Going back to the 1970’s some of you may remember pressing your nose against the windows of the Lancaster Europa showroom on the inner ring-road at Hanover Way, marvelling at the magnificent Mercedes cars on show and thinking ‘I wish’. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they’re now ten a penny but in those days they were beyond many more people’s reach and much less prevalent than they are today.
After the showrooms were demolished the site became a car-park with 192 spaces and for a brief period became a venue for drive-in movies which was quite a novelty for Sheffield and indeed the rest of the country, compared with the USA where it used to be the norm.
The site is now set to go in a totally different direction and become a major addition to Sheffield’s housing stock. Plans have been submitted to build in three blocks with the largest one being 26 (!) storeys high. In actual fact 22 storeys were approved several years ago but that scheme fell through. The nearby Velocity Tower is (only!) 21 storeys high but they have applied for an extra 6 storeys plus another tower next to it. Is this a race?
The three blocks proposed for Milton Street will provide 372 apartments comprising of 90 x 1 bed, 260 x 2 bed and 22 x 3 bed which include 5 live/work units. They will all be for sale or rent and there will be basement parking for 146 cars and 210 bicycles, plus a further 10 spaces at ground level for visitors. There will also be three retail units and a communal hub with a gym, cinema and roof-top garden.
This is a massive development in very close proximity to a very important range of early metal trades buildings comprising of Grade II listed Eyewitness Works and Grade II* Beehive Works.
The Grade II listed ‘back-to-back’ houses at 94-100 Milton Street are of particular importance locally as they are rare survivors of this type of housing which were virtually all swept away in the Sheffield slum clearances of the 1960s. They can be dated by the fact that in 1864 a local by-law was passed banning any more from being built. We believe incidentally that some brand new ones are currently being built at Kelham Island, but presumably these will circumvent this by-law and probably not have outdoor privies.
This large site, which is bordered by Milton Street, Thomas Street and Hodgson Street, has a fascinating history and in early Victorian times was once home to a brick-works. The area was known known as Brick Crofts and, when the streets were laid out in the 1850s, the new houses were built with bricks which did not have to travel very far. A large proportion were built in the ‘court’ style which were basically instant slums. They were home to people who relied on the cutlery and steel trade and there were many Little Mesters workshops on the site with trades as diverse as knife grinders, tool forgers, staghorn cutters, pearl cutters, saw makers and of course not forgetting the all-important buffer girls and ladies. The number of small shopkeepers dotted around this area was quite staggering and you wouldn’t have far to go for your loaf of bread or meat and two veg. No driving to the supermarket then! There also appeared to have been a proliferation of ‘beer houses’ which were a necessity in view of the unpleasant and thirsty nature of the trades which operated around here.
A large complex on the site was John McClory and Sons’ Continental Works built between 1856 and 1862 producing electroplate and cutlery. This was actually not demolished until the late 1970s.
Historic England weren’t too happy with the current plans and recommended that the top four storeys on Block B should be stepped back on the northern elevations. They also pointed out that the top eight storeys would be visible from inside the courtyard of the nearby and very important Beehive Works. Not a good thing.
Tall towers like these also create wind down-draughts which can cause problems if you happen to live in or are walking through the vicinity. It is planned to use a ‘softer’ (not literally) red brick on Milton Street to attempt an industrial aesthetic, but on the inner ring road elevations things will be much harsher and the monster tower will be in a grey brick.
At the other side of the site stands the brutalist Moore Street Electricity Sub Station which is now Grade II Listed in its own right. Flats abutting this will have particularly good double-glazing, presumably because of the humming – or noise intrusion as they call it. As a nod to this type of architecture the nearby planted courtyard will have shuttered concrete walling. Mmm – a concrete garden – nice!
Finally, if you decide to buy a flat here and become a resident your new address will be Milton Works. It is believed that the name Milton came from Viscount Milton who was the eldest son of Earl Fitzwilliam. Interestingly enough Beehive Works, which dates back to the 1850s, was originally known as Milton Works but somewhere along the way its name was changed. Another interesting fact is that in the early 1900s part of this large development site was occupied by a Sheffield Tramway Construction Depot and, although it was only the plate-laying dept which isn’t very sexy, it was still a bit of transport interest. Add this to the Mercs and the movie-goers and you’ve got a very interesting microcosm of transport history over the past 100 years.