A week in Steelopolis

Former Endcliffe Sunday School, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. Image/Axis Architecture

Food court proposal for old Sunday School

Last year, we looked at proposals to convert the former Endcliffe Sunday School, next to the old Endcliffe Methodist Church, on Ecclesall Road, into apartments and townhouses. Over a year later, the plans have been changed and now designs have been submitted for the alteration, extension, and conversion of the building, to create ‘Founders & Co’ a food hall/street food restaurant, bar, and local enterprise hub, with ancillary retail and business workspace.

The Sunday School was originally built at a cost of £8,000 for the adjacent Methodist Church. It was designed by John Charles Amory Teather, who placed copies of religious and local newspapers, a circuit plan, and a programme of the day’s proceedings in a cavity, when the foundation stone was laid on 6 October 1927.

The vacant Sunday School comprises a central large classroom with a stage to the south that is lit naturally by the rear window. The front of the stage is decorated with a plaster architrave topped with a hood that includes the date ‘1928’, the date of completion.

In later years it was sold to the University of Sheffield and, in 1985, became the Traditional Heritage Museum. The museum closed in 2011 and the building was last used by the university in 2016.

‘Founders & Co’ is a concept developed by Bark Design Studios which has seen the successful rollout of the concept in Swansea and models itself on other food hall operations like Kommune, at Sheffield’s Castle House, although on a smaller scale.

Proposed Founders & Co at Endcliffe Sunday School, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. Image/Axis Architecture


Meadowhall receives planning permission for leisure extension

Retail as we’ve known it is disappearing, and Meadowhall can see that its future will be leisure-led. Plans for an extension to the shopping centre have been approved and will include a new indoor recreation and leisure hall, shops, food and drink units, extension to the existing cinema, police station and car showroom. The plan has been scaled down twice and includes an agreement to delay building the leisure hall until 2029, to minimise impact on Sheffield and Rotherham centres.


Old Town Hall, Waingate, Sheffield. Image/Sheffield in Ruins/Denzil Watson/2022/Revelations 23 Press

Renewed fears for future of the Old Town Hall

This photo has been doing the rounds this week. It shows a missing floor at Sheffield’s Old Town Hall and is featured in a new book.

Sheffield In Ruins, by Denzil Watson, is a fascinating photographic record of city locations that once teemed with life, but that found themselves empty and unwanted as the city’s story moved on.

Since first exploring the dereliction of Sheffield’s East End in the late 1980s, Denzil Watson has developed a passion for secret spaces that once had a purpose – interiors that are now smashed and trashed, rusting and wrecked, but that have a desperate beauty all their own.

The photo emerges at the same time as Valerie Bayliss, chair of the Friends of the Old Town Hall, urged its owner, Gary Ata, to show he was serious about restoring the ‘great old listed building which has been neglected for too long’. Built in 1808, it has been disused for 25 years.

“In its current state it’s likely to be a drag on the city council’s plans to regenerate Castlegate; it will probably deter other potential investors; and we know its condition is getting worse. We hope the city council is monitoring the situation closely.”

According to David Walsh, writing for the Sheffield Star, “Mr Ata snapped up the site on Waingate for £600,000. He registered a company called The Courthouse Apartments (Sheffield) Ltd and took out two loans which were repaid on November 28 this year. But no repair or restoration work appear to have taken place.”


Site of new Manhatta at Balm Green, Sheffield. Imagee/Ashleigh Signs

A lively addition to Balm Green

Into the city centre, and a lively addition to the normal solitude of Balm Green, next to Sheffield City Hall.

Once upon a time, this was the site of the Grand Hotel, replaced by Fountain Precinct, a brown and neutral tiled office building, built in the 1970s. It ranges from six to nine stories in height across its various wings and is arranged around a central courtyard.

The building has recently undergone major refurbishment, with lots of glass, shared business lounge, external roof terrace, break out areas and upgraded common areas.

Early next year, the ground floor, fronting Balm Green, is to become Manhatta bar/restaurant and says it will be beneficial for both locals and visitors to the area.

The company already operates in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Harrogate, and York.


Castlegate House, Haymarket, Sheffield. Image: DNA Group

Apartment plans for Castlegate House

News of an unusual planning application for Castlegate House at 12-18 Haymarket. Built in the 1960s, the ground floor was once occupied by British Home Stores (BHS) but is now a branch of B&M Bargains.

The application is for change of use on the upper floor from retail (unused) to large ‘housing in multiple occupation’ style letting rooms. The basement will be converted into a gym for residents, while the existing ground floor shop and first floor snooker hall will remain unaffected.

The proposal is to convert the second and third floors into high quality student accommodation. New windows will be included to each room for light and fresh air, with the central part of the building removed to provide a large open space to the central area and light to the inner rooms.

Each room will have its own kitchenette, bathroom, seating and sleeping areas. There is a large communal area in the glazed atrium and a communal kitchen/ dining area on each floor.

Access to the site will be from Dixon Lane and across the walkway bridge to the covered way at Haymarket. Both entrances will have electronic key entry, CCTV cameras, and a video entry system.

It isn’t the most attractive building in the area, but the exterior will be upgraded to include new window openings, while the Haymarket front will be re clad with stylish metal sheeting.

Proposed designs for Castlegate House, Haymarket, Sheffield. Image: DNA Group

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


A week in Steelopolis

Crucible Theatre. Image: Rich Bamford

A bit of a dramarama

What do the following have in common?

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).


Image: Hufton & Crow/VIEW/Alamy

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).


Electronically Yours/Martyn Ware/Constable Books/2022. Image: DJP/2022

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.

Martyn Ware/Image: The Bookseller

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


A week in Steelopolis

The Fiesta – early 1990s. Now Odeon Luxe. Image: Sheffield Modernist

I saw an old photo, and thought of Marti Caine

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 unplanned Attercliffe 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.



A week in Steelopolis

It was Halloween

“Oh how the candles will be lit and the wood of worm burn in a fiery dust. For on all Hallows Eve will the spirits come to play, and only the fruit of thy womb will satisfy their endless roaming.” – Solange Nicole.

Before the rains came. Autumn leaves and a gravestone. Sheffield Cathedral.


In the still of an autumn night

St James’ Row, beside Sheffield Cathedral. It took its name from St James’ Church that stood at the end of St James’ Street (next to where St James House now stands). The church was consecrated in 1789, but by 1945 its roof and fittings had gone, destroyed by the blitz. The shell of the building remained, awaiting the hands of an appreciative restorer, but one never came. It was eventually dismantled in 1950.


It was business as usual

Listeners didn’t suspect a thing. It was business as usual. But it must have been hard for BBC Radio Sheffield presenters to take to the airwaves.

It was the second BBC local radio station to go on the air, launching in November 1967, and yesterday, they heard that Acting Director of BBC England, Jason Horton, was going to “grow local impact in all parts of the country.”

In other words, the BBC are cutting jobs on local radio stations in England, as part of its strategy to become a ‘modern, digital-led’ broadcaster.

Local shows will only survive on weekday mornings and lunchtimes (6am till 2pm) whilst the rest of the output, apart from evening and weekend sport, will be shared either regionally or nationally.

A possible 139 posts will be at risk because of the changes, and a voluntary redundancy drive is being launched. So, who will go? Toby Foster? Paulette Edwards? Howard Pressman?

There will be six regions going forward, covering North West/North East, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, Midlands, London and East, South, and South West.

It means that outside the eight hours of local programming, the station effectively becomes the radio equivalent of TV’s Look North – BBC Radio North anyone?


Orchard Square. Image: Tim Dennell/Flickr

Orchard Square and its mega-canopy

In 1987, Orchard Square was ground-breaking, and provided an exciting addition to Sheffield’s shopping scene. And yet, I always got the feeling that people were reluctant to leave Fargate and try something different.

Thirty five years later, Orchard Square finds itself at midpoint.

Nobody could have predicted the internet, a pandemic, and the fact that our shops became stale and generic. And for a long time, we made a mess of the city centre. Like the rest of town, Orchard Square suffered from shop closures and empty units.

But I’m firmly on the side of those that say city centre regeneration will be worth it afterwards. But as I’ve said before, I’m also one of those that hates the slow progress of planning and development.

The future of Orchard Square is going to be leisure, entertainment, and city living.

In January, its owners, London Associated Properties, said it planned to create an events space as well as 13 flats from empty shops.

And now it has submitted a planning application to install a massive canopy in the centre of the square to provide weather protection so markets and events can be held all year. It would be suspended on wires and ‘demountable’ to stop it creating ‘more shade than is desirable.’

The application also includes plans to install more than a dozen awnings above shops to ‘add colour and visual interest’ and ‘provide protection.’

It seems likely that the scheme will get the go-ahead, with Sheffield City Council earmarking £750K of public money from the Future High Streets Fund towards it.


I like colour and light

This is Lightbox, student accommodation on Earl Street, and typical of the things I see at night.

I’m a nightwalker and enjoy seeing Sheffield city centre when most of you are in bed. The use of colour and light makes everything more mysterious and interesting.

But things are changing.

The significant increase in our energy bills means lights are being switched off across the city.

And who can blame anyone for doing so?

But it will make everything seem rather drab.


Soaring into autumn darkness

Is everybody in bed, or are most of these apartments empty? And those rumpled vertical blinds really annoy me.

Velocity Tower should have been 30-storeys high, but construction halted on the 21st floor. When the developer went into administration it was eventually sold to Dubai-based Select Group which also agreed a deal to build the £6.5m Ibis Hotel next door.


A Victorian renaissance

The Montgomery Theatre on Surrey Street is set to receive funding as part of the Future High Streets Fund.

The owners are set to receive £495K to support them in redeveloping the 136-year-old building. The money would go towards making all public areas accessible for the first time as well as changes to the interior design and layout. The upper floors of the building will also be opened.

The grant will help support and expand The Montgomery’s vision of becoming Yorkshire’s leading arts centre for children and young people.

Built in Domestic Gothic-style at a cost of £15,000 in 1884-1886, the Montgomery Hall, as it was called, was designed by Sheffield architect Charles John Innocent (1839-1901) and constructed by George Longden and Son.

The Future High Streets Fund supports landowners to utilise unused space by opening the upper floors of their building and make improvements to frontages on Fargate, High Street and connecting routes such as Surrey Street and Chapel Walk.

Earlier this week, we looked at plans to cover Orchard Square with a huge canopy, and the conversion of the upper floors into eight new apartments. If approved, the scheme is set to receive £990K of funding.

Sheffield City Council’s Finance Sub-Committee will meet next week to discuss both proposals.


Castlegate plans move forward

At last, positive news about Castlegate, once home to Sheffield Castle and Castle Market.

You may remember that Sheffield City Council secured £18m funding from the Levelling Up Fund to develop the derelict site, and it will go to public consultation from next week.

The council hopes to create a new public space which focuses on heritage, culture, and sustainability. It would see the Castle site transformed with new ‘grey to green’ planting, footpaths, a community events space, a de-culverted River Sheaf, and other infrastructure needed to unlock future development.

A ‘Concept Plan’ vision can be seen at the Moor Market between 8-11 November, as well as scheduled presentations at 18 Exchange Street and a Zoom session.

Visitors will be able to comment at Moor Market and an online survey will be available from November 7.

A planning application is due in early 2023, with construction starting in summer and finishing in spring 2024.

However, the Council has estimated that ‘high level’ costs of the proposed changes included in the Concept Plan means the Levelling Up Fund may not be enough to cover all the costs.


“Oh,my poor head.”

I walked into the night to see what I could find. The only person I saw was a drunken young lad staggering somewhere. “It’s the Harley,” he slurred, as I took a photograph.

I remembered Dr Marriott Hall who married Sarah Firth in 1866. She was the daughter of Mark Firth, the steel magnate, who gave them a new house and surgery at this corner on Glossop Road.

And then, I thought of Dr Hall riding his horse along Endcliffe Vale Road in 1878. The horse threw him off and the doctor’s head struck a kerbstone.

“Oh, my poor head,” he complained, and suffered a slow agonising death.

Lastly, I thought of students. Drinking, dancing, and shouting.


Harry Styles was singing

The Gothic Revival church of St Silas lit up like a beacon. It’s a far cry from the cold and gloomy day of February 1869 when the Archbishop of York consecrated this new church in front of a full congregation.

It cost £8K, a gift from Henry Wilson of Sharrow, and the work of John Brightmore Mitchell-Withers.

His Grace read the 24th Psalm, but on this autumn night all I can hear from inside is Harry Styles singing Late Night Talking, which seems appropriate and inappropriate at the same time.

The church closed at the Millennium and is now student accommodation.


And finally… look what happened in 1929

Sheffield City Hall is getting into early festive spirit.

When it was constructed between 1929-1932, the foundations were sunk to a depth of 30ft. The earth that was removed was taken to build a new dirt track for motor-cycle racing, and this became Owlerton Stadium.


©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Another old building falls victim

Admire this old building while you can… because its days are numbered.

Down it will come, to be replaced with a 27-storey residential development that will provide accommodation for more than 500 students.

Niveda Realty has been granted planning permission for the Calico Sheffield development on the site bounded by Hollis Croft and Broad Lane in the city’s St Vincent’s Quarter.

It will mean demolition for this 90-year-old building, originally constructed for the Hallamshire Tyre and Motor Company in 1930, and recently occupied by Sytner Sheffield.

The smell of oil, grease and petrol is a vague memory for the art-deco building, remarkable for the clever configuration of ground-floor windows that reduce in height with Broad Lane’s incline.  

A familiar site for over 90 years (Image: David Poole)

This area was once considered a slum, with an outbreak of cholera in 1832 blamed on poor sanitation. This caused an exodus of the better-off and the area became the preserve of the working-class poor, with a large influx of Irish immigrants seeking work in the growing cutlery trade in the years following the potato famine.

The site eventually became the Royal Oak public house, fronting Hollis Croft, with access to Court 2, Broad Lane, and a blacksmith. By 1928, they had been replaced with a large building for the Dunlop Rubber Company and shortly afterwards Nos. 2-4 Broad Lane were built alongside for the Hallamshire Tyre and Motor Company, tyre and tube repairers, petrol and oil dealers, motor-car, and electrical engineers.

It was owned and operated by Charles M. Walker, of Whirlowdale Road, and Maurice F. Parkes, of Hoober Road, who turned it into a limited company in 1932.

Hallamshire Tyre & Motor Co in 1939 (Image: Picture Sheffield)

The firm became the Hallamshire Motor Company, specialists in Standard, Triumph, Ford, and Vauxhall cars. It subsequently became an Austin-Rover dealer on a new site, on the opposite side of Hollis Croft, until the franchise was transferred to Kennings who built a showroom next door.

The Hallamshire Motor Company became the Sheffield dealer for BMW, modernising the old workshops to sell used cars, and in 1995 was acquired by Nottingham-based Sytner Group to become Sytner Sheffield.

Sytner transferred to purpose-built premises at Brightside Way in 2017 leaving the old site vacant for development.

Awaiting demolition. 2-4 Broad Lane. (Image: David Poole)

Had the building been anywhere else, it might have been suitable for use as an exhibition or art-space (reminiscent of the Kenning’s Building on Paternoster Row), but the area’s multiplying student accommodation meant the outcome was predictable.  

The new development will replace the old garage. (Image: den architecture)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Victoria Road: an elegant street

Victoria Road, at Broomhall, is built on land that was once attached to the estate of Broom Hall, the manor house, and belonged to the de Ecclesall family, the Wickersleys, and the Jessops, until the death in 1734 of William, Lord Darcy, after which it passed down the female line to the Rev. Wilkinson, Vicar of Sheffield, in the late 18th century.

He died in 1805 and the Broom Hall estate passed to Philip Gell of Hopton, and from him to John Watson of Shirecliffe Hall, who farmed the land for 20 years, and from 1829 split and leased plots for development.

As Sheffield grew, there was an increasing demand for suburban villas to the west of the town where occupants included manufacturers of steel, cutlery, and edge tools.

Victoria Road, named in honour of our Queen, was laid out in 1855, the road curving from Broomhall Road to join Collegiate Crescent. It was a mix of detached and semi-detached properties, the larger houses built at the top end of the road, close to old Broom Hall, with smaller dwellings at the opposite end.

Little has changed since Victorian times, the houses are much the same, except the trees have grown much larger, and the stone walls at the front of each plot still hide what goes on behind.

Back then, this was a road of masters and servants, horse and carriages, gas lamps, grand staircases, busy kitchens, elaborate dining-rooms, lively drawing-rooms, large bedrooms, and fine furniture.

The likes of Daniel Doncaster, William Christopher Leng, and Miss Witham’s Boarding School moved on, to be replaced with new generations of professional people, who lost sons in World War One and witnessed the bombs of World War Two.

But Sheffield continued to grow, Broomhall was at the edge of the encroaching city centre, the affluent people moved farther away, and the area was blighted by nearby dereliction. Prostitutes moved into adjacent streets and the Yorkshire Ripper was caught just up the road.

Nevertheless, Victoria Road maintained its dignity.

And then it all changed for the better.

The Broomhall estate has become one of Sheffield’s hidden secrets, a leafy suburb, with new professionals, and students, and where it is a joy to walk through its streets and marvel at the architecture.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Other Streets

Connecting Sheffield

Our city centre may take on a new look if plans to pedestrianise large swathes of it get the go ahead. Sheffield City Council want to make foot and bicycle journeys easier and quicker, while streamlining public transport services.

The proposals include pedestrianisation to Pinstone Street and Leopold Street, linking Fargate with the Peace Gardens, as well as Charles Street between Union Street and Pinstone Street. The pedestrianisation of Surrey Street would create a traffic-free Town Hall Square.

Work would include more greenery, replicating the ‘Grey-to-Green’ scheme already seen between Castlegate and West Bar.

Bus gates would be installed in both directions on Furnival Gate, and along Arundel Gate to Norfolk Street

Rockingham Street would get a new bus hub with improvements to pavements, green planting, a pocket park, and bus stops.

The future of our city? Pedestrianisation of Pinstone Street and Charles Street connects with Heart of the City II redevelopment, due for completion in 2021. (Image: Connecting Sheffield)

Of course, there are benefits to the scheme – improved air quality, better accessibility to shops and businesses, a more attractive city centre, and public spaces that create city uniqueness.

Artist impressions paint a bright picture, but there are notes of caution.

Sheffield city centre is at a midpoint in its regeneration, with the pandemic decimating footfall, and placing even more uncertainty on retail, hospitality, and office space requirements.

The city centre is a travesty of its former self, Covid-19 exposing retailers already reeling from Meadowhall and the internet. And, after restrictions are eventually lifted, how many pubs, bars, and restaurants, will have survived?   

Half-hearted attempts to open cycle lanes at the heart of the city, further reducing traffic flow, have met with lukewarm response. With respects to cyclists, our seven hills make four wheels the favoured choice in and out of the city.

The prospect of a Town Hall Square, with pedestrian access and cycle routes linking Fargate, Leopold Street, Surrey Street, and the Peace Gardens. (Image: Connecting Sheffield).

The key to any redevelopment must take into consideration transport links.

Cars are already deterred from entering due to over-complicated traffic flow and the extortionate cost of parking. Our buses remain empty, not least because nobody knows where they go, or where to catch them anymore. Our elderly citizens must walk a distance to catch a bus, and the question remains whether they will bother anymore?

We must tread carefully, mindful that change must happen if our city centre is to be revitalised.

Any changes must take place before 2023 to qualify for a Government grant, managed by Sheffield City Region, and must be subject of public consultation.  

An overview of the ‘Connecting Sheffield’ proposal, providing a green space around the city centre. (Image: Connecting Sheffield)

Connecting Sheffield

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


The new Isaacs Building takes shape

Scaffolding and new steel work support retained Victorian fronts on Pinstone Street. (Image: Heart of the City II)

A photograph that tells a story. The remains of the Victorian facade at the lower end of Pinstone Street in Sheffield city centre. Everything behind has been demolished, and the famous old fronts preserved for posterity.

Block C of the Heart of the City II masterplan is located between Pinstone Street, Cambridge Street and Charles Street.

It incorporates two historic building blocks which form the southern end of the Pinstone streetscape.

The combined façade and its dramatic roofscape is an excellent example of Sheffield brick and terracotta architecture. It occupies a prominent position and is visible from the Peace Gardens through to The Moor.

Block C will be home to 39,000 sq ft of premium Grade A office space, serving 450 employees, plus six premium retail units comprising over 8,000 sq ft.

It will be known as the Isaacs Building, named after Edwardian-era paper-hangings merchant David Isaac, and is scheduled to be completed in 2021.


Brownell Street: Forgotten stories

Cobbles glisten in the rain, weeds grow through cracks, but this pitifully empty street is a poignant reminder of our past.

Brownell Street, at Netherthorpe, is in a sorry state and awaits nearby redevelopment.

But if we go back in time, this was one of the poorest streets in Sheffield, a slum at the heart of St. Philips, where families crowded together in dirty back-to-back houses, fought to make ends meet, and fought one another.

Crime was rife, and it was only after the broken-down houses were boarded-up, then demolished, that order was restored.

It is an empty space now, but what stories these cobble stones could tell.

Tales of horse and carts. Damp houses, unfit for human habitation. Tuberculosis, influenza, pneumonia, bronchitis, and infant mortality. Brawls, stabbings, and gun shots. Tales of the unruly Jericho Gang. Gambling. Happiness. Births, weddings, and certain death. Tragedy and despair. And tales of a better life that existed somewhere else.

The houses disappeared in the 1930s and most of the people vanished with them. From the slums came industry, and as history repeats itself, industry has given way to housing again.

The upper end of Brownell Street might have been lost to Netherthorpe Road (and Supertram), but the area is blooming with new-build student accommodation.

Remember these cobbles because next time you look, they’ll probably be gone.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Old name, new look: the Gaumont Building

How we’ve loved to hate. The Odeon Building built in 1986-1987.

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.

The Regent Theatre was built in 1927 for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres and was the first major cinema designed by architect William Edward Trent. Taken over by Gaumont British Theatres in 1929 it retained the Regent name until 1946. (Picture Sheffield)

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).

Gone is the glass and steel. An artist’s impression of the new design of the Gaumont Building. (Sheffield City Council)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.