Iconic cutlery works will be transformed as Sheffield celebrates its heritage

A new community will be created in a former historic cutlery works in Sheffield city centre after councillors unanimously backed the plans.

By Lucy Ashton
Wednesday, 20 February, 2019, 08:29
Eye Witness Works as it looks now

The £21m plans will see the restoration of the iconic Eye Witness Works and Ceylon Works, both grade 2 listed buildings, along with the construction of a six storey building on the site that was formerly home to the Brunswick Hotel.

The Milton Street development will kick start the regeneration of the area and will include 97 loft apartments and townhouses, along with a cafe-bar, private courtyards and cobbled street.

An artist's impression of the new Eye Witness Works redevelopment

Tom Wilmott, of developers Capital and Centric, told a planning meeting: “We are developers with a real passion for architecture and good design and the restoration of heritage assets.

“It’s our first project in Sheffield and we hope it will be the first of many. We are passionate about doing more in the city. We feel incredibly fortunate to be involved in the restoration of these two listed buildings and we relish the opportunity to be involved in shaping the history of the last 50 years of these buildings

“There will be a mix of one, two and three bedroomed apartments and townhouses which will encourage and promote a real broad demographic to the area to help build a long term sustainable community in this part of Sheffield.

“In other parts of the city you have a constant turnover of young professionals but what we are really trying to achieve here is a long term sustainable community.

A drone shot of Eye Witness Works

“There are challenges to balance the need for good design and architecture with a sensitive restoration of heritage, the requirement to satisfy modern day residential building standards and also deal with challenging viability pressures which these types of buildings often present but we feel this satisfies all of those objectives.”

Mr Wilmott said the building had been empty for a year and was starting to show signs of decay.

He added: “The building has a number of defective issues from extensive asbesto to structural underpinning that is required and there is a significant amount of damp.

“There have been a series of break-ins and graffiti resulting in further decay of the building and we feel this proposal really emphasises the need to find an appropriate use for the building for its long term enhancement and preservation.

Adam Higgins and Tim Heatley, of Capital & Centric, pictured in what will become a two-bedroomed apartment.

“The design takes a sensitive approach to enhancing the building’s character while celebrating and retaining a number of existing features and we believe this will be the catalyst for the regeneration of this area and encourage further development to come forward.”

Councillors welcomed the plans.

Coun Peter Price said: “This is brilliant. It is helping to preserve our heritage, particularly the cutlery industry. This is a fast growing area for new residents and the footfall will increase and add more value to the city centre.”

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Coun Andrew Sangar said: “We need more housing in sustainable locations. We are not America, we don’t demolish everything, we try to keep the facades so people understand their heritage.”

And Coun Jack Clarkson added: “This is a lovely building, they don’t make them like they used to. It’s great for a developer to come along, especially when it’s been suffering vandalism.”

Work is due to start in spring and the first residents could move into Eye Witness Works by the end of 2020.

Community ties in a city centre

Capital and Centric said this could be the first of many developments for them in the city. They have ambitions to deliver more schemes across the city, including around Eye Witness Works, and are already working on a vision for the wider area which could include over 2,000 residential units, café-bars and restaurants.

Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital and Centric, said after the meeting: “For us, it’s about building a community not a development. We want to create a place that people can feel an emotional attachment to, that makes them feel proud.

“We take iconic buildings with history, like Eye Witness Works, and make them into homes with loads of character. Give it a few years and the area will be known as a destination for people that love Sheffield’s heritage and that want to own something unique and special.

“Over the next 10 years we’re going to see more and more people living in the city centre and we’re already taking to the council about how we can help deliver this ambition.

“We’re working up a masterplan for the wider area so we can create a really thriving new quarter of the city, and we’d love to do more.”

The city centre population has increased from less than 3,000 to 27,000 in the last 20 years.

Tim added: “This project is another example of the council disposing of property in ways which meet the aspiration to widen the housing offer in the city centre rather than just delivering student accommodation.”

Preserving and celebrating Sheffield’s heritage

Eye Witness Works has been an iconic feature of Sheffield for decades. For the past 150 years the Works were home to Taylor’s Eyewitness Ltd, a Sheffield-based company that provided the nation with cutlery. The first registered building at the site was in 1838.

Capital and Centric said the two grade II listed buildings will keep their original charm with residents enjoying centuries-old features such as the 40ft chimney, 150 year old pressing machines, Victorian safes, exposed brickwork and impressive timber roof structure.

Planning officers said Eye Witness Works and Ceylon Works are part of an important cluster of former cutlery works that also includes Beehive Works and Milton Works, both grade 2*.

Beehive Works has been divided up into small offices and workshops, plus a small sandwich shop, while Milton Works in now in residential use.