When the tills stop ringing at Debenhams it will be a sad day for Sheffield

Debenhams is teetering on the brink of collapse and once again Sheffield will feel the devastating impact on jobs, the economy and the city centre.

Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 12:30 pm

Many shoppers have fond memories of the department store which looks set to join the High Street graveyard with House of Fraser, Woolworths and British Home Stores.

It was the place where you could buy a wedding dress, enjoy a roast dinner in the restaurant and visit Santa’s grotto.

In the 1960s, Sheffield Council had built an underpass from Charter Square to The Moor and, determined people would use it, had then erected a high barrier down the middle of Charter Row.

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If Debenhams closes, what will happen to the empty site at the edge of Heart of the City 2? (Google Street View)

But my mum had been flashed at so many times in that underground corridor she refused to use it and would take her chances scrambling over the barrier.

One day she was trying to clamber over while holding me as a toddler when a bloke stopped his car. “Eye up love, let me help” he said, as hoisted us both over, explaining his wife also hated the underpass.

Sheffield Council recently acknowledged open air pedestrian crossings are safer and more pleasant and have since turned the rear of Debenhams into a public square.

If you drove to Debenhams, the experience wasn’t much better. There were no award-winning Cheesegrater car parks with stylish cladding and shoe shine machines.

A public square has been created at the rear of Debenhams. Picture: Google

The car park, on the site of The Showroom Cinema, was like something off The Equalizer with its dark, winding levels and grim concrete decor.

My mum refused to let me touch any of the door handles, convinced they were covered in drugs and other unpalatable substances, and would instead push them open with her elbows.

After the quest of getting to Debenhams, you were rewarded with a shopping paradise and Blue Cross sales. With three entrances on Charter Row and The Moor, both upstairs and downstairs, the chances of losing your mum were high.

If you did spill out onto The Moor, there were now-forgotten names such as What Everyone Wants and Mark One, discount clothes stores before Primark became king.

So what now for the ugly, 1970s building which sits incongruously on the edge of Heart of the City 2?

Coun Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet member for business, said at a previous council meeting: “It is envisaged that the route up from The Moor, past the cinema and across the new public spaces around the HSBC building will become a busy space and thoroughfare.

“The seating outside Debenhams has been designed to face onto and be part of this space allowing people to sit, rest and people watch.”

No one will want to gaze at a derelict department store though so the council will be keen to see the building with tenants or razed to the ground and replaced.

John Lewis may be hailed as the lynchpin of Sheffield city centre but its poor relation Debenhams deserves a mention and mourning.


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