'We must channel The Leadmill spirit to save more of Sheffield’s cultural heritage, starting with Birley Spa'

When The Leadmill’s operators announced they had been given notice to leave, Sheffield got angry.

By Andrew W Mclean
Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 11:39 pm

The venue has been at the forefront of Sheffield’s music, comedy and clubbing scene for over 40 years and is a place of nationally celebrated cultural significance.

But fears over The Leadmill’s future are just the latest example of how Sheffield risks losing its cultural and historical heritage.

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Birley Spa, a Grade II-listed bathhouse in Hackenthorpe, Sheffield. Picture: Molly Williams

Birley Spa and Bath House in the Hackenthorpe region of the city is home to Sheffield’s only Victorian plunge pool, but the building had fallen into a state of disrepair following years of mismanagement.

Located in a valley just off Birley Spa Road, it is a hidden Sheffield gem with a rich history that must be protected for the public.

The Friends of Birley Spa campaign group came together in 2018 after Sheffield City Council announced plans to sell the building. Ever since, the group has worked tirelessly to save the building and protect it as a community asset for future generations.

While the group has managed to save the building from being sold, its long term future is far from certain. Unfortunately, most of the group's campaigns have fallen on deaf ears. Its members continue to maintain the building while they try to fundraise for its future.

Birley Spa, a Grade II-listed bathhouse in Hackenthorpe, Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

I have had the pleasure of looking round the building and it has huge potential to become a historical asset for Sheffield to be proud of. The plunge pool is beautiful and the building itself fits perfectly with the tranquil landscape.

It is not just the building that will be lost if Birley Spa does not receive the funding that it deserves. The site is home to an extensive green area and a small pond. It is home to a range of wildlife including kingfishers, woodpeckers and squirrels, whose habitat would be under threat if the site was to fall into the wrong hands.

I was struck by how peaceful the area was despite being near a busy road and school. This is a place where residents in Hackenthorpe and those from further afield can come to relax, free from the pressures of life.

While much is rightly made about the beauty of the Peak District and all the mental health benefits it brings, more must be done to highlight the amazing spaces within the city’s boundaries.

There is a clear interest in saving the site for the Hackenthorpe community, with nearly 2,000 people signing an online petition calling on the council to guarantee the building will remain a public asset. The success of the Old Coach House in Hillsborough Park provides a direct example of what Birley Spa could become.

The Friends of Birley Spa’s members have worked with architecture students from the University of Sheffield on an ambitious long term plan for the site. With the right funding, the site could be transformed into one that Sheffield can be proud of.

We need to channel The Leadmill spirit to save buildings of historical significance like Birley Spa and maintain our city’s beauty for future generations.