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Sid Fletchers Blog


20th Century Architectural tour Sheffield

Posted on 20 October, 2014 at 9:44 Comments comments (11)
hole in the road, castle square , sheffield , sidfletcher , towerblockmetal , c20 yorks, post war , planning , subway,

C20 tour Sheffield Architectural tour

Posted on 26 June, 2012 at 9:03 Comments comments (0)
Last weekend (Sat 26th and Sun 27th May) saw Sheffield host the AGM of the 20th Century Society 

C20 (as they are colloquially known )  are a dedicated pressure or interest group devoted to the protection of ...well obviously 20th century buildings! ...They've certainly got their work cut out for them here in sunny Sheffield with a plethora of structures to observe, research and possibly protect  -I've made a few friendships with several members over the past couple of years and was both delighted and honored to be asked to lead both a short walking tour of the City Centre and also a coach tour round the outer estates and suburbs. Obviously a far amount of research and planning  had to go into such a project - I've enclosed my notes for the second half off the city centre walking tour - the first half consisted of the usual suspects -  Peace gardens ,City Hall and Cathedral which as much as I like and appreciate - are not really my specialism; this section of the tour starts off from Castle Square 

TowerBlockMetal Tours 

(think Owen Hatherley without the academia !)


There’s tons of this sort of stuff going on these days and everyone seems to be at it – Urban exploring, industrial archaeology, urbanwandering, psychogeography, industrial history, modernist revival,TowerBlocktrainspotting!.

Fact is...I’ve done it for yonks, have always done it and always will continue to do it…..  Not that I’m professing to be an authority on it by any stretch of the imagination; It’s always something I’ve found a very natural thing to do …It’s not a new idea and was first mooted by the Situationists in Europe during WW2 (interestingly enough they influenced a lot of the early punk stuff so hey …no surprises why I’m attracted to it!) 
Anyhow I digress …The Situationists talked about a concept of Derive 

dérive is an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, where an individual travels where the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct them with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.  The term is literally translated into Englishas drift.The dérive, an unplanned tour through an urban landscape directed entirely by the feelings evoked in the individual by their surroundings, served as the primary means for mapping and investigating the psychogeography of these different areas. The need for the dérive is necessitated, according to situationist theory, by the increasingly predictable and monotonous experience of everyday life trudged through every day by workers in advancedcapitalism. The dérive grants a rare instance of pure chance, an opportunity for an utterly new and authentic experience of the different atmospheres and feelings generated by the urban landscape.


If that’s not high brow enough for you… here’s an even poncier version



In its most basic and crudest terms I interpret the derive as

“roaming somewhat aimlessly around the Urban Landscape just taking things in”

Or in my case cruising around Sheffield CityCentre


 – I identify most with that definition without the need for an over academic analysis although I do have to admit it great to read what you’ve passionately done for ages validated in print – Also more recently I’ve been prompted to try and learn more about the urban environment that I’m familiar with; How its been shaped,planned and designed; What works and what doesn’t work about it, What influences how it is

Back to latest offering has been somewhat inspired by this guy-


 Owen Hatherley - author of Militant Modernism and a Guide to the new ruins of Great Britain – he also writes a number of wellreceived blogs...and he LOVES Sheffield – he’s a man after my own heart…


“Sheffield’s post war architecture is often better than London’s, let alone that of any provincialcompetitor” 
  The New Ruins of Great Britain


 I’m somewhatimpressed with Owens research, passion and attention to detail - he argues points brilliantly but to be quite frank …there’s too many big words for me. Pass the dictionary please. Here’s his last outage in Steel city 


And this is where TowerBlockMetal picks up in a 12in remix(Battle Metal Styley)
My intention initially was to really scratch away further at some of the points that Owen touches on but I’ve ended up following my own perspective and direction Writing isn’t my strong point; I only just scraped thru a diploma many years ago so readers will have to grin and bear it.
Throughout this journey  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of social history in such a small area and finally the vast amount of Public Art that’s around that I’ve never acknowledged - (If its that’s good why haven’t you noticed it before eh I hear you saying)

  It’s a bit of a mix of a Psychotic cut n paste plagiarized homage to the joys of Wikipedia,various architectural reference books of mine and many a trawl through some of the online Sheffield forums- a real "mash up" of an   Architectural/ Social history/Public Art /Industrial tour - I don’t profess to be a master at any of those areas but an interested researcher definitely

The Old Town!

I’ve always called this bit of Sheffield “The Old Town”because it reminds me of my home town – Rochdale,and of my upbringing in the 70s. It’s the bit of Sheffield where it feels like  there’s an imaginary Glass Berlinwallor some sort of demarcation zone   dividing the post war East of Sheffield (read poorer people)  from the free thinking more socially mobile  West of Sheffield ..That’s just my theory anyhow but there’s a definite shift in character and class the minute you cross those tramlines at the Cathedral end of Fargate -the whole ambience of this part is the hangover of a heady 1960s town plannersparty – that said and done I DO like the place and feel very much at home there.

World War II wreaked significant destruction of much of the ‘High Street and Castle’ character area and the vast majority of buildings in this area post-date 1945. Bomb damage included the destruction of every building in Angel Street and King Street and much of High Street,including the Marples Hotel where 70 civilians were killed whilst sheltering in its cellars on the night of December 12th 1940.
The area was rebuilt in Modernist style and architecturally is similar to the ‘Civic Circle’character area.

Castle Square/ Hole in t road

Castle Square was originally known as the Market Place (or the Shambles)
Markets had been held on this site from 1296 As stated earlier many buildings in the vicinity of the Market Place were damaged or destroyed on the night of 12 December 1940 when German aircraft bombed Sheffield. The bomb sites were cleared but most remained empty for many years. In 1968 many old streets were cleared to make way for the new Arundel Gate, a dual carriageway road part of the “Civic Circle” that terminated at a large roundaboutbuilt on the former market place. Underneath the roundabout a network of underpasses and shops were built (with a central area open to the sky), this formed a complex that was officially designated Castle Square but became affectionately known locally as "Hole in t' Road" or the Hole in the Road. 

Although considered by many to be a major city landmark,like many constructions of its time, it did not age well and was very dilapidated by the early 1990s. It lasted from 1967 until 1994, allegedly being filled in with the rubble from the recently demolished Hyde Park Flats

There's a very informative piece about the hole in the road here including some great info on the infamous fish tank

Another piece about the filling of the Hole in the road here 

There's a few bits of public art now dotted  around the Supertram  interchange; firstly as Arundel Gate terminates at Castle square you may notice the 4 Griffins

And also the Gothic railings

And lets not forget those Fighting Rams : A gritstone sculpture byJonathon Cox: "Carved in two blocks of stone, the animals charge againsteach other expressing strength and movement." The rough finish of the work adds to the ruggedness

Like many of Sheffield landmarks that are sadly no longer but never forgotten - here it still always pleases me to see Pete McKee's tribute to the yet again "infamous fishtank"

As we leave Castle square perusing about how much Public Art one can take in whilst simultaneously wading through the Greggs wrappers, betting slips and SuperBrew cans - attention is ultimately  drawn to a huge God of Metal  adorning the side of Castle House - there can be no mistake about this  my friends.
You are in Sheffield and this can only be...


 It is with great sadness that I have to inform you Vulcan is made of Fibre Glass ..not Metal 


Castle House  

CastleHouse in Angel Street is a wonderful example of sixties architecture; christened ‘the building of the future’ by a local paper, it was opened on the 13th May 1964. The building is Grade 2 listed 

.The Castle House department store was designed by G. S Hay of the Co-operative Wholesale Society and occupies a large site, with entrances on King Street, Angel Street and Castle Street. The store, which also housed the headquarters of the Brightside and Carbrook, features a massive unsplayed granite facade unbroken by windows.

 Inside, the focus is on a cantilevered spiral staircase connecting all the floors, under a partially glazed dome and a sculpture of a bird.

 Thestairwells of the Castle Street (north) entrance and the Angel Street (west) entrance retain their exciting full-height geometric abstract Carter’s tile murals, although the black and white relief-tiled lift surrounds by LucienMyers have been replaced.


  At ground level in the Angel Street corner is a post office, whose entrance is now host to a First World Warmemorial to Sheffield’s postal workers. The panel, showing a roll of honour between two classical columns, was moved from a nearby post office due to its closure in 1999. It was made by a local firm,Robertson & Russell, from an apparently ceramic material called morsatile;its opus sectile-like sheen and curving, cut forms suggest it contains some glass. The firm produced several other morsatile war memorials for localchurches during 1920-1, including the example still extant at Wadsley Parish Church,Worrall Road,to the west of the city centre, where Jeremiah Robertson of Robertson &Russell was a parishioner

In the 1980s, the Brightside and Carbrook Co-op merged with the Sheffield and Ecclesall Co-operative to form the Sheffield Co-operative Society.By 2006, the Society had 35 grocery shops, six travel stores, four petrol stations, seven funeral parlours and three department stores. However, the group faced competition within Sheffield from both the United Co-operatives and the Co-operative Group.In 2007, the Society voted to merge with the United Co-operatives, which itself merged with the Co-operative Group shortly afterwards. All three of the former Society's department stores, including Castle House, were closed in 2008.

Opposite the Co-op’s Castle Street entrance, a drab gable end has been transformed by a 1986 brick mural, the Steelworker by the artist Paul Waplington. It was constructed by Sheffield’sCity Works Department using eighteen different types of brick from eight manufacturers, the total number of bricks being about 30,000.

Sheffield City Council Arts Departmentand Department of Land and Planning (Planning Division).

the history of the steel industry is central to the city of Sheffield and its surrounding area.In recent years the industry (as mining in Derbyshire)has been in steady decline and this image is representative of the past Industrial boom and those who took a part in it. The portrait of the Steelworker is not a total invention, but based upon that of an actual individual and then adjusted to fit the medium. The artist Paul Waplington commented: (1984) "The eyes had to be enlarged, for example, or the pupils and the whites would have been smaller than a brick."

Thestrong image has been featured in publications to promote the use of brick,e.g. Brickwork Design Magazine No.3., Vol.3, Jan. 1988; Guide to SuccessfulBrickwork, Edward Arnold, 1993. The piece uses, after all, 30,000 bricks of 18 different types and 5 types of mortar. 'Steelworker' is considered by some to be one of the first modern public art works in the city, which has now expanded culturally embracing the arts within its changing cultural context



Castle Market

Yes there was a castle here once - it was raised to the ground approx 1650 there are ruins still underneath the market.

An excavation led by Leslie Armstrong in 1927,prior to the construction of the Brightside and Carbrook Co-operative Societystore, uncovered the base of one of the gateway bastion towers, as well as partof the gateway itself. These remains of the castle are preserved under thecity's Castle Market they are Grade II listed and are open for viewing. Thevisible remains are situated in two rooms below Castle Market One room is opento the public, pending booking of a tour, the other room is walled and the onlyaccess is via a manhole in the market's food court. Due to the precariousaccess down a narrow tunnel, tours are no longer conducted in the main roomthough the second room is accessible. The remaining ruins, approximately 32feet above the River Don, are those of one of the gate towers, they represent aquarter of the Eastern tower More recent excavations in 1999 and 2001  ARCUS, Sheffield University's archaeologicalresearch and consultancy unit, revealed the castle to have been much largerthan previously was thought: among the largest medieval castles in England Drilling was done in the upper food court delivery yard and flag stones left in situ to mark boundaries of the castle-Wikipedia

Fuller history and Map of Sheffield Castle here


Enough of the Middle Ages -Back to Castle Market! the oldest part of the building is the Fish and Vegetable Market, constructed in the inter-war period. The remainder of the building was constructed by J. L.Womersley and AndrewDarbyshire between 1960 and 1965. A labyrinthine structure built inthe 1960s and characteristic of its era. It has two main floors, both includingsmall shops and stalls, and each accessible from street level. Other stores face on to the surrounding streets, while a gallery found a storey above the main part of the market contains several more shops, and access to an officebuilding surmounting the structure. The gallery is linked by bridges across Exchange Street tofurther above-ground shopping areas. Unfortunately most of these walkways are now closed off

 Needless to say oneof the design features of the 1960s scheme and indeed a common feature of muchpost war planning was the concept of separating the pedestrian from the trafficbelow via galleries and walkways this seems to have proven largely unsuccessfulby the general density and volume of human traffic in the area. Still CastleMarket remains an exemplary statement of post war optimism and cool. 

Castle Market is a good old fashioned post-war Municipal market- cheap,cheerful and fiercely proud. Hellfire did I say “Old Fashioned” there - nowmaybe you’ll understand what I mean when I refer to “The Old Town”  I believe it’s a part of a  post-war history and social environment thatmoulded and shaped us into the people we are now… and its rapidly disappearingbefore our eyes!  I don’t feel I need toget into some sort of socially observational academic exercise about CastleMarket. There’s enough written about it and plenty of photos via the links below - you really need to get there yourself, honestly it won’t kill you andyou’ll probably kick yourself  not goingenough  or going at all when its gone


In his summing up of the feel of this place Owen Hatherley quintessentially acknowledges the atmosphere of Castle Market and what I and many others truly believe marks Sheffield different and much more socially minded than the other major Northern cities


Unfortunately this place, and those people, are what make Sheffield different from Leeds, or Manchester, or Birmingham - it has a city centre which can still accommodatethose who are elderly, or poor, or (from the looks of it, often) ill. It's aunique survival, architecturally and socially, which needs decent upkeep andlittle else - it's well-used, even on this miserable Monday morning.


For Owens fuller view on Sheffield have a look at this

The Market has always held a strong place in many Sheffielders hearts here's some sketches 


Despite a last minute campaign in 2010 by English Heritage;Castle Market didn’t get listed- apparently the request for consideration of listing was anonymous


Paradoxically the council in its wisdom were going to massively regenerate the area several years 
earlier see these pages from the Developers and also the Council

The original scheme to replace the markets fell victim to the 1990s recession. A new markets building is due to start construciont as part of The Moor(Sheffield) scheme, which is part partnership between the council and private developers. The multi-storey carpark for the scheme has already  been built on Eyre Street.
 Part of the council's current plans is to demolish the existing complex and open up a pedestrian route from the citycentre to the Victoria Docks area and the new Riverside Quarter, now that the ring road has been diverted.  So folks at some time in the near future Castle Market and buildings will be demolished; an open space will be created displaying the Castle ruins and also attempting tolink the long forgotten Victoria Quays to the City Centre. Despite having a presence in that part of Sheffield for a documented 700 years; Market traders will be moved to the Moor

When I saw it last year, I was shocked at how such a grand old building had been allowed to fall into such a run downstate. Surely, this is a building worth saving? Has any interest been shown inrestoring it? When I saw how much attention was being given to the Park HillFlats and I saw how the GPO in Fitzalan Sq and the old court house had been neglected, I really had to give my head a shake. :loopy
This is nothing unusual for that end of town the council have deliberately run the area down so as there will be no opposition to the demolition of CastleMarket. They can then carry out there stupid plan to build a market at the verybottom of The Moor, leaving the traditional Market area to be turned into some kind of grassed area with an old bit of Castle Wall at the bottom end they thenthink that the tourists will come flocking in ,you couldn’t make it up
Less well-offcitizens are not less deserving of a market that is easy to access

The current market building is unpleasant to use; this is not a reflection on the traders, but on a building that has not stood the test of time. If the location of the new market building is really such an insurmountable issue, why has nobody suggested adapting the old Co-op building (Castle House) for the markets?The merits of the building are in the eye of the beholder , I myself have on many occasions stated that if the Market must move then why not use CastleHouse [The Co Op] saving millions and millions of pounds on this ludiques move to the Moor. The historian's among us argue that the Markets must be moved so as to expose any possible ?remains of the old Castle and in so doing completly ignore the much older historical trading centre of Sheffield.                                                                          Local people -Sheffield Blog 

    Finally when Castle Market is dead and buried we can always thank the fantastically talented Jonathan Wilkinson of “WeLiveHere” for immortalising the municipal marketplace forevermore 
 Unfortunately this is now SOLD OUT – you should’ve been quicker!    


 Old Courthouse

  It is somewhat ironic that as the intelligentsia of the leftfield argue and debate about whether or not romanticised 1960s post-warbuildings  should be preserved Right across the road from Castle Market on the junction of Waingate and Castle Street is the (disused) and Grade 2 listed  Old Courthouse; which until 1890 was the Old Town Hall ; SomeSheffielders may well consider this  the“Old” Old Town Hall as The Town hall on Pinstone St is  commonly referred to as the Old town hall with the demolished “EggBox”from the 1970s being the “New” Town Hall! (Does that make any sense folks?)

The building was commissioned to replace Sheffield's first town hall, which had opened in 1700 to a design by William Renny.The Old Town Hall was built in 1807–8 by Charles Watson, and was designed to house not only the TownTrustees but also the Petty and Quarter Sessions. The initialbuilding was a five-bay structure fronting Castle Street, but it was extendedin 1833 and again in 1866 by William Flockton (1804-1864) of Sheffield and his partner for the project, Abbott; the most prominent feature was the new centralclock tower over a new main entrancethat reoriented the building to Waingate. At the same time, the building's courtrooms were linked by undergroundpassages to the neighboring Sheffield PoliceOffices  The first Town Council was elected in 1843and took over the lease of the Town Trustees' hall in 1866. The following year,the building was extensively renovated, with a clock tower designed by Flockton& Abbott being added.By the 1890s, the building had again becometoo small, and the current SheffieldTown Hall was built furthersouth. The Old Town Hall was again extended in 1896-7, by the renamed Flockton,Gibbs & Flockton, and became Sheffield Crown Courtand Sheffield High Court. In the 1990s, thesecourts moved to new premises, and since at least 1997 to present, the buildingremains disused.In 2007, it was named by the Victorian Society as one of their top ten buildings most at risk