Thursday, 27 December 2012

News - Defiant’ hidden treasure is building’s salvation (Doncaster)

IN recent decades, hundreds of historic buildings across Yorkshire have been swept away in the name of regeneration, their demise often unnoticed until it is too late.

During 2012, new glass and steel blocks have sprung up in Doncaster’s Waterdale, and initial blueprints had condemned an unprepossessing red brick building on the corner of the site for demolition.

The St James’ Leisure Centre was set to be flattened in 2013 as part of the town’s £300m Civic and Cultural Quarter (CCQ) project, decades of neglect meant many would never have mourned its passing.

But behind its crumbling brickwork lies what experts have described as a “rare survival” from the period between the two World Wars – a suite of Turkish and Russian baths still in use.

Their unlikely presence has now saved the centre from the bulldozers, meaning it will stand defiant next to Doncaster Council’s gleaming new offices and a “new performance venue”.

According to English Heritage – the body which maintains sites and advises the Government – which has granted the St James’ Centre grade II listed status, there are just three other examples of similar Turkish baths in the country, – in Newcastle, Westminster and Islington.

Although council chiefs were initially keen to see the building razed, they have now been forced to welcome its listing and write it into their plans for the town’s cultural and sporting future.

Doncaster Council’s head of development Peter Dale had initially wanted to see the baths pulled down and a new complex built in their place because the current building, which also has a fully equipped fitness studio, “did not meet 21st century demands”.

He said: “A swimming pool and leisure centre was always part of the Civic and Cultural Quarter masterplan so we will look at incorporating the St James’ pool and health club into the scheme.”

The building was designed by the Doncaster borough’s then estates surveyor Mr RE Ford,

As well as the Turkish and Russian baths, English Heritage experts also pointed to the St James’ swimming pool, which many of the town’s older residents can remember being boarded over with a sprung maple wood floor for films and dances.

In their assessment of the building they said: “The St James’ Street Baths, is an inter-war public baths built in 1932.

“It retains much of its original plan, which clearly indicates that it was carefully designed as a multi-purpose recreational building to be used year-round.

“The swimming pool and associated areas such as the slipper baths and changing rooms, together with the basement Turkish and Russian baths suite, were accessed from the entrance on Waterdale.

“Additional interest is provided by the provision of facilities for winter time activities when the pool was boarded over.

“A completely separate entrance opened into a crush hall giving access to the pool hall for activities such as dances concerts and films. It had a stage and projector room, both of which survive.”

Doncaster’s elected mayor, Peter Davies, who is 68, and grew up in a village near the town, said he clearly remembered attending cinema shows in the pool hall and hearing others talking about going to events there.

Mr Davies added: “St James’ Pool and Health Club and its rare Turkish and Russian baths are being incorporated into a major regeneration scheme which is driving Doncaster forward but at the same time recognises our historical assets.

“The town is establishing itself as a hotspot for new investment and development and is becoming one of the most desirable places to live, work and visit.

“The Civic and Cultural Quarter is rejuvenating a large part of Doncaster’s town centre.

“New, 21st century landmarks are transforming the skyline in Waterdale but our proud heritage is also being preserved.

“Sir Nigel Gresley Square, named after one of our most influential historical figures, the new Civic Office and the state
-of-the art performance venue will help bring the vibrancy 

Mr Davies added: “While the plans will see the imposing fa├žade of the former girls’ school on the other side of the CCQ site restored with this wonderful frontage and prime site being perfect for a charming hotel.”

Baths become hot property
DONCASTER’S Civic and Cultural Quarter scheme is being built on the site of the town’s former Waterdale surface car park and further education college which relocated to new buildings several years ago.

It includes a £22m civic building, which includes a new council chamber and offices, which council workers are currently moving into.

The St James’ Baths is not the only historical building to survive, and there are plans to save at least the facade of Doncaster’s former Girls’ School, which stands on the opposite corner of the CCQ site.

The baths, which reach temperatures of close to 100F “survive largely intact, retaining mosaic floor, wall tiling and the original drinking fountain” according to English Heritage.


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Events - Sheffield Central Library 2013

Sheffielders Born or Bred

16 January at 6.30pm - Jackson Room, Central Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield 1
Illustrated talk by Sheffield Archives and Local Studies staff on some of the famous and infamous people and characters who have contributed to Sheffield's fame and fortune.
Sheffield's Parks and Gardens
13 February at 6.30pm - Jackson Room, Central Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield 1
An illustrated talk by Doug Hindmarch on how Sheffield's green spaces were acquired and are used. 
Sheffield's War 1914-1918 
Wednesday 13 March at 6.30pm: Jackson Room, Central Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield, S1 1XZ.  Tickets £2.  Advance booking essential.
Local historian Peter Warr describes and illustrates life and work in Sheffield during World War One.

Sheffield A-Z
Wednesday 17 April at 6.30pm - Jackson Room, Central Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield, S1 1XZ
Mike Spick explores the history and topography of Sheffield in twenty-six parts, arranged in alphabetical order. 
Making the Armaments Centre of the World: Sheffield 1860-1914
Wednesday 15 May at 6.30pm - Jackson Room, Central Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield, S1 1XZ
Chris Corker traces the development of the armaments industry in Sheffield through to the outbreak of World War One, with reference to Cammell-Laird, Firths, Browns, Vickers and Hadfields. 
Building Schools for Sheffield 1870-1914: The Work and Buildings of the Sheffield School Board
Wednesday 19 June at 6.30pm - Jackson Room, Central Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield, S1 1XZ
Valerie Bayliss of the Victorian Society presents an introduction to the history of the Sheffield School Board and discusses many of its buildings and their architectural features.
My Adventures with Harry Brearley
Wednesday 17 July at 6.30pm - Jackson Room, Central Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield, S1 1XZ
Local storyteller Andy Messer relates how a chance conversation led to his discovery of the "Boy's Own" story of Harry Brearley, and the writing of a graphic novel about the inventor of stainless steel.  Includes the mysterious tale of the missing sundial.
Tickets £2.  Advance booking essential.  To book a place contact Sheffield Archives on 0114 203 9395 or email us at

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Event - Museum ready for open day (Rotherham)

VISITORS to the South Yorkshire Transport Museum will get free entry if they arrive for an open day on Sunday in a pre-1973 classic vehicle.

The museum, on Waddington Way, off Aldwarke Lane, Rotherham, opens at 11am and last admission for visitors will be 4pm.

A vintage bus will be providing a shuttle service to the museum from Rotherham Interchange.

A collection of vintage buses, a Diamond T, and one of only two Rotherham motorbuses ever restored will be on display.

Entry is just £3.50 for adults, £2 for concessions, or £8 for a family of up to two adults and three children.

For more information, call Dave Tummon on 0114 2553010


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Events - City celebrates 100 years of Sheffield steel

IT’S nearly 100 years since the discovery that changed the city and the world forever.

Next year marks the centenary of stainless steel and Sheffield is planning a year-long party to celebrate.

Unveiling the plans at the Millennium Gallery this morning, Master Cutler Neil MacDonald said events would cover, not just Harry Brearley’s discovery in a Brown Firth laboratory, but also the entrepreneurial spirit which saw him realise its huge potential.

“It’s a chance to blow our own trumpet and tell everyone about it,” said Neil.

‘Design To Shine’, an exhibition of stainless objects opens in the Millennium Gallery in February 2013. Kelham Island Museum will host ‘Rustless’ the Harry Brearley Story and the Cutlers Hall is having an open day on March 23.

There will also be a Women of Steel Concert, a David Mellor exhibition and a host of industry visits and tours. Meanwhile Sheffield Newspapers is producing a coffee table book.

Kim Streets, chief executive of Museums Sheffield, said she hoped the celebrations would inspire young people.

For the full programme of events, go to:


Monday, 3 December 2012

News - Historic landmark given new lease of life (Sheffield)

Plans to preserve an important and unique part of Sheffield’s Victorian history have been given the green light after a 15-year battle with conservation authorities.

The Anglican Chapel in Sheffield’s General Cemetery is a Grade 2 listed building and known for its distinct gothic style and Victorian spire. Despite its position as an integral part of local history, the chapel has been allowed to fall into disrepair and has stood empty for a number of years.

Efforts to bring the chapel back into use have been on-going since 1997, but the latest proposal to convert the historic building into two domestic flats has finally been given the go ahead by Sheffield City Council.

Valerie Bayliss from the Sheffield Victorian Society said she was pleased to see an iconic monument being restored. She said: “The General Cemetery chapel has been empty for many years and has been subject to extensive vandalism. There have been several attempts to find a new use for it, and we are pleased that at last the essential repairs will be carried out and the building returned to use.”

The chapel, built in 1850, was designed by Sheffield architect William Flockton in a Victorian gothic style whilst other buildings in the cemetery are considered to be of a Classical or Egyptian style. The building is unique for its distinctive windows and entrance as well as the spire which was purposefully built too big so as to clearly visible.

Sheffield General Cemetery opened in 1836 and is one of the oldest public cemeteries in Britain. A number of figures from Sheffield’s industrialist past are buried there including steel manufacturer Mark First and the 19th century chartist Samuel Holberry, known for his role in the failed Sheffield Rising of 1840.

Two previous schemes to renovate the Anglican Chapel were turned down by planning officials after meeting strong local opposition. The latest proposal however is supported English Heritage and the Sheffield General Cemetery Trust who have looked after the cemetery since it closed to public burial in 1979.

The chapel will be converted into two flats with parking space for four cars. A council spokesman said that every effort would be made to preserve the building’s historical features.

Councillor Andrew Sangar said it was important to bring the chapel back into use but expressed concerns that the proposed plans did not go far enough.

He said: “In the past we have turned down numerous schemes to bring this building back into use and it needs to be done otherwise it will fall down. It is currently in a dreadful state of disrepair.

“In principal I support the idea to bring back old churches and old chapels into use. But I think we have missed an opportunity here.

“Given the history there and the little of it we have left to us today. This scheme does not go far enough to preserve an important and unique part of Sheffield’s history.”


Book - Birthday book captures life of Sheffield institution

SHEFFIELD folk shared their memories of a city institution at the launch of a new book all about it.

Neil Anderson launched his book celebrating the 80th birthday of Sheffield City Hall at the popular venue this week.

The title shares some of the hall’s fascinating past and stories, including some ghostly goings on.

As well as being the home of ballroom dancing and concerts, the hall is thought to have had at least three resident ghosts during the decades.

Author Neil, who is also the founder of a PR firm in Dronfield, gave a talk and signed books for fans at the launch on Wednesday.

He said: “It was fabulous.

“It was great to meet a lot of people and it was said I had shown how important the hall has been to different people over 80 years.

“I was quite nervous about taking the project on because the hall does hold such an important place in the hearts and minds of decades of Sheffielders.

“It was really nice to get positive feedback from people who said I had captured it totally, that was great for me.”

The book celebrates all that has happened under the City Hall’s roof since it opened in September 1932.

From hosting megastars such as The Beatles, to surviving World War Two air attacks and promoting peace concerts, the hall’s history is laid bare.

The birthday book costs £12.95 and is available to pick up from the city hall, by calling 0114 2233740, at The Star bookshop and from book retailers.

Tell us your memories of the City Hall in Sheffield?