In 2014 the front cover of our Cruck magazine trumpeted the HHB’s victory in getting St. Vincent’s Presbytery listed. (Copies still available if you want to read the full story).
Situated on Solly Street it is a magnificent building which had somehow missed the listing process. When our article was published it was in use as offices and known as Provincial House. However plans had then been submitted for residential use, which seems to be the way things are going in the up and coming St. Vincent’s Quarter which is not quite as trendy as Kelham Island, but may well soon be. Indeed a new block has appeared to the rear of the old Presbytery and it is now attached to it by the usual ubiquitous umbilical cord of glass. This seems to be the usual way nowadays of linking the old with the new.
The latest scheme to be submitted is at Vincent House further down Solly Street, where it is proposed to build six-storey blocks behind the original building and create 66 studio apartments and 2 townhouses. Vincent House itself comprises of what was originally a row of Victorian houses/shops which are to be smartened up and their nasty plastic windows are to be replaced by proper ones. This is the best bit of the scheme as unfortunately the new blocks to the rear will be very overpowering if they are allowed to go through. The rear wings of the original buildings will be lost in the scheme but they’re not of particular merit anyway They are currently occupied by Race Cottam Architects who are set to re-locate. Their car park incidentally used to house 18th century buildings before they were swept away in the slum clearance programmes of the 1920’s and 1930’s. A big improvement will be the proposed landscaping of the site which no doubt the students will enjoy as they will the new rooftop common-room space. We don’t know who will occupy the two proposed townhouses, but as they are not really townhouses but just an example of common architectural parlance then perhaps the luckier students will get to live in them instead of a studio.
On a recent visit to the site we ventured up Hollis Croft and it is well worth a trip. There is a large cleared site on the right which is quite fascinating and we couldn’t quite work out whether it was a major archaeological dig or just preparations for the footings. Either way it’s worth a look as there appears to be some very early brickwork visible below ground level which may be just the remains of cellars or what is more likely, something much more interesting. At the top of Hollis Croft and standing alone on the brow of the hill stands the shell of a very early building.
Its datestone identifies it as Industry Place “erected by W and M Howe 1833” and we hope that its reprieve is a permanent one and that it will eventually be restored to its former glory. A cursory investigation into the address suggests that it was probably William Howe who was a table knife manufacturer but this area was awash with little mesters going right back to the 1770’s and this one short street is a microcosm of what Sheffield must have been like all those years ago. Such a shame that Industry Place is the last building standing.
Back to Solly Street and St. Vincent’s Hall, which is part of St. Vincent’s House, has a very interesting history indeed. It was once known as St. Vincent’s Hall and Girl’s Institute and in 1894 became St. Vincent’s Catholic Club. In 1906 Nos.149 and 151 were shown as being home to St. Luke’s Church Army Lodging House and the Church Army Labour Home for the Unemployed. The Irish immigrants who had colonised this area must have been very grateful for this very welcome cushion to fall on when they had fallen on hard times. There was very little Welfare State in those days and the Church certainly did an admirable job. The Hall must have expanded in 1910 as there is a large stucco relief plaque in green and gold which shows this date and unfortunately this is virtually the only historical element left in the building except for the exposed internal roof structure. This is quite a feature as it shows the rafters, joists, tie-beams and trusses in all their glory and it would be a shame if they were lost in this redevelopment.
Whilst on the subject of redevelopment this whole area appears to be one giant building site and in case you did not know it is situated in the Well Meadow Conservation Area. Venturing down the other half of Hollis Croft you will come across St. Vincent’s Church itself which is currently covered in scaffolding and undergoing major restoration and conversion. By the look of the size of the site this is going to warrant an article all to itself so watch this space! In the meantime take a stroll around there and don’t forget to check out those excavations we mentioned earlier, before they get filled in forever.