Making Steel City’s canal buildings fit for 21st century

Sheffield Tinsley canal building rebirth
Sheffield Tinsley canal building rebirth

It was built at the height of the Industrial revolution, part of an ambitious plan to link Sheffield with the east coast via the rivers Trent and the Humber.

The canal revolution, which was one of the key factors in Britain’s transformation into a world leading industrial powerhouse, was vital to that ambitious scheme.

Ovo Spaces' David Baldwin (left) and senior designer, Jim Tingle

Ovo Spaces' David Baldwin (left) and senior designer, Jim Tingle

The Sheffield and Tinsley Canal came right into the heart of the growing town and it terminated in what we know today as Victoria Quays.

At the time in order to meet the demands of that waterway traffic, an equally ambitious building project was also undertaken, a striking collection of warehouse buildings along the route that quite remarkably have survived into the 21st century.

At the heart of Victoria Quays is the Grade II listed Terminal Warehouse –  this was also known as the Grain Warehouse –  which dates right back to 1819 when the British canal boom was at its height.

At the time, recognised as one of the largest buildings in Sheffield, the Terminal Warehouse was designed so that keel boats and barges could enter the building to be loaded and unloaded in the dry and it also provided secure storage for a wide range of goods.

Canalside building that had seen better days

Canalside building that had seen better days

As important as the canals had been to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, by 1848 the canal network had been overtaken by the newer and much faster rail network.

Even though building at Victoria Quays would continue for several years after this, two new warehouses and offices were added towards the end of the 19th century, but it was not enough to keep the canal at the heart of the community’s growth.

Little used by the end of the 19th century, the site itself was completely derelict by the early 1990s, when plans were unveiled to restore the basin to something like its former glory.

And now that story of rebirth and regeneration has begun an exciting new chapter thanks to award winning Sheffield commercial interior design and fit-out specialist Ovo Spaces.

Canalside building

Canalside building

The commercial restoration of the area was undertaken between 2015 and 2018, culminating in the arrival of Ovo Spaces –  and thanks to Ovo, the Terminal Warehouse can now be seen not just restored to its former glory, but also transformed into a space that is fit for 21st century business.

Alongside the Ovo HQ, part of the building has also been converted into Terminal Warehouse 2, a unique and bespoke event space keeping the original warehouse features with quirky added fittings, including an authentic sea mine and anchor.

But the most unique design feature is Ovo’s bespoke, wide beam canal barge - named Victoria - featuring the very latest sustainable eco friendly features such as battery powered electric propulsion, solar power regeneration for underfloor heating and LED lighting.

“The building first caught my eye during my cycle commute to our old offices,” said director David Baldwin.

Rundown Sheffield Tinsley canal buildings brought back into use

Rundown Sheffield Tinsley canal buildings brought back into use

He added: “The building features soft red brick construction and gritstone detailing with beautiful huge keystone archways and intriguing dark, cavernous interior spaces that echo back to the industrial revolution.

“It didn’t take long to realise these buildings could be transformed into an incredible space for both offices and a showroom, conscious that this type of space will never again be recreated.”

These vintage images give us some sense of how the building looked at its height and alongside the shots of Ovo’s new look also illustrate how none of the sense of the past has been lost during the transition into a new era of success.

A loaded barge ready to hit the waterways

A loaded barge ready to hit the waterways

Warehouse standing silent

Warehouse standing silent