The world is finally catching on to what we all knew.. Time Out Magazine recently voted Sheffield the second best destination for a weekend break in Europe.   That should be no great surprise; Sheffield is Britain’s greenest city, with all the city trappings and a beautful national park only minutes away.  Time Out has made special mention of Kelham Island, which has become quite the success story for Sheffield.  For many Kelham Island has become ‘the place to be’, with bars, microbeweries, restaurants, galleries and Kelham Island Industrial Museum beckoning visitors and would-be residents. People are queuing up to live here and as a result Kelham Island has become a perpetual building site, with developers squeezing small apartments into ever diminishing spaces

People love Kelham Island because of the old industrial buildings that survive there.  For the most part they are not stately, grand or finely decorated, but there is a core of plain, industrial buildings (and a few, not so plain) that hang together and give this place some soul, whilst telling a great story about Sheffield that we are happy to be reminded of. The new-fangled apartments now seem to be everywhere, latching on to the old buildings which hold this place together and give it a sense of authenticity. This was recognised by the planning authority when a Kelham Island was assigned as an Industrial Conservation Areas.

The buildings pictured above on Alma Street, just down the road from the Fat Cat pub, are now under threat, not of outright demolition, but by enough defacement to completely sap them of their identity. The idea is to make them more appealing to the purchasers of hip newly converted apartments. As they stand you would struggle to find more plain and unimpressive looking buildings, but that is not where their importance lies.  These are the outbuildings and final remains of a once much larger building – a cotton mill no less.   Cotton Street gives the clue, but who knew that Sheffield once had a cotton mill?  It was the only cotton mill Sheffield ever had, interestingly predated by a silk mill previously occupying the the same spot in 1758. This burned down in 1792, and the cotton mill was then built. After a further fire in 1829, buildings were altered and converted to form Sheffield’s first work house, and for fifty years this was Sheffield’s only workhouse.  The historial layers of use of the building are striking,  even extending to hospital space for the cholera epidemic and Sheffield flood.

The proposals, which HHB objects to and which we encourage our readers to object to, include:

  • The loss of the chimneys
  • The loss of the wall at the west end, at the entrance to the former Globe Steel Works. This shows a clear architectural relationship with the surviving works building, defines the historic entranceway, and demonstrates the development of the site over time,
  • The dropping of first floor window openings in the south elevation first floor to create Juliet balconies which will significantly change the appearance of the building and obscure its historic character.

We are now in a situation where space for developers is running out at Kelham Island and the traditional trades that were invited back into Kelham Island to bring the place back to life are now being given the boot.  The site is not vacant as the application claims – workshop occupants are being told to leave. It is a sad when metal trades are being pushed out of a definitively industrial area, because people want to live there.  Many have suggested that space should be preserved at Kelham Island to preserve some manufacturing at least.

Gentrification of this area has gone far enough, without us having to accept the unnecessary defacement of important early buildings, or the loss or relocation of important metal trades.  The buildings as they stand add character and authenticity to this important conservation area.

You can read HHB’s objection to this planning application, which contains a fuller historical account and addresses planning matters, here

Remains of Sheffield’s first workhouse and only cotton mill – Cotton Street and 24 Alma Street 22/01020/FUL

One thought on “Remains of Sheffield’s first workhouse and only cotton mill – Cotton Street and 24 Alma Street 22/01020/FUL

  • March 10, 2024 at 1:43 pm

    I’m an ex resident of Sheffield and have spent my working career as a photographer in the city and although being a Nottingham lad originally I have a deep love for Sheffield and its people. Because of this I’ve embarked on a photographic project with a view to possibly publishing a book currently titled ‘Sheffield Repurposed’. I’ve made a couple of trips back and photographed a selection of buildings showing this subject matter but have been saddened that many buildings are falling foul to both the council and developers not sticking the plan. One of my first subjects to fall foul of this was the Market Tavern, on Exchange Street, which I envisaged being a historical part of the new Castle development but obviously this is no longer the case. I’m somewhat worried that my ‘before’ photographs are going to get less and less as this ‘repurposing’ doesn’t happen. I am following your website with great interest in the hope that my project doesn’t fail due to corporate greed.


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