Future of one of Sheffield's oldest buildings remains unclear after roof collapse

The future of one of Sheffield's oldest buildings remains unclear after a roof collapse forced its partial demolition.

Thursday, 29th August 2019, 08:57 am
Updated Thursday, 29th August 2019, 08:58 am

The roof of the former Heeley National School building, which dates back more than 200 years, collapsed earlier in August just a year after conservationists issued a rallying cry calling for the building to be saved.

Sheffield City Council has now confirmed that it will undergo a partial demolition – and then its future will be up to the private owner of the site.

Heeley national School on Gleadless Road after the roof caved in.

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The authority admitted it does not know what comes next for the building – and the door is left open for its complete demolition as it does not have protection as a heritage site.

Councillor Bob Johnson, cabinet member for planning and development at Sheffield City Council, said: “It is never nice to see a building such as Heeley National School demolished but the building is not listed nor in a conservation area, so it benefits from no heritage protection – and is privately owned.

“The owner was not able to make the building safe within a reasonable time so we are completing works to demolish it to a safe level in line with our statutory requirements as the building had become dangerous.

"Once we have made the building and site safe, we have no say in its future and the owners will decide what happens to the remaining structure but we will ensure that our costs are recovered from the owner.

Heeley National School on Gleadless Road after the roof caved in.

“We always want to maintain our historic buildings and have a strong track record of doing so, but as this building is privately owned our options are extremely limited.”

The Star understands both gables to the back of the footway will be reduced in height, approximately down to window sill level, at which point it will be up to the owners to decide what to do with the remaining structure.

Conservationists have expressed their concern that it will not be long before the building goes completely.

Heeley National School on Gleadless Road.

Andy Jackson, manager of Heeley Trust, which works to restore disused buildings, fears the roof collapse could signal the death knell for the old school.

He said: “It is really sad but it is an example of what happens if you just leave an old building and don’t look after it.”

The former school building dates back to 1801 and was built on the site of an earlier 18th-century establishment providing education long before it was available to the masses.

It is believed to be the second oldest school building in Sheffield, after a former school in Ecclesfield.

It was constructed in 1801 with money left by a man named Thomas Chapman who died that year.

The 19th-century building thrived as a school for over 130 years, undergoing multiple extensions in the process, including a connected house for the headmaster in 1868.

Shortly after its end as a self-contained school in the 1930s, it went on to serve as a wartime air raid precautions centre, gas mask distribution centre, polling station and meeting hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses over the 50 years that followed.

The 1980s saw the beginning of its downfall as the unused, boarded-up building was left vulnerable to dry rot, vandals and heavier impact from bad weather, according to campaigners at the time.

It was at this point that members of the public, most notably members of the Heeley History Workshop began to show their concern and take action in an attempt to bring the building back into community use.

A member of the campaign group said at the time: “It is worth preserving.”

The Star understands there was an attempt a few years ago to secure listed status for the building but this failed because it has been altered internally.

Leaseholder CareTech Community Services said last year that the owner did not have any proposals in place for the building's future.

A spokesman for CareTech said at the time: "At the moment there are no plans for the site, other than to maintain the safety of the building as it is."

We have asked the company for comment today and are waiting for a reply.