily, and the two were bitter rivals.
The Independent, founded in 1819, to secure ‘British independence, and an amelioration of the condition of the British people,’ had moved premises several times, and when Sheffield Corporation began widening Fargate, it purchased a plot of land.
The site nestled between Tuckwood’s Supply Store and the properties of George Shepley and T.R. Marsden. It was described as an inverted capital ‘T’, the top crossing Fargate and the tail pointing towards Norfolk Street behind. Much the same as Marks & Spencer today.
As were many Sheffield buildings of the day, the new Independent offices were designed by Flockton and Gibbs and constructed by William Ives of Shipley. The crosspiece on Fargate contained shops and commercial offices that were let, while the tail was occupied by the newspaper across six floors.
Once completed, the front of ‘Newspaper House’ was said to be the most imposing of numerous buildings erected in Fargate.
The architectural treatment was defined as ‘modern,’ the front too valuable to afford space for heavy piers and walls. The main arched entrance was set back from the building line, the wings on each side giving the shops on the ground floor a graceful curve to the front. The whole was covered with a steep picturesque roof, and surmounted with a sky sign, the letters of which were four feet high.
The style was said to be a development of early French Renaissance, more particularly the phase of it, which was seen in the Chateaux of the Valley of the Loire, of which the high pitched hipped roofs were an essential feature, but with ornament and mouldings more Greek than Roman.
Newspaper House was built with best Huddersfield stone, celebrated for its durability and its resistance in some measure, to the blackening influence of town atmosphere. On the last count, it failed, because within years it was as black as the rest of Sheffield’s buildings.
The arched recess entrance was placed at the centre, built of moulded stone; it embraced three entrances, leading respectively to the counting-house, a stone staircase, and an upholstered passenger lift to the offices.
The basement was occupied by the machine room with two Victory News machines capable of producing 16,000 copies per hour, and one of the latest forms of the famous Hoe printing machines. Two powerful steam-engines, manufactured by Shardlow of Attercliffe, stood at the far end.
Above was a bookbinding department, where account books, pamphlets and books were bound in all styles, as well as the paper warehouse.
The Counting House, with tesserae floor, and massive mahogany counter, was where the public placed advertisements and orders. The building also contained a library of Sheffield newspaper files dating back to 1787, all copies of the London Times, and an immense collection of Parliamentary records.
On the second floor, reporters were clustered around a central corridor which extended the length of the building.
A technical advance was the installation of two telephones – one in the commercial department for use by day, the other in the sub-editor’s room for use during the night.
Messengers raced between the office and Sheffield’s two railway stations bringing in packets dispatched by district correspondents, while every few hours a large bag of letters were brought from the Post Office.
The rest of the building housed the composing room, lithograph and letterpress departments, and rooms for photography and zincography, both in their infancy.
“The inconveniences of photography consequent upon the dull atmosphere of Sheffield will be entirely overcome by the adoption of electric light for photographic purposes.”
At the Norfolk Street end, newspapers were despatched overnight. Carts distributed parcels to local newsagents and railway stations, the aim being that readers had their morning paper on their breakfast tables.
In 1931, consolidation within the newspaper industry meant that the Sheffield Independent was taken over by Allied Newspapers, now owner of the Sheffield Telegraph, and Newspaper House was surplus to requirement.
By the time it merged with the Telegraph in 1938, the old building had been sold and completely refurbished by architect Victor Heal as offices. The building was gutted, the frontage retained, but the upholstered lift and stone staircase were replaced.
A new entrance was made from Hoptonwood stone and black marble, surmounted by a dome, with an artistic lantern, in green and cream, and an illuminated electric clock with the figures ‘No.21’. Beneath were green enamel letters that stated the building’s new name – Fargate House.
It lasted until the 1960s, but Fargate had become one of Sheffield’s premier shopping streets. It was demolished in 1965 and the stylish new Marks & Spencer store built in its place.
I have an intriguing question. If we were to dig beneath the roads flanking the City Hall, what would we find?
Holly Street and Balm Green, both 60ft wide, were created in 1932 to service the newly constructed building.
“The importance of a big space is emphasised when it is realised that between 3,000 and 4,000 people will frequently leave the City Hall within a few minutes and many of them will have motor-cars,” said M. J. Hadfield, the City Engineer, at the time.
It turned out to be a massive undertaking because the roads were built over old cellars and three deep wells and required a bed of 12 inch concrete with double reinforcements, triangulated to provide the greatest possible strength at the least expense. Masses of iron rods were intertwined in the form of triangles, allowing the roads to carry weights more than 100 tons.
The cellars had belonged to shops between Pool Square and Holly Street and had been erected well over a hundred years before. In the first instance they were private dwellings, but in the course of time were reconstructed and remodelled as shops and demolished to make way for the City Hall.
What undiscovered treasures lay beneath these roads?
In the Burgery of 1609 Holly Street is referred to as Blynde Lane, and in 1700 is called Blind Lane or Hollin Lane, while the records of 1823 show it as Hollin Street. The corruption of Hollin Street to Holly Street is simple because ‘hollin’ or ‘hollen’ was an ancient name for holly.
In Fairbank’s survey, what is now Barker’s Pool appears as Balm Green, while the lane now known as Balm Green was called Flint Well. In Taylor’s survey of 1832, Balm Green had been renamed Barker’s Pool, while Flint Well was known as Flint Well Lane. With the building of the City Hall, Flint Well Lane became Balm Green.
The origin of Balm Green is one that has puzzled historians, but there is a likely explanation.
Joseph Woolhouse wrote in 1832, that a Mr Barker was living at Balm House, a large farmhouse supposed to be situated in Coal Pit Lane (now Cambridge Street). Behind the house were orchards where now Back Fields is. It is possible that Balm Green was the herb garden attached to the orchards.
But we should also consider that Orchard Street, between Church Street and Leopold Street, was once the site of an extensive fruit garden known as Brelsforth’s Orchard, and Balm Green might have been the herb garden attached to this property instead.
A less likely theory suggests that the open space between the former John Lewis department store and the City Hall was once called Le Baine, with an early reference in a deed of 1333. Because the area was rich in springs and wells, it has been suggested that Le Baine evolved from the Latin word ‘balneum’, a warm bath, or a place for swimming, and eventually into ‘balm’.
Mr Barker established our first waterworks at Balm Green in 1434. The area subsequently became Barker’s Pool and two centuries later, it was cleaned and repaired by a public benefactor, Robert Rollinson, and for upwards of three centuries was in daily use. The pool in its latter days became defiled; the rubbish of the town, and dead animals, were thrown in, and it was subsequently filled up in 1793.