An image of Cambridge Street from 1966 showing the original buildings looking much better preserved (albert works has since been lost)

Sheffield City Council’s final proposals for the Heart of the City II development are mixed.  Despite some welcome developments, HHB are objecting to this planning application because of the unnecessary destruction of yet more of Sheffield’s heritage.   We hope our readers will do the same – please read on for our reasons and information on how you can object.

Mockup of the restored Leah's Yard
Mockup of the restored Leah’s Yard

The wall that was once part of Albert Works has already been demolished and a throughfare created.  A new building is being proposed to go alongside what is currently Chubby’s.

Collage of images showing the buildings as they look at the moment (though the Albert works wall is now demolished).  Too small to make out here –  but there was a stone, kept from a previous building, above the doorway in the Albert Works wall with the cutler’s arms and initials ‘LJS’.   Fittingly, the proposed new build is planned to have the same stone set above its door.
An image of Cambridge Street from 1966 showing the original buildings looking much better preserved (albert works has since been lost)
Cambridge Street in 1966 image from Ref No s14028
Title Cambridge Street including No. 20, Henry Leah and Sons Ltd., Silver Stampers, No. 24, Sportsman’s Inn, No. 26, Cambridge Coffee House and No. 28, Brook Bros. Ltd., Electro Platers (Albert Works) and No 30, George Binns Ltd., Outfitters

The image below shows a view of the proposals for the same buildings from behind, looking toward the John Lewis building through the gap created by the removal of the Albert works wall.  As well as the proposed new building,  permission is being requested to adapt a wall in Leah’s Yard.  We can see it here with window spaces and doorways punched through.   Some may think this is too much, but it encourages the flow of pedestrians and arguably adds more than it takes away.

So far, readers may not have a huge problem with what has been mentioned.

Our problem  – and the reason why we are  objecting to these plans – is with what these images do not show.    These various more or less positive proposals (and many other details about adaptations to Leah’s Yard) are being bundled together with the the loss of a historic pub, the old Sportsman’s Inn (more recently known as the Tap and Tankard and Chubby’s).    The image below shows the frontage, and that is all that will be left of the old Sportsman’s Inn with these proposals, but for one wall.

We are being asked to accept the positives along with this negative, as if the loss were somehow necessary in order to get the benefits.    It isn’t though, and most of the restoration of Leah’s Yard has actually already been done. There are perfectly viable and ultimately more attractive schemes which would retain the old Sportsman, or at the very least make some effort to retain the better parts of it.

Mockup of the proposed new build and ‘restored’ frontages. Regrettably, rather than take the opportunity to restore a traditional frontage to Chubby’s, we are presented with modern brickwork being cobbled on in order to take the edge off the new building that is proposed alongside.  An example of mistaken priorities..  is there anyone (apart from the design team) who actually thinks this is a good idea?  

Why is the old Sportsman’s Inn so important?

The proposal is to demolish all of 24-26 Cambridge Street (the former Sportsman) except the façade and the north wall.  We have been happy to accept this approach with other buildings on Cambridge Street where the internals have already mostly been lost – for example DINA (formerly William Wild’s ivory works and also the Sheffield Metal Co.), just a few doors down, and Henry’s bar at the corner.  The Sportsman is different.  It has undergone some internal alteration, but inside and out it is still recognisably the pub built in 1863, with a very fine club room on the first floor.  Importantly, thanks to the work of HHB’s Robin Hughes, we now know the pub has much greater signifance than has been previously recognised (or is recognised in this application).

The Sportsman was built in 1863 for brewer William Greaves.  The site had previously been an older pub and 8 dwellings, but this was cleared and the creation of the Sportsman left a space which was then taken by  James Morton who had his horn works next door.  Morton made changes to the horn works but also extended into this space, and by doing so he created what we know today as Leah’s Yard.    What we didn’t know, but now know, is that the Sportsman and Leah’s Yard were contempories, and almost part of the same development.  The buildings are physically hand in hand, but their co-existence reflects an important part of our industrial heritage, for drinking beer was seen as a necessary refreshment and escape from the dry and dusty atmosphere of the workshops.  As working conditions improved pubs provided meeting rooms too and the fine club room on the first floor of the Sportsman’s Inn hosted regular meetings of plasterers, oddfellows, tailors, lithographers, carpenters and joiners.  Better pay and more leisure allowed some to use pubs to pursue interests and organise themselves rather than just drink.

club room at the Sportsman - shows original features and what an attractive room it is
View from the club room in the Sportsman. Unfortunately the only photo we have, taken during a recent visit which confirmed the building was sound and viable for refurbishment. The club room was perhaps the most impressive part of the pub, but there are no photos of the club room in the applicant’s design and access statement…

Unfortunately these findings (shortly to be linked to from this page), and the fact that these buildings were contempories, have not found their way into the council’s planning application.  Instead we are being told that the value of 24-26 Cambridge St.  lies in these buildings being from a vaguely similar period and providing a sympathetic setting to Leah’s Yard.   The truth is that we have something more unique and important than that.   Nowadays it is quite rare to find a pub next to the works it was built to serve, but the Sportsman and Leah’s Yard are special as the only known surviving pub and works that are exact contemporaries.

The value of Leah’s yard is already recognised – it is Grade II* .  What has not been recognised is the value of the neighbouring old Sportsman’s Inn and the contribution it makes to the group as a whole.    Under the council’s proposals, after over 150 years of use, the pub will be consigned to history and the resulting space turned into a restaurant.  This is an unnecessary loss, and the compromise of retaining some of the better features of the pub,  and retaining the pub’s identity, has not been considered.  A visit to Leah’s Yard will be interesting because the place has a story to tell –  it can perform a modern day role, but with the added interest of a place full of character and history.  The Sportsman is part of that story and it can have a place in this modern redevelopent too, adding character with its historic features and the special relationship with Leah’s Yard.   Blank canvases for restaurants are aplenty in Sheffield.   Historic workshops with adjoining pub, built as contemporaries, are by contrast rare and  special. A huge amount of work has gone into this application so far, but a little more is still needed and we hope this application will be rejected so that it can be improved.

The official deadline for consultation is Monday 6th September, however the planning meeting is unlikely to take place before October so your comments will add to the count and be noted by the planning officer even if they are not recorded in the planning report.

You can object to this application via the council’s planning website >  HERE:  (you’ll need to register before you can comment)

If the link does not work or you lose your way then search for 21/03334/RG3.  The buildings that would be mostly demolished are anonymously described as 22-24 Cambridge Street on the planning application, but we know them better as the old Sportsman (in recent years the Tap and Tankard and Chubby’s chip shop).

It is good to put things in your own words, but the most important material planning consideration is that this development will cause unnecessary harm to the setting of the Grade II* star listed Leah’s Yard and options that could have avoided this harm have not been properly investigated .  You could also say:

    • 24-26 Cambridge Street is a critical part of the setting of the grade II* listed Leah’s Yard, and makes an important contribution to its historical significance.
    • It is a rare Illustration of the close relationship between pubs and industry in Sheffield.
    • It is the only known example in Sheffield of a surviving pub that is the exact contemporary of the works it was built to serve.
    • Despite internal alterations it is still recognisably the Leah’s Yard pub built in 1863, but this will be entirely lost.
    • Preserving only the façade is just a cosmetic measure, and is poor conservation practice. It will destroy much of the significance and obscure the relationship with Leah’s Yard.
    • The club room in particular shows how pubs were providing for workers’ organisations in the time leading up to trades unions achieving a legal footing.
    • It also shows how facilities were being provided as workers’ pay and leisure improved.
Leah’s Yard and the proposed loss of the Sportsman’s Inn.
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2 thoughts on “Leah’s Yard and the proposed loss of the Sportsman’s Inn.

  • September 3, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    We do not have many original pubs left in Sheffield especially in the city centre, please think again about demolishing it. With all the new apartments being built there are many potential customers that will use a traditional pub. Please some of the history we have. SCC have demolished lots of lovely buildings, please slow down and save some for the future.

  • September 4, 2021 at 9:16 am

    I used to work for R. THOMAS & Co. Cambridge Street and loved going to Cambridge coffee house because of the character of the buildings in that area, little workshops that Sheffield was foundered from, the big factories came later. John Lewis building is empty, let the modernisers have a field day with that but please keep some of the old character of Sheffield.


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