Categories
Streets

When the Victorians complained about our roads

By the 1870s, many Sheffield roads had been laid with macadam but the corporation found it difficult to maintain and keep clean. As such, many roads were ripped up and replaced with granite setts.

Complaints about pot-holes always cause a stir. But you might be surprised to know that our roads have long been the subject of contention. The columns of local newspapers have been filled with grumbles going back to Victorian times.

The grievance was the type of material used to surface our streets. As Sheffield grew, the network of roads expanded, and many of the main streets were overlaid with cobbles (water-rounded stones collected from beaches and rivers), irregular flat-shaped stones, or more commonly, slag macadam.

In the 19th century, cobbles were replaced with round or hexagonal wooden setts, probably creosoted Norway pine, that provided a safer surface for horses and wagons. They gave a better grip for horse-shoes and the iron rims on wheels, and reduced the noise of traffic.

Wooden cobbles unearthed on Hodgson Street. Picture: Nigel Humberstone

The wooden setts, although abundant in supply, proved expensive, and granite setts, squared off by hand, were brought to Sheffield from several locations, including Cornwall, the Channel Islands, and then increasingly from Aberdeen.

Once worked, granite setts were capable of much greater precision of laying and could help construct a far smoother street surface. They lasted for 30 years, hardwood for 15 years, and afterwards could be taken up and redressed.

However, the people of Sheffield objected to granite, complaining that noise generated by horse-drawn traffic was too loud. On West Street, wooden setts had been laid to make it quieter around the Royal Hospital, but ratepayers on the other side, on Division Street and Devonshire Street, protested that noise from granite was “nerve-racking,” “a distinct disgrace to the city,” and “enough to send people to the county asylum.”

There was a bigger drawback. Horses tended to slip on granite causing serious injury, sometimes death, to the animals. It was reason enough for Sir John Bingham, head of the firm of Walker and Hall, to campaign against their use in the 1890s.

Bingham had good reason to dislike granite setts. When driving a high dog cart, one of his horses had slipped and fallen, pitching him out onto his head. He started a crusade and gained support from Reuben Thompson and Joseph Tomlinson, proprietors of Sheffield’s two largest horse-drawn cab and omnibus firms.

“I, like many others, have been injured for life upon these granite setts, and I feel most strongly that where they are laid, they should be properly and regularly roughed. About a year ago, accidents happened on the same day to two of our leading steel manufacturers, Colonel Vickers, and Sir Alexander Wilson, one of them having his horse killed, the other being seriously injured, and will bear deep scars on his forehead so long as he lives, and says will never drive again in Sheffield.”

Bingham re-entered the council to enforce his views and was eventually able to stop granite setts being used on Sheffield’s main streets.

In 1895, he discovered that the stringy bark of a Tasmanian tree could be combined with granite to create a safer, quieter, and more durable road surface. He developed Bingham Patent Paving, first used on Norfolk Street, and then across many of the city’s main streets.

However, by the 1920s, the use of asphalt  meant that Sheffield Corporation hadn’t bought any wood or granite setts (or Bingham’s paving) for several years. Asphalt had been created by accident in Kent after tar barrels had fallen onto a road and broken. Ultimately, it was discovered the part of the road covered with tar was found the best, and afterwards the use of tar had spread all over the country.

It resulted in most of Sheffield’s cobbled streets being covered over, a practice that continues to this day using modern techniques.

Thankfully, there are still plenty of granite setts in streets across Sheffield, and some of the wooden setts have even resurfaced in recent years, notably on Hodsgon Street, near the Moore Street roundabout, and on Sackville Road, at Crookes.

Highways supervisor Gary Booth examines some of the wooden blocks in 2018 at the Streets Ahead Olive Grove depot. Picture: Sheffield Star

© 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 Streets

It’s hard to imagine our former landscape

Sheffield in 1791. This reproduction was one of David Martin’s Series of Sheffield Sketches, showing what was the appearance of the town from the north side of Broomhall Spring.

The wood called Broomhall Spring extended to Broomhall Park, full of fine old oak trees, with very little underwood, and soft turf like that of a park. The wood was later cut down, the Government wanting oak timber for ship-building.

The spring itself was later referred to as Spring Garden Well, with the inscription “To the public use, by the Rev. James Wilkinson and Phillip Gell, Esq. Freely take – freely communicate. thank God.”

It was at what is now the corner of Gell Street and Conway Street, and it isn’t without coincidence that the names Broomspring Lane, Wilkinson Street and Gell Street emerged.

To the picture itself, and the fields between Broomhall Spring and the churches – the Parish Church, St. James’s and St. Paul’s – are known to us now as West Street, Division Street, and their adjacent thoroughfares.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Charles Clifford Dental Hospital

In another post, we looked at Sir Charles Clifford (1860-1936), proprietor of the Sheffield Telegraph and Yorkshire Telegraph and Star, and on the Council at the University of Sheffield.

Little is known about him nowadays, but his name is familiar with generations across the city.

The Charles Clifford Dental Hospital, on Wellesley Road, was opened in 1953 to provide dental care for people in Sheffield.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

Its origins were in the Dental department of the Royal Hospital on West Street, but the facilities became too cramped, and so, in 1935, Sir Charles Clifford bought Broom Bank, an empty house on Glossop Road, for the purpose.

Sir Charles Clifford died in 1936, also leaving more than £77,000 for the “general purpose of the university.” It later emerged that there was a problem with Broom Bank because the site had been earmarked for a new general hospital to replace the Royal Hospital and Royal Infirmary (it subsequently became the Royal Hallamshire Hospital).

The plans had to be abandoned, and war prevented development of the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital (on another site on Wellesley Road) until revived in 1950. In the meantime, Broom Bank was demolished in 1947, a decision criticised by the local press as the loss of a short-term chance to adapt it for the purposes of the hospital.

The foundation stone was laid by Hilary A. Marquand, Minister of Health, in September 1951, and was finally opened by the Duchess of Gloucester in 1953.

When it opened it was “one of the finest dental schools in the country,” with laboratories, teaching rooms, a library and common rooms as well as one floor devoted to general treatment, and a second, with forty dental chairs, for “conservative restoration of teeth and periodontal work.”

Photographs by Picture Sheffield

The NHS provided most of the funding, but £7,800 of Sir Charles Clifford’s legacy was used to buy equipment.   In 1966, the facility was extended, and in 1995 the hospital was absorbed into the Central Sheffield University Hospitals NHS Trust, which merged with the Northern General NHS Trust in 2001 to become Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. A major refurbishment programme that cost £5.3million was completed in 2009 and now includes The School of Dentistry at the University of Sheffield.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield
Photograph by Terry Robinson
Categories
Buildings

Sheffield Telephone Exchange

Let us not underestimate the importance of this building in the history of Sheffield. Completely gutted in the past few years, with office-space built around a central atrium and a glass roof extension, the outside of Grade II-listed Steel City House remains pretty much as it was in 1927.

This was once the Sheffield Telephone Exchange Building, occupying a triangular piece of land bordering Bow Street, Pinfold Street and Holly Street. I should explain that Bow Street later became West Street, the road we now associate with the building.

The origins of the building go back to 1879 when John Tasker, Mayor of Sheffield, opened the Sheffield Telephone Exchange, along with a dozen subscribers, later taken over by the National Telephone Company, operating out of Change Alley, and consolidating both companies on Commercial Street.

The General Post Office (GPO) took over the National Telephone Company in 1912, effectively nationalising the network, the beginning of one of Britain’s greatest technological developments.

As early as 1920, there had been a proposal for a telephone exchange system in Sheffield, including several new exchanges and the extension of underground cables to the city from London and other centres.

These were the days when making a telephone call meant speaking to an operator, who connected you with the recipient at the other end. However, times were changing, and talk was of a new automated exchange system allowing callers to dial a number direct.

In the end, the idea was postponed due to the long wait for new apparatus to be sourced, and it wasn’t until the latter part of 1921 that a decision was reached between the GPO and Sheffield Corporation.

As part of the agreement, a new central telephone exchange was to be built, designed by Henry Edward Treharne Rees (1871-1937), of His Majesty’s Office of Works and Public Buildings.

Work began on the site in November, oddly enough, the land prepared by the Co-operative Wholesale Society, and it wasn’t until March 1922 that the construction was really appreciated with the raising of the girded steel frame.

What followed was a long-protracted development, repeatedly held up by red-tape, and not helped by having to lay thousands of miles of cable across the city. This alone, originally estimated to cost £85,000, was held up because a ‘patching’ policy was used instead, whereby new sections of cable were laid down and patched to existing wires.

The Sheffield Central Telephone Exchange opened in March 1927, but not before about 10,000 subscribers had been visited to have the new system explained to them.

Sheffield wasn’t the first city to get an automated service, that honour went to Hull, but it was the largest and biggest conversion undertaken. It was joined by further exchanges at Attercliffe, Beauchief, Broomhill, Ecclesfield, Oughtibridge, Owlerton, Sharrow and Woodhouse.

The main entrance was at the junction of Pinfold Street and Bow Street (West Street). The basement was used for telephone stores and heating chambers. The first floor was used as offices and showrooms for the telephone service, with similar offices on the second floor, and third floor offices let out to tenants.

Nearly the whole of the top floor was occupied by a series of “selectors,” together with “change” machines and “ringer” machines for supplying power. Another machine automatically registered every local call made.

Shops were available to rent in Bow Street and Pinfold Street, and a Post Office was moved here from Church Street.

In 1930, Martin’s Bank (later Barclays) rented a large space at the rounded corner of the building, taking over the main entrance and becoming the anchor tenant until modern times.

The exchange lasted until the 1960s, when it was replaced with a bigger facility at Eldon House, on Wellington Street, the building given over to offices. It was refurbished in 1995 but soon became outdated and “not fit for purpose.”

Steel City House, as it had become, was refurbished in 1995, and underwent its biggest renovation in 2015, part of a £10million plan by Scott’s Developments, gutting the interior and turning it into a new-age office facility.

Categories
Buildings

Sheffield Telephone Exchange

A sketch of Sheffield Telephone Exchange taken shortly after completion in March 1927. The building survives as Steel City House, at the bottom of West Street, the subject of a recent £10million office conversion.

The triangular building was designed by Henry Edward Treharne Rees (1871-1937), of His Majesty’s Office of Works and Public Buildings, with construction starting in 1921 on a site that had been empty for years, and had “formed the forum for keen agitators among the unemployed.”

Now classed as Art Deco, but at the time described as being a “modern adaptation of Renaissance-style, harmonising with existing buildings in the area.”

It was built with 40,000 cubic feet of Portland stone, the rough blocks conveyed from Dorset with final sawing and dressing done in Sheffield. The floors were made of reinforced concrete with about 40 tons of reinforcing rods used in the construction.

With rounded corners, massive Doric columns supported a semi-circular portico to the main entrance at the corner of West Street and Pinfold Street.

The five-storied building was built by Henry Boot and Sons, based on Moore Street, which claimed to be Britain’s biggest builder, with a yearly output of £1.7million.

The iron and steelwork were by Manchester-based Lambourne and Company, constructional engineers, the cause of much disappointment to local steel companies which tendered for the contract.

The sole contractor for the installation of electric lighting was Marsh Brothers, which had showrooms on Fargate and works at Edmund Road.

The extensive plumbing and glazing work were in the hands of M. Newman and Son, of Union Street, and the installation of “regency” metal windows and ornamental cast ironwork completed by Williams & Williams of Chester.

The House of Sage – Frederick Sage and Company, of London and Leeds – executed the bronze metal and teak shop-fronts, entrances to the offices and the main entrance.

The electric lifts were installed by William Wadsworth and Sons, Bolton and London, which had installed lifts in several other Government departments.

Marble and terrazzo paving, crafted by Italian experts, were supplied by Hodkin & Jones of Queen’s Road, and interior painting and decoration was undertaken by Smiths (Decorators), with a showroom in Fitzalan Square.

However, the most important contract was reserved for Siemens Brothers, Woolwich, which designed and supplied the whole of the automated telephone exchange equipment, comprising nine exchanges across Sheffield.

Soon after construction, Martin’s Bank became an anchor tenant, moving from Leopold Street, taking over the main entrance between West Street and Pinfold Street.

It spent a small fortune decking the new bank with Cuban mahogany, the floors with polished maple and borders of oak and jarrah, a dark coloured Australian wood.

The telephone exchange operated until the 1960s when a bigger facility was built at Eldon House on Wellington Street. Martin’s Bank later became Barclays until its eventual closure.

Categories
Buildings

Wesleyan Institute Building

The Carver Street Chapel (now Walkabout) was built on green fields in 1805, with the Sunday School premises of Red Hill constructed in 1812, and 73 years later additional vestries built behind the chapel. In 1897, new schools and classrooms were erected on Rockingham Street (now Soyo), to meet the ever-growing needs of the chapel and district.

In 1912, the centenary of Red Hill Schools, plans were discussed to enlarge its premises at Carver Street, but the outbreak of World War One delayed progress.

By the 1920s, the original scheme had entirely been remodelled and new premises were built on West Street, officially opened in 1929.

Designed by architect W. J. Hale, of St. James’ Row, the large block constituted shops at ground level with rooms above.

It was constructed by the William G. Robson Building Company, of Bamforth Street, a firm that had built cinemas, dance halls, institutes, hospitals, warehouses, showrooms, hotels and houses throughout the country.

Another firm that played an important part in the construction was the Sheffield Brick Company, of Rutland Road, providing an extensive range of plastic stock, “Winco” and rustic facing bricks.

The whole of the precast fireproof concrete flooring was “Armoured” Tubular Patent Flooring, made by John Cooke and Son, Huddersfield, its main advantage being “fireproof, soundproof, warm and well-tempered.”

At this stage, architects were realising the importance of aggregate concrete in building construction. This structure was no exception, with graded sands and gravels provided by the Yorkshire Amalgamated Products company, the largest quarry owner in the county, with offices on Queen Street.

The contract for the whole of the plumbing had been executed by George W. Rusling and Son, at Brook Hill, with a reputation of 40-years standing in plumbing, glazing, gas-fitting, and sanitary work.

The whole of the building was electrically lit, but it was the heating that was a novel feature for the time. Instead of the usual hot water pipes, a new system of tubular electric heaters had been installed, two inches in diameter. All this work had been undertaken by Charles Ross Ltd, of Heeley Bridge.

The decorative scheme inside was executed by W.J. Wollerton, house and church decorators and furnishers, of Stratford House, at Broomhill. Church decoration was a speciality of this firm, using Sanderson Fast-to-Light wallpapers and treating woodwork with “Durolave” paint.

The main entrance to the Institute was in Rockingham Street. On the first floor, at the top of the stairs, a room was set apart for the Deaconess, where young women and girls were able to take their difficulties and hopes and discuss them with Sister Hilda Morris.

To the right was the Girls’ Institute Room, a spacious room with polished floor, carpeted here and there, with beautiful curtains at the windows, the work of “Painted Fabric.” This was a large drawing room, open nightly for girls over 14 years of age. They had their own kitchen and cooking arrangements, with supervision from helpers. A Rest Room, Library and Handicraft Classes were included in the scheme.

Adjoining the Girls’ Room was the Primary – for children from six to eight years of age, a bright square room, and the Beginners’ Room, for tiny tots, aged three to five years.

“There, while watching the fairies on the walls, they will take in the simple stories that form the basis of all true life.”

The top portion of the Institute was the men’s department. One large room running practically the whole length of the building, containing six billiard tables at one end, and the other arranged with tables for chess, draughts and books.

More importantly, voluntary workers used the new Institute for various organisations, including the Lads’ Guild, the Boys’ Brigade and the Reserves, Girl Guides, Brownies, two Bands of Hope, Children’s Play Hour, Gymnasium, Girls’ Club, Men’s Institute, Wesley Guild, Teacher’s Preparation and fellowship Classes.

In every spare room, always tucked in and arranged like a jigsaw puzzle, were committees and working parties.

Many ministers were realising that it was impossible to expect poorer youngsters to spend all their spare time in prayer meetings, therefore it looked to involve them in activities to keep them occupied. These included three football teams, a cricket club, tennis club, and a playing field up at Hagg Lane.

The cost of the building was over £17,000, with £8,500 already raised through fund-raising, and the remainder underwritten by renting out nine shops, fronting West Street.

All the shops were roomy and contained basements that were easily accessible. These were let by W.F. Corker and Son, estate agents, of 19 Figtree Lane. One of the first to take advantage of the shops was F. Wallis and Son, furniture sellers.

The confusingly named Carver Street Wesleyan Institute opened on February 7, 1929.

Times changed, the kids moved on, and as you might have seen from Gordon Mason’s comments on a previous post, the first and second floors eventually became Unemployment Benefit Offices in the 1980s.

The shops below changed hands numerous times, with the largest development about to take place at ground level, with a new German-themed bar, comprising several units, due to open this year.

Categories
Buildings

Rockingham Street Methodist Sunday School

The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on Carver Street, was built at Cadman’s Fields in 1804, then green fields and trees, and a meeting place of political demonstrations.

The development of Sheffield westwards proceeded slowly until the end of the century, by which time the Carver Street Chapel was surrounded by housing, factories and shops.

These days we recognise the chapel as Walkabout, a vibrant city centre bar.

This was the biggest chapel in the town, and it expanded to meet the increasing popularity of Methodism.

The Carver Street Chapel built the Red Hill Sunday School on nearby Rockingham Lane in 1812, also adding an extension to the original building in 1885.

The Sunday School was one of 34 Wesleyan schools operating in Sheffield, with 1,096 teachers and 5,694 children across the city.

By the end of the century, the Red Hill Sunday School was considered too small, and in 1896 plans were made to build new facilities adjacent to it, fronting onto Rockingham Street.

Although the chapel had been in debt for most of its existence, it had consolidated its finances through generous donations and fundraising.

In 1898, the Carver Street Chapel was temporarily closed and the outside thoroughly cleaned of industrial grime. It was also the same year that the Methodist Sunday School was opened on Rockingham Street at a cost of £4,000.

Designed by Herbert W. Lockwood, this was a massive end of three-storeys with a tall gable, containing a lecture hall and 24 classrooms.

It proved to be a valuable addition in consolidating and expanding the work of the church.

“The area was indebted in no small measure for its record of successful spiritual work in a crowded district to the ability and zeal of its distinguished ministers and laymen.”

We’ve already seen that the Carver Street Chapel is now a bar, and these old schoolrooms also survive in a similar capacity.

These days the old building is home to Soyo, another trendy bar, making use of the exposed brick, and seemingly a million miles away from its Methodist roots.

Categories
Buildings

Carver Street Methodist Sunday School

In another post we’ve looked at the history of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on Carver Street, better known now as Walkabout, an Australian-themed bar.

The chapel was built in 1804 by Methodist minister-turned-architect, Rev. William Jenkins (1763-1844) and remained in use until the 1980s. It was converted into a bar at the start of this century.

If you take a walk alongside the former chapel, along West Street, and turn left into Rockingham Lane, you will see a brick building on the right with five bays and rounded windows.

Known today as Bishops Lodge, a series of luxury apartments, it was built in 1812 by the Carver Street Chapel for the Red Hill Methodist Sunday School (later extended into Rockingham Street, a building subject to a future post).

The former Sunday School was subsequently occupied by The Samaritans and Grade II-listed in 1995.

Categories
Buildings

Carver Street Methodist Chapel

In this next post we take another look at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on Carver Street, better known now as Walkabout, an Australian-themed bar.

The foundation stone was laid on March 1st, 1804, and once completed was referred to as the Methodist Cathedral of Sheffield. The Rev. William Jenkins, the architect, was also a circuit minister, one of the staff on the Wesleyan “Sheffield Circuit.”

The chapel was opened in 1805, on July 22nd, and a week later the first Sheffield Conference was held here, with 300 preachers assembled in the new building.

The first worshippers looked out on green fields and trees. The site was known as Cadman’s Fields and its selection aroused misgivings and opposition as being too far outside the town.

However, Henry Longden, a Methodist preacher, was quoted as saying that one day the town would spread and swallow up Cadman’s Fields.

And he was correct.

This photograph shows an extension built to the Carver Street Chapel, about 1885, in which band rooms and schoolrooms were built at the rear.

At the back of the Carver Street Chapel, on the opposite side of Rockingham Lane, the Red Hill Sunday School (seen on the right) was built in 1812, and subject of a separate post.