Historic letter from 1938 discovered on Sheffield city centre building site

A letter from 1938 written by the foreman of a former plastering company was discovered on a city centre building site in Sheffield.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 3:43 pm

The letter was found rolled up inside a small canister and lodged within a wall cavity at Bethel Chapel on Cambridge Street, which is under construction to become a new 15,000 sq ft live entertainment venue.

Dated around the beginning of the Second World War, the letter was written by the foreman of former Sheffield plastering company Bradbury & Sons – which was working on the site at the time.

Sheffield Archives has confirmed that Bethel Chapel closed in 1936 and the building was bought in 1938 by George Binns, who relocated his clothing business Outfitters from Moorhead.

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Employees from Sheffield-based construction firm, Henry Boot Construction, have discovered a letter from 1938 whilst working on their Heart of the City construction site in Sheffield city centre.

As part of the repurposing and renovation works, the small churchyard at the front was removed and a two-storey extension was added to the front of the chapel. This work was likely to be the project that the Bradbury & Sons plasterers worked on when they left their letter.The letter lists all the names of the workers involved – who it states were all members of the Plasterers Union. The letter also notes “Boy Teddy” as the apprentice. Apprentices tended to start at the legal age of 14 at the time.

It was found by employees from Sheffield-based Henry Boot Construction who added a letter of their own to the canister, which has now been placed back in the same wall.

Henry Boot’s letter recorded the staff members working on the site today and as a direct nod to the original, the letter is signed by today’s Senior Site Supervisor Carl Gelder, and Harry Rodgers – one of the apprentices on site.Ian Gresser, operations manager for Henry Boot Construction, said: “At Henry Boot Construction we are extremely proud to be working on flagship projects in our home city and we always take our responsibility to protect any findings very seriously. To uncover an old letter or artifact is always an exciting moment, but it’s particularly special to find something directly linked to the construction industry.“Much of the Heart of the City project is about protecting key heritage, particularly along Cambridge Street. So, adding our own letter to the capsule and contributing to the story of the area means a lot to the team. It’s nice to think that people may read our letter alongside the Bradbury & Sons letter in another 100 years-time.”Henry Boot Construction is working on three key city centre developments within the Heart of the City scheme – Kangaroo Works, Cambridge Street Collective and Elshaw House.

Kangaroo Works is a residential development of 365 high-quality apartments; Cambridge Street Collective is a key cultural and social destination that features a 20,000 sq ft food hall, fine dining restaurant and the Bethel Chapel venue; while Elshaw House is an office development that will be net zero carbon ready and contribute to the council’s long-term ambitions to create a more sustainable and greener city centre.

Senior site supervisor Carl Gelder, left, and apprentice Harry Rodgers, right.
Senior site supervisor Carl Gelder, left, and apprentice Harry Rodgers, right.