City Grammar 2001 Sheffield Star Feature

The End of an Era as Education Link Broken

Education and Leopold Street have been joined together in the Sheffield story for over 125 years but next week sees the end of an era as staff leave the listed building for the last time as it awaits conversion to a hotel and retail development.  Education Correspondent Mike Russell reports.

Education has been at the centre of affairs on Leopold Street ever since the site was first bought by the city fathers in 1874.

It's always been the main HQ for the men and women running the city's network of schools - and since 1964 they've had the place more or less to themselves.

But for decades before that young people of all ages were taught on the site in a variety of different schools.

A century ago infants were learning the "three R's" only a few yards away from university students - with all other age groups in between catered for too.

It was a situation believed to be unique in the whole country.

Above :- One of the committee rooms where eduction chiefs decided school policy.

At the time the elementary classes complemented the aptly titled Central Schools - created to provide secondary education for bright youngsters at a time when only the wealthy could afford such a luxury.

Firth College was just next door, founded by steel magnate Mark Firth - the forerunner of Sheffield University, it moved up to Western Bank in 1905.

And for good measure, the city's student teachers were also trained there in a nearby building on Holly Street.

Above :- Post war Headmaster Herbert Wadge, pictured with his wife
                after receiving the MBE at Buckingham Palace

The Central Schools eventually moved to greener pastures at High Storrs in 1933.

To take their place, two new schools began operations at Leopold Street - the Central Technical School, and from 1936, what was later to become City Grammar.

The Tech trained boys in metalwork, woodwork and engineering, many going on to become successful entrepreneurs in the post-war boom.

Above :- The machine room at the Central Technical College

Those who went to school in the rambling, warren-like city centre buildings certainly seem to feel strong ties to the old place.

Ex-pupils at High Storrs still call their association the Centralians while the Central Tech has a keen and very active 400-strong old boys' group.

The Tech's post-war headmaster Herbert Wadge has been elevated to the status of a cult figure, even being celebrated on a t-shirt.

Gerry Hall, who now lives in Maidstone, vividly remembers the war years at the school.

"Gas masks were issued to all at the beginning of the war and they were initially required to be carried at school together with some form of food, usually sugary sweets, in the case of a long air raid," he recalls.

"For some reason I chose a small pack of custard powder which burst, spilling the contents in my gas mask case."

"Gas mask drills were not infrequent and I had to don a mask full of custard powder.  I got detention."

The Tech and City Grammar also produced their fair share of illustrious old boys - politician and writer Roy Hattersley, footballer David Ford, tennis star Roger Taylor and musicians Jimmy Crawford, Frank White and Joe Cocker.

Peter Stringfellow was another - soon-to-be-famous Tech student - but he's unlikely to be seen at any future reunions.

"I detested technical school so much that I treasured every moment away from the place," he recalled in his autobiography.

Above :- Class 6A from 1958

"There was nothing at school to stimulate or amuse me.  The height of my aspirations was to leave school and get paid for doing a job."

Above :- Class 6Y from 1959. Singer Joe Cocker can be seen to the far right of the second back row

City Grammar finally moved to its current site on Stradbroke Road in February 1964.  The Tech moved some months later to new buildings at Hurlfield.

For a while there were still further education classes at Leopold Street, but since 1972 the distinctive buildings have been adapted for use solely by the education authority.

Above :- A view of the offices in Leopold Street. The listed building is to be converted into
                a hotel and retail development

There's a final chance to see the buildings before conversion on October 5 and 6, when open days will be held along with a special exhibition of photos and memorabilia.

City Hall / Barkers Pool

The vision for this district is the creation of a lively, mixed-use area linking the Devonshire Quarter, Heart of the City, Tudor Square and the new retail quarter. A transformed public area will create a safe and attractive setting for a number of the city's most important historic and cultural buildings. The proposals will attract new office occupiers, residents and cultural activity, and bring new spending power to the city centre. The high quality designs will mix good modern architecture with the sensitive renovation of historic buildings.

City Hall Precincts and Barkers Pool

A plan for the redesign of the City Hall "precincts" - Holly Street, Bow Street, Balm Green and Barkers Pool - has been developed which will:

take through traffic out of the precincts and improve traffic management

improve pedestrian movement from the West Street Supertram and bus stops

create a simple and elegant paving scheme

provide a lighting concept for the streets and building facades

introduce greenery and the innovative and distinctive use of public art

maintain Barkers Pool as a dignified space for public assembly around the war memorial.

Detailed proposals for the refurbishment of the magnificent City Hall have been drawn up and have secured planning and listed building permissions. The proposals are for a £12.5 million investment programme which will transform the City Hall into a state-of-the-art, regionally important cultural venue and conference centre. The project includes:

new hi-tech, flexible conference and meeting facilities

the sensitive restoration and total upgrading of the interior of the building

improved accessibility into and around the building

refurbishing the outside of the building, including cleaning and new lighting.

Carver Street / Holly Street

Sheffield One, Yorkshire Forward (the Regional Development Agency) and the City Council are working with the landowners to bring forward exciting development proposals to regenerate this important site. The scheme will provide a mix of high quality offices, apartments, restaurants and leisure space, creating an animated and attractive area around City Hall. The plans have now been submitted to the local planning authority and include:

the demolition of the former NUM HQ and its redevelopment, along with the adjacent car park site for two high quality office buildings, with restaurants on the ground floor overlooking the newly upgraded City Hall precincts

the comprehensive redevelopment of the Carver Lane, Carver Street and West Street sites for new apartments around a courtyard, with retail and leisure on the ground floors.
Leopold Square

The Leopold Street complex is a fine collection of Grade II listed buildings which originally housed Sheffield Boys' School and later the Council's education offices. Last year a consortium of ASK Property Developments and M J Gleeson plc was appointed as the City Council's preferred partner to refurbish the buildings as a high quality mixed-use project. Detailed design work is now substantially complete and planning and listed building applications have been submitted for:

a stunning new public square with water features and trees

a quality 134-bedroom hotel

37 apartments around a private courtyard

a comedy/live entertainment venue

café-bars, good restaurants and a health club.
The sensitive restoration of these magnificent stone buildings will help to reinvigorate this part of the city and draw in new private sector investment and jobs.

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