Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Moor Market.

The Moor Market, Sheffield
Photo © Copyright Peter Barr and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Castle Market may have breathed its last but, to take its place, we have the brand new Moor Market which manages to be diametrically opposed to its predecessor both geographically and conceptually, being at the polar opposite end of the town from the traditional markets area - and being what's basically a large shed as opposed to the insane labyrinth of Castle Market.

To be honest, being tight-fisted, I've not yet bought anything there but have had a couple of walks around. What most strikes me is that, despite its greater simplicity, it seems harder to navigate than Castle Market. Castle Market may have seemed convoluted but, thanks to the stairwells and the junction with the neighbouring meat and fish market, you mostly understood where you were relative to the overall building. The Moor Market's lack of such landmarks makes it easier to gain a sense of disorientation.

Design-wise, the most impressive thing about the building is its high-profile arched entrance that contrasts dramatically with the near-secret entrance to Castle Market.

The least impressive thing design-wise is probably the blank, unadorned wall facing Cumberland Street. It does seem odd that the side that faces where all the buses stop should be so anonymous and present no noticeable point of access. On the other hand, the side that faces the neighbouring car park has two entrances. Clearly, when they were designing it, the council were far more concerned about convenience for drivers than for bus passengers. It seems some people's fears about the new markets being part of an obsessive council drive towards gentrification of the city may not be totally unfounded.

Overall, despite those reservations, I think I have to conclude that the lighter, less claustrophobic feel and the lack of internal staircases, make it a better place to shop than Castle Market. But the real good news for me is the building has a large Iceland and Poundland built into the side of it which is perfect for a man of my quality.

According to The Sheffield Telegraph, footfall on the Moor is up 30% thanks to the new building's opening. Hopefully this bodes well for the future development plans of the rest of the Moor.

Sadly, how footfall is holding up on Waingate since Castle Market closed, has yet to be reported.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Castle Market.

Castle Market, Haymarket, Waingate, Sheffield
Castle Market photo © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
In a tragedy for all lovers of rampantly lunatic architecture, Sheffield's Castle Market was closed down last week, to be replaced by a spanking new indoor market at the bottom of the Moor. From comments on various sites, it seems few'll miss it.

But I certainly will.

I'll miss it for three reasons.

One was that I have happy childhood memories of it. I got my first ever box of Lego there, from a stall that had a Lego model of Queen Elizabeth as its centrepiece. I got a Dalek money box from there - possibly from the same stall. I also got a machine gun (admittedly not a real one) from the market, and a banjo. Truly it was a place of many and magical delights for a child.

Secondly, in the good old days it had a pet shop in one of the units that lined the building's ground floor exterior. That shop's downstairs holds no great memories for me but the upstairs had goldfish and snakes. No trip to town was complete without a trip to see the snakes.

The other reason is that it's a building that makes no sense at all. So random is its exterior that it's impossible to close your eyes and imagine walking round the outside of it. It's like a whole bunch of different buildings have collided with each other through some process of continental drift.

Likewise with its oddly labyrinthine interior that left you with the feeling you could roam it every hour of every day of your life and somehow still never fully know it. There'd always be some nook, some cranny, you'd never before encountered. That might not have it a sensible design for a market building but it did mean it was impossible to get bored by it.

I assume it's a truly unique building because I can't believe anyone would ever have been daft enough to build another market anything like it but, of course, that means the complexity and randomness that made it a bizarre design for a market also made it seem oddly special.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Don Valley Stadium.

Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield
Photo by Matthew Hatton [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Some things in life seem designed to make you feel old.

Don Valley Stadium is one of them.

When they knocked down the old Egg Box Town Hall extension, around a decade ago, I suddenly got a glimpse of what it is to be mortal, as it was the first building I ever saw demolished that I'd seen being built in the first place. Thanks to that, I was suddenly aware of the passage of time in a way I'd never been before.

Since then, various things that were built in my childhood have fallen by the wayside but now, as though to rub it in, they're demolishing things that were built in my mid-twenties. What kind of madness is this? It's the sort of thing that could make one feel old enough to be Methuselah.

As for the stadium, it was a pretty thing, blessed with a roof of airy elegance - and clearly the UK's biggest and best athletics stadium for around twenty years. But, despite being used for a million and one other things, it hardly ever seemed to get used for what it had been built for - international athletics. With a need to cut spending and another smaller stadium nearby, I suppose it's inevitable it was going to get the chop but it's hard to escape the feeling of a wasted opportunity and to wonder just what it was the athletics authorities had against it, that prevented them granting it any events.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Sheffield's Lyceum Theatre.

Sheffield's Lyceum Theatre
Photo copyright Gregory Deryck√©re . Re-used under this Creative Commons License.
When it was announced in the late 1980s that they were going to do up and re-open the Lyceum Theatre, I thought it was madness. What a squalid and appalling looking building it was, surely fit only for demolition.

But what a fool I was. For it wasn't just re-opened, it was transformed into a thing almost unrecognisable, changing into something vaguely reminiscent of an overgrown cake.

I must admit that my entire experience of having been inside the Lyceum is of attending a version of Dick Whittington starring Vince Hill in the late 1960s. This would have made me four at the time, meaning it's remarkable that my memories of the visit are so clear.

I remember Vince striding around with his worldly possessions dangling in a spotted hanky from the end of a stick.

I remember his cat looking suspiciously like a woman in a costume. I was most impressed by her tail.

Most of all I remember my nan telling me the theatre's boxes were for visiting royalty, like the queen, to sit in. I can confess I was highly disappointed that the queen didn't show up for that performance.

And you know what? She's not shown up in my life at any other point either. Grrr.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Sheffield's Town Hall TARDIS.

Sheffield, Town Hall, TARDIS
Photo by David Rogers [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
What kind of fool am I to have got so far into this blog without ever having once mentioned the most important structure in the history of Sheffield?

I am, of course, referring to Sheffield's TARDIS, parked just outside the Town Hall; no doubt so the Doctor can rush into the building and sort out the council, once and for all, with his sonic screwdriver.

The door's sometimes left open, meaning you can see the interior. Rather disappointingly, it's not bigger on the inside, not does it have a control console. Clearly that must be a trick the Doctor's pulled to lure his enemies into a false sense of security.

Unlike that one on TV, Sheffield's TARDIS is made of concrete. Just what you need for keeping out daleks. Or, as they're known in Sheffield, Dee Dah Leks.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Sheffield St Marie's Catholic Cathedral.

Sheffield, Catholic Cathedral, St Marie
Photo by Chris Downer [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Hooray! It's Sheffield's Catholic Cathedral, otherwise known as St Marie's Church, which manages to be even less impressive than its nearby Anglican counterpart. Somehow you can't help feeling the city got the fuzzy end of the lollipop when it came to religious buildings.

Admittedly I've never been inside, so it might be magnificence itself in there but, given the modesty of its exterior, I suspect it isn't.

Still, at least its existence means the city can boast it has two cathedrals, which is something not every town can claim.

Nearby, in this shot, can be seen the octagonal roof of the Crucible Theatre and, beyond that, the listed monolith that is Park Hill Flats.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Sheffield Cathedral.

Sheffield Cathedral
Photo by Chris Downer [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I was going to say Sheffield's Anglican Cathedral is possibly the worst cathedral on the planet Earth, as it's clearly just an ordinary church that someone's decided to pretend is something rather grander. But then I remembered we have an even worse cathedral on nearby Norfolk Street.

I'm not sure what it says about me but one of my favourite thrills as a child was walking over the graves in its courtyard and knowing there were people buried down there. I'm not sure if those graves are still there, or if they were removed to make way for the more recent Supertram shenanigans.

Still, despite appearances, it does have at least something in common with the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, which is that, like that building, it's not finished. After World War Two, there was a plan to enlarge it and add an extra spire. Sadly, that never happened, although a more modest extension was added in the 1960s. Despite being in a far more modern style than the rest of the building, the extension fits in surprisingly well and is the sticky-forward bit on the left of the above photo.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Sheffield United's Cherry Street car park.

Sheffield United, Bramall Lane, Cherry Street car park
Photo  © Copyright M J Richardson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Granted there aren't many people who'd be excited by a photo of a football ground's car park but no one ever said I'm not the saddest of individuals.

What makes this photo a thing of magic and wonder to me is that it's taken from the stadium hotel and therefore provides a view I'd not normally have.

Also, the angle makes it difficult to see the awful red and white striped cladding that's been affixed to the back of the South Stand in recent years.

Yes, I know red and white stripes are the club's official colours - but such a colour scheme looks a lot better on a shirt than it does on the back of a building.

All I can do is hope that, at some point, someone at the club sees sense and restores the stand's exterior to its original uncluttered appearance and at last we'll be able to appreciate all that concrete finny goodness without it making our eyes hurt.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Roundhouse, Ringinglow.

Ringinglow Roundhouse, Sheffield
Photo by Martin Speck [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Even though I've never been to Ringinglow, it's shaping up to be an exciting place for me.

First we had its alpaca farm and now we have its roundhouse which was, it seems, an 18th Century toll house. Currently serving as a proper house, it's now a listed building.

Apparently, Ringinglow was on the traditional border between the Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria and may have once possessed a prehistoric burial mound from which it got its name.

Inter-kingdom borders, alpacas, prehistoric burial mounds? Is there no limit to the wonders that Ringinglow can fling at a man?

Friday, 20 September 2013

The old post office, Fitzalan Square.

Old Post Office, Fitzalan Square, Sheffield
Photo © Copyright Julian Osley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Sheffield's old main post office building in Fitzalan Square's been empty for years, ever since the post office moved its operations to Castle House. Clearly that wasn't the smartest of moves, as Castle House then closed down - apart from the bit that houses the post office.

Since then the old Fitzalan Square building's fallen into decay and decrepitude but at last there's hope for it with news that it's to be converted to student flats and an educational building. As well as the existing building, which'll be refurbished, there'll be a fourteen and a twenty two story block of flats for international students built on the Flat Street/Pond Hill end of the site.

It all sounds exciting and glamorous but I must admit my main memory of the building is that, when I was little, there was a TARDIS-style police box outside, which sadly no longer stands. I demand the developers of the site bring it back.

I fear my demands may be ignored.


More info on the planned development here.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Herdings - Herdings.

The Herdings, Sheffield
Photo by Mick Knapton (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Up until last year I never knew that Herdings was named after an actual building called The Herdings. It's even more odd as it's a building I'd passed plenty of times in my childhood - and even recently - without ever knowing what it was. It was always obvious even to my untutored eye that it was far older than the rest of the estate in which it sits but I'd assumed it must date back to the 19th Century and assumed it was probably an old water company house or some such.

It was a bit of a shock therefore to discover, a few months back, that its origins date all the way back to the 14th century, with later additions in the 17th and that some would argue it's the second oldest building in Sheffield.

This great age is made all the more surreal by the fact it's in a 1950s/60s council estate and slap-bang next to two of the city's most high profile tower blocks. It's such incongruities that lend a city magic and intrigue.

Apparently, it caught fire a few years back but has since been fully restored and now seems to serve as some sort of community centre which is a relief as it's a Grade II listed building and you wouldn't want such a thing to become derelict.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Mayfield Alpaca Farm, Ringinglow.

Alapaca Farm, Ringinglow, Sheffield
Photo © Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Let's be honest, when you think of Sheffield, the first thing you think of is not necessarily alpacas. But here they are, blundering around near Ringinglow. Don't you just want to run up to them and give them a great big hug?

Admittedly I don't know how good an idea that is. I don't know how alpacas take to random hugging but personally I'm willing to risk it.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Arundel Gate.

Arundel Gate, Sheffield, Cheese Grater St Pauls Tower
Photo by St BC (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Has there been anywhere in Sheffield changed more in spirit in the last decade than Arundel Gate? When I was little, it was a wide, impenetrable road with barely any buildings on it. To get from one side to the other, you had to risk your life sprinting between its barriers, or use one of a string of sinister underpasses. And, when you emerged on the other side, you still felt a million miles away from anywhere that was actually worth getting to.

Now it's a much narrower road with lots of buildings on it. In the process, it's developed more of an air of belonging in the hub of a major city centre and also lost its previous mood of limbo-esque desolation.

It still has its failings. The old Top Rank/Fiesta complex is still there and the buildings at the Castle Square end are less than impressive but, for me at least, it's a vast improvement on how it once was.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Bishop's House, Meersbrook Park.

Bishop's House, Meersbrook Park, Sheffield
Photo by Martin Speck [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Like the Howard and the Queen's Head, it's another of those buildings that's pretending to be a zebra. I just hope there're no lions around, or it'll be in serious trouble.

Actually, I don't know that much about it, other than it was built around 1500 and is now a museum.

Apparently, it gets its name because two bishops were supposed to have grown up in it, though that may well be apocryphal.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Odeon/Fiesta/Top Rank/02 Academy complex, Pond Street.

Odeon complex, Sheffield, Pond Street, Bus station
Photo by Nigel Chadwick [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Here it is, my nomination for the worst building ever erected in the entire history of Sheffield.

For some reason, in the 1960s, someone decided it'd be a great idea to build a huge concrete cliff on Pond/Flat Street to cut the bus and railway stations off from the city centre - and then to cover it with what seemed to be tiles stolen from a public lavatory. The only way to navigate through the complex was through narrow, spiralling stairwells or via cramped escalators that never seemed to work - all imbued with a sense of menace that grew with every step you took. Once you actually reached the top of the complex, you then had to navigate disturbing underpasses to actually escape it and reach the city centre.

Just to make it even more user-friendly, the site incorporated a porn cinema and lots multi-storey parking.

Just over twenty years ago, the complex became even more isolating when the council decided to get rid of the escalators that connected it to the bus station, meaning you couldn't even properly access the row of shops in its mid sections, thus sealing their doom and leaving a great chunk of it derelict. It's genius like that that wins councils awards.

Photos of the site before it was built really are some of the most baffling things I've ever seen, with strange and random buildings dotted around on a rather wild hill. Were they houses? Were they industrial buildings? I really have no idea but, for the sheer strangeness of it all, I really do wish they'd been allowed to stand.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

St Paul's Tower, Arundel Gate.

St Pauls Tower, Sheffield, tallest building
 Photo  © Copyright Neil Theasby
and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
At last! Because you the reader demanded it! It's that building!

It started out as the Conran Tower. Then it was, "City Lofts." Then it was St Paul's Tower. But, whatever you call it, you can't ignore it. At thirty two storeys, stuck atop a hill overlooking the railway station, it's Sheffield's tallest and most visible building.

And what an odd structure it is. When the sun hits it at the right angle - usually early in the morning - it can look golden, gleaming, optimistic and sparkling.

When the sun doesn't hit it from the right angle - or doesn't hit it at all - it can look suspiciously like a dull, brown utilitarian 1960s block of council flats.

I do love the way it totally dwarfs the mock Tudorness of the Howard in this shot. I can't help feeling they should add a thirty storey vertical extension to the Howard to bring it up to the same height and turn it into Sheffield's first mock Tudor skyscraper.

A quick Google for images of mock Tudor skyscrapers suggests to me that there're no mock Tudor skyscrapers anywhere on Earth. Given that there are mock Gothic and mock Classical skyscrapers, the lack of mock Tudors seems an egregious omission that we can only hope someone will one day put right.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Banner's department store, Attercliffe.

Banners department store, Sheffield
By Warofdreams (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
When I was growing up, I knew nothing of the existence of Banner's department store. For that matter, I knew nothing of Attercliffe itself. My only knowledge of the area was that it existed and, despite its name, it didn't have a cliff.

Sadly, all these years later, I still know little of Banners, but I have at least seen it in the flesh now. What I do know is the place ceased to trade as a department store in 1980 and had the first escalators in Sheffield. It also had a tube system for delivering goods to the customers.

It's such a lovely, neat, building that it seems a shame they can't put it on castors and move it to the city centre where it could again be properly utilised for its original purpose and no longer feel so strangely out of place.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Sheffield University Arts Tower.

Sheffield University Arts Tower
Photo  © Copyright Terry Robinson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Hooray, it's that building that looks just like that one in New York whose name I can never remember.

I don't know if it still is but, at one point, it was the tallest university building in the country and is legendary for its Paternoster lifts, designed to satisfy the needs of those who've always wanted that Dumbwaiter experience.

Between 1965 and 2010, it was Sheffield's tallest building and is still the city's second tallest.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Norton Water Tower.

Norton Water Tower, Sheffield
Photo by David Morris [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Aw, just look at it. It's like the keep at Conisbrough Castle would be if the Plantagenets had ever heard of Brutalism. You could see it from the end of our road when I was little. Then again, you can see it from the end of plenty of roads, as it's up on a hill near the outskirts of town.

Back in the good old days, you used to be able to go up it and use its viewing platform, and I once had the pleasure of doing just that. Sadly, some decades ago, the practice was stopped. According to an interview I once heard on Radio Sheffield, that was because people kept trying to jump off it. To be honest, there's so many mobile phone dishes on it now that you'd probably be reluctant to go up it in case your brain got fried by microwaves.

Still, it'd be great to go up it again as an adult and see just what the view's like from the side that faces away from Sheffield.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Towers' Lodge, Sandygate Road.

The Towers, Sandygate Road, Sheffield
Photo by Mick Knapton (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I never even knew this building existed until I recently blundered across a picture of it whilst roaming the internet and was struck by its weird, fairy tale quality. You almost expect Hansel and Gretel to emerge from it before going for a roam in the woods.

Apparently, it was built in 1896 and was once a centre for disabled children before being restored in the 1990s to its original purpose as a private residence.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Queen's Tower Lodge, East Bank Road.

Queens Tower Lodge, East Bank Road, Sheffield
Photo by Warofdreams [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Near Park Grange Road, Norfolk Park, stands one of Sheffield's most magically loopy buildings; Queen's Tower. It's a 19th Century imitation castle inspired by Mary Queen of Scots' stay at Manor Lodge. But, further down the slope, on East Bank Road, is this baffling structure. I've never been sure if it's part of the same complex as Queen's Tower or if its proximity to the site is pure coincidence.

Anyway, its page on Wikimedia Commons labels it as, "Queen's Tower Lodge," so I'll assume that's what it is.

The rest of the Queen's Tower site is nowadays a gated apartment complex but what function does this particular building currently serve? I don't know. Occasionally, when you go past, you can spot a bare, lit bulb through one of the windows, suggesting some kind of activity within. But as to what goes on in there, we  passers-by can only guess.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Old Town Hall, Waingate.

Sheffield, Old Town Hall, Waingate
Photo © Copyright Stanley Walker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
To my ever-lasting shame, all through my childhood I knew this building only as, "That place with the drinking fountain on the side." Sadly, even then, one was warned not to use that fountain, as it wasn't hygienic.

When I was a kid, it was used as a courthouse but it was originally built in 1807-08 as Sheffield's town hall, before being superseded in the 1890s by its much larger replacement on Surrey Street.

As far as I'm aware, it's currently abandoned and growing increasingly derelict, which seems a scandal for such an historic building. One can only hope that a good use can be found for it at some point.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Cheese Grater car park, Charles Street.

Cheese Grater car park, Charles Street, Arundel Gate, Sheffield
Photo by Stanley Walker [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It's the Cheese Grater car park - or "carp ark" as I always manage to mistype it.

Personally I can think of no finer concept than a carp ark; to preserve our little scaly friends should the world ever again face global flooding.

Granted, as fish can swim - and breathe underwater - a carp ark might be viewed as inherently redundant but I do always feel that, when it comes to fish, it's better to be safe than sorry.

As for the Cheese Grater, it's a relatively new addition to the city's skyline and has recently been voted the world's third coolest car park by someone or other.

So, well done to it. It certainly makes a change from the usual nightmare concrete box that such structures tend to be.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Manor Lodge turret house.

Sheffield Manor Lodge turret house gate house
Photo © Copyright Dave Pickersgill
and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Sheffield Manor Lodge turret house; the only fully standing part of the old Manor Lodge where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner during her "difficulties" with Elizabeth 1st. Apparently, in 1839, in order to preserve them, some parts of the complex were dismantled then re-erected at the rather wonderfully loopy Queen's Tower near Norfolk Park.

Despite it being not a million miles away from where I grew up, I've somehow never ever seen Manor Lodge with my own naked eyes. What a well-travelled person I am.

I once saw a David Starkey documentary about the life of Mary Queen of Scots. At no point did he mention Sheffield.

I always knew he was a wrong 'un.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sheffield Winter Garden.

Sheffield Winter Garden, inside
Photo © Copyright David Hallam-Jones
and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
As the Silver Surfer would no doubt say, what new and strange madness is this?

It's a small chunk of rain forest in the middle of the city. Apparently it's 21 metres high, 22 metres wide and 70 metres long and is, according to Wikipedia, the largest urban glasshouse in Europe.

Not only does it feature all manner of strange and exotic plants, it also has all kinds of dinky little water features into which one may fling one's wish-laden coins and never have the courage to retrieve them from.

For someone who grew up in the city during a time when Sheffield city centre seemed to consist entirely of concrete boxes, scary underpasses and access-destroying dual carriageways, its arrival in 2003 came like something from outer space and offered proof that town planning's come a long way since the days of the 1960s and 1970s.

The only problem I have with it is the shortage of wildlife. I mean, come on, would it really kill them to let some gibbons loose in it? Let's face it, who doesn't want wild gibbons in their city centre?

Monday, 19 August 2013

Velocity Tower.

Velocity Tower, Sheffield
Velocity Tower photo © Copyright Graham Hogg
and licensed for reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Hooray! It's Velocity Tower, easily my favourite post-war building in the whole of Sheffield.

How could anyone not love all that floor-to-ceiling glass and that mix of ruler-straight lines and curves?

It is of course technically unfinished, as it's supposed to have an extra eight stories on top and there's supposed to be a second tower beside it but sadly the credit crunch threw a spanner into those particular works.

All we can do is hope that someday it finally gets fully completed and can be seen in all the glory it deserves.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

St Paul's Square in the Snow.

Peace Gardens and St Pauls Tower, Sheffield, in the snow

Most of the pics on this blog will be culled from other sources but I took this one myself, back in February when the winter was biting so hard we started to wonder if it'd ever end.

To be honest, I was one of the few people who didn't mind the old Eggbox building that once stood here but I have to admit the new Peace Gardens are a gazillion miles better than the old ones. And the new office blocks, hotel and walloping big skyscraper of St Paul's Tower do lend a much bigger city feel to the area. Squint really hard and you could convince yourself you're looking at the Canary Wharf of South Yorkshire.
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