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Buildings

33-35 Fargate – this 1937 building is being converted into offices

No. 33-35 Fargate. Now a branch of Superdrug, with the remaining four floors now being converted into premium office space called Ratoon. Image: DJP/2022

Yesterday’s post about the demolition of the former Next building on Fargate caused a bit of a hubbub. Redevelopment is also taking place nearby, at 33-35 Fargate, better known to us as the former Topshop/Topman building.

Part of the ground floor is now occupied by Superdrug, but you may have noticed building work going on in the rest of the property. This is going to be new office space called Ratoon – its name meaning a new shoot or sprout springing from the base of a plant, especially sugar cane, after being cut.

The main entrance, and former escalator access to Topman on the first floor, is being turned into a new opening for office space above, much of which has been empty for years.

The £6.5m project is being financed by fund manager Nuveen on behalf of Medical Research Council Pension Fund. Sheffield City Council has also provided a £900K grant as it seeks to reinvent Fargate and High Street.

Offices will be rented as a whole, or floor-by-floor basis, with a rooftop terrace garden with views over St Marie’s Cathedral and Fargate. A lightwell will be installed over the stairs and an orangery-style roof lantern will shed light directly onto the upper floors.

Newspaper advertisement from June 1937. Image: British Newspaper Archive

But more about the history of the site.

If we go back to the beginning of the twentieth century the site was occupied by J.B. Eaton, well-known drapers at No. 33, and a public house called Old Red House, at No. 35. The pub closed in 1903 and the whole site developed as a purpose-built shop for J.B. Eaton.

The draper closed in the early 1930s and the site was bought by the British and Colonial Furniture Company. It demolished the former shop and built a new property for James Woodhouse and Son, known for selling furniture of modern and attractive design, and opened in May 1937.

The new Woodhouse building had five floors of spacious and well-lit showrooms providing nearly 40,000 square feet of floor space.

The shop fronts with large arcades, specially designed for the display of furniture, were of modern character, equivalent in size to a window nearly 200 feet long.  A bronze and illuminated canopy protected shoppers and added to the dignity of the building.

The elevation, on classical lines, was constructed of Portland stone, with ornamental windows, and was floodlit at night.

Inside, staircases of polished oak were features of each floor, which were also served by express lifts.

The architect is unknown, but likely to have been the same one used to design many of James Woodhouse’ similar-looking stores.

Construction was by Sheffield-based George Longden and Son, who had also cleared the site, using materials of ‘British and Empire origin,’ and incorporating nearly 200 tons of British steelwork for the frame. Ornate plastering inside was completed by Hudson and Dore of Crookes.

James Woodhouse and Son, house furnishers, Nos. 33-35 Fargate. 1950-1955. Image: Picture Sheffield

British and Colonial was created after it bought James Woodhouse of Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as furniture retailers in Newcastle, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland. James Woodhouse is recorded in the records of Gillows of Lancaster, and it is thought he carried out his apprenticeship here.

The company traded as James Woodhouse and Son and expanded throughout Great Britain, Toronto, Quebec, and in 1936 had opened a New York  store on West 34th-Street, Fifth Avenue. Its success was due to selling modern furniture at the lowest price, and by providing convenient and economical means of payment.

In 1945, British and Colonial was bought by Great Universal Stores and Woodhouse lasted on Fargate until the late1970s/early 1980s. Its eventual closure, and that of its sister company Cavendish, was the result of GUS divesting much of its physical retail subsidiaries to concentrate on mail order, property, and finance. In 2006, it was split into two separate companies. Experian which continues to exist, and Home Retail Group which was bought by Sainsbury’s in 2016.

33-35 Fargate eventually became Topshop/Topman, and for a while had a branch of Dorothy Perkins. It closed in 2020, a few months before the collapse of Philip Green’s Arcadia Group.

And so, the next time you walk past, look at this old building, and remember its overlooked history.

Fargate looking towards Town Hall Square from outside Nos 33/35, James Woodhouse and Son, House Furnishers, 1950-1955. Image: Picture Sheffield, and a similar view today. Image: DJP/2022

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

King’s Tower

A dramatic change to the High Street. King’s Tower, a 39-storey tower block, that has been granted planning permission.

Prepare for a major new addition to the Sheffield skyline, and its location may come as a surprise.

King’s Tower, at 51-57 High Street, will be a 39-storey tower, comprising 206 apartments, with space for a ground floor commercial unit, drinking establishment or hot food takeaway.

It is probably the first regeneration step for one of the most unkempt parts of the city centre.

King’s Tower will be a significant change to the High Street.

The building will be on the site of what many of us know as the former Primark building, and even further back, the one-time Peter Robinson department store.

When the wrecking balls arrive, there will likely be cries of contempt, but in the eyes of planners, the existing building has no architectural value.

In fact, when researching this post, it was discovered that it was always meant to be a temporary structure, even though it’s lasted almost sixty years.

King’s Tower will be on the site of the ancient market adjacent to Sheffield Castle, first established as the result of a Royal Charter of 1296. The market stall and buildings that occupied the site were demolished in 1786 to make way for the construction of the Fitzalan Market (also known as ‘The Shambles’), which underwent improvement about 1855.

Fitzalan Market was demolished in 1930 when the new Castle Hill Market opened, and a new shop was constructed on the corner of Angel Street for Montague Burton, of Burton Menswear, in 1932. The shop occupied the lower floors while the upper tiers were home to the City Billiard Hall and ‘The City’ Roller Skating Rink.

The grand-looking Burton Building, built at the corner of High Street and Angel Street in 1932. A billiard hall and roller-skating rink occupied the upper floors. (Image: Sheffield Telegraph)

The Burton building was badly-damaged during the Sheffield Blitz of 1940, and stood as an empty shell for many years, its replacement held up by funding and lack of building materials. By the 1950s, Sheffield Corporation insisted that plans for an alternative building would only be granted if it were of ‘temporary character, and not as before,’ because it had plans for a new roundabout intersecting Angel Street, High Street and what would become Arundel Gate.

After being badly damaged by German bombs in 1940, the Burton Building remained empty for many years. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

It was eventually demolished and replaced by a new steel-framed building, clad in concrete and tile panels, and opened in 1962 as a Peter Robinson department store. The chain store had been founded in 1833 as a drapery, soon expanding with a flagship store at Oxford Circus, London, and bought by Burton’s in 1946.

The shop in Sheffield was part of Peter Robinson’s nationwide expansion, at its height having 39 stores across Britain.  

Whilst the building may not be considered of architectural importance, it most certainly played a part in shaping High Streets across the country.

It was here, in 1964, that a new department was launched on the third floor, Top Shop, a youth brand, selling fashion by young British designers such as Polly Peck, Mary Quant, Gerald McCann, Mark Russell and Stirling Cooper.

The Top Shop name was later used for a large standalone store on Oxford Street, London, and expanded into further Peter Robinson branches at Ealing, Norwich, and Bristol.

It was not until 1973 that Top Shop was split from Peter Robinson, the Top Shop (later Topshop) brand flourished, subsequently becoming part of Phillip Green’s Arcadia Group, whose demise dominates present-day headlines.

Alas, by the end of the 1970s, the Peter Robinson name had all but disappeared.

The steel-frame of the Peter Robinson department store during construction in the early 1960s. (Image: Picture Sheffield)
Completed. Peter Robinson dominated this High Street corner. In 1964, the first Top Shop was opened on the third floor. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

From 1974, the adjacent C&A store absorbed the upper floors of Peter Robinson, while furniture retailer Waring & Gillow occupied the ground floor.

After C&A vacated in the 1990s, it became Primark until it relocated to The Moor in 2016, leaving the old department store empty.

During the 1970s C&A occupied the upper floors while Waring & Gillow sold furniture at ground level. (Image: Picture Sheffield)
Primark, originating from Dublin, took over the premises when C&A pulled out of the UK. (Image: Google)

On a final note, that proposed roundabout eventually became Castle Square, with the famous ‘Hole-in-the-Road’ linking into the building, filled in to accommodate Supertram in 1994.  

As part of the works to build King’s Tower, King Street, to the rear, will be improved with the market retained and access for vehicles.

Artist impressions of King’s Tower.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.