When “all you can eat” Chinese buffets were all the rage, one of the first ones in Sheffield was in the old Gas Offices on Commercial Street. The building was renamed Canada House – a name which never really suited it – and I believe something to do with the then owner’s group name. It was also once known as Panache House – surely much more appropriate. The restaurant’s trading name was No.1 Oriental Buffet and its slogan was “eat as much as you like”. However times change and it closed down in 2011. A similar sort of set-up opposite the Crucible on Norfolk Street also closed suddenly a couple of years ago and the building swiftly became derelict. Unfortunately some impressive plants were left behind together with some very expensive catering fixtures and fittings. It was sad to walk past and see the plants slowly wither away through lack of water and the last time I went past they were still there, rotted away. A sad end for some magnificent greenery.
Back to Commercial Street. The Grade II listed building, one of Sheffield’s finest 19th century buildings, was designed in the palazzo style by M.E. Hadfield and Son in 1874 for the Sheffield United Gas Light Co. It is now on the market for £1.5m, which in view of its quality sounds remarkably cheap. The main feature inside is a 25ft glass dome, and many older Sheffielders will remember it as it was in the main payment hall where, as late as 1972, you went to pay your gas bill (no internet then!). The building used to be Grade II* but it was downgraded to Grade II for reasons which I’ve never really investigated.
Way back in the 1990s our Society waged a long battle to save the adjoining warehouse on Shude Hill from demolition. This was also Grade II* and we took the battle all the way up to Prince Charles, but alas to no avail. We then discovered that David Blunkett used to work there, so roped him in at the last minute. He would have been happy to help, but it was just too late. However, we’ve got Mr Blunkett to thank for saving St Paul’s Parade which borders the Peace Gardens, and I think he could have had similar influence on the Shude Hill warehouse.
This was at a time when loft living warehouse conversions had arrived everywhere else but Sheffield and no-one at the time had any vision. The Council nodded through demolition by one vote and the imposing Grade II* warehouse was replaced by a budget hotel with no architectural merit whatsoever. It could only happen in Sheffield.