St Hilda's Church. Wincobank

Way back in 2012 we bought to the public’s attention the impending threat of demolition to St Hilda’s Church at Wincobank. Designed by Leslie Moore who undertook the restoration of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield (of Crooked Spire fame) in 1932. St. Hilda’s was considered to be one of his best works and it is great shame that it has now been demolished when it could so easily have been saved.

This is the article from the 2012 edition of The Cruck :-


One of Sheffield’s little heard of, but probably one of its earliest council estates, is the Flower Estate at High Wincobank. Dating back to the early 1900s the layout was designed by W Alexander Harvey and A McKewan who were the architects of the famous Bournville Village. Although the layout was delightful many of the architectural designs left a lot to be desired and there were great variations in internal facilities inasmuch that some had bathrooms and some didn’t! However, as some were constructed on a budget ranging between £135 and £175 this probably explains matters. The estate was finally completed in 1923 and names such as Heather Road, Primrose Avenue, Foxglove Road were used, hence the estate’s name. There is even an Acacia Avenue which, as an expression, has moved into our national language as a description of between the wars suburbia. Sadly much of this council estate has now been altered, modernised or even demolished and the opportunity to declare it a Conservation Area has been lost. When the demolitions took place attitudes were different but as time moves on we start to appreciate the rarity of certain examples (see Park Hill Flats) and although some of the cottages on the estate were of bad quality they were nevertheless examples of early attempts to provide working class housing.

Rear of St Hilda's Church. Wincobank
Rear of St Hilda’s Church. Wincobank

In those days every estate needed a church and in 1922 plans were drawn up for a church on Windmill Lane which is actually on the outskirts of the estate. The original designs were for an elaborate Gothic church with a crenellated tower at a cost of £16,000, but this large sum of money could not be raised and although the foundation stone was laid in 1923 it was not completed until 1938. The end result was of a much simpler design in red brick, shown by the fact that only £5,000 had been raised for the project.

Leslie Moore (1883–1957) was the architect and this was considered to be one of his best designs albeit very plain. Its main claim to fame is that it contains the 1794 organ case, by Donaldson of York, from the bombed-out St James Church on St James Street although the actual organ is much later. For many years local folklore said that it had actually come from the magnificent St Pauls (1740) which used to stand on the current Peace Gardens site. (Yet another building which you wouldn’t dream of demolishing today).

The only bits left from this stunning edifice are scattered around the 1930s Muskoka Estate at Bents Green, so if you live there check your walls, window-sills and lintels as you may be looking at a piece of history.

Getting back to St Hildas many attempts were made to List it, and since its closure in 2007 there’s been a concerted campaign to save the building with much local support as it holds many memories of weddings, christenings and funerals etc.

Local MP David Blunkett has become involved and in May the campaigners drafted and sent a letter to the building’s new owners with a plea for its retention. The Church Commissioners would not divulge the identity of the new owners for confidentiality reasons so the letter, of which I have seen a copy, starts ‘Dear Purchaser of St Hildas’. It is a very heartfelt letter and hopefully the recipients will listen to its pleas and won’t steam in with the demolition team.

There have been 350 signatories to the ‘Save St Hilda’s Petition’, and various suggestions for future uses of the building, so it would be a great shame if it was unnecessarily lost when there are alternatives out there.

taken from The Cruck – June 2012


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