Sir Charles Clifford

Colonel Charles Clifford by George Frederick Bird. Photograph by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

I need to write about Sir Charles Clifford, KBE, CMG, LLD, JP (1860-1936), because it appears very little has been written about him, and yet, apart from a dental hospital taking his name, he did a lot for Sheffield.

The name and life of Sir Charles Clifford were closely identified with the Sheffield Telegraph. He combined his powers of leadership and administration with an acute journalistic instinct. The journalists knew him as ‘The Colonel,’ one of the biggest figures in North country newspaper life, and one who did much to maintain the highest traditions of the press.

Charles was the fourth son of Frederick Clifford, Q.C., one of the original partners in the firm of Sir W.C. Leng and Company, publishers of the Sheffield Telegraph, and for many years a writer for The Times.

Born in London in 1860, Charles was educated privately and came to Sheffield in 1878, beginning an association with the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, originally destined for the commercial side, but in later years playing an important part in moulding its editorial policy.

In 1888, he established the Sheffield Evening Telegraph, and later negotiated the purchase of the rival Evening Star, later incorporated into the Evening Telegraph, and what we now know as the Sheffield Star.

Charles had taken a leading part in the management of the newspaper some years before the death of its original partners, becoming a partner himself in 1900, and in 1903, when the firm became a private limited company, becoming a director, and subsequently its chairman.

He became president of the Newspaper Society of Great Britain in 1905 and chairman of the Press Association in 1908, a position his father had held thirty years before.

But there were other strands to Charles’ busy life.

In the political sphere he was founder of the Conservative and Unionist organisation in Sheffield. The Brightside Divisional Conservative Association had given him early opportunities to demonstrate his fighting spirit and he became chairman in 1906, the association later presenting him with the chairman’s chair on which was inscribed his motto ‘Nec sine labore Fructus – ‘No fruit without labour.’

Presentation of the Chairman’s Chair in 1912. The British Newspaper Archive

In 1928, Charles played an important part, along with Captain A.E. Irwin, of the London Central Office of the Conservative Party, in reorganising the party in Sheffield. Afterwards he was elected chairman of the new Central Committee, and continued until his retirement in 1933, becoming vice-president of the federation.

Despite his political allegiance, Charles never held municipal or Parliamentary honours, though as a young man, he made two unsuccessful attempts to enter the City Council, and in 1913 was invited to become Lord Mayor, an honour which he refused.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

His third great public service was in connection with national defence. At the age of 21, Charles had obtained a commission in the 4th West Riding Artillery Volunteers. His promotion was rapid, becoming a lieutenant in 1882, Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel in 1902, and Lieutenant-Colonel in 1909, a year after the Territorial Scheme had been introduced and the volunteers had become the 3rd West Riding Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

He received the Volunteer Officers’ Decoration in 1902, and in 1911 the Coronation medal was awarded to him.

As officer in charge of the Brigade, he was not only responsible for the many improvements at the Edmund Road Drill Hall, but he, along with Lieut-Col H.K. Stephenson, acquired the old Redmires Racecourse as a training ground.

Photograph of Edmund Road Drill Hall by Picture Sheffield

In 1913, Charles’ time as Commanding Officer expired, but it was extended for another year, and when he was at the point of definite retirement, war broke out.

His request to be allowed to remain was granted, and almost as soon as the Territorials were mobilised, he crossed to France in command of the Brigade.

On four occasions he was mentioned in dispatches, but in 1916 the Brigade was broken up and he returned to England to train another company which he took out to France and commanded during the Passchendaele operations. During 1917 he frequently acted as Brigadier-General in the field.

For the service he rendered in France and Flanders, he became a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in the New Year’s Honours List of 1918, and in 1920 he received the Territorial Decoration.

 Four years later, the officers of the 71st West Riding Field Brigade Royal Artillery, as the Territorial artillery had become, decided to honour him.

In December 1924, Charles was entertained to dinner at the Norfolk Barracks and was presented with a portrait, dressed in the uniform he wore when he took the Brigade to France. The portrait was later hung in the barracks and a replica presented to Charles for his own collection. From 1920, until the time of his death, he was Honorary Colonel.

Away from day-to-day life all forms of sport appealed to him, and he was particularly fond of shooting and was to be regularly seen on the moors on ‘The Twelfth.’ Cricket also excited him, as did bowls, and he was elected president of the Sheffield and District Amateur Bowling Association in 1908.

Shooting on the moors in 1929. The British Newspaper Archive

For several years, he was president of the Sheffield Philharmonic Society and an enthusiastic stamp collector.

Charles was also a keen supporter of movements to foster friendships between Britain, America and Italy.

In 1922, he was elected a member of the Sheffield Town Trust, was involved with the Sheffield Club, the Junior Carlton and the Junior Constitutional, but his greatest honour was confirmed on him in 1925 when he received a knighthood.

Charles’ interest in Sheffield University extended over many years during which time he was a member of the University Council, and in 1934 an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred on him.

Charles Clifford Dental Hospital

Shortly afterwards, he presented the University with the house known as Broom Bank, on Glossop Road, as a dental hospital, and provided £77,000 for ‘general purposes of the University.’ However, he died in 1936, before plans had been finalised. The story of the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital wasn’t as straightforward as he might have hoped and is subject to a separate post.

Charles married Alice Emma Davy, and lived at Clifford House, on Ecclesall Road South. He was survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield


St. George’s Church

It stands rather grandiose, next to Broad Lane, on the way to Brook Hill roundabout. St. George’s Church, aside from Sheffield’s two cathedrals, is one of two magnificent churches around the city centre.

St. George’s was built for the Church Building Commission between 1821-1825, one of three churches to have been built in Sheffield under the Church Building Act of 1818. (The others were St. Mary’s, Bramall Lane, still standing, and St. Phillip’s at Netherthorpe, demolished in 1951).

A Commissioner’s Church was an Anglican church built with money voted by Parliament, aiming to increase the number of church places for parishioners.

By the start of the Industrial Revolution, people had moved from rural areas into towns and cities, putting unprecedented demand on places of worship. Before these three new churches, Sheffield had just 6,280 seats for a population of 55,000 people.

The foundation stone for St. George’s, built on a piece of spare land, was laid by Thomas Sutton, Vicar of Sheffield, on 19 July 1821, the Coronation day of King George IV, hence the name.

The church was designed by Woodhead and Hurst, in Perpendicular Gothic style, at a cost of £15,181 (about £1.2million today) and was planned to have been completed by October 1824.

It was an ambitious building scheme, overseen by John Smith, Superintendent of Works for Thomas Flockton, builder and contractor for many of Sheffield’s churches.

The construction was carefully planned with master craftsmen brought him from various Yorkshire companies.

Ironwork was provided by Raynor and Company, of St. James’s Street, while Nowell’s of Dewsbury afforded masons and bricklayers, the slate roof completed by Brown’s of Division Street, Sheffield, and plumbing and glazing carried out by Smith and Binks of Rotherham.

William Nicholson, of St.James’s Street, provided plasterers, and Robert Drury, from Eyre Street, supplied a team of painters and decorators. Carpentry and joinery were completed by a team from Thomas Flockton, based on Rockingham Street.

St. George’s was finally completed in 1825, the consecration ceremony held by Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt, Archbishop of York, on 29th June 1825.

A procession formed in the chancel of the Parish Church (now Sheffield Cathedral) and proceeded to St. George’s, the parade made up from members of the clergy, charity girls and boys, the Town Collector and Trustees as well as the Master Cutler and members of the Cutlers’ Company.

Such was the demand to view the ceremony that members of the public were only admitted by ticket.

The finished church was 122ft long and 67ft wide, with a flat-ceilinged nave of six bays, a single-bay chancel and a 140ft high tower. Galleries extended the length of the north and south walls, and there was a two-tiered gallery on the west wall, providing total seating for 380 worshippers.

It was soon apparent that St. George’s was going to be a success, attracting a congregation from nearby high-density housing. However, the Archbishop considered it unfit for the internment of the dead, due to the churchyard not being properly fenced off, and burials only commenced from 1830.

St. George’s prospered, but declining attendances during the 1970s resulted in its closure in 1981. It stood unused for many years until the University of Sheffield bought it in 1994, its presence slowly extending towards the city centre.

The church was converted by Peter Wright and Martin Phelps, with a lecture theatre sited in the nave, seating provided in the west gallery, a dais set in the chancel, and three floors of student accommodation built in the aisles.

Standing at the centre of St. George’s Square, the former church is best seen at night when it is floodlit.


St. George’s Church

The tower of St. George’s Church, Portobello, now owned by the University of Sheffield and used as a lecture hall and three floors of student accommodation.

The church was built between 1821-1825 using money provided by the Church Building Commission, the result of the Church Building Act of 1815.

Designed by Woodhead and Hurst, the church was built by Thomas Flockton of Rockingham Street, Sheffield. The foundation stone was laid by Thomas Sutton, Vicar of Sheffield, and consecrated in 1825 by Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt, Archbishop of York.

During the construction of the 140ft high tower, St. George’s claimed the lives of two workmen.

In 1823, apparatus used to draw stones up to the tower was being dismantled, when part of the machinery gave way, precipitating three workmen onto rafters of the floor below. James Bower was dreadfully crushed and dead within minutes, his two colleagues being seriously injured.

Further tragedy occurred a year later, in 1824, when a plank on which Charles Lee, a labourer, gave way, causing him to fall to the bottom of the tower. He pitched onto beams and died a few minutes later, after being removed to a nearby public house, and before medical help could arrive.

St. George’s closed in 1981 and stood empty for thirteen years, its condition deteriorating, until bought by the University of Sheffield in 1994, and restored.


Arts Tower

For fifty-five years, the University of Sheffield’s Arts Tower has dominated the Sheffield skyline.

This was once the city’s tallest building at 78metres, built in a commanding position on high ground, eventually eclipsed by St. Paul’s Tower in 2011.

A Building for Arts was first discussed in 1953, with designs submitted by architects Gollins, Melvin, Ward and Partners, and it went through several radical changes before the University’s planning group chose a “cube of steel, glass and concrete.”

Thirteen storeys were originally planned, with six more added, including two floors in which additional funding had to be found because the University Grants Committee refused to underwrite it.

“Every time the planning group for the building met, the height went up by two storeys.”

It finally reached nineteen storeys (although a further two can be found underground) and became the tallest university building in the country.

Construction started in 1961, the foundations built on solid rock thirty feet beneath the surface and was topped-out in October 1964.

The University moved in during the summer of 1965, with accommodation for 18 departments and 160 staff. The Architecture Department occupied the top floors (as it still does), because “it gave them a very good view over Sheffield to see all the town planning that was going on.”

The Arts Tower was officially opened by the Queen Mother in June 1966, where she was made an honorary Doctor of Music, and memorably described the structure as “the tower of light and learning.”

The tower was built with a concrete frame, exposed at ground level by sixteen columns, and sheathed with glass-curtain walling, long being subject of speculation that it was based on the Seagram Building in New York City, as well as the CIS Tower and New Century House in Manchester, although no documentary evidence supports any of these theories.

It was connected at first-floor level with the Library (built 1955-1959) and originally had a wide bridge between fountains over a shallow pool in front of the building, but this was drained and covered over due to strong down-drafts, resulting in people getting soaked when entering and leaving the building.

In 2009, the Arts Tower underwent major renovation, the interiors being reorganised, and a new façade added.

Being as tall as it is, stories have persisted about the tower’s sway in strong winds – this turns out to be true, reported as being “slight but measurable” on windy days.

And, of course, we cannot fail to mention the famous Paternoster lift, subject to a separate post.

“Like the big wheel in a fairground,” this was a revolutionary solution to save space (there was only room for four lift shafts), designed to speed up movement of students and staff between floors.

Thirty-eight cars continuously circulate allowing people to step on and off at each level and is now said to be the largest surviving Paternoster lift still in use in the UK.


Arts Tower

In another post, we’ve looked at the University of Sheffield’s Arts Tower, arguably one of the city’s iconic buildings. It was built during the 1960s, designed by Gollins, Melvin, Ward and Partners – a cube of steel, glass and concrete – and at 78metres high is the tallest university building in Britain.

The design only allowed for four lift shafts, including two high-speed lifts primarily to the top floors, and two paternoster lifts, a revolutionary system as few had been built and none the size of Sheffield.

The paternoster was introduced to speed up movement of students and staff between floors. It has no doors and moves continuously without stopping at floor level, and is only one of two left in the country, certainly the tallest operational lift of its kind in Europe.

It was originally installed by the Schindler Lift Company, and comprises 38 two-person cars, travelling the full 22-storeys of the building. A journey between floors takes 13 seconds and allows 76 people to move at any one time.

The paternoster system was designed in the 1860s by Peter Ellis, a Liverpool architect, and gets its name from its resemblance to rosary prayer beads and is Latin for “Our Father,” which opens The Lord’s Prayer.

The paternoster lift was popular in Europe during the early and mid-twentieth century, but production was halted in the 1970s after a series of accidents.

The Arts Tower paternosters were completely rewired in 2009, with new controls and additional lighting. The gearbox and sprockets were recut, wooden guides replaced where necessary, and new safety features were introduced.

And so, to the mischief caused by students on the paternosters.

In the early days, and no doubt still applicable, second- and third-year students liked to scare freshers by emerging from the top of the shaft doing a handstand to prove that the cars turned right over (which they didn’t).

The trip wire on each compartment can easily be triggered by mischief-makers, resulting in the paternosters stopping completely.

There is a story from the 1960s, whereby George Porter, Professor of Physical Chemistry, and his wife, were attending a tea party hosted by the Vice-Chancellor on the thirteenth floor.

“We travelled smoothly in the new wondrous Paternoster lift until, as our heads appeared above the thirteenth floor, we were able to see our host receiving the guests. As he turned to greet us the lift stopped, leaving us about neck level to the floor. The Vice-Chancellor immediately joined us, though necessarily at a higher level, and during the twenty minutes which passed before the lift could be started again, graciously served us tea on the floor.”