A timewalk around One Great Workshop

Ryan Bramley 2

Photo of ‘One Great Workshop’ timewalk in the yard of Butcher Works, Sheffield by Ryan Bramley

As part of the AHRC Connected Communities festival fortnight, Future Works partnered with Timewalk and Bloc Projects to host a programme of events. Here, Joyce Bullivant tells us a bit about the walk:

Sheffield’s history is one of transitions, adaptations and innovations. Many of the old Works for internationally famous Sheffield Companies are quite small compared to the mills of Manchester and Leeds, but Sheffield, although a mass producer of cutlery and tools of all kinds, it is not really mass production that is at the heart of Sheffield’s industry, it is the workshops, the specialists, the craftsmanship. Many of the old buildings have been used and reused throughout their life by different companies or by companies changing what they make. A pewter ware company ends up making airplane parts and now the works is a college. This walk can give you an idea of the city’s continual reinventing of itself.

  1. Bloc projects (4 Sylvester street S1 4RN)

In 1970s there was a film called Sheffield, City on the move, but like all cities Sheffield has always been on the move. This area was part pasture land in Tudor times. Later with the increasing population and increasing industry the area became covered in low quality housing and workshops which were swept away in slum clearance or WW2 bombing meaning that there are few older buildings – although there is an old street and factory as part of the Bloc project complex. The area became industrialised for one important reason – which we will see next.

  1. Mary Street (car park)

Here along the edge is the River Porter – one of Sheffield’s principal rivers, albeit a small one. This section has been recently unculverted (uncovered). Water was important for driving water wheels at first, then as a source of water for steam power; also for wet grinding to prevent overheating, and for quenching heated tools. There were two dams (ponds) by Decathlon, and a wheel (water powered factory) where the car park is now, the Sylvester works. Edge tool works were first recorded in 1650, but could be earlier. There were 20 troughs by 1794. The dams were filled in by 1864 when steam replaced the water wheels. The present buildings are all 19th Cent when the many factories on this road date back to the 19th Century, clustered around the wheel which they could hire. The Street itself has recently been renovated, so now is entirely cobbled, an interesting contrast to the Inner Ring Road.

  1. Universe Works (97b Mary street S1 4RT)

At the Universe works in 1858 James Jackson patented improvements in the manufacturing of crinoline wire. In 1859 Sheffield was producing enough crinoline wire for half a million crinolines a week. Of course when fashions changed so did the many works. Over in Pomona Street near Ecclesall road is the Bow works which belonged to Chestermans company, who turned from making crinolines and invented the first spring loaded tape measure and spring loaded roller blinds. In Heeley another wire making works became Britannia works and made steel framed umbrellas, another local invention.

  1. City Works (Mary Street/Shoreham Street

Another dam – the Cinderhill dam – was located here. Shoreham Street was originally a small road, but now stretches all the way past the Sheffield United Football Ground. Bramall Lane is one of the world’s oldest sports grounds. In the distance you should be able to catch a glimpse of Castle College with its wind generators. The Sheaf valley runs SW-NE and naturally funnels the wind.

  1. Truro and Liberty Works (Matilda Street S1 4QJ)

19th Cent Originally silver plate and Britannia metal works (a type of pewter – a term that was associated with France and therefore unpatriotic), once a cutlery works, now student accommodation. This is where the Leadmill dam was too – fed both by the Porter and by a goit from the Sheaf.

  1. The Leadmill (6 Leadmill Road, S1 4SE)

It never was a leadmill! It was a flour mill on leadmill road, and referred to as “the Leadmill” long before it became one of the City’s principle music venues. The Leadmill had a variety of uses before its present day transition including barrel making and silversmithing. The mill itself was where the tram depot now stands. Now part of the Cultural Industries Quarter. The Scotia Works next door is an “ethical property” and another example of an industrial site being re invented.

  1. Paternoster Row Viewpoint (15 Pasternoster Row S1 2BX)

Standing here with the Showroom (once Kennings Car Showroom) on your right hand and looking towards the railway, on the right next to the multi-storey car park is where the porter joins the Sheaf. The Midland railway station, behind that the recently built amphitheatre, the multi coloured concrete edifice that is Parkhill flats (now being renovated and re-invented as multi-use as places for work and residential) . Turn round and on the left is the hubs building commonly known as the kettles and on the right the Howard Pub. Howard Pub was originally 18th century dwelling houses and a brush factory. The Globe is a similar age further up the street. On the right further up are some of the Hallam University buildings. If you cross the road and look at the back of the Howard you can see Rocket01’s picture of Harry Brearley , inventor of Stainless Steel, is painted on the back of The Howard.

The Howard and the Globe further up Howard Street are evidence of a Georgian street system. Historic maps of Sheffield from the late 18th to mid 19th century show the rapid proliferation of grid patterned developments. As well as the progressive expansion of the Alsop Fields grid pattern where these and adjoining streets are, separate grids were drawn up for speculative development across Little Sheffield Moor and further parts of the Church Burgesses land to the west of the town centre. Most of these were laid out by the Fairbanks family of surveyors who dominated the local profession from 1739 – 1850

8.. Don Plate works (44 Arundel street) – Cooper Brothers The firm make their own German silver, (a nickel silver) They    had a special department in which the copper, nickel, and spelter were weighed in their right proportions and passed on to the casting shop, where the metal was cast. German Silver Copper 43-63%, zinc, 18-30%, nickel 6-30% (commonly used in making tableware) They were mainly known for their tableware.

  1. Sellers Wheel (149 Sellers Wheel S1 2N)-Stamp works where they made stamp for USA dollar Bills They started massive production of the first legal tender notes (by act of Congress) during the American Civil War in conjunction with the American Bank Note Company with which they had made individual Banknotes for a number of Years since the 1840s.     During the American civil war an American called Clifford Webster persuaded 2 Sheffield engravers and lithographers to forge large numbers of “greenbacks” The forgers were caught because it was not up to Seller’s quality, but, by the time the forgers were arrested, the American had disappeared with most of the notes.
  2. Butcher Works ( 80 Arundel Street S1 2NS)

During the 1860s, some trade unions in Sheffield used violence against non-members, in what became known as the “Sheffield Outrages“. At the time, Butchers Wheel was known as a safe workplace for those who had incurred the opposition of such unions, given that access was easily secured

The new industry of silver plating had a demoralising effect on workers In absence of skilled workers in town workers had to be imported from elsewhere (mostly Birmingham) The masters had to pay them high wages. Mr Nicholson, who in 1787 was a member of a silver Plating company in Eyre Street was accustomed to tell how his braziers kept hunters while the employers had to walk and several of the men ” had the hairdresser to attend them with powder at their respective manufactories in working hours”.

Hunters meaning expensive horses used for hunting or possibly as race horses.

  1. Challenge Works (100 Arundel Street S1 4FL

Beyond here there are no 18th century or older buildings as this is as far as the Fairbanks grid went. It was extended in later times. The Challenge Works itself is a mix of a Victorian works on the left, the owner managers house which was built to be beside the earlier works on the site and the multi coloured brick “Little Mesters” workshops on the right with an early 19thc shop front. Little Mesters were skilled men who sometimes worked on their own or with apprentices to supply the large companies. This method of working is the reason why the early works are built as a collection of workshops with often a forecourt in the middle. It created the perfect environment for present day creative hubs which can be seen at works such as the Portland or Harland Works near Bramall Lane.

A map of our route is available here

By Joyce M Bullivant, Timewalk, Sheffield

NOWnTHEN heritage. If you would like to arrange your own time walk, contact Joyce on  timewalkproject@gmail.com

Read more about the walks and other events held as part of One Great Workshop Connected Communities Festival on this website http://onegreatworkshop.co.uk/


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