portland works

A group of metalworkers, cabinet makers, musicians, artists, sole traders and others based in Portland Works, a grdae II* listed ‘little mesters’ works in Sharrow, Sheffield who are gathering to keep Portland Works alive and save it from development as bedsit flats…

Portland Works is home to thriving creative and specialised industries, some of whom have been based in the works for over 40 years… A planning application to convert Portland Works into 77 tiny flats has now been submitted… For many this would mean the end of their business and the loss of their skills as it would be prohibitve to relocate their specialist equipment… It would also be the loss of a community of people based in small studios and workshops who ‘rub up well together’…

CONSERVATIONISTS have launched a campaign to halt a development project which aims to transform a former cutlery works into new apartments and offices. A blueprint has been drawn up for Portland Works in Randall Street, Sheffield, which would see the Grade II listed building overhauled with part of it being demolished.But campaigners from the Victorian Society claim the plans put the historic building under threat, and have called on Sheffield Council to reject the scheme completely. Alex Baldwin, the society’s conservation officer, said Portland Works was in the top six per cent of buildings of outstanding architectural and historical interest in the country. He added:


We are very concerned that the changes needed to create a large number of flats in Portland Works will significantly alter the industrial character of this historic site. This is a rare survival of the building type and an important part of Sheffield’s history. Any alterations must take account of this and this application fails to do so.”

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According to documents held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the building was initially constructed in the late 1870s as one of Britain’s first integrated cutlery works.In the building’s listing document it is described as “an extremely good and complete example of a large, purpose-built cutlery works” and “very distinctive to the industrial identity of Sheffield”.

It is thought that the first stainless steel to be manufactured in Britain was made at the site and at present the works is still home to several companies which manufacture metal products. According to the Victorian Society, the plans which have been submitted by a company called Portland Co would wipe out much of the historic detail in the building when it is converted into 77 flats. They claim the developers plan to strip out the original staircases, remove windows and doors, and build balconies on the side of the building, significantly altering its appearance. Objections have also been registered to the scheme by several businesses which currently operate from the site and neighbours, who claim that there is no need for the conversion project.In one letter sent to Sheffield Council the owner of a business says:

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We are a tenant at Portland Works, and have been operating from these premises for 51 years. We are a small manufacturing company, employing six people, producing light hand tools mainly for the building trade and are very proud to be able to brand these as made in Sheffield. Many of the businesses operating from Portland Works are still engaged in metalwork trades and as the works were built for such a purpose we do not believe they should even be considered for conversion.”

The application has been supported in principle by English Heritage which told Sheffield Council planners:

“We welcome the prospect of this important metal trades complex being brought back into good repair and put to sustaining new uses. However we would urge you to ensure a full inspection is made by your conservation and design colleagues in order to assess the importance of surviving elements and features.”

Planning officers at Sheffield Council are still considering the plans and the consultation responses received and will make a decision on the scheme in the next few weeks. Nobody from Portland Co was available to comment on the Victorian Society’s objections or give further details about the project.

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“There aren’t a lot of small metal manufacturing workshops in the city any more, so where small companies are still involved in the metal trade we should support them. Forcing these firms to move out would be a real loss. Portland Works is a major part of Sheffield’s industrial heritage so I hope the application is turned down.” http://www.labourmatters.com

Portland Works Planning Application

The Full Application: 08/01850/FUL
http://planning.sheffield.gov.uk/publicaccess/tdc/dcapplication/application_detailview.aspx?KEYVAL=JYUXQGNYFY000&module=P3&hidereturn=trueThe Listed Buildings Application: 08/01851/LBC http://planning.sheffield.gov.uk/publicaccess/tdc/dcapplication/application_detailview.aspx?KEYVAL=JYUXQVNYFY000&module=P3&hidereturn=true

It is possible to download all of the drawings, (plans sections elevations), comments and statements that form the application to convert Portland Works into flats from the Sheffield City Council Website www.sheffield.gov.uk/planning or from the links on the post below. Unfortunately they are too large to post here.

I can however send out some hard copies of this information. If you would like a copy, please contact me at


Mr Caborn said: “If the plans go ahead not only will a wonderful piece of architecture have its heart ripped out but traditional manufacturing companies are at risk of being lost from Sheffield.”

The works date back to the 1870s and are “one of Sheffield’s most significant industrial buildings”, according to the national Victorian Society, which is opposing the conversion scheme.

It was at the site that the first stainless steel was manufactured in Britain, produced in 1913 by R F Mosley and Co. A decision on the planning application will be made by the council. http://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk

In 1939, aged 14, I started my working life as an apprentice grinder working for my dad also called Herbert Housley. In those days there were three gas engines that provided the motive power to all the workshops. The engine tender was called Harry Marriot he and his wife were also the caretakes. They lived on the premises, the entrance to their living space was a door just inside the archway. Approximately a hundred people worked at Portland Works at that time, the skills they had in those days were a sight to behold. One such craftsman that comes to mind was Mr Turner, then around 80 years old, he was an Ivory Carver and his speciality was a set of ivory handles each one depicting one of Jesus’s Apostles, when carved and polished he fitted them to a set of tea knives.


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