Grade II listed Pye Bank School has been a prominent part of Sheffield’s skyline since it was first opened in 1875. Designed by Innocent and Brown in a Gothic Revival style it really is an eye-catcher and probably best viewed when dropping down Netherthorpe Way from the University roundabout to Shalesmoor.
On Its opening it was described as ‘the highest, driest and coldest part of Sheffield’ and likened to an eagle’s eyrie. In 1884 it was extended to increase capacity in what was then a very densely populated area. Much of the housing was swept away and replaced by tower blocks in the 50s and 60s which themselves have now gone. The school closed in 1990 and the building is lucky to have survived the usual vandalism and arson attacks.
The lovely old building has come through all this turmoil and is now set to start a new life as, er, a school. It will be known as Woodside School catering for 1200 pupils and run by the Reach 4 Academy Trust. Extensions will be built where the tower blocks used to be and some nasty boxes, which were added in 1968 are to be removed. A 1960s add-on is also to be removed as well as a toilet block. The façade of the original building is to be restored where necessary and all the rather fine internal features are to be retained.
All in all a sensitive and sympathetic scheme – that is until we get to the new bits. I think that Innocent and Brown would probably have raised their eyebrows at the incredibly bland designs, notwithstanding the £23m cost. Their original edifice cost £16,500 and even allowing for inflation that is some difference.
Crime was not such a problem then either and even South Yorkshire Police have said that it is in a ‘high crime area’. They have asked that no public footpaths should run through the school grounds and that landscaping should be kept at low level. All bins and benches are to be fixed to the ground.
MUGAS (multi use games areas) will be provided on site in the new scheme, but it appears that the alternative spelling of this word seems to be a serious problem. Let’s hope the problem can be nipped in the bud and the Academy will eventually become a major asset for the citizens of Burngreave.