HHB discovered in March that the developers behind plans to demolish Mappin’s Coffee House, KMS ESTATES LIMITED, were applying for permission to demolish independently of other plans mentioned below. We raised this with SCC and requested that an Article 4 direction be made to protect it.  We are delighted that SCC took the necessary steps in this case.

We discovered this by accident and received NO notification from SCC planning dept. The developers, faced with a wave of concern about the possible loss of Mappin’s Coffee House, appear to have realised there is no longer any point in taking their original plans involving demolition to planning committee.  They attempted to take a short cut which very sadly is still wide open to other developers to take with other important properties.  Watch out for a forthcoming article about this threat.  Meanwhile, we wait to see what happens next.  We hope the developers will choose a sympathetic development route, or sell.  This is still a prime spot and great building – a food/coffee/beverages use not entirely dissimilar to the original use wouldn’t be a bad idea.


The article below has been updated with an improved newspaper photo, plus a fascinating new image courtesy of Sheffield Museums.

Please object to the planning application 22/03350/FUL involving the demolition of 136-138 London Road pictured above.  The Highfield Cocoa and Coffee House was built in 1877 by Sir Frederick Thorpe Mappin to designs by M. E. Hadfield & Son.  This imposing building, decorated with intricate terracotta features and fine arched windows has a rich and fascinating history, described below, and is mentioned in Pevsner, the authoritative architectural guide.  Given the architectural and historical value of the building we believe it is imperative that the building is protected and we have applied for the building to be added to the South Yorkshire local list.

The developer has repeatedly claimed that the building is old and dilapidated but has yet to give any evidence to show that it is not in sound and reusable condition. They want permission to replace the Mappin’s building with this:

The proposed building is completely at odds with the neighbouring buildings which give London Road its defining victorian character.

Mappin’s Coffee House complements the Victorian shop fronts alongside it. The proposed replacement building would be a disproportionate and overbearing blight on London Road.

Please object to this proposal and spread the word by email or by sharing our posts on social media.  Remember, whatever planning officers recommend, members of Sheffield planning committee have in recent years taken a stand for Sheffield’s heritage and the importance of our city streetscapes.  This is certainly not a lost cause and there is strength in numbers.  Please take 5 minutes to register your objection. You can read our objection here, and the Victorian Society’s here.

How to register your objection:

Click here to see the application, where you can create a login and object.


email planapps@sheffield.gov.uk, quoting application reference 22/03350/FUL

For London Road, one of Sheffield’s best known streets, the loss of this building would be disastrous. Much of the historic fabric on London Road at the city centre end has been lost. The Manpower Services Commission building (‘Moorfoot’) closing off London Road to the centre has not helped.   Plans to re-open London Road back into the city centre could help breathe new life back into the city centre, but for this to succeed it is vital that such important character buildings are retained to anchor new developments.

Mappin’s Coffee House, and the Old Crown Inn on the other side of the road have so far been strong enough buildings to resist the decay, but if this building goes and the monstrosity pictured above is built, then the rot will truly have set in.

This tantalising newspaper clipping (Yorkshire Telegraph and Star, 27/06/1908) indicates the former glory of the building:

This fascinating image has been made available to us courtesy of Sheffield Museums. It is a scan from an album presented to Frederick Thorpe Mappin in 1892 and written in the style of a medieval manuscript.
An image from 1965, shows the building before those modernist concrete frieze panels were added. The Tramway Hotel was demolished in 2015.  Image credit s17673  www.picturesheffield.com
The concrete frieze was added post 1965, probably in 1967.  It’s an unusual combination, and there’s no other building in Sheffield with such a strong contrast of styles.    There is no question that the building should be retained, but if developers want to remove the panels, there is sufficient interest from fans of modernism to require that they should be kept safe and redeployed.

The story behind Mappin’s Coffee House

Sir Frederick Thorpe Mappin (1821–1910),
Walter William Ouless (1848–1933)
Museums Sheffield

Mappin was a true ‘founding father’ of Sheffield. Born 1840, he worked at his father’s factory from the age of 13, running the company by the age of 20 and becoming the youngest Master Cutler.  His rise paralleled Sheffield’s: he became Mayor, MP, was knighted in 1886, was founder of Sheffield University. The list of his accomplishments is impressive. Mappin was a stubborn, driven businessman but he was also a compassionate character, donating large portions of his fortune to the city in various ways.  In a 1905 feature Sheffield Telegraph described Sir Frederick as “the only resident in the city who has been intimately associated with its public life throughout the last half century.”

When Highfield Cocoa and Coffee House opened, Mappin was already hugely successful and the business was funded more in the spirit of social enterprise and ‘giving back’ to improve ordinary people’s lives than to make more money.  The Highfield Cocoa and Coffee house was the first of its kind in Sheffield, part of a revival that was spearheaded in Liverpool. Since the 17th century coffee houses (also serving cocoa, tea and alcohol) had been associated with independent and ‘enlightened’ thinking.  The coffee houses had been in principle open to all but then the Victorians virtually made the idea extinct, with the ‘powers that be’ preferring ‘gentlemen’s clubs’, offering similar benefits along with exclusive membership fees.  Meanwhile ordinary working people frequented the taverns, on a previously unparalleled scale that mirrored the booming factories.

The dominance of the public houses and the working class drinking culture was a problem for the church leaders, politicians and business leaders who wanted a healthy and orderly society.  The motives of these people varied; some were humanitarian, others were more interested in a compliant workforce.  These ‘powers that be’ set about founding working men’s clubs and then, beginning in Liverpool, reinventing the coffee houses.

A fascinating article in the Builder magazine (vol 35, April 1877) described Mappin’s project in detail.


HIGHFIELD, SHEFFIELD. A NEW building has been erected at Highfield, Sheffield, by Mr. F. T. Mappin, for the purpose of offering to working men the enjoyments and most of the comforts of club-houses, whilst avoiding the cause which too often makes working-men’s clubs a mistake. It is to be, as its name applies, a cocoa and coffee house; and it will be conducted upon precisely the same principles which have been found to answer best in the management of the cocoa-houses in Liverpool. There are several there, and the success attending them is so great as to justify the belief that similar houses will ultimately be found in most of our large towns. Hitherto they have been confined, we believe, to Liverpool; and it was a visit to one of them that induced Mr. Mappin to make a similar experiment in Sheffield. The building in Highfield has been specially erected for the purpose from designs by Messrs. Hadfield & Son. It consists of two stories. The first floor in one large room extending the entire length of the building. This will be furnished with chairs and tables, and with marble-topped circular tables, similar to those seen in many of the London and provincial refreshment-houses of the better class. Into this room any one will be at liberty to go. A cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa will be obtainable for a halfpenny, and a pint for one penny. Bread and butter can also be purchased at an equally cheap rate, or persons can bring their own food and eat it there. A broad staircase leads from this room to the story above. Here there is (according to the Sheffield Independent) one of the finest billiard-rooms in Sheffield. Separated from the billiard-room by a pair of folding-doors is the reading-room, which will be supplied with newspapers and magazines. The reading-room and billiard-room are equally open to those who visit the institution, but a small charge will be made for the use of the billiard-tables, chessmen and tables, and for packs of cards. Between the building itself and the steward’s house at the back is an open piece of ground intended to be used as a skittle-alley. It will be covered in by a roof of glass. It is intended that the building shall be opened at half-past five in the morning, and remain open till eleven at night.

Visitors were free to bring their own food to eat there too.  It was open from 5am in the morning until 7pm, the idea being that workers could call in for breakfast on their way to work.  Rather than being a ‘Gentleman’s club’, this was a ‘Workmen’s club’.  The ‘Workmen’s Cocoa and Coffee House’, as described in a headline of Sheffield and Rotherham Independent April10th 1877 was operated on the ‘Liverpool model’.  It included games and a library like the gentlemens clubs,  and also tea, coffee and cocoa like the coffee houses, but with an emphasis on affordability. The big difference with this cofffee house revival was that there was to be no alcohol.

In contrast to the Builder Magazine article, the Sheffield Telegraph is clear in the1905 feature that the idea came from the vicar at St Mary’s, Rev. Mr. Lamb, who must have heard of the coffee/cocoa houses in Liverpool and approached Mappin for financial help.  Mappin was far from teetotal himself and had no part in the temperance movement, yet he paid out £4500 (over half a million pounds in today’s money) to found the business to great fanfare.

The business thrived.   In 1879 the manager of Highfield cocoa house was reported as saying they had about 500 in for breakfast between 5am and 7am and 600 men and women for tea at night, all working people. Trends come and go and, after a decent innings, Mappin’s Cocoa and Coffee House finally closed its doors in 1905, being replaced by Hibbert’s confectioners and and then in the 1950s George Barlow & Son, shopfitters.

Where buildings look as good as this one, complimenting the streetscene as they do –  and where they are so intimately connected with Sheffield’s history of social reform, we need to keep them. The building is a reminder for future generations of what Mappin did for Sheffield. It’s rare to find such an interesting person and such an interesting story all tied up in one building.  History matters, and heritage counts in planning, as do appearances.  The building has architectural merit and adds important character to the area.  It compliments the streetscene, whereas the proposed new building simply clashes with it and erodes the important victorian character of London Road.

Please object to this proposal, to try and help preserve Mappin’s Cocoa House and have this tasteless addition to London Road rejected.

How to register your objection:

 Click here to see the application, where you can create a login and object.


Save Mappin’s Coffee House! (updated June ’23)

6 thoughts on “Save Mappin’s Coffee House! (updated June ’23)

  • December 20, 2022 at 6:27 pm

    Why does every new building have to look like a liquorice allsort?. There’s something seriously wrong with architects…

    • December 20, 2022 at 8:38 pm

      I agree with your comment! this ‘cladding fad’ adorning buildings at the present time is awful. The 1960s buildings were bad enough
      with that much concrete slapped on them or in them, making them depressing. But this style we have at the moment insulting to the
      beautiful buildings we DO have. Why can’t they just build ‘NICE’ properties that ARE aesthetically pleasing. Sue Hedges

    • December 23, 2022 at 12:33 am

      Historic building in keeping with local area needs keeping above drab and soulness alternative. Please keep protecting quality buildings.

  • December 20, 2022 at 8:00 pm

    It’s so sad that distinctive old buildings, which enrich the fabric of our city, are being torn down to make way for poorly thought out pieces of architecture which, as soon as they’re up, become forgotten. Please save the Mappin Coffee House

  • Pingback:Highfield Cocoa and Coffee House | Mike Higginbottom Interesting Times

  • April 12, 2023 at 9:55 am

    Excellent piece of work you’ve produced here and well spotted! Architecture as a profession, in this country at least, is seriously in the doldrums. The lack of imagination and vision is palpable.


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