Art studios’ £700,000 makeover revives Art Deco gem in Sheffield

Exchange Place Studios after the refurbishment.
Exchange Place Studios after the refurbishment.

A £700,000 revamp of a complex that houses more than 80 artists in Sheffield city centre has restored the place to its full Art Deco glory.

Yorkshire Artspace has refurbished Exchange Place Studios behind the former Castle Market site – a project that has involved cleaning 92 years’ worth of soot from the 1920s building’s facade, as well as improving the two public exhibition spaces. A replacement roof has also been installed along with new skylights and windows.

Yorkshire Artspace director Kate Dore at Exchange Place Studios.

Yorkshire Artspace director Kate Dore at Exchange Place Studios.

Last year the organisation was awarded £500,000 by Arts Council England to cover costs, funding that came after Sheffield Council granted the group a century-long lease.

The aim of the revamp was to bring an end to leaks, create warmer studios, reduce running costs and offer better disabled access.

Scaffolding has come down outside to reveal a new sign and a smartened exterior that is covered with tiles made from faience, a material once popular for its soot-resistant properties.

The 1960s single-framed windows have been swapped for newer versions and elements of the original 1920s glazing scheme reinstated in a fresh design.

Hambleton House, now Exchange Place Studios, was built in the 1920s.

Hambleton House, now Exchange Place Studios, was built in the 1920s.

Kate Dore, director of Yorkshire Artspace, said: “We are mostly complete inside but are having a new lift fitted. The whole project, including acquiring the lease, will come in at around £700,000 which is amazing really.”

The Sheffield Town Trust, the Graves Trust and the Freshgate Foundation also gave their support.

‘’I think the biggest impact is how beautiful the building looks from the outside,” said Kate. “There was always a beauty under there, but unsympathetic refurbishment in the 1960s, and abandonment at the start of this century, had taken their toll. Now the windows have been replaced and the faiençe façade cleaned – by hand – you can really see the Art Deco gem that she is. And I really love the sign – one part Hollywood to one part Paris.”  

The council’s Grey to Green initiative, which is brightening up roads with plants, flowers and grasses and providing better conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, is to be extended to Castlegate which city leaders want to regenerate. The remains of Sheffield’s lost medieval castle were excavated behind the studios this summer.

“When the Grey to Green scheme is completed we will look out on to a new square full of planting, seating and public art,” said Kate. “Like Castlegate, we are rising like a phoenix.”

Built in 1926 and once used as a depot for WHSmith, the six-storey property was known as Hambleden House, and underwent refurbishment 50 years ago to provide offices and public spaces for the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. In 2013, Yorkshire Artspace signed an initial five-year agreement to occupy the premises, which came under threat of demolition in 2011.

Exchange Place is home to artists and makers working in a range of disciplines, from painters and printers to jewellers and woodworkers.