Categories
Streets

The people lined the street to catch a glimpse of Queen Victoria

Hereford Street, Sheffield. The road was one much wider, lined with shops, houses, and factories. Photograph: DJP/2021

Hereford Street’s greatest moment was when Queen Victoria officially opened Sheffield Town Hall in May 1897 and travelled down here on her way to Norfolk Park. It might be hard to believe now, but let your imagination do the rest.

“To stand on The Moor, at the top of Hereford Street, and look down the latter thoroughfare affords the spectator a great amount of pleasure. A scene is presented of bright flags of dainty and artistic colours, fancy streamers of every description, while other kinds of bunting and bannerettes float out gaily in every direction.

“Venetian masts are erected on either side of the street, 15 yards apart, and are surmounted by large gilt spearheads, while banners, shields, and trophies of flags are fixed to each mast. Every alternate mast has a pedestal covered with crimson cloth and gilt ornamentation, and at the summit of each pedestal is a group of real plants.

“Across the street at intervals are fixed canopies of handsome floral work, and streamer flags of harmonious colours and flower baskets are suspended from the centre of each floral canopy, with lines of streamer flags along the street at either side connecting the masts with the whole design.

“The buildings, too, in Hereford Street have been dealt with in the most artistic manner. Flags float out bravely from the tops of the principal works and houses, and on the fronts are displayed handsome shields, backed up with designs of small flags and other similar trophies.

“As the time arrived for the stopping of traffic, the corner where Hereford Street joins the Moor became so blocked with cars, cabs, and buses that the Derbyshire police, who extended from the top of Hereford Street along part of St Mary’s Road were hard put to it to prevent serious accidents.

“People would still insist on leaving the shelter of the barriers and coming across the road, and then, as likely as not, they were stranded amongst the horses and vehicles, who, being unused to the terrible commotion, were almost frantic and the drivers, but for the efforts of the police, could not possibly have helped running down some of these belated wayfarers.

“However, this was soon cleared, the arrival of the 1st Battalion of the Hallamshire Rifles having a great deal to do with the transformation.

“The men were placed eight paces apart and covered the entire length of Hereford Street and part of St Mary’s Road.

The visit of Queen Victoria. Pictured here on The Moor. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

“The crowd was very orderly, only a few attempting to elude the vigilant eye of the constables, and those that attempted this being in most cases drunk.

“As the time wore on, however, getting tired, perhaps, and some of them thirsty, occasional rows occurred. People attempted to change their positions and their neighbours’ mild remonstrations gradually developed into what may be styled ‘words,’ and again, in some cases, where the sum was particularly irritating, into blows.

“The few fights, however, that did take place soon raised cries of ‘Police!’ and the guardians of the peace immediately quelled the disorder and left the combatants to sing and shout once more with the rest.

“Several cases of fainting occurred, and it was rather unfortunate that at this point of the route there was no ambulance corps, but the gallantry to the ladies of the rough and ready grinders was quite touching, and these were immediately made room for even in the thickest crushes.

“Of course, skits and jokes passed amongst the members of the crowd, but, as a rule, the language was ‘fit for the Queen.’

“Stands, windows, and roofs were all crowded, and the number of people in the street was, as far as can be judged, above the average.

“The procession passed, the military lined up, and the crowd in one huge migration, made tracks, some for the park, and others in order to get another view, if possible, along South Street, Park.”

Looking towards The Moor from Hereford Street. Today, this part of the road is pedestrianised and is occupied by Dempseys, bar and Club and QJ (the former Yorkshire Bank). Photograph: Picture Sheffield

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Streets

Hereford Street: two photographs seventy years apart

Aerial photograph of Hereford Street (top to bottom) in 1951
Aerial photograph of Hereford Street (top to bottom) in 2021

Two photographs that show how a Sheffield street lost its identity.

Hereford Street is shown as a wide thoroughfare in 1951, a continuation of Charlotte Road, and intersected by narrow St Mary’s Road, and Porter Street (that became the lower end of Eyre Street). It joined The Moor that continued south towards London Road. Note that Bramall Lane roundabout did not exist.

Seventy years later, the outline of Hereford Street can still be seen but is split by two dual carriageways – St Mary’s Road and Eyre Street. Gone are the factories, houses, and small shops, and the Moor-end is pedestrianised, and this section of The Moor lost beneath the Moorfoot Building.

Sadly, this area has become an unloved part of the city centre with Hereford Street falling on hard times.

Most astonishing is that few buildings appear in both photographs. Most were swept away for road development, factories were surplus to requirement, and old houses and shops deemed unfit for purpose.

St Mary’s Church, on Bramall Lane, does appear in both photographs. In 1951, it was covered in soot and suffered from air pollution, but look how large the churchyard was, and how much was taken away to make St Mary’s Road a dual-carriageway.

Buildings to point out in the modern-day image are the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Headquarters and Moor Markets (left), Decathlon and Deacon House (centre) and, of course, the Moorfoot Building (bottom).

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Buildings

History in the wall – From Martins Bank to an eyesore

Former Martins Bank, now listed as Cumberland House, on Eyre Street, Sheffield. Photograph: DJP/2021

History is all around us. Keep your eyes open and sometimes you will see something that reveals something of our past. At the corner of Eyre Street and Cumberland Street, set in the wall of a building, is an old night safe. Unused for forty-eight years, it is marked ‘Martins Bank Limited’.

It is an obvious clue as to the origins of this rather run-down looking 1960s building, and tells us that once-smart buildings can become eyesores if we don’t look after them.

A clue at the building’s former use. Night safes were built on the outside of banks, allowing money to be deposited into the bank’s safe outside of bank opening hours. Photograph: DJP/2021

Martin’s Bank was a London private bank that could trace its origins back to the London goldsmiths. Martin’s agreed to its acquisition by the Bank of Liverpool in 1918, which wanted a London presence and a seat on the London Bankers’ Clearing House; the Martin’s name was retained in the title of the enlarged bank which was known as The Bank of Liverpool and Martin’s Limited. The title was shortened to Martins Bank Limited (without an apostrophe) in 1928.

The bank had a presence in Sheffield from 1927 when the Equitable Bank, at 64 Leopold Street, merged with the Bank of Liverpool and Martins. It outgrew the premises and opened a new branch in the Telephone Buildings at the bottom of West Street in 1930. It wasn’t until 1960 that a Sheffield University branch was opened, quickly followed by this purpose-built bank  – Sheffield Moor – on Eyre Street. (Another, on Bank Street, came later).

This branch opened in 1961 on land that had once been the site of Greer and Rigby, Surgeons, and land left vacant after the bombings of World War Two.

Junction of Porter Street and Cumberland Street (in background). No 118, Porter Street, former premises of Greer and Rigby, Surgeons. Former entrance to Court No. 10 on left. Porter Street later became part of Eyre Street. Photograph: Picture Sheffield
Martins Bank in 1963. It did not occupy all the building, following the Victorian tradition of creating shop and office rental space to generate additional income. Photograph: Picture Sheffield
Martins Bank in 1970. The old buildings adjacent were demolished to make way for Deacon House. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

According to archives, this part of Sheffield was too far from the old commercial quarter to be effectively served by the West Street branch. “A beautiful modern building with interior décor which responds to the full blaze of sunshine most cheerfully, or, on a dark day when the illuminated ceiling has to be switched on, creates an oasis of light, warmth and welcome which makes it a pleasure to step inside.”

The ground floor was shared with Olivetti, typewriters, and office machine dealers, while the British Wagon Company occupied part of the first floor.

Martins Bank was bought by Barclays in 1968 and five years later the Sheffield Moor branch was closed – its existence as a bank lasting only twelve years.

The building itself was used for a variety of purposes, even a gym, and is now sub-divided as office space.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Buildings

The mystery of the Moorfoot building

Moorfoot. A late seventies Government-built office complex that opened in 1981. Now home to Sheffield City Council. Photograph: Google

Moorfoot is a brute of a building, dominating the Sheffield skyline, and 40 years after it opened, remains one of the city’s most controversial structures.

Its origins are in 1973 when Edward Heath’s Conservative Government created the Manpower Services Commission (MSC), to co-ordinate employment and training services in the UK through a ten-member commission drawn from industry, trade unions, local authorities and education interests.

Pat Duffy, the Labour MP for Attercliffe, excited by the prospect of 2,000 jobs, campaigned for the new headquarters to be built in Sheffield. Two years later, Harold Walker, Under Secretary at the Employment Department, told the House of Commons, “The decision has been made to locate the headquarters in Sheffield.”

It was an accomplishment for a down-at-heel northern city, but the citizens of Sheffield weren’t prepared for what came next.

The futuristic new headquarters was designed by the Government’s Property Services Agency – “A truly monolithic brutalistic office building. Red brick bands between rows of windows separated by concrete panels.” – eleven storeys high, with stepped levels across east, west, and north wings. Something of a pyramid, it earned nicknames like the ‘Aztec Temple’ and ‘Dalek City.’

Photograph: DJP/2021

That it would be built on land at the bottom of The Moor was even more controversial, cutting off Sheffield’s main shopping street from busy London Road, and depriving road and pedestrian traffic of a popular and historic route.

To compensate, it was designed to allow pedestrian access through the building, starting with an elevated ramp near the corner of Young Street and South Lane, before proceeding via a tunnel through the building, exiting above the car park, and using ramps to ground level on The Moor.

The route never opened, allegedly because IRA activity posed a threat to a government building, and the upper parts of the elevated walkway were left suspended mid-air before eventual removal.

The MSC opened in 1981, and for such a high-profile building, it was shrouded in mystery. Apart from the cavernous office-space, restaurant, bar, and basement squash court, were there really underground nuclear bunkers and a luxury apartment for Government hierarchy? Even today, the amount of information available about the building is incomplete – no floor plans, no design architect, no history forthcoming.

If ever a building divides opinion. The Moorfoot Building will probably escape demolition, unlike many other Sheffield buildings built in the 1970s. Photographs: DJP/2021

The MSC building was famous for its management of the Youth Training Scheme and various other training programmes intended to help alleviate the high levels of unemployment in the 1980s, but after 1987 the MSC lost functions and was briefly re-branded the Training Agency (TA), before being replaced by a network of 72 training and enterprise councils.

The MSC Building gave way to other Government agencies, including the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Home Office. However, it was too big and expensive to maintain, with departments vacating over a twenty year period.

In the late 2000s, the MSC Building was bought by Sheffield City Council, and with demolition in mind, wanted to create a new financial services district in its place.

The timing could not have been worse, and the monetary crisis of 2007-2008 prompted a rethink, and the building was overhauled, renamed Moorfoot, with potential office space for 2,600 council employees, and consolidation of various departments from around the city centre.

As for the Moorfoot’s future, it is likely to stay, worthy of a facelift and a bit of greenery might not go amiss. The iron gates at ground level could be opened to allow public access between The Moor and London Road. And, as the aerial photograph shows, there is a chance to create a green square in front of its main entrance (demolition required).

Photograph: DJP/2021

See also Crucible Fountain and Judith Bluck

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Buildings Streets

Leopold Street

Work in progress. The pedestrianisation of Leopold Street (above), Pinstone Street, and Surrey Street, will create a traffic-free Town Hall Square. (DJP/2021)

Our city centre is at a crossroads. The city is in flux and a street that highlights it most is Leopold Street. Buses no longer run along here, and all traffic is halted mid-way. Sheffield is going car-free, and with it our streets become soulless. Nothing is sadder than a street about to undergo pedestrianisation. It is blocked with traffic cones and concrete barriers and unsure what it wants to be.

As far as Sheffield streets go, Leopold Street is relatively new, a pet-project for town planners in 1873.  Back then, access to Fargate and Pinstone Street was via Church Street, along awkwardly narrow Orchard Street, to its junction with Orchard Lane, and dog-legged towards what is now the top of Fargate.

Its making was the result of Sheffield Corporation’s three-street development scheme – the creation of Surrey Street, Fargate improvements, and the construction of ‘modern-day’ Pinstone Street. A new road was needed to link these streets with Bow Street (the road that became the bottom of West Street) and a link between old Sheffield Moor and Shalesmoor.

A long-standing road, South Street, was swept away, the land around it cleared, and the large sloping site bounded by the proposed new road, Orchard Lane, Holly Street and Bow Street (West Street) earmarked for educational purposes. It became the site of Firth College (1879), School Board offices and the Central School (both 1880). Of course, we now know these buildings as the Leopold Hotel and Leopold Square

By May 1880, half its length had been completed, 60-feet wide from Bow Street to Fargate, paved in wooden blocks, and converted to macadam in 1883.

Aerial view of Leopold Street. The Leopold Hotel and Leopold Square are centre. Before 1880, the main route between Church Street and Fargate was along narrow Orchard Street, to the left, which curved at its junction with Orchard Lane (where the mini-roundabout is today). The top-end of Orchard Street (near to Fargate) was absorbed into Leopold Street. (Google)

The Watch Committee recommended that the new street be named after Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (1853-1884), eighth and youngest son of Queen Victoria, who had opened Firth College in October 1879.

The addition of the Sheffield Medical Institution on the other side of the road in 1888 prompted one expert to say that Leopold Street would become a “street of institutions.”

It never became a street of learning. Firth College and the Medical Institution were the foundation stones for the University of Sheffield and moved away. By the late 1970s, the old education buildings were in decline, mostly unoccupied, but spared the fate that befell the nearby Assay Office and Grand Hotel, both demolished, and replaced with office blocks.

A street sign on the wall of what was once Firth College, at its junction with West Street, and now part of the Leopold Hotel. (DJP/2021)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Places

Little Sheffield

Fairbanks’ Map of Little Sheffield in 1808. South Street became The Moor. The road marked Little Sheffield is now London Road. There are some familiar road names in the top half of the map. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Once upon a time there was a small hamlet near Sheffield town that went by the name of Little Sheffield.

During the early 1800s, Sheffield’s rapidly growing population needed to expand outside the historical boundaries, and Little Sheffield disappeared.

We know where Little Sheffield was, but its boundaries blurred over time, with experts long contesting where it started and finished. The area has never been clearly defined, like those forgotten places of Port Mahon and Hallamshire.

We must go back to olden days when Sheffield was a town surrounded by fields and countryside. It gradually expanded until its southern edges skirted a gorse-clad swampy common called Sheffield Moor.

Today, we know this marshy land as The Moor with its surrounding streets.

A path was made by throwing up two embankments, between which was a deep ditch, with only a footbridge over Porter Brook.

By the 1760s, travellers had to go down Coal Pit Lane (Cambridge Street) and Button Lane (long disappeared) to Little Sheffield – a group of poor and time-worn cottages. The road to it ran across Sheffield Moor, thence up a sharp rise to Highfield. The only house you came to after passing Moorhead was Mr Kirkby’s, standing on Button Lane (opposite where the ramp to Sainsbury’s car-park on Charter Row now stands). There was one other building nearby, with a bowling green attached to Sheffield Moor. Beyond was Little Sheffield, the outlying hamlet.

By the nineteenth century, the fields around Little Sheffield had been swallowed up for the working classes, a poor and densely populated area, its houses with roofs of stone slabs, low windows, and red brick walls.

Nowadays, we can define Little Sheffield’s northern boundary as being where the Moorfoot Building stands, taking in Young Street, South Lane, St Mary’s Gate, London Road, and surrounding streets like Hermitage Street, Sheldon Street, Hill Street, John Street, and Boston Street (once called George Street), up towards its southern boundary at Highfield.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

Fitzwilliam Street

Planning application has been received for a new 13-storey development below the Washington public house. Photograph by Cartwright Pickard

The Fitzwilliam Street part of Sheffield city centre was developed in the early 19th century, from agricultural fields into Victorian terracing and warehouses. Of significance, is that the area was heavily bombed during World War Two and as a result was cleared and remained largely undeveloped until the 1970s and 1980s.

The boom in student accommodation has resurrected the area in the past decade, not least with another new planning application submitted to Sheffield City Council for a thirteen-storey block of 209 student studio apartments. If all current applications are approved, the area will once again revert to residential use.

But what is the history of Fitzwilliam Street?

Back in 1874, Samuel Everard, a prominent citizen of the town, made the following observations: –

“As we pass Bright Street, Fitzwilliam Street and Rockingham Street, let us know them as illustrations of the origin of our street names. They at once indicate the ownership of the soil by the house of Wentworth (of Wentworth Woodhouse).”

Photograph by Cartwright Pickard

The last Marquis of Rockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth, married Mary, the daughter and heir of Thomas Bright, of Badsworth, near Pontefract, in 1752, who in her own right was Lord of the Manor of Ecclesall and owner of extensive estates in the vicinity.

It was said that the Marquis, when once taunted with marrying a woman of no blood, had replied, “If she had no blood, she had plenty of suet.”

The marriage brought the land into possession of the Marquis of Rockingham and it descended to his nephew, William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam.

The names of Fitzwilliam Street and Rockingham Street are familiar to us all, but Bright Street, named after the Lord of the Manor of Ecclesall, has long disappeared.

It ran directly from the bottom end of Fitzwilliam Street towards Cumberland Street, crossed by South Street (that we now know as The Moor). It broadly spanned the same line as does Fitzwilliam Gate today.

Photograph by Cartwright Pickard
Categories
Streets

The Moor

Photograph by Exposed

Goodness me, here’s a story that seems to have passed by unnoticed. It seems that The Moor has been sold from under our feet, with Aberdeen Standard Investments offloading the biggest asset in its property fund to New River real estate investment trust.

The deal was completed in December after being put on the market with an £89.4million price tag.

The Moor, once again installed as Sheffield’s foremost shopping street, accounted for seven per cent of the £1.3billion Aberdeen UK Property Fund.

Back in December, outflows from Aberdeen Standard’s fund spiked after investors were spooked following the suspension of rival manager M&G’s Property Portfolio. M&G was forced to suspend trading in its £2.5billion property fund after investors rushed to withdraw money.

The Moor has thrived under the ownership of Aberdeen Standard Investments, with the addition of Moor Markets, the Light Cinema, Lane7 Bowling Alley, and new retailers including Primark, Next, River Island and H&M.

However, with retail in steady decline, it might appear that Aberdeen Standards Investments has divested of The Moor while the going is good.

It remains to be seen whether the next phases of development will go ahead, including the renovation of the block occupied by Boots, Melody, Lloyds Bank, Bodycare and Halifax Bank.

The deal was the latest in a string of acquisitions for New River, including a retail park in Northern Ireland for £40million, and sites in Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee and the Isle of Wight.

Categories
Streets

The Moor

I don’t know about you, but I never look in shop windows anymore. Frankly, there’s not much to look at, with only a handful of department stores making the effort, if at all.

We must thank Harry Gordon Selfridge for being one of the first to create window dressing displays to attract customers.

The American millionaire’s aim was to “make an art of window display” and resulted in copycat spectacles across Britain.

Nowadays, the skill of window dressing has been replaced with visual digital technology, and this hasn’t exactly helped our struggling shops.

The Moor at night can be a particularly gloomy place when shops have closed, and despite the best efforts of ‘arty’ street lighting, its attempts to attract a night-time audience are pretty much nil.

It makes this newspaper article from March 1931 about “the attractive thoroughfare” even more interesting.

“On leaving cinemas and theatres in the centre of the city last night, hundreds of people were attracted to the Moor, by the special lighting display arranged in connection with the ‘Display Week’.

“They discovered undreamed beauty at Moorhead. The Crimea monument has not been regarded with admiration by many modern citizens, but under the floodlighting this week it takes on special graces.

“The whole result is a credit to those who have contributed to the scheme, to the Electric Supply Department of the Sheffield Corporation, the Edison Swan Electric Company, and the proprietors of the various businesses on the Moor.

“Standing at Moorhead one has an uninterrupted view of the straight thoroughfare down a slight gradient, and the effect of the special lighting is most striking.

“After ordinary business hours the shops are keeping their well-dressed windows lighted. During the whole of last evening the Moor was thronged with citizens attracted by the more than usually bright appearance of the various establishments.

“Although the shops were closed and the interior premises were in darkness, the brilliant windows in which the best efforts of a peculiarly modern art were displayed, attracted many appreciative visitors.

“Until 10 o’clock the whole of the Moor was a blaze of light, and provided ample proof of the efficiency of the arrangements, as well as the business acumen of tenants and proprietors of premises along the thoroughfare which is regarded by many as the most attractive business centre in the city.”

Today, the Moor Management team can only dream at such high visitor numbers after-dark, but we should remember that this was the major road linking Pinstone Street with Ecclesall Road, and with a plentiful supply of cars, buses and trams going up and down.

And while we’re at it, the Crimea monument, seemingly lost for years by Sheffield City Council, before being found again, once earmarked for the Botanical Gardens, is still languishing in some dark corner.

Categories
Buildings

Debenhams

Times have been hard for Debenhams, not least for the one on The Moor which is beginning to look extremely shabby alongside modern new developments nearby.

However, it hasn’t always been this way.

This shop was once considered to be a flagship store, until eclipsed by a brand new Debenhams at Meadowhall in 1990.

It seems like the store has been here forever – fifty-four years to be precise. For a new generation, this branch wasn’t always called Debenhams, and can trace its origins to the other side of the Pennines.

In 1865, William Paulden, aged 24, opened a carpet and soft furnishings store in Stretford Road, Manchester. He was the son of a Cheshire farmer, educated at Knutsford Grammar School, and died at Green Hall, Wilmslow, Cheshire, in 1930.

The business expanded to become a department store and in 1928 was taken over by the Drapery Trust, a conglomerate of retailers, owned by London-based Debenhams.

The store continued to trade as Pauldens and added a second store at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, in 1946. A third store opened in Sheffield in 1965, a modern multi-level steel frame and concrete structure, bordering The Moor and Charter Row.

It traded as Pauldens of Sheffield, but in 1973, all the Drapery Trust businesses were either closed or rebranded as Debenhams, including the Sheffield store.

We now wait to see what will happen to this landmark as a result of the company’s turbulent restructuring.