The sun shone and it finally felt like spring. A handful of people sat on contemporary seating, mostly looking at their mobile phones, and two down-at-heel men basked in the sunshine and said what a lovely place it was. A City Centre Ambassador joked with them, but warned that she wouldn’t tolerate street drinking, or ‘needles,’ under any circumstances.
The sound of children filled the air. They excitedly climbed the three-by-eight metre climbing boulder, reminiscent of a Peak District rockface, and played on two large pyramids, stainless steel slides, climbing structures, playhouses, a seesaw, and wheelchair-accessible play equipment.
Sheffield’s latest green space has opened in time for Easter. Pounds Park, on the site of the old Wellington Street Fire Station and Headquarters, is named after John Charles Pound (1834 -1918) who was the city’s first Fire Superintendent responsible for laying the foundations of Sheffield’s modern fire service.
It may have to temporarily close later this month to allow for power and water connectivity that will allow new public toilets to open and for water play features to be turned on.
Sheffield City Council has gone to market with two new development plots within its transformational £470m Heart of the City masterplan.
The Council and its appointed marketing agent, CBRE, are seeking buyers for two development sites located on the former car park between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street.
The new developments would further contribute to the rapidly growing mixed-use district that is being created through Heart of the City – this includes the already completed Grosvenor House, plus several under-construction office, leisure, and residential developments.
The two new plots are located at opposite corners of the evolving Pound’s Park, having been originally outlined during the Council’s public consultation for this landmark public space last year.
Construction of Pound’s Park is already well underway and is set to complete towards the end of this year. By prioritising the physical and mental wellbeing of its visitors – through a focus on pedestrians, cycling, active play, and relaxation – the new green space is seen as a big draw for potential developers.
The sites are expected to provide active ground floor uses such as cafes and restaurants onto this high-quality public realm with office, hotel and residential uses on the upper floors considered appropriate. Whilst both sites could be developed by a single purchaser, the Council will consider separate or combined offers for the sites.
The largest of the two new sites (Site B) sits on the southeastern side of the park on the corner of Carver Street and Wellington Street.
One of the requirements for this site is that it must incorporate and display the locally cherished William Mitchell Frieze artwork, which was carefully removed from Barker’s Pool House to make way for a new Radisson Blu hotel last year.
The second site (Site A) sits to the northeast of the park on the corner of Rockingham Street and Division Lane.
Backfields, a cess-pit of filth, was how it was described in the 1870s. These days, we know it as an unassuming narrow lane running between Division Street and Wellington Street. Once it was rural idyll, the fields behind Coal Pit Lane (Cambridge Street) but by the mid-1800s contained slum housing and workshops.
There were a few unsavoury public houses to satisfy the thirst of the poor and were joined in the 1850s by another one.
It was an ambitious attempt by John Banks to capitalise on the success of ‘The Book of the Age,’ and he called his small hostelry Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, in full, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly,’ was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in serialised form in the United States in 1851-52 and in book form from 1852 onwards. An abolitionist novel, it achieved popularity, particularly among white readers in America’s north, by vividly dramatising the experience of slavery.
The first London edition appeared in 1852 and sold 200,000 copies. “Anything in such universal demand has never been known in the history of literature. Many booksellers aver that they are selling nothing else, the trade for the time being seemingly centred in this one book, which, unlike almost all others, presents equal attractions to both old and young,” reported the Sheffield Independent.
It was a brave move by John Banks, and one that probably raised a few eyebrows.
Very little is known about Uncle Tom’s Cabin and by the 1860s had been let out to another tenant before disappearing.
However, Uncle Tom’s Cabin had another claim to fame.
In 1857, a new lodge in connection with the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds – Ashton Unity, was formed at the house of John Banks, under the sign of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
This strange society had been formed on Christmas Day 1826, when several groups came together to create a mutually beneficial society. It came into existence in consequence of the refusal of the officers of the Manchester Unity to permit the opening of an additional lodge in Ashton-Under-Lyne.
The aim of the Order of Ancient Shepherds was “To relieve the sick, bury the dead, and assist each other in all cases of unavoidable distress, so far as in our power lies, and for the promotion of peace and goodwill towards the human race.”
They drew their mythology from biblical sources, emphasising pastoral aspects of mutuality that could be exercised for and by members of the lodge.
The pioneers attached importance to regalia and symbolism. When completing lodge business all members had to wear aprons made of lambskins with the wool on. The Chief Shepherd was to wear a mantle. Guardians were decorated with sheep shears, and to wear broad brimmed hats, and the Minstrel was to carry a harp, an imitation of the Biblical shepherd David.
In 1829 it was designated the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds. Loyal referring to the Crown, and Shepherds referring to the nativity of Jesus.
Shepherdry was introduced into Sheffield with the Shepherd’s Care Lodge in 1852. It was followed by the opening of the Sir Colin Campbell Lodge in 1853 and afterwards several other lodges, including Uncle Tom’s Cabin, opened.
It held its national AGM at the Cutlers’ Hall in 1867 and at the Church Institute in 1886. It survived in Sheffield until 1930 when all the Sheffield District lodges transferred to the City of Leeds District.
Interestingly, the society still exists, and became Shepherds Friendly in the 1990s, now offering Isas, investments, life insurance and income protection.
While you were sleeping last night. Backfields, 3am. A forgotten thoroughfare amid 21st century redevelopment. A street with an undesirable history. Our ancestors imperilled this narrow street to crime – stabbings, muggings, and death, and I doubt that Sheffield has another street which suffered so many devastating fires.
In 1872, a Dr Hime expressed his opinion that it was not surprising that there should be so much sickness in the town while there were such places as Backfields and the neighbourhood.
Backfields led from Division Street to Wellington Street, off which were alleys and passageways with access to Coal Pit Lane, and Carver Street. It was an area of dirty, dense, back-to-back housing, and small workshops.
It was a cess-pit of filth, but it hadn’t always been like this.
Once upon a time, Backfields was exactly that. The fields beyond Coal Pit Lane (now Cambridge Street), once the distant boundary of town, was where cows grazed, sheep gambolled, and children played in the meadows.
Cometh the Industrial Revolution, no trace of its rural past existed.
In the same year that Dr Hime pontificated about Backfields, the Sheffield Independent provided a unique account: –
“On the eastern side of a yard there is a privy that must do duty for a considerable number of houses, and it is scarcely equal to the duty. The ashpit is more than full – it is overflowing. It has made an encroachment almost into the middle of the yard, in front of the doors of some of the houses and extends about twenty feet until its further extension laterally is stopped by the water branch.
“It is the same in every yard. Near St. Matthew’s Church there is an ashpit adjoining the street, piled up high beyond the retaining walls, and the rubbish falls onto the footpath leading to the houses. The passages are worthy of exploration. A visit to them will show that the ashpit question, though a grave one, is not the only point affecting the sanitary position in Sheffield. Air, light, ventilation, and crowding have much to do with it, and many of these places ought to be improved off the face of the earth.
“There is a passage, the old entrance to which has been removed by the erection of a privy, and the actual passage left would scarcely admit the entrance to a turtle-fed alderman. But there are other privies, not only as bad, but worse. One could not be seen because the doors were closed. The other could not be seen because the doors could not be closed. But here, as in the other case, a solution has been found. Human necessity is strong in resources; and the depositions that should be made in the privies are made in or thrown into the passage. These premises are stuck over with notifications from the Health Committee enjoining cleanliness on the inhabitants, in circumstances and under conditions where it is impossible to be clean!
“Yet again, in these jennels and passages, there are active business proceedings carried on. In one of them, there is a bakery, where spicy-looking buns were being made for the delectation of young Sheffield, which may be very excellent in their way, though fastidious people would prefer that the materials of their food should not be exposed and manipulated in such unsavoury localities. In another passage, a large tray of pork pies was met ready for the oven. These ‘Melton Mowbrays’ may be all that could be desired; and the givers of picnics will perhaps feel obliged for hints as to the possible sources of their pies and buns, or other delectable confections manufactured over conditions of sweetness that may impart a flavour and improve the appetite.”
It took years for things to improve. A hundred years later, the houses had finally gone while recession claimed industry and commerce. St. Matthews is perhaps the only reminder of our inglorious past.
Sheffield did little to redevelop Backfields and it is only now, with the Heart of the City project, that the area has been embraced. Tower blocks are not long from completion, and people, maybe descendants of those who ate spicy-buns and pork pies, are returning.
But, as somebody recently pointed out to me, are we simply building the slums of the future?
A few weeks ago, Sheffield councillor Chris Rosling-Josephs, called on developers to be ‘more creative’ and build a 50 storey tower block so the city can have taller buildings than Leeds.
This might well happen, but for the time being the tallest building in Yorkshire is Altus House in Leeds, at 374ft. Sheffield’s tallest building is City Lofts, or St Paul’s Tower, at 331ft.
But the tallest building crown will switch to Sheffield soon.
Work has started on Code Sheffield, three blocks of 12, 17 and 38 storeys costing £100m. Foundations are being dug on the site which borders Rockingham Street, Wellington Street, and Trafalgar Street, and adjacent to Kangaroo Works. Once completed it will be 383ft tall.
It is a significant change for this part of the city centre which was once developed with terraced back-to-back housing and small factories.
The site of Code Sheffield is no different, except that the eastern part of the site was once Mount Tabor Chapel, with a small steel works (Foundling Works or Samuel Buckley Styrian Steel Works) to the south-east along Rockingham Street.
The Chapel was built in 1837-1838 for the Reverend Robert Aitken, a Wesleyan minister. The Wesleyan Reformers purchased the chapel in 1853 and redecorated it as the Mount Tabor Chapel but did not alter the layout. A Sunday School was later built on the land to the west. Both buildings are shown on 1923 and 1935 OS maps and there were plans to improve it in the 1940s, but by the 1950s it had been replaced by the Mount Tabor Printing Works.
The printing works were recorded in the trade directories of 1948 and 1957 as belonging to Saville Press Ltd and Greeting Card Ltd. This building was demolished in 1962-63.
Later buildings on the site included the telephone exchange, which replaced back to back housing, last occupied by the South Yorkshire Housing Association, and Wellington House, which contained Clark and Partners, providers of mobility aids and services.
The One-Stop garage at 210 Rockingham Street was recorded as a garage in 1968 and later as motor radiator repair shop for W.H. Tyas, subsequently occupied by Marston Radiator Services.
All these buildings were cleared in advance of present building work.
However, there is a further twist as to which city will have the tallest building. Plans have already been approved for a 43-storey tower block in Leeds.
Next year, people will start moving into a new residential complex in Sheffield City Centre. When they do, the occupants of Kangaroo Works, a 364 apartment development, will have one of the oddest postal addresses in the city.
Designed by Whittam Cox Architects, with construction underway by Henry Boot, Kangaroo Works is the latest building in Sheffield’s Heart of the City II development. The building, with frontages to Rockingham and Wellington Streets, is designed around the vernacular Sheffield courtyard plan, and provides a stepped roofscape, responding to the sloping typology of the site and forming a transition between the formal city centre and more historic Devonshire Quarter.
The block has a peak of 14 storeys whilst a unique brick façade, taking inspiration from Sheffield’s urban heritage, supports the Masterplan palette and industrial heritage of the original Kangaroo Works site, which the development now stands on.
Kangaroo Works was home to Robert Sorby and Sons, makers of edge tools, later becoming a merchant and steel maker, that had set up on Union Street in 1828 and then moved to Carver Street in 1837.
About 1896 it moved a short distance to this site at the corner of Trafalgar and Wellington Streets.
Their products included adzes, axes, augers, edge tools, joiners’ tools, saws, scythes, hooks, sheep shears and crucible steel. The company sought markets worldwide, and the Kangaroo brand, which was used until the 1980s, was adopted to emphasise the company’s interest in Australia.
Robert Sorby and Sons was acquired by Hattersley and Davidson in 1923, and vacated Kangaroo Works in 1934 to share a site on Chesterfield Road. It still survives in premises on Athol Road at Woodseats.
The former Kangaroo Works became dilapidated and converted for multi-use, and remained so until demolition in 2008, after which it was used as a car-park.
But what happened to the famous stone-carved Kangaroo trademark that once stood over the gateway on Wellington Street?
It was rescued and re-erected at Kelham Island Museum, slightly shorter in height so that it would fit into the restored Russell Works building that houses the Ken Hawley Collection of tools, cutlery and silversmithing made in Sheffield.
And so, the name lives on, and Kangaroo Works will occupy pride of place overlooking Pound’s Park, the new urban green space also under construction.
Once upon a time, the Sheffield construction company, George Longden and Son, might have been chosen to build a new park. From Victorian times, the company was the powerhouse behind many city landmarks. But it lost its way, and the name is all but forgotten.
Instead, the creation of a green space in the city centre will fall to another stalwart of Sheffield construction.
Henry Boot has been appointed to deliver Pound‘s Park, the landmark new public space, and work gets underway this month.
Sheffield City Council sees this as a key piece of the Heart of the City programme, and it is another project that Henry Boot has been involved with. The builder is underway with the residential development at Kangaroo Works, the Elshaw House office development and the Cambridge Street Collective – a food hall and restaurant destination.
Pound’s Park is named after Sheffield’s first Chief Fire Officer, Superintendent John Charles Pound, and is being built on the former fire station site between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street.
As we move forward, Pound’s Park probably won’t be the only new green space in the city centre.
Projects like this are seen as a critical tool in revitalising cities, regenerating poor areas, bringing nature into the city, rejuvenating neighbourhoods, creating a space for physical interaction in our increasingly digital world, and improving city sustainability.
“They are almost being viewed as like anchor stores, as a way of bringing people into a certain part of town,” says Dr Danielle Sinnett, director of the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments at the University of the West of England.
Previously, she reckons, there was some tendency for green space to be tagged onto the end of developments where land was left over. Not so much anymore. “Now it is being seen as key infrastructure in and of itself,” she says.
As well as being a green space, Pound’s Park will have a childrens’ play area, water features, and a new bus interchange. It will also provide an accessible new home for the William Mitchell frieze, which was removed from demolished Barker’s Pool House.
This is Bungalows and Bears, on Division Street, a popular bar with students, but you might not be aware that in 2028 the building will celebrate its centenary. In Pevsner’s Architectural Guide to Sheffield, Harman and Minnis describe it as ‘bloodless, Neo-Georgian,’ typical of inter-war building. Sadly, it’s not looking its best these days.
This was the former Fire Brigade Headquarters, built in 1928 at a cost of £39,000, and opened by the Lord Mayor, Alderman H. Bolton in July 1929.
It would be interesting to know how much remains of its interior since its conversion to flats and ground-floor bar in the 1990s.
The fire station was designed by the City Architect, W.G. Davies, and was intended as an extension to an adjacent station on Rockingham Street (1883-1884). A row of shops fronting Division Street from Rockingham Street to Rockingham Lane was purchased and demolished.
The new Division Street frontage was 155ft long, of which 60ft was occupied by the engine room, with accommodation for 10 engines. Inside, the engine room had white-tiled walls, tastefully picked out in blue, a floor of terrayo, and huge teak doors that opened onto the road.
Adjoining the engine room was the ‘watch room’ – a private telephone exchange and switchboard, with automatic fire bells for calling out the firemen.
On each side of the buildings were stairways and sliding poles of stainless steel fitted on each floor, enabling the men to reach the engine room from the first and second floor firemen’s quarters. There was a children’s playground at the rear of the first floor, while the third floor housed a recreation hall, gymnasium, and more firemen’s quarters.
Electric clocks were fitted throughout, as well as a lighting system controlled by the watch room that ensured that when an alarm sounded emergency lights were switched on automatically.
Outside the engine house, in Division Street, two solid bronze flamboyant torch-fitting electric lamps were fitted, each consisting of three torch-shaped, red-tinted electric lamps.
At the back was a courtyard with a 70ft high brick tower used for drill purposes with Pompier and hook ladders.
The building work was undertaken by Messrs. Abbott and Bannister, Ltd., general builders, and public works contractors, of Machon Bank, using Stairfoot Double Pressed Red Facing bricks, and stone supplied by Joseph Turner of Middlewood Quarries. A green Westmorland slate roof was installed by W.W. Fawcett of Hale Street.
The next time you go past, have a look for five different carvings on the building. They include the Sheffield Coat of Arms and representations of four of the old Fire Marks, all executed by Frank Tory and Sons, architectural sculptors, of Ecclesall Road.
The fire station survived until 1983 when a replacement building was opened on Wellington Street, subsequently demolished in 2010, with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue moving to its current Eyre Street headquarters. Now used as a car park, the Wellington Street site is earmarked to become Pound’s Park, named after Sheffield’s first Fire Superintendent.
The Heart of the City II programme moves forward, and this artist impression shows Pound’s Park, a new public space that will be created on the site of the demolished Wellington Street fire station.
It will be on the western side of the Heart of the City masterplan, located between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street, and will create another green space in the city centre, as well as creating children’s’ play areas, water features, and a new bus interchange.
The Park will also provide an accessible new home for the William Mitchell frieze, which was removed from Barker’s Pool House a few months ago in preparation for the construction of the new Radisson Blu hotel on Pinstone Street.
A lot has been written about Pound’s Park, but I’d like to focus on the man it is named after.
John Charles Pound (1834 -1918) was the city’s first Fire Superintendent, and responsible for laying the foundations of our modern fire service.
He was born at Sittingbourne in Kent and served for eight years in the Navy and Mercantile Marine Service, and as a man-of-war took part in operations in the Crimea.
Leaving the sea, he joined the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in its earliest days. He was engaged at the memorable Tooley Street fire in 1861, where his chief, Captain Braidwood, was killed by a falling wall just minutes after Pound had been talking to him. (It was referred to as ‘the greatest fire since the Great Fire of London,’ and occurred at Cotton Wharf where many warehouses were situated. It attracted a crowd of more than 30,000 spectators).
“This was in the early days of fire brigade work, and long before the extinguishing of fires had been the object of practical and scientific studies. The Metropolitan firemen learnt engineering by travelling on locomotives and receiving instruction from engine drivers. The scheme had been adopted by Captain Braidwood, and John Pound was one of those who familiarised himself in engineering. When proficient he was appointed to a responsible position on one of the brigade’s river floats.”
He applied for a position at Nottingham and was appointed as engineer of the first steam fire engine, staying two years before coming to Sheffield in 1869 to form the Corporation’s first fire brigade. The decision of the Corporation to take over and run the Fire Brigade was brought to a head by a series of large fires between 1865 and 1869.
Pound established the fire brigade over 26 years, with trained firemen, and the introduction of the best firefighting appliances. His biggest fires included Portland Street Confectionery Works (George Bassett and Co) and at G. H. Hovey and Sons (drapers and house furnishers) in Angel Street in the winter of 1893 in which six large shops were destroyed.
Superintendent Pound was injured at the Park Club fire, on Bernard Street, in February 1895 when he fell against a kerbstone whilst handling a jet. His injuries were at first thought to be bruising of the ribs, but later he suffered difficulty in breathing. He retired from the Fire Brigade shortly afterwards.
“He may now begin to feel the need of rest and relief from being in a state of incessant preparedness, and the Micawbian attitude of ‘waiting for something to turn up,’ and the good wishes of the citizens will follow him in retirement.”
John Charles Pound died from influenza at his home on Tullibardine Road in 1918. His coffin was shrouded in the Union Jack and conveyed on a horse-drawn fire brigade tender, with Indian Mutiny veterans, firemen and police taking part in the cortege. He was buried at Sheffield General Cemetery.
A fitting tribute that Sheffield’s first fire officer should be honoured with a park, and on the site of a former fire station.
More on Heart of the City II, creating a new city centre using existing street patterns and a mix of old and new buildings. Because the scheme relies on funding, the coronavirus pandemic is likely to delay things, but there is still the commitment to complete the project.
The latest plans unveiled covers Block H site – located between Wellington Street, Carver Street and Cambridge Street.
The site features some of the most interesting buildings within the masterplan area, including two listed buildings – Leah’s Yard (H1) and the Bethel Sunday School.
The intention is for Block H to truly become a cultural and social meeting place, and is split into three distinct elements (H1, H2 and H3).
H2 is a new 70,000 sq ft, Grade A office building, raising the bar with its low carbon specification. H3 is the Cambridge Street Collective – a cultural hub where the city’s best sights, sounds and flavours all come together. Proposals include a 20,000 sq ft communal hall offer, where people can meet, eat, drink, work and socialise.
Proposals for H3, the Cambridge Street Collective include a large, stripped-back, industrial-style space, which would be ideally suited for a food hall or a similar sociable, communal offer. This space would incorporate the historic character of the Bethel Sunday School, the former Brewhouse and Henry’s venues and the building currently occupied by DINA. It would also include a more modern structure sitting behind this to enclose a gathering space, using sympathetic materials to the existing buildings.
Wrapping this large space would be complementary shops, a bar and restaurant, and an upper level leisure space. Next to the communal hall offer would be the renovated Bethel Chapel, with plans for this to become a live music venue.
The primary public entrance to this block would be via a pedestrianised spill out/arrival square to the north of the development, plus the modern ‘Arrival Building’ on Backfields. Access to the additional retail and leisure elements of H3 would be from Cambridge Street, Wellington Street and Backfields.