Iconic rooftop 'Woollens' sign in Sheffield saved by developers

An iconic neon sign that symbolises Sheffield’s past prosperity has been rescued from a rooftop just before the area is redeveloped.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 5:01 pm

The 68ft ‘Woollens for Signs’ advert on the firm’s former headquarters on Love Street will be restored and put on display at Kelham Island Museum which is already home to the much-loved ‘Made in Sheffield’ neon sign.

The landmark has survived thieves and vandals who have trashed the building, as well as years of exposure to the elements.

Now it has been dismantled in 78 sections.

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The Woollens sign is a well-known landmark.

Developer Urbo worked with the University of Sheffield City and Culture team and sign specialist Neon Workshops

Tom Swallow at Urbo said, “We are delighted to be able to preserve this important part of Sheffield’s industrial heritage.

“The Woollens sign is an iconic part of the Sheffield cityscape and it is great to work with the University of Sheffield to give it a new lease of life which everyone can enjoy. This will ensure this key part of Sheffield’s history at West Bar is not forgotten as we embark on the site’s regeneration.”

Prof Vanessa Toulmin, director of city and culture, partnerships and regional engagement at The University of Sheffield, said she’d had sleepless nights fearing it would be smashed or stolen.

The neon sign was carefully dismantled in 78 sections.

She added: “We are delighted that our continuing relationship with Urbo which first started with Love Square, has enable us to secure a future for an important piece of Sheffield’s industrial history. I cannot wait to see it once again lit up and acting as a beacon for the people of Sheffield once again.”

Woollen & Co Sheffield was established in 1883 by signwriter Edwin Woollen and Frederick Ibbotson, a lithographic printer.

In 1897 it moved to Love Street. The 20th century saw illuminated signs become fashionable and in 1914 Woollens became agents for ‘Electric Lamp Letters Signs’. Neon was introduced in the early 20th century but during World War 2 the prohibition of illuminated signs meant Woollens had to adapt once again.

In 2005, Woollen and Company Ltd was bought by the Sheffield Co-operative Society but in 2008, after 125 years trading, the business closed.

Several former employees went on to form a new Woollens while maintaining some of the original customer base

Eddy Foster, head of historic engineering at Sheffield Museums said: “The Woollens sign has an amazing history and we’re really pleased to give it new home at Kelham Island Museum. The museum is already home to the much-loved Made in Sheffield neon sign, and this fantastic new addition will enable us to share even more of the city’s remarkable industrial story.”

Urbo hopes to deliver a £300million mixed-use development in the area. The site, between Bridge Street, Love Street and Corporation Street is now ‘fully assembled and ready for work to commence’, the firm says.

Reserved matters planning applications were recently submitted to deliver the £150 million first phase of an office block ground floor retail and leisure space and 368 apartments, funded by insurance giant Legal and General.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.