Letter: Time to set the record straight

This letter sent to the Star was written by Howard Greaves, Chairman, Hallamshire Historic Buildings

Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 6:42 am
Reopening night of the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, December 10, 1990

The saving of the Lyceum Theatre has somehow strangely worked its way into the World Student Games debate and credit has been wrongly claimed in some quarters. Perhaps it is time to set the record straight.

The theatre sadly closed in 1969 and became a bingo hall. From then onwards Sheffield Council were determined to see it swept away. This was despite the fact that it is the only surviving example, outside London, of the work of famous theatre architect W.G.R. Sprague.

In 1972 the council drew up plans to demolish this tiresome old building and proposed to build a nice new arts leisure centre. Fortunately one or two people sprang to its rescue and it was awarded a Grade II Listing in that same year much to the council’s annoyance.

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One person who was instrumental in this victory was our Society’s founder member J Edward Vickers, the well-known author and historian. He ensured that the determination to demolish the theatre was taken to a public enquiry in 1975 and fortunately for Sheffield permission was refused.

The Lyceum Trust was then founded and as they say, the rest is history.

It is a miracle that this wonderful Victorian theatre escaped the bulldozers and it is now a jewel in the crown for our city thanks to some people seeing further than the end of their nose.

Our society is 50-years-old this year and all thanks to Edward, sadly now deceased, for all his efforts over the years to save what is left of our city’s heritage.

Unbelievably its neighbour, Sheffield Central Library, was placed under a similar but little known threat in 2003 and once again Hallamshire Historic Buildings stepped in and got the building listed, which I have heard did not go down well with the powers-that-be.

Remedial work could and should have been done immediately after it was awarded this status but due to dilly-dallying, costs have now trebled from £10m to £30m are still rising, and the work has still not been done. A stitch in time etc?

There must have been some very glum faces when the cunning plan to offload the problem to a Chinese hotel consortium fell through.

Still, at least these two landmark buildings are still standing, make Tudor Square what it is today and will be enjoyed by future generations.

Can the same be said of some of the edifices which are currently appearing on our skyline and streetscape? I think not.