Bernard Works - Sylvester Gardens

Sheffield Cultural Industries Quarter is going from strength to strength and at this rate it will be catching up with Kelham Island as one of the trendiest spots in town.

Jaywing. Albert Works. Sylvester Street
Jaywing. Albert Works. Sylvester Street

The area between Sidney Street and Matilda Street is now known as Alsop Fields, an old Sheffield area which ran between Norfolk Street and the River Sheaf and can be found on the 1723 map. It has a nice ring about it and since Jaywing moved their headquarters to the beautifully restored Albert Works on Sidney Street it really has brought the area to the fore. Lots of apartments are being built here and a major scheme looks set to go ahead on Sylvester Gardens. This scheme has been on the cards since 2006 but comes with an interesting twist. The large site has been totally cleared with the exception of Bernard Works which stands alone in the middle of a wasteland. This is despite a structural engineer’s recommendation for demolition which was tabled in 2006, so it’s a miracle that it’s still standing. If you’ve driven past you’ve probably seen it – it’s the one which is just a shell and smothered in graffiti.

Bernard Works. Sylvester Gardens
Bernard Works. Sylvester Gardens

It has been necessary to tweak the plans slightly and, rather than start again from scratch the developers are to go ahead with the original planning permission. However, they intend to move and re-build the original Mill by about one metre in the north/south plane. The old bricks are barely useable so a heritage brick – Furness Weathered ‘old terracotta’ Red – is to be used but bizarrely the clone Mill would be in a slightly different position on the site. Evidently the move by a metre will help with proposed building openings and de-culverting of the River Porter which runs through the site and has provided the developer with the scheme’s name of Porter Green. Sheffield’s river-side walks are slowly spreading and if and when Decathlon is demolished there will be a considerable amount of de-culverting in this area to enhance even further the masterplan.

Bernard Works dates back to Victorian times but was latterly used by A R Heathcote & Co who were machine knife manufacturers. This whole area was a hive of industry and included The Sheffield Steel Wire Co, Sylvester Sawmills, cutlery manufacturers, wood dealers and turners and a charcoal industry which was probably linked to the latter. There was also a Works called Porter Island so there’s an alternative name clue there if they are trying to emulate Kelham Island! There was once a water-wheel on site and this was to have been a major feature but this idea has now sadly been dropped.

After the re-build has been completed this £12m development will contain a café/bar, commercial units and, with the surrounding new-build, 96 housing units comprising of 8 studios, 25 one bed and 63 two bed apartments with prices starting from £80,000 to £140,000. The scheme backs on to the delightful cobbled Mary Street where several metal-trades buildings have been very successfully converted and others are just crying out for similar treatment. You never know, a refurbished Bernard Works might just kick the owners of these into doing something.

Sheffield Conservation Advisory Group regretted the Mill’s demolition but had no objections to the re-build as the proposals are very sensitive. As many as possible of the original features are to be salvaged and re-used especially the cast-iron columns and it was suggested that black mortar be used in the build. The existing Spanish slates and ridge tiles are also to be retained and re-used so hopefully the end product will fool you at first, or even second, glance.

An interesting aside is that during the 1930s in this area, and further down Sylvester Gardens, stood both the Greek and the Roumanian (sic) Consulates. There’s probably an EU joke in there somewhere but we don’t want to offend either Brexiteers or Remainers!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.