It’s always healthy to present contrasting opinions….

The short-sightedness of people when it comes to our built environment never ceases to amaze me.  Take Sheffield’s Castle Market complex. Designed by the local authority architects, it answered a brief to fit a large new market onto a small site by going up – several floors of market stalls, with an open centre, streets in the sky, and office accommodation.  Opened in the early Sixties it thrived for two decades until the council started to cut back on funding and maintenance in the Eighties.  By the end of the twentieth century it was looking worn and neglected, and the council had already got it in the back of their mind that they wanted it down. People still refused to stop shopping here, there had after all been a market in this area for 700 years. In the end the council started to end leases, and built an awful new market building right across the city, then forced the remaining traders out of business.

The new hall is dreadful, glitzy bits of surface decoration on an otherwise empty void, with a few stalls clustered together in the centre looking lost.  And they couldn’t even fill those. Despite a campaign amongst people who know about such things, and the offer of help, advice and solutions to refurbish the original market buildings, the council – who made much of how neglected the site was (forgetting to add that this was their fault) voted to have it down.  They refuse to tell anyone how much the demolition would cost, but admitted the quotes were half a million more than they expected.  They had also done an additional half a million pounds worth of deliberate damage to the building to assess the condition of the structure – before they’d even voted on what to do with it! And it was a close run vote, just one councillor tipping the balance for bringing it down. So any idea of a thriving independent rent controlled shopping centre was out the window and the bulldozers moved in.

English Heritage?  Didn’t want to know, despite this being a totally unique example of a C20 market hall packed with loads of interesting, high quality fixtures and fitting.  Check out the hand made earthenware tiles on one facade.  The demolition contractors must be delighted with the acres of teak handrails which sell for a small fortune. What now for the site?  The council have plans for an urban park, access to some tatty remains of the former castle, and a Disney-esque recreation of the castle keep to ‘regenerate’ the area (come in Banksy).

There is a near complete Norman castle just a few miles up the country, which is mostly empty when I visit and has done nothing to regenerate the local area there. They applied for a grant for all this but were laughed out of the Heritage Lottery offices.  So there is no funding, the site will remain a wasteland, and we all know they’ll sell it off as soon as people have forgotten about it. While all this was going on some locals published a book celebrating Sheffield’s post-war modernist ambitions and surviving architecture of the 50s and 60s.  A time when councillors were willing to listen to people with vision and knowledge, and regeneration actually meant something.

Henry Rawlinson

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Another perspective — 4 Comments

  1. Well as the original ‘stone sniffer'[I’ve shaved my beard off now]I’ve got to comment on Henry’s [?]piece. I’m speaking as an individual and my opinions are my own.First off I don’t see the relevance of the bulk of it to this website-its about the demolished /new market-a look back at a so called ‘golden age’which those of us who are sceptical about modernism and the foresight of town planners are somewhat unsympathetic to.Only as regards its comparison with Conisborough[ruinous since the reign of Henry the Eighth so not ‘near complete’ ]and opinion as to the future of the site of Sheffield Castle is it appropriate for me to comment on.The rest I’ve debated on ‘ad nauseum’ in the Sheffield press with the ‘usual suspects’.Its a sad reflection on some folks mindset when they refer to ‘tatty remains’ and indicates their lack of civic pride- would it happen anywhere else but in this neck of the woods? Since when has there been a Disney-esque plan to recreate the castle keep? Conisborough Castle may not pull in the tourists[I don’t think Sheffield will and I’ve told the Council so] but its done more for Conisborough than the Earth Centre ever did.Sadly- its opinions like Henry’s [?] that are all too common in influential circles in this city.As for the future of the site- well expect some further comment from me -across the board.
    Ron Clayton S6

  2. It doesn’t actually reflect the truth. As someone who used the old market and now uses the new one, the problem started for the markets almost the same time as they were built with the rise of supermarkets and changes in Shopping habits. The biggest neglect was customers. I have only known the markets for 26 years so could be wrong about it at the beginning but certainly never been that busy since I started going. There is always someone who holds fast to ideas of change and has a somewhat rosy view of the past. Footfall at the new market is about the same as was at the old market, in other words very poor. The opening hours for the market have reduced over the years too and present market traders also hark back to a golden age when shops didn’t open on Sundays or Bank Holidays so miss available trade. Can’t blame council for that or its re-siting either. So lets look at the positive. Soon to be uncovered for archaeological investigation the most important medieval castle in the North. The Birthplace of Sheffield. There would be no modern Sheffield if it hadn’t been for the castle. It could be the most important dig in the UK for years. Will we also find the Saxon remains rumoured to be there too? Who knows? What happens to the remains after investigation also still open. But I am reminded that Yorvik is based on a few planks of wood and some very small finds and yet now we have one of the most visited Heritage sites in the UK.

  3. Well Joyce-is it the most important medieval castle in the North? -doesn’t really concern me.But it is the place where Sheffield grew up- the ‘modern Sheffield’ as you say.And Sheffielders are waiting-waiting for the city to make ammends for the missed opportunities,the C20th destruction,the lack of regard for whatever vestiges of this medieval enigma remain.And if this city does the right thing by the castle site then that will be a landmark in this city- a veritable sea change………

  4. Castle Market was beyond help. It was awful to be in, to navigate, looked horrendous and totally not fit for modern day.

    Give me a pile of rubble with some history over it anyday

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