Urban Explorers Denounce Sheffield City Council:

Samuel Osborn became a town councillor (1869), Master Cutler (1873), alderman (1890) and Mayor (1891). Because of ill health he was only able to attend a few council meetings and became the first Mayor of Sheffield to die during his year of office.

His former home on Bungreave Road, a former Chidren’s Home now lies in ruins, no doubt its future is demolition, is this how Sheffield treats the preservation and conservation of our collective Heritage?

Samuel Osborn headed one of Sheffield’s great tool steelmaking families. He was born in Ecclesfield and began his career as a drapers apprentice but switched to manufacturing and set up his own file making business.

People like Mr Samuel Osborn and the grand buildings they built are treated, in our view, with utter contempt. Last year we had the privilege of going into the former George Barnsley and Sons Ltd. (founded 1836). They were in Cornish Place on the Don and specialised in forge filing and cutting tools for leather workers and shoe makers. One George Barnsley was Master Cutler in 1883.

It is currently owned by Mr. Gerald Duniec of Gerald Duniec & Company Chartered Surveyors whom have left this place to go to rack and ruin, just as he has done with Wharncliffe Works, 86 and 88 Green Lane, Kelham Island.

The building was first placed upon the Listed Buildings at Risk Register in June 1993 and the then owner’s agent was also written to, informing him of the powers the Local Planning Authority has to execute urgent or necessary repairs under sections 54 and 48 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, and requiring certain works to be undertaken.

At the end of 2008, a cheap tin of blue paint, and some superficial boarding of Wharncliffe Works is all the work that has been undertaken, and despite his protestations live on Radio Sheffield over his concern for George Barnsley and Sons Ltd, the same superficial works has been done there.

In recent weeks The former Sheffield Crown Courts, old Town Hall has been in the news.
Concerns for the building, with its distinctive clock tower, have been raised by the Victorian Society following the recent snow. It wants the council to serve an urgent works notice on the owner.

“If something isn’t done soon to secure the site then there is a real danger that the structural integrity of the building, and its Victorian court fittings, could be irreparably damaged,” said Alex Baldwin, the society’s conservation adviser.
On wed 18.2.09, we visited The Old Crown Court on Waingate, our access made easy by the lack of concern, or any real security on the building, it was self evident where this had left the bulding: a playground for people with drug related problems.

Following on from past explorations, the sad state of Sheffield Crown Court where some of the insides had been smashed and part removed, indeed in one room lay all the old signs ready for possible removing.

As much as the owners are accountable for the state of this building where it has become at risk, so are Sheffield City Council. Instead of polite conversation with the owners perhaps they might like to consider further action, but we know we are only dreaming when we ask this, we only need to look at how much in the pocket they are with property developers and speculators.

The detriment being the conservation and preservation of our heritage, where we lose the former Trafalgar Works for a car park and in the near future we are going to lose more as they push ahead for the crass Sevenstone redevelopment. In this economic downturn it might be true what V. Bayliss said about the former Sheffield Crown Court:

“As long as it’s a use which respects the building inside and out and there are people using it I don’t really mind what it is. It would make offices, nightclub, restaurants, a cultural space for lectures and concerts, maybe even apartments – but you’d need a really good imaginative architect for that.

“The current economic climate [autumn 2008] might be the worst possible time to say a private developer or a local authority should spend money on this – but what happens if they don’t?…”

Just the same needs to be asked of Sheffield City Council and their continued failing to act to preserve what little is left of Sheffield’s Heritage.

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