Categories
Buildings

Graves Art Gallery: another touch of the benefactor

Sheffield Central Library on Surrey Street is also home to Graves Art Gallery. Photograph: DJP/2021.

You’ve probably seen the Bowmer & Kirkland signs on hoardings and cranes around Sheffield. The Derbyshire-based construction and development company is responsible for Moor Market, No.3 St. Paul’s Place, St. Vincent’s Place, New Era Square, and is backing the developer behind the West Bar scheme.

The company was established in 1923 as a partnership between joiner Alfred Bowmer and bricklayer Robert William Kirkland. The current chairman is Jack Kirkland, businessman, art collector and philanthropist.

Bowmer & Kirkland was founded in 1923 and is based at Heage, near Belper, Derbyshire. Photograph: Bowmer & Kirkland.

Kirkland first started buying art around 20 years ago, purchasing a work by the US conceptual sculptor Tom Friedman. While big on American modernism and Latin American contemporary art, his collection also includes Hellenistic bronzes, a Carracci portrait, and an Egyptian faience baboon. 

His sizeable collection of interwar European photography is promised to the Tate, where he is Co-Chair of its Photography Acquisitions Committee. He is also the chairman of Nottingham Contemporary and a trustee of the Bridget Riley Art Foundation.

Kirkland is also chairman and settlor of The Ampersand Foundation, a UK-awarding charity that supports the visual arts, exhibitions, projects, and supporting public collections, provided they are free to the public at least one day per week.

Jack Kirkland’s art collection has been loaned for international exhibitions, and some of the works have been previously shown at Graves Gallery in Sheffield. Photograph: Apollo Magazine.

Last Friday (3 Sep 2021), the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield reopened after six months of renovation work to redecorate, re-clad the walls in galleries largely untouched since 1934, bring many artworks out of storage for new displays, and to showcase work with a fresh perspective on classic art.

It has all been possible after a grant of £455,000 from the Ampersand Foundation, a long-time backer of Sheffield Museums, and the largest single amount ever awarded by the charity.

The grant echoes the day when Sheffield Central Library and Graves Art Gallery were opened by the Duchess of York (Queen Mother to our younger readers) in July 1934.

The newly reclad and redecorated temporary exhibition space, galleries 2 and 3, will reopen with an exhibition celebrating the work of sculptor Mark Firth, great, great grandson of steel magnate and philanthropist Mark Firth. Photograph: Sheffield Museums.

The total cost of the building was estimated at £141,700, of which £114,700 represented the structure, and £27,000 the furnishing. Alderman John George Graves contributed £30,000 and gave the gallery’s director, Dr J.M. Rothenstein, unrestricted choice from his own art collection, with power to borrow whatever was needed.

John Rothenstein was born in London in 1901, the son of Sir William Rothenstein, whose family was connected to the Bloomsbury Set. Photograph: Geni.

Sir John Knewstub Maurice Rothenstein CBE (1901–1992) had served as Director of Leeds City Art Gallery, and was appointed Director of Sheffield City Art Galleries (1932-38) where he oversaw the establishment and opening of the Graves Art Gallery. From 1938–64 Rothenstein was Director of the Tate Gallery in London.

Rothenstein carefully planned the interior which was of dark blue rough-textured paper, to take advantage of each collection in its eight galleries.

It’s been a long road since, overshadowed by recent events in which the Central Library and Graves Art Gallery were almost sold to become a five-star hotel, and the fact that it needs about £30m investment in maintenance.

Kim Streets was appointed to the role of CEO of Museums Sheffield (now Sheffield Museums)in 2012. She is seen here at Graves Art Gallery before the reopening to the public. Photograph: Sheffield Telegraph.

The gallery has not had a major redisplay and some of the spaces were in desperate need of a refresh.

The project began back in the winter with the removal of the artworks from the gallery walls, allowing skilled contractors to re-clad galleries 2, 3 and 6. The contractors removed the existing wall cladding before fixing new sheets of MDF to create smooth walls – a first in decades for these galleries.

The final phase of the improvements was the installation of new MDF walls and woodwork, that were then painted and finished ready for the new displays. 

Top layer of the walls coming away to reveal vertical wooden planks. These planks had been covered in hessian many decades ago and the hessian had then been covered with layers and layers of paint over the years. Photograph: Sheffield Museums.
A set of signatures by the original builders of the Central Library and Graves Art Gallery, which opened in 1934. Photograph: Sheffield Museums.
Refurbishment and re-hanging nears completion as Graves Art Gallery gets ready to reopen to the public. Photograph: Sheffield Telegraph.

It is understood that the Ampersand Foundation will be supporting the Graves Art Gallery with further redisplays, conservation of the city’s art collection, work with schools and artists, and more over the next four years,

Jack Kirkland, the charity’s chairman, says Sheffield Museums is “using the money as it was intended to be used: that is for the benefit of all Sheffield residents and visitors, and in particular children and young people”.

I might suggest that J.G. Graves would have approved.

A fresh new look for Graves Art Gallery. Photograph: Sheffield Telegraph.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings People

Tudor House: Bright flowers and green trees

Tudor Square. The gated road on the right, between the Central Library and Lyceum Theatre, is Tudor Place, once the site of Tudor House. Photograph: DJP/2021

Tudor Square, the home of theatres, the library, and the Winter Garden, and created in 1991 to become Sheffield’s cultural centre. But how did it get its name?

Let us go back to the late 1700s, and we would be standing in the grounds of Tudor House. This Adam house was built in 1770 for Dr Sherburn with commanding country views across Alsop Fields. The gardens extended to the front and right, the land sloping down across what is now Arundel Gate, amid sycamore trees, to the margin of the Sheaf.

Now let us introduce Henry Tudor, a man identified by Dr Sherburn to become head of a firm making the best wrought silver plate. Tudor teamed up with Thomas Leader and the firm of Tudor and Leader was created, eventually building a workshop close to the house. Dr Sherburn showed his appreciation of the efforts of his active partners by bequeathing the bulk of his property to Henry Tudor, with a share in the concern to Thomas Leader.

Henry Tudor moved into what became Tudor House, while Thomas Leader rented a house nearby that the Duke of Norfolk built for his land agent and became known as Leader House.

Fairbank’s Map of Sheffield 1771. Tudor House is shown on the left of the map below Bowling Green Lane (later Arundel Street). The proposed road became Surrey Street. Just above the letter ‘s’ is Leader House. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

Mr Tudor was for many years a prominent man in the town’s affairs – as a Town Trustee, one of the first Guardians of the Assay Office, and in other offices. He had the reputation of being the proudest man in Sheffield, and this earned him the title of ‘My Lord Harry.’ He was highly indignant at finding another Henry Tudor, a journeyman, and he vainly endeavoured to bribe the man to change his name.

This idyllic retreat, with bright flowers and country air, changed as Sheffield grew. The front garden became a bowling green, and in 1808, the house of the late Henry Tudor, though shorn of its once extensive grounds, retained as garden, the whole of the triangle which with Tudor Street as its base, had its sides along Arundel Street and Surrey Street, and its apex at their junction. Narrow streets (Tudor Street, Tudor Place) had surrounded it, with industry spreading into the Sheaf Valley below. By now, one of the Lucas’s, of the Royd’s Mill Silver Refinery, was the occupant of the house, coach-house, and stables.

Fairbank’s Map of Sheffield 1808. Tudor House had lost much of its land, but still had a garden enclosed by Surrey Street, Arundel Street and Sycamore Street. The portion of Sycamore Street, nearest the house, became Tudor Street. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

Tudor House stopped being a home, its remaining land sold off, and it became a Dispensary (1832-33), the Tudor Place Institute (a bible society), Medical Officer’s Department, and Offices of the Weights and Measures Department.

In 1872, a letter appeared in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent.

“Passing through Tudor Place the other day I could not help being struck with the lost and demoralised appearance it presents. Grimy brick walls, whose monotony is increased by tattered shreds of flaring posting bills, stare at the once considerable residence of Henry Tudor, which, with its ancient adornments of wreathed flowers, contemplates with an aspect which is the height of melancholy, the deep puddles, the chaotic boulders, the piles of stones, the layers of timber, and general waste heap look that have invaded the sacred precincts of its once charming garden. The parade ground of the Artillery Volunteers and the other buildings that intervene between Tudor Place and Arundel Street have usurped the place of the flower beds and fruit trees of Henry Tudor, and the sycamores that surrounded his domain have their memory perpetuated in the adjoining street, that breathes a fragrance of anything but bright flowers and green trees.”

The parade ground mentioned was cleared, and a large wooden circus erected. It later became the site of the Lyceum Theatre and Tudor House’s last use was as storage for theatrical scenery.

This might be the only photograph in existence of Tudor House. It was taken in 1907 and the house was demolished the following year. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

By 1908, Tudor House was doomed.

“It is remarkable that at the moment when a special appeal is being made for funds for the erection of a new Infirmary in the city the home of the oldest of our medical charities, the Sheffield Dispensary, is about to be demolished. The building referred to is in Tudor Place. Its broken windows and deserted appearance give little indication as to the important part it played for many years in the alleviation of suffering humanity. A few days, and the building will be demolished. What is to become of the old operating table which is in the old building? A gruesome relic it would doubtless be, but it is surely worthy of consideration whether something cannot be done with a view to preserving it from the flames.”

The most striking feature of the building was the door, which, with its surroundings, indicated that in its day the building was considered of some importance. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive.

The house was demolished, the old oak panelling chopped up, and the Adam mantelpieces with one exception (rescued by artist Charles Green), shared a similar fate, with the promise of a few shillings to a workman employed in the destruction, for carting it away.

The site stood empty until the 1930s, and its foundations lie somewhere beneath the Central Library. The old roads – Tudor Street, Tudor Way, Sycamore Street – have long disappeared, and only Tudor Place survives as a private road between the Lyceum and the Library.

This image is dated between 1900 and 1919 and may possibly show buildings once connected with Tudor House (on the right). This is looking down Tudor Street towards Sycamore Street and Arundel Street. On the left, John Round and Son, silversmiths, built on the site of Tudor and Leader’s old workshops. The Theatre Royal is on the far left (it subsequently burnt down). The only familiar landmark is the Lyceum Theatre on the right, separated from the Tudor House buildings by Tudor Place. Today, this is the exact location for Tudor Square. Photograph: Picture Sheffield.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Leader House: A survivor from days of fields and gardens


A rare survivor of Georgian Sheffield. Brick with pedimented Doric doorcase and a big-canted bay window, that was added in the early 19th century. Picture: DJP/2021

Realistically, Leader House, overlooking Arundel Gate, from Surrey Street, should not be here anymore. In 1938, Sheffield Corporation bought it with intention of demolition, using the site as part of an ambitious plan to build a new College of Arts and Crafts. The plans were postponed because of World War Two and the Georgian House survived.

A similar thing happened in the 1970s, when Leader House (along with the Lyceum Theatre, the Education Offices and Gladstone Buildings) all came under threat of demolition. In 1970, an application was made to the Minister of Housing for Listed Building Consent to replace it with a modern circular register office. After a public enquiry permission was refused, and the infamous ‘wedding cake’ was built elsewhere.

Leader House was built by the Duke of Norfolk in 1770 for his land agent, Vincent Eyre. The brick building, with slated roof, looked across Alsop Fields, amid sycamore trees, to the margin of the River Sheaf. About this time, the Duke commissioned designs from James Paine, and also from Thomas Atkinson, for laying out the fields with handsome squares and terraces. A start was made on building just before his death in 1777, but the scheme was abandoned, and we can speculate that Leader House was part of this grand plan.

In 1777, it was leased to Thomas Leader, a silversmith, from Broxted, Essex, who came to Sheffield to set up the firm of Tudor, Leader & Co in 1762 with Henry Tudor, who lived at nearby Tudor House.

The eminent Leader family remained until 1817, when it passed to the Pearson family until 1872. It was bought by Charles Wardlow, owner of Wardlow Steels Company on Carlisle Street, whose son, Marmaduke, later lived here spending large amounts of money renovating and improving the building.  

It was sold by the Wardlows in 1920 and had several occupants including the silversmith company, Thomas Bradbury, and Son, which had workshops in Arundel Street, and the accountants Joshua Wortley & Sons.

The lease was bought by Sheffield Corporation in 1938 with plans of demolition, but the advent of the Second World war meant it was used as a headquarters for the ARP. It has remained with the council ever since, except for a period when it was leased to Sheffield Polytechnic, and today is used as administrative offices for Sheffield Museums.

The late 1880s building at the rear is classed as a separate building, 2 Surrey Place, and later housed the Central Deaf Club, and The Source Skills Academy. This view is from July 1937. Image: Sheffield Museums.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
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.

Categories
People

J.G. Graves

John George Graves (1866-1945) packed a lot into his 79 years. He was a hard-working businessman, councillor, and cared a lot about his adopted city. A much-travelled man, he knew Europe intimately, and visited America, Egypt, South Africa, India, and Palestine, and spoke fluent French, German and Italian.

Seventy-five years after his death, his name still echoes across Sheffield, and yet, we are guilty of under-estimating the influence he had on the city.

J.G. Graves was born in Lincolnshire, grew up in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, and was educated at Batley Grammar School. When he was 15, he moved to Sheffield to take up apprenticeship with a German watchmaker in Gibraltar Street, and at the age of 20, he started his own watch-making business in town.

He moved to larger premises in Surrey Street where he expanded his business to include jewellery, cutlery and silverware. His decision to sell goods by mail order was pivotal and, through advertising on the back pages of the national press, became incredibly successful.

Graves was one of the first to embrace the idea of selling goods, notably watches, on ‘monthly’ terms, and by 1903 employed 3,000 people with products sold through extensive catalogues.

Graves was first elected to the city council in 1896 as a Liberal member for the old Nether Hallam Ward and retained his seat for six years. In 1905, he was returned to the Council as a member for the Walkley Ward but did not seek re-election in 1908. His third entry to the Council, again for Walkley, was as an Independent councillor in 1916.

Graves went on to serve as Lord Mayor in 1926 and was granted Freedom of the City in 1929.

“Alderman Graves brings to his work unusual gifts of business acumen and a kindly spirit towards the general welfare of the people,” reported the Sheffield Daily Telegraph in 1930. “A fluent, dignified speaker, with originality of thought, he can marshal facts well and present a case strikingly. He always impresses his hearers by his transparent earnestness and sincerity in whatever cause he is pleading. Truly, he is one of the big men of the Council – big in stature and big in vision.”

However, J.G. Graves should be remembered for being Sheffield’s “Fairy Godfather”, probably the city’s most generous benefactor in its history.

When he died at his home, Riverdale House, at Ranmoor, in 1945, newspapers calculated that he had gifted more than £1 million to the city, that amounts to more than £44 million at today’s value.

His first gift to Sheffield, probably Pearl Street playground in 1903, was the start of small projects for children, but these grew in significance with gifts that included Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, Barker’s Pool Garden, Concord Park, Graves Art Gallery, Graves Park, Graves Trust Homes, Blacka Moor, and playing fields. He was a generous benefactor to Sheffield University and the Children’s Hospital, gave much of the land forming the green belt around Sheffield, made gifts of land to the National Trust, and at the outbreak of World War Two, made an unconditional gift of £250,000 to the nation.

Graves Art Gallery cost him £20,000 as well as a further £10,000 towards the cost of the Central Library. He had started collecting art in 1899 and throughout his life collected over 3,000 pictures, 700 of which he gave to Sheffield to be displayed in the Graves Gallery.

“It has seemed to me the most natural thing that I should engage in effort and outlay which has for its object the betterment of the city in which my own lot has been cast, and which I love and understand so well.”

Graves had loved the countryside and was a keen cyclist, with one of his ambitions being to provide Sheffield with beautiful open spaces. As well as Concord Park and Graves Park, he provided £10,000 towards the acquisition of Ecclesall Wood and gave much of the land forming the Green Belt around Sheffield.

One such place was Blacka Moor that had been owned by Norton Rural District Council since 1929. The small council was poor and unable to fight off advances from developers and so, in 1933, had approached J.G. Graves as a last resort. He bought the land and duly presented it to the city.

Ethel Haythornthwaite, a prominent environmental campaigner, recalled a conversation she had with Graves at the official opening in 1933.

“Now, after we’ve done all this for you (by ‘we’ he meant the Graves Trust) will you promise to never trouble us again?” I took a deep breath, thought I had better be truthful and said, “Whenever the countryside around Sheffield is in danger, I shall appeal to you.” He looked at me, severely but not unkindly. “Well,” he said, “Now we know.”

After his death, the mail order company was absorbed into Great Universal Stores, but his legacy lives on through The J.G. Graves Charitable Trust, a grant-making body established in 1930 derived from £400,000 of shares of his company.

Today, the Trust is managed by nine trustees, including Adrian Graves, the fourth generation of the family to serve on it, and continues to support projects that relate to the charitable interests of its founder.

These include parks, open spaces, recreation grounds, art galleries and libraries for public use, promotion of education and community projects, and medical, recreational and sporting facilities.

Periodically, the Trust is in a position to make significant contributions including the J.G. Graves of Sheffield Lifeboat (1958), the redesign of Tudor Square (1990), the J.G. Graves Tennis Centre (1991), the J.G. Graves Woodland Discovery Centre (2007) and the purchase of ‘Comfort Blanket’ by Grayson Perry for the City’s art collection in 2016.

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People

Frank Saltfleet

A self portrait in old age. Photograph by View from the Hill

Frank Saltfleet was one of Sheffield’s best-known artists, yet today his work is largely overshadowed by that of his wife, Jean Mitchell.

He was a specialist in watercolour painting, and about 18 months before his death an exhibition of his works was held at the Graves Art Gallery.

Alderman J.G. Graves also presented a group of Frank’s pictures to the city, and in the 1930s were on view at the Mappin Art Gallery.

He was, by profession, a landscape painter, but also keenly interested in music, literature, and drama.

Sheffield During the Coal Strike from Norfolk Park by Frank Saltfleet. Photograph by Museums Sheffield.

Born in Sheffield in 1860, he was sent to St George’s National School, and when he was about 12-years-old, entered the silver trade to learn the art of close plating, later being apprenticed to a cabinet maker.

Frank attended the Mechanics’ Institute in Surrey Street, where his teacher was Mr Read Turner, a well-known Sheffield artist. Some time later he accepted an offer to advance the necessary funds for six months’ study in art at Antwerp, and with several other young Sheffield artists he went to the Academy of Arts there.

Whirlow Brook Hall by Frank Saltfleet. Photograph by Peter Wilson Fine Art Auctioneers.

His travels included tours of Italy, the Adriatic, and several visits to Venice.

Frank was quite out of sympathy with the works of ultra-modernists in any art, and his favourite composers were Mozart and Beethoven. The works of Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Marlowe and Greene had an appeal to him.

He had several pictures accepted at the Royal Academy, but they were never hung and on many occasions his work was to be found in local exhibitions. Once or twice he exhibited watercolours at the Cutlers’ Hall.

His tastes lay chiefly in the direction of landscapes and seascapes, and woodland and moorland pictures.

“A land and riverscape artist with more than a local reputation. Some of his best pictures have the atmospheric charm of the not too hazy impressionist school. In social circles Mr Saltfleet sings drolly. He is that strange thing – an artist without the professional pose. He has less ambition than many of his inferiors,” said the Sheffield Independent in 1902.

Frank was well known in Sheffield as an enthusiastic amateur actor, taking part in several local productions.

For many years he was a Freemason, attaining a few honours, the chief of them being that of Past Master of St. Leonard’s Chapter at Tapton Hall.

Frank married twice, and after his death in 1937 was survived by his second wife, who was Miss Jean Mitchell, daughter of Young Mitchell, who was the first Principal at the Sheffield School of Art.

Rowing Boats on a Cobble Landing by Frank Saltfleet. Photograph by Invaluable.



Categories
Buildings

Bainbridge Building

Good news for the Bainbridge Building on the corner of Norfolk Street and Surrey Street.

The proposed redevelopment of the former Halifax Bank to create a new hotel and restaurant has been given the go-ahead.

Mitchells & Butchers, supported by WYG and Design Coalition, submitted an application to Sheffield City Council at the end of 2019 for the former bank on Surrey Street.

The building, which is not listed, was originally constructed in 1893-1894, with the structure behind the façade rebuilt in 1977-1978. It has remained vacant following the closure of the Halifax Bank in August 2017.

The application covers the conversion of the property to create a restaurant at ground floor and basement levels and a hotel on the upper floors.

The restaurant is set to operate as a Miller & Carter Steakhouse and comprise 187 covers. It will be located within the former banking hall on the ground floor, with additional covers at basement level.

A total of 20 hotel rooms are set to be created on the upper floors, along with a reception area and a manager/night porter office.

It has been estimated that the development would create 62 jobs (29 full-time and 37 part-time positions). The £2.36m conversion and fit-out of the building is expected to support the creation of further roles.

The building was commissioned by Emerson Bainbridge, a mining engineer consultant and philanthropist, following the death of his wife, Jeffie. It was erected as a memorial to her and opened by the Duke and Duchess of Portland in 1894.

The first floor formed a shelter for waifs and strays, and a large suite of offices on the second floor were given to the local branch of The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, of which Bainbridge was a committee member.

The ground floor consisted of shops that were let out to tenants in order to raise revenue to support the rent-free premises above.

Categories
Buildings

Yorkshire Bank

This is one of the most imposing buildings in Sheffield city centre. The Yorkshire Bank building, in late-Gothic design, with five-storeys and a long curved Holmfirth stone front, stands at the top of Fargate, nudging around the corner into Surrey Street.

With it comes a long history and a few surprises as to its former use.

In the 1880s, when a plot became available at the side of the Montgomery Hall on (New) Surrey Street, the directors of the Yorkshire Penny Savings Bank bought the land to erect a new bank.

It turned to Leeds-based architects Henry Perkin and George Bertram Bulmer who were asked to create a brilliant show of Victorian entrepreneurship.

The corner stones were laid on 18 January 1888 by builders Armitage and Hodgson of Leeds and was completed in the summer of 1889.

The Yorkshire Penny Savings Bank occupied two floors – at ground level was the large banking hall, fitted out in polished wainscot oak with a mosaic-tiled floor, the basement contained the strong-room.

Lord Lascelles, the president of the bank, officially opened it on 25 July 1889.

The remainder of the building was used as a restaurant and first-class hotel, leased by Sheffield Café Company, formed in 1877 as part of a growing movement of temperance houses throughout the country. No drink allowed here.

The Albany Hotel opened in September 1889 with electric light throughout, a restaurant, billiard room, coffee and smoking rooms, private dining rooms as well as 40 bedrooms above.

By the 1920s, the Sheffield Café Company, with multiple cafes and restaurants across the city, was struggling financially and ceased trading in 1922.

Their assets were bought by Sheffield Refreshment Houses, which operated the hotel until the 1950s.

With grander hotels nearby and with dated facilities the Albany Hotel closed in 1958.

The Yorkshire Penny Savings Bank became Yorkshire Bank in 1959 and the old hotel was converted into offices – known as Yorkshire Bank Chambers – after 1965.

The interiors have long altered but the external appearance remains much the same, with carved winged lions, medieval figures, shields and gargoyles on the outside of the building. Gabled dormers, lofty chimneys and a crenelated parapet were sacrificed during the 1960s.

Categories
Buildings

Sheffield Town Hall

This extraordinary photograph was taken by Paul Stinson of Hovaloft Drone Aerographics. It shows the bronze statue of Vulcan on top of Sheffield Town Hall, created in 1896 by artist Mario Raggi.

This muscular male nude has protected the city for 123 years, seeing us through two World Wars, but almost forgotten by people below.

Darcy White and Elizabeth Norman in Public Sculpture of Sheffield and South Yorkshire provide the life story of this undoubtedly cold naked character.

Vulcan, the symbol of Sheffield, has a hammer in his right hand (not seen here), his right foot rests on an anvil and in his left hand, held aloft, he carries three arrows.

The Roman God of the furnace is the patron of all smiths and other craftsmen who depend on fire. He was adopted as a symbol of the city in 1843 and the idea of including a figure as part of the Town Hall design came from the architect, Edward William Mountford.

The figure was modelled from a Life-guardsman and for a long time the original plaster was on show at the Mappin Gallery until it became too badly damaged, due to frequent moving to avoid air raids during World War Two and was broken up and discarded.

Mario Raggi (1821-1907) was born at Carrara, Italy where he learnt to sculpt, although much of his reputation was made in England, where he first exhibited busts at the Royal Academy in 1878 and continued to do so until 1895. Settling in England in 1880, he set up a workshop at Cumberland Market in north London. He was given some major commissions; memorials to Benjamin Disraeli at Parliament Square and Gladstone at Albert Square, Manchester.

Categories
Buildings

Montgomery Hall

Here’s the Montgomery Hall on Surrey Street, known today as a theatre and arts centre, but its heritage tells a very different story. We must go back to the 1880s and the long running saga of the Sheffield Sunday School Union, which had been looking to build a new hall and rooms in the centre of town.

The union was founded in 1812, with the intention of educating working children on Sundays, especially in literacy, and fighting for child labour laws to keep children out of chimneys. By 1884 the union comprised 108 schools, 3,340 teachers and 27,751 scholars. One of its founders was James Montgomery (1771-1854), local poet, journalist and reformer, and the new hall was to be named in his memory.

After first obtaining a site at (New) Church Street in 1873, the land was sold to Sheffield Corporation. Another site was secured at the bottom of West Street, adjoining Holly Lane, but this was also sold on. In 1883, union trustees bought 892 square yards of land between Fargate and (New) Surrey Street from the Corporation at a cost of £4,700.

The foundation stone for the Montgomery Hall was laid in July 1884 by the Right Hon. Anthony John Mundella (1825-1897), MP for Sheffield and president of the Sunday School Union of England and Wales. No sooner had work started, and it was temporarily abandoned, the building not completed until 1886. Built in Domestic Gothic-style at a cost of £15,000, it was designed by Sheffield architect Charles John Innocent (1839-1901), the union’s honorary secretary, and constructed by George Longden and Son.

Once completed, the Montgomery Hall contained a large galleried hall seating 1,000 people and a smaller hall for 350. The front of the building contained several committee and classrooms, a library, reading rooms, a reception room, ante-rooms, cloakrooms, kitchens and caretaker’s accommodation.

A newspaper described the building at the time.

“The front will be a welcome addition to the street architecture of the town. Built entirely of stone, in the centre of the front is the principal entrance, on either side of which are two shops built as a source of maintenance income. At each end of the front is another entrance. Over the shops are large windows which light the committee rooms and classrooms, the hall is at the back. Over each of the entrances an oriel window, with a slight projection, relieves the front and helps make it more prominent, while immediately over the door is a medallion bust of Montgomery.”

And so, the Montgomery Hall thrived, a home to Sunday schools, rented by other religious institutions, later becoming home to community theatre groups, schools and dance classes.

The union later became the Sheffield Christian Education Council with the hall always being used as a theatre, except during World War Two when it was used by the Government.

It was remodelled as a 427-seat auditorium after a devastating fire in 1971 and continues with an art gallery on the first floor and the old library being used as a space for workshops and rehearsals.

There are now plans for a multi-million pound refurbishment to be completed by 2023, concentrating on front of house, a new main frontage, the main auditorium and backstage facilities. Included in the project is the installation of a lift, a concept unheard of when the building was originally designed.