HISTORIC workshops in Sheffield have been hailed as a ‘one-off’ by TV presenter Jules Hudson , who was speaking after visiting the 135-year-old Portland Works on Randall Street, near Bramall Lane.
And the presenter of Britain’s Heritage Heroes – a new show championing the work of people dedicated to saving historic places, products or skills – backed a campaign to save the mesters’ workshops from being transformed into flats.
The Grade II*-listed building, the birthplace of stainless steel cutlery, is currently up for sale. Campaigners have successfully blocked a bid to turn the building into apartments and have been given an extra four months to raise the remaining £250,000 needed to buy the complex.
Jules, who presents the show with veteran Countryfile presenter John Craven, said: “The country is awash with new flats that are proving difficult to sell and it’s not difficult to build flats quite frankly.
“There are lots of other brownfield sites in the city that can be used. I think it’s absolutely right to have the Portland Works campaign – it goes to the heart of what heritage heroes is all about.”
The presenters tried their hands at steelworking when they visited Portland Works as part of an episode on the Pennines.
And they were blown away by the building and the workers trying to keep their trades alive. Jules said: “It is interesting, it’s one of those places where many people may go past without realising what it is.
“Once you get inside, the whole place transforms. The idea of these people in there beavering away to continue these fantastic crafts and to try to keep the building alive is really exciting.
“Portland represents one of the key bits of Sheffield’s history. It is a one off.”
Portland Works was the first place in the world where stainless steel was produced and remains home to highly-skilled and creative tenants – small manufacturers, independent artists and crafts people.
The campaign to save it aims to raise £400,000 from offering shares, plus donations and loans, but only £150,000 has been raised so far. For details, visit www.portlandworks.co.uk
* Britain’s Heritage Heroes is on BBC2 on Thursday, at 6.30pm.
Portland Works were built in 1877.
The building was awarded Grade II-listed status by English Heritage in 1995 and upgraded to Grade II*-listed status in 2003.
Tenant RF Mosley & Co, a manufacturer of cutlery and silverware, was the first firm in the world to produce stainless steel cutlery and continued to operate on the site until the late 1950s.
The building is one of the city’s last remaining examples of a purpose-built light metal trades works. Many similar buildings and associated working class housing were demolished within the city centre throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Campaigners need £400,000 to buy the building and keep it open as little mesters’ workshops.