Retro: What the new Retail Quarter may erase...

27 Cambridge St: Palatine Chambers Pinstone Street.
27 Cambridge St: Palatine Chambers Pinstone Street.
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Today’s puzzle is a bit different as I’ve covered the area before but it’s a “will it or won’t it?” situation because of the new proposed shopping area (I abhor the term ‘Quarter’) so I’ll touch on what we may lose.

The clue picture as revealed is on the Bethel Chapel on Cambridge Street and is called a benchmark (today this term is used in many ways).

27 Cambridge Street:'The Coat Of Arms of Master Cutler John Sutton 1673?

27 Cambridge Street:'The Coat Of Arms of Master Cutler John Sutton 1673?

The word originates from the chiselled horizontal marks that surveyors made in stone structures, into which an angle-iron could be placed to form a ‘bench’ for a levelling rod, thus ensuring that a levelling rod could be accurately repositioned in the same place in the future.

These marks were usually indicated with a chiselled arrow below the horizontal line. The term is generally applied to any item used to mark a point as an elevation reference.

The height of a benchmark is calculated relative to the heights of nearby benchmarks in a network extending from a fundamental benchmark.

A fundamental benchmark is a point with a precisely known relationship to the level datum of the area, typically mean sea level. The position and height of each benchmark is shown on large-scale maps.

27 Cambridge Street: 'The reveal picture with arrow.

27 Cambridge Street: 'The reveal picture with arrow.

The terms “height” and “elevation” are often used interchangeably, but in many jurisdictions they have specific meanings; height commonly refers to a local or relative difference in the vertical (such as the height of a building), whereas elevation refers to the difference from a nominated reference surface (such as sea-level).

That description over, Mr Dawson and Mr Sorsby I know will be writhing on the ground in pain clutching their heads trying to understand it.

This street was well known for more than 300 years as the centre of horn article manufacture, cutlery handles, combs, door-knobs etc.

With the advent of plastics, horn was reduced to just one use, for cutlery handles, mainly knives.

From right to left, Brook Brothers Cutlers, George Binns, the Bethel Chapel, Sheffield Metal Company and The Barleycorn pub.

From right to left, Brook Brothers Cutlers, George Binns, the Bethel Chapel, Sheffield Metal Company and The Barleycorn pub.

This article was prompted by Robin Hughes, an email friend. He, like myself, is passionate about the loss of our old buildings.

On the west side of Pinstone Street at 94-104 is ‘The Pepperpot’, built 1884, architects Flockton and Gibbs, for W H Brittain, file and steel merchant and manufacturer, employing 40 people, who lived at Storth Oaks, Graham Road.

He was Master Cutler in 1878 and became Mayor 1883-4 (not Lord Mayor in those pre-city days). Clearly his star was rising and he thought it was his place to make a significant contribution to the big Pinstone Street development which was the New Retail Quarter of its day. It originally had a spire on top of the cupola on the corner of Cambridge Street.

Nos 88-92, built 1884 for Charles Henry Maleham, 5 West Bar, gunmaker, and Joseph Hardy, 8 Change Alley, stockbroker.

Maleham also had a shop at 20 Regent Street in London and his guns come up for sale from time to time today.

At 80-84 stands what’s left of the Athol Hotel. It looks like it might be later than its neighbours, but it is only the black and white frontage that is relatively modern, and the hotel was in existence by 1887.

At 68-76 is Laycock House, built in 1896 by Flockton and Gibbs, and this time E M Gibbs was one of the owners, too. Laycock is Jas. Laycock of Westbourne Grove, Scarborough. It is notable for its unusual and very large display windows.

At 50-62 are Pinstone Chambers, built 1894 for the Salvation Army, architect William Gillbee Scott, who was also architect for the citadel next door. The foundation stone was laid by General Booth himself.

At 8-42 is Palatine Chambers, named after the Palatine Hill in Rome, In fact, this is three buildings. No 30-36 was built for Reuben Thompson in 1893 and 38-42 was an 1896 extension, again for Mr Thompson.

In the meantime, in 1895 another section (8-28) was built for some familiar names: E M Gibbs, Jas. Laycock, and George Hunt. Architects for the whole lot were Flockton and Gibbs, so all in all Mr Gibbs did rather nicely out of this ‘retail quarter’.

Either side of Pinstone Street was completed in the years 1884 to 1897, so it was done rather more quickly than our retail quarter has been.

Traders moved in quickly: by 1887, the bottom two buildings boasted a grocer, a general dealer, a confectioner, a bookseller, a bootmaker and a tailor.

The earlier proposal by Hammerson would have taken out 80-104, still about a third of the longest-surviving late Victorian frontage in the city centre.

There are some better buildings but nowhere else gives quite the same picture of the sheer energy and ambition of what the great and good of the corporation were trying to do.

Of course, our modern problems are all their fault – by linking Fargate with South Street Moor, they created the long, straggling city centre which, like so many things in Sheffield, causes us pride and frustration.

I must mention the cutlers coat of arms that sits above a doorway of the shell of the Albert Works of Brook Brothers in Cambridge Street. This carved stone seems to go back to the late 1600s, its initials are “J ? S” so this could be the initials of John Sutton, Master Cutler in 1673. This is being restored – well this is what I was led to believe.

I hope the council stick to their word and keep these buildings, especially the time capsule that is Leah’s Yard, which is now being restored.

Thanks, Robin.