Sheffield Ghost Buildings

The ghost building at the rear of the former PCL works on Eyre St, Sheffield.
The ghost building at the rear of the former PCL works on Eyre St, Sheffield.

Ghost buildings are a sign of a past use gradually diminishing backward as time moves forward. This is the rear of the former PCL works on Eyre Street. It is within my lifetime that this site lived and died as a manufacturing works, in the heart of Sheffield. The company decamped long ago to one of the industrial estates on the outskirts.

I walked around the works in my early days selling them engineering products, but I cannot remember what happened in this ghost building. Women making air inflators and such populated the floor, the men mended machines and managed everything. It was a common setup in those days. Almost everyone was on the clock and those on the floor had a piece rate bonus. People worked in groups and they looked after their own, managing the workflow so no one got left behind. On Saturday nights everyone went to the Working Men Club, had a game of bingo, watched an act and had pork pie and pickled onions with ham sandwiches. It was a micro community that had common social values and standards of conduct. They sorted their own problems out and kept the cohesion in society.

Hope church – Peak District

The graves of some of the descendants of Thomas Firth, Sheffield steelmaster. Hope Chuch. Hope. Peak District. White Peak Walks East. Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press
The graves of descendants of Thomas Firth, Sheffield steelmaster. Hope Chuch. Hope. Peak District.

The Peak District’s proximity to the industrial cities brought many of the great steel masters to the area. Charles Cammell of Cammell Laird, armour-plate manufacturers lived at Brookfield Manor in Hathersage and is buried in the churchyard there. Joseph Whitworth of screw thread fame lived at Darley Dale and is buried in the churchyard of St Helen’s.

One of the major steel makers in Sheffield was the company of Thomas Firth, a major armaments manufacturer and the supplier of high-grade steel to Samuel Colt in Connecticut USA, for his gun barrels. Thomas firth and his son Mark are buried in Sheffield, but other offspring reside in the churchyard of St Peter’s in Hope, their twin graves facing the city of Sheffield.

Read more about Charles Cammell here

Read more about Joseph Whitworth here

Read more about Thomas Firth company here

St Paul’s Church – Sheffield

Sometimes I like walking through the streets of Sheffield. Urban walking has a different feel to the moors, a perspective that has more of the human than the landscape.

Walking along streets gives a view the human desire to be unique, to make a home, a community with all its hopes and dreams. I like the houses that are different, it says to me someone had the courage to stand out.

I often choose a walk that has a specific building in mind. A few weeks back I wanted to look at a church built in the late 50’s and designed by Basil Spence, one of two he designed in Sheffield at the same time he was thinking about Coventry Cathedral. The Sheffield churches are both listed buildings and reflect the confident attitude the country had at that time.

St Paul’s Church, Parson Cross, sits on a major road running through a sprawling housing estate of mixed private and council housing. The area in parts has seen better times and has enclaves of anti social behaviour, mixed with neat semis with nice front gardens.

The building sits, sentinel like, back from the road, surrounded by a low brick wall and grass. Made of brick, glass and steel the large windows allow you to look through the entire church, one end to the other. It is almost scandi in its simplicity, the interior items designed and made to fit in with the building, so at first glance it looks a little empty. Then eyes set on a font, modern, simple, elegant. The church organ set on a mezzanine above a wood lath screen that shields the congregation from the outside world and yet lets light flood in. Pews set in rows, a simple square design of wood and steel. The lectern, wood and square tubular steel.

It mixes modern with the ancient. It must have seemed like a new world was dawning when the first congregation entered for worship. The building now puts forward a slight utilitarian face, a hoover stored against a glass window, posters advertising Africa Aid and the next jumble sale, bits of the design altered to accommodate technology never imagined.

But it is, in my eyes a beautiful building, simple, elegant, pleasing.