The Old Town Hall remains unsold . An online auction today, held by agents Allsop LLP, failed to attract any bids at all.
The Grade 2 listed building was put up for sale in the summer by receivers appointed after the collapse of Aestrom OTH Ltd, the company set up to restore the building. Planning consent was granted for conversion to upmarket short-let apartments, hotel rooms, an indoor market and office space. Aestrom collapsed into administration before work could start on conversion.
‘It’s disappointing that no-one came forward to take this amazing building on’ said Valerie Bayliss, chair of the Friends of the Old Town Hall. ‘In some ways we aren’t surprised. We know the potential costs of restoration are high, and in the present climate that’s a challenge. But only a few months ago the agents were saying there was a lot of interest. Where did it all go? We thought then that the original asking price, of £1.35m, was unrealistic. But even with an auction guide price of £750,00 there were no takers’.
The problem posed by the Old Town Hall is significant. ‘The City Council is keen to regenerate Castlegate, and was fortunate enough be successful with a substantial bid to the Government’s Levelling-Up Fund, as they have just announced. ‘But we know – after 7 years’ hard work on assessing the condition of the building, and what could be done with it, how critical it will be to the future of the whole area’, said Valerie. ‘If Castlegate is to be revived the Old Town Hall has to be sorted, and if the Old Town Hall is to be sorted then Castlegate has to be sorted. The two are interdependent’.
The Council is well aware of this. Its leader, Councillor Terry Fox, said in June that ‘A solution to bring new life to the Old Town Hall must be found in order to retain the heritage value of the building but to also play a key role in the wider regeneration of the Castlegate area. We will be looking at what we can do to ensure that a valuable development goes ahead, be that by supporting another developer-led proposition or exploring how the public sector can facilitate delivery’.
‘It’s time for some serious thinking’ said Valerie Bayliss today. ‘We call on the City Council to do just that and to seek out partners to develop a practical and feasible solution. It won’t be a quick or easy ask, but the city can’t afford to leave the building to rot any longer’.
The Friends of the Old Town Hall were alerted this week to the collapse of the company which bought the Old Town Hall in 2019 and had ambitious plans to restore it for a variety of uses. The reasons for the collapse aren’t yet clear but receivers have been appointed and we understand from the Star’s website report that they are advertising the building for sale at what described as a ‘guide price’ of £1.35m.
Sadly the future of the Old Town Hall is up in the air and we can’t be confident, we feel, of a sale at that or any price, given what we know about the costs of restoration – you’ll recall that we had this costed back in 2017. The property agents say they have had ‘huge interest’ in the building.
The Friends will be keeping a very close eye on developments and we’ll let you knw what happens. The City Council has been taking a much more active interest in the potential regeneration of Castlegate as a whole and we expect them to take an active interest, and we’d hope an active role, in making sure the Old Town Hall isn’t left on the scrapheap again.
We’ll be in touch just as soon as we have more to report.
The Friends of the Old Town Hall will be holding an open meeting on Monday 23 September to give supporters an opportunity to look in depth at the planning application submitted for redevelopment of Sheffield’s historic former Town Hall and Courthouse, in Waingate.
The meeting will be at 7 pm on 23 September at the Gardeners’ Rest in Neepsend Lane. There will be a presentation on what’s planned by the developer, and an opportunity for discussion and shaping the Friends’ response before it goes to the City Council.
‘This is a critical moment for the Old Town Hall’, says Friends’ joint hon sec Brian Holmshaw. ‘This is the first time a planning application has been made since the building was left empty in 1995. We’re as keen as anyone in the city to see this badly neglected building restored, but applications like this are always challenging and we want to establish what Friends generally think about the proposals’.
The planning application would involve converting the building into a mix of serviced apartments, hotel rooms and what is called a ‘souk’ – an indoor market on the lower floor. ‘We’re pleased there is someone prepared to invest in the building’ says Brian. ‘We know from all the work we’ve been able to do on potential uses and the scale of the damage to be repaired that it won’t be easy’. But the Friends’ committee has reservations which it wants to discuss at next week’s meeting. ‘We know you can’t regenerate a listed building like this without some compromises around the balance between keeping historic features and making sustainable use of what’s there. We want to know if supporters feel the balance has been struck in the right place. So come along and have your say’
Sheffield’s iconic Old Town Hall, in Waingate, has appeared for the first time in the annual Buildings at Risk list, a national list published by independent heritage charity SAVE Britain’s Heritage. It is one of only two South Yorkshire buildings to be included in the list. SAVE focuses on finding practical ways to restore historic structures and bring them back into use. Recent targets have been Wentworth Woodhouse, now in the hands of a trust which is working on its preservation, and Smithfield Market in the City of London, a historic complex of buildings saved from demolition and soon to be the home of the Museum of London. In Sheffield SAVE joined in 2012 with the Victorian Society in what sadly was an unsuccessful campaign to save the Grade 2 listed Edwardian wing of Jessop’s Hospital.
‘We’re pleased to see the Old Town Hall on SAVE’s list, but sad for the reasons it got there’, says Brian Holmshaw, joint honorary secretary of the Friends of the Old Town Hall. ‘This backs up what we’ve been saying for the past 3 years, that the building can have a future if it’s restored before it falls to pieces. We know there’s a huge amount of damage inside after years of bad roof leaks but we also know it can all be fixed – though it’s going to cost a lot of money’. As SAVE’s list notes, the Friends have raised grants to commission professional work on what could be done with the building. They now have a business model that has been tested and shows there is a sustainable future, provided that grants can be found to fund the costs of restoration. ‘We know from our architect who carried out a condition survey that the repair cost is so big that we can’t see any commercial future’, adds Brian. ‘A developer might just be able to make the numbers work if they were allowed to strip out all the historic features inside and radically alter the look of the place – basically, ruin it. That’s the professional advice we’ve had. But if that happens the city will have lost a major historic asset’. The Friends know there is a better future for the Old Town Hall as a community asset, and are planning to offer community shares to raise money to buy it.
The Friends are looking to the City Council to partner with them on a project to rescue the building, which is owned by a company in London and has been empty and neglected since 1995. They point out that the Council has powers to compulsorily purchase neglected historic buildings. ‘With the community raising the cash and the Council using its powers’, says Brian, ‘we ought to be able to do a deal that will benefit Sheffield. We’re looking forward to discussing that with leading Councillors and officers’.
The Castlegate Preservation Trust, set up last year, is looking for new Board members and advisers who are up for a real challenge. The Trust is focused on improving the heritage buildings in the Castlegate area of Sheffield, but its top priority is to save the city’s neglected and deteriorating Old Town Hall and Courthouse, in Waingate. ‘2018 is a critical year’ says Trust chair Valerie Bayliss. ‘The Old Town Hall is in a bad state and getting worse. It’s owned by a London-based private company who don’t appear to have any plans for its future. We want to rescue it and turn it into the asset for the community that it ought to be. And this is the year we really want to start putting our rescue plan into operation’.
The owners, G1 London Properties Ltd, put the building up for sale a couple of years ago, says Valerie, and the last advertised price was £3m. ‘They don’t seem to have had any offers to pay that, which is no surprise as we’ve had a professional valuation that it’s worth nothing at all in its current state because of the big repair bill’. So the Trust was set up by the Friends of the Old Town Hall as a body that would have the ability to acquire the building and bring it back into use. ‘This will be a big task’ she adds, involving fund-raising on a large scale and then a major building project, before the Trust’s ambitions for offering the place as a facility for the community can be implemented. ‘We currently have 3 foundation trustees with experience in the heritage management, public and third sectors. They and the Friends’ organisation have done a lot of preparatory work, having won grants from among others the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund and Sheffield Town Trust.
‘This has given us an initial business plan, a model for future uses based on professional appraisal of the building’s potential, detailed costings for the repair work and architects’ proposals for phased restoration. We’ve been discussing with the City Council how they could help us with acquiring the building, and considering whether a community share issue would be the way to raise the purchase price. Now we need to strengthen the Board with new members with a range of skills and experience: people with property-based experience, especially if they’ve been involved in converting heritage buildings; people experienced in the kind of business we aim to operate from the building, like provision of workspace, cafes and bars, performance spaces and meeting facilities. We need commercial acumen and financial and legal expertise’.
The Trust offers the option of trustee board membership, or joining a panel of advisers who can be called on from time to time. It knows that this isn’t a task for the faint-hearted! Rather, it will be a long and quite complex job, but one it believes will offer the satisfaction of transforming what’s currently a blot on the Castlegate landscape into a facility that Sheffielders can be proud of.
The Trust has set up an informal recruitment process to give interested people the chance to say what they can bring to the Trust and to meet the foundation trustees and decide if there’s a good ‘fit’. ‘We know this has to be a two-way process’ says Valerie, ‘and we want people who are really keen. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested and we’ll send you more information.
A new charity devoted to regenerating Sheffield’s Old Town Hall and preserving the heritage of the Castlegate Quarter of the city is to be set up with Heritage Lottery Fund support.
The Friends of the Old Town Hall, who have been campaigning for two years to raise awareness of the poor state of the Old Town Hall in Waingate and to press for its restoration, have been awarded £7,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support the setting up of a new charitable trust. The Castlegate Preservation Trust will focus on preserving the heritage of Castlegate as a whole, and as a priority seek to acquire the Old Town Hall and get it back into productive use after 20 years of neglect.
Thanks to National Lottery players, the funding will enable the Friends of the Old Town Hall to get professional advice on its business plan and funding strategy, and to train the trustees of the charity. The Friends have already applied to the Charity Commission to register the new Trust and hope this will be complete before the end of the year. The Trust will aim to preserve whatever of architectural and historical value remains in the area, to help people appreciate the value of the heritage there and to support the local community and its involvement in heritage. It also aims to use restoration work on heritage buildings, and especially the Old Town Hall, as a means of developing the skills and education of local people working on these projects.
‘Castlegate is hugely important in Sheffield’s history’, said Friends’ chair Valerie Bayliss. ‘This is the old town, the place where the city began. It played a big part in Sheffield’s civic and community development and its history deserves to be better-known. People see it as a run-down, unattractive area and maybe don’t realise it contains around 18 listed buildings and structures and another 14 of real heritage value. That’s a wonderful basis for heritage-led regeneration. We are already talking to the City Council and others about developing plans co-operatively. But the Old Town Hall has to be our priority. It’s a grubby, neglected ugly duckling of a place when it should be a swan. And it’s probably the key to getting Castlegate on the move again. We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for giving us the means to take a big step forward’.
Explaining the importance of the HLF support, Fiona Spiers, Head of HLF Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “With increasing threats to our historic buildings it is important for local groups and communities to come together to raise awareness of, and protect our built heritage. This project will give The Friends the opportunity to build their capacity to better manage and protect this historic area of Sheffield.
The Friends of the Old Town Hall have applied to establish the Castlegate Preservation Trust as a charitable incorporated organisation, The Friends’ organisation will continue alongside the Trust, as a campaigning organisation.
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk. @heritagelottery@HLFYandH
One of my favourite people has to be Luke Palfreyman, the son of a hosier, local lad made good. He lived in Queen Chambers close to Fig Tree Lane and Bank Street. His father had a business at the end of Bank Street and Snig Hill, which was around where the Boardwalk or Mucky Duck is now. Luke’s house is a fine big house near Fig Tree lane and Paradise Square. Ideally placed for a short walk to the Town Hall to dispute a case or the market place to collect rents, debts etc or to the grand Tontine Inn across from the Town Hall to discuss Shakespeare or politics. Luke was a Scrivener or Attorney.
He was like many in his era involved in pushing for the abolition of the artificially high price of corn and the trade embargos of countries like the United States which was starving the people and crippling industry as they were unable to sell to many markets or were being undercut by French cutlers etc. Luke was also keen for voting reform. Before reform there was only one MP for the whole of Yorkshire. The new reforms brought Sheffield two new MPs and a lot of new voters.
Before Luke was born his father, also called Luke was jailed in 1796 for 3 months for being disrespectful to two magistrates. The magistrates had previously stated their dislike of Luke senior who had stood bail for the newspaper editor and poet James Montgomery.
Luke Junior was educated at Sheffield at the Grammar School. Luke was a Unitarian and went to the Upper Chapel. The Upper Chapel besides being non-conformist was a place for intellectual debates and science and politics. Perhaps it was this mix that made Luke such a good lawyer. A judge remarked on Lukes ability to argue one case from the management side and another case from the workers side and be able to present the opposing arguments convincingly. When he asked Luke how he did it, Luke just covered both his eyes with sovereigns. In other words as long as he was paid he could do it.
Possibly living so near to Fig Tree Lane (where chartists had their meeting place) and Paradise Squares where most political demonstrations were held was not such a great idea for Luke as he was set upon by demonstrators several times over the years .
About seven o’clock or soon after, Mr. Skidmore, a gentleman in my office, came to the Town Hall and told me he had received an intimation that my house was likely to be attacked. I then went home. When I had been at home about a quarter of an hour, I heard a great noise at a distance from my house, and a sound like the breaking of windows. I ran out of the kitchen into the dining room, & before I could get there my own windows were smashed. I immediately seized a pistol, which I had previously loaded with ball, and went out without my hat. I saw a large mob, extending about 60 yards from my house down the street. on coming out with the pistol in my hand, they gave back. The cries at this time were cries of “go it, go it” and other similar expressions, which appeared to be used for the purpose of urging them on to break the windows. On giving back, the noise rather subsided, and I spoke out very loud. I do not recollect the exact words I made use of, but the purport of them was this :-“As for the windows I should not suffer much for them, as the county would have to pay for them ; but I was sure, that if they were men, and I knew, as I believed to be the fact, that my wife was then lying upon the floor, they would go away. If they did not , they would see that I had the means of defending my house, and should try to do so. When I spoke of Mrs Palfreyman, some of them said let us go away. One voice called out “so much the better, got it again” There was then another volley of stones, other windows were broken, and one stone or brick hit me upon the right arm. It is a good deal contused, and much swollen. I walked backwards to the steps of my house, and got upon them. I then fired the pistol I had in my hand over their heads. Mr Skidmore, who came out of the house with me, also fired a pistol, which was loaded with powder, in a few moments afterwards. On his firing, a great number of persons towards the back of the crowd ran off. Mr. Skidmore then came with another pistol and faced the mob. We faced them for four or five minutes (during which no more stones were thrown) and then there was a cry that the constables were coming. 1832 election riots coroner’s inquest Town Hall.
What it doesn’t say in this abstract was that Luke had no ammunition after his first shot and had to just prime it with powder and anything he could find to load it with. Another account suggests they were around two thousand demonstrators outside his house. It is a sign of Luke’s bravery I think to stand with his clerk pointing pistols at a crowd of several hundred, knowing that if the crowd ignored them, there was really nothing they could do.
After the mob moved on there was several shots heard in the direction of the Town Hall. The alarmed magistrates had brought in the Yeomanry to quell the crowds and five people were shot dead including two boys. The bodies were laid out in the Town Hall and later a coroner was brought in from Wakefield to lead the Inquest on the dead. The Jury brought out a verdict in favour of Yeomanry.
This is to give formal notice that the second Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the Old Town Hall will be held at 7.15 pm on Wednesday 16 March at the Friends’ Meeting House, St James’s Street, Sheffield.
1. Minutes of the last AGM (available at the meeting)
2. Report from the Chair
3. Report from the Treasurer
4. Election of Committee
5. Any other business
The formal meeting will be followed by a talk by Andy Jackson of Heeley Development Trust on The Story of Sum Studios. Sum Studios are one of the major historic building conversions in Sheffield in recent years, transforming a derelict Victorian school building into a vibrant, fully-used set of studios and business units. We know this was not an easy undertaking, and there will be lessons for us from Andy’s experiences.
The Friends of the Old Town Hall welcome the appointment of local agent Fernie and Greaves who are marketing the Old Town Hall on behalf of the owners. Local agents will have a better idea than a London agent of the possibilities for regeneration in Sheffield, and they are saying useful things about the need for a sympathetic developer who will recognise the quality of the building. The new price of £1.25m is an improvement on the £2m being asked for it only last week; but it still seems high given the extent of the damage caused by long neglect. But maybe we are on the way to being able to stop the rot in this wonderful building. The Friends are grateful to the many hundreds of people who signed our petition and helped in other ways to raise awareness of its plight. We are sure it has all contributed to the start if a more realistic approach. We shall be watching developments with great interest – and very closely.
Yet again, Sheffield’s historic Old Town Hall, in Waingate, has been advertised for sale. This happened only a few weeks ago – at the end of August – and the advert was pulled after only ten days or so.
‘We have to ask what the owners are playing at’, said Valerie Bayliss, Chair of the campaigning group, Friends of the Old Town Hall. ‘The sale advert and the linked brochure – for what it’s worth, as it gives very little information – are the same as the ones that were pulled last month. The same agent is still asking the same amount for the building – £2 million or more, which is a huge amount for a building bought in 2004 for £650,000 and allowed to go to semi-ruin ever since. Even as a potential residential conversion, which the agent mentions, the price strikes local property experts as implausible, because of the general level of property values in the area and of course the state it’s in’.
The Friends are asking whether there is some complicated game going on. If there is, they are not impressed. ‘Our supporters have been concerned for ages about the state of the building’, said Friends’ committee member Joy Bullivant. ‘They object to a listed historic asset in the city being treated so poorly. Why don’t the owners do the right thing and get it back into use themselves?And if they can’t, or won’t, why won’t they make a realistic attempt to sell it on to someone who will?’
The owners of the Old Town Hall since 2004 are London-based G1 London Properties Ltd. The company’s object is said to be ‘development of building projects’. Since 2004 there have been no planning applications of any kind for the Old Town Hall. The Friends say this suggests the owners have had no plans to regenerate the building. ‘We would love to talk to the owners about how the building could be regenerated’, says Valerie. ‘The invitation we issued earlier this year is still open. We really want to stop the rot. But they have simply not responded to us. Meanwhile the neglect continues. It just isn’t good enough’.