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13 November 2014

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You are in: South Yorkshire > Places > Places features > Sheffield's old and derelict Town Hall

Sheffield's old Town Hall, Waingate

Old Town Hall on Waingate - a bit grim

Sheffield's old and derelict Town Hall

Sheffield's first Town Hall was on Fargate, the third and present one is on Pinstone Street - but the second... well, that's near Castle Market and it's fast falling into disrepair.

:: October 2008

It's the large and imposing (but very dirty) building with a clock tower on Waingate.

Sheffield old Town Hall's clock tower

Sheffield old Town Hall's clock tower

BBC Radio Sheffield's Natalie Clifford went for a look at the 1808 building along with Valerie Bayliss of the Victorian Society in Sheffield.

"It started off in 1808 as a Town Hall and courts for the Petty Sessions (now known as Magistrates' Courts) and Quarter Sessions. The city was growing enormously at this time.

"In 1866 it had to be extended by the Sheffield architects Flockton and Abbott. That firm of architects built the police offices just across from here, at the back of Castle Green, at the same time. Incidentally these might be brought back into use as police offices [at the time of writing in 2008]."

Sheffield's current Town Hall on Pinstone Street

Sheffield Town Hall on Pinstone Street

By the 1890s the building had become too small again, and a whole new Town Hall was built on Pinstone Street. That one opened in 1897 around the time that Sheffield was given city status.

From then on the building on Waingate became an even larger courthouse and the police court. The law quarter of Sheffield is still based around this area, with the current Law Courts and many solicitors offices in this area too.

It remained a courthouse and police court until the late 1990s when Sheffield High Court and Sheffield Crown Court moved to new premises behind the High Street - so a lot of people over a century and a half have been in and out of this building for good reasons and bad.

Sheffield's old Town Hall on Waingate - a bit grim

Sheffield's old Town Hall on Waingate - a bit grim

Since that point, the old Town Hall on Waingate has been derelict - so much so that in 2007 the national charity The Victorian Society placed it on their list of most at-risk buildings in the whole of the UK.

The present owners have had the old Town Hall since 2004 but it has stood empty since then.

It is Grade II listed and was supposed to go to auction in October 2008, but when BBC Radio Sheffield contacted the auctioneers they hadn't been paid their fees so it wouldn't be able to go under the hammer.

Castle Market, Sheffield

Castle Market, Sheffield

"I'd just love to see scaffolding up, stone-cleaning and the inside being renovated," says Valerie Bayliss of the Victorian Society. "There are at least three courtrooms still in there plus 14 police cells, so there's a lot of history - a lot of Sheffielders and others will have been locked up here at some time!

"It's very elegant and classical in design, with well-made stonework but it's absolutely filthy on the stone and the windows. Pigeons and graffiti artists have had a go at it and now it looks very sorry for itself."

The biggest problem for the Grade II listed building is it's roof - but as Valerie Bayliss explains, there's only a limited amount that can be done about it with the building's owners being out of contact:

Drinking fountain at Sheffield's old Town Hall

Fountain at Sheffield's old Town Hall

"A lot of water has got in. We were told that the worst had been stopped with patching, but with another winter coming up we're very concerned about the state of the building inside.

"The City Council is as worried as the Victorian Society. They've been in touch with the owner and have been trying to get repairs done, such as patching up the roof, but councils cant get owners to do repairs on Grade II listed buildings themselves. They can do the repairs and send the owners the bill, but that's about it.

"I would encourage Sheffield City Council as strongly as I could to take that course of action with this building; it's too important to lose.

Sheffield's old Town Hall on Waingate

Sheffield's old Town Hall on Waingate

"It's big, elegant, one of the most important buildings round here, and we should be giving it some TLC."

So what does Valerie see as the future for the Waingate building?

"As long as it's a use which respects the building inside and out and there are people using it I don't really mind what it is. It would make offices, nightclub, restaurants, a cultural space for lectures and concerts, maybe even apartments - but you'd need a really good imaginative architect for that.

"The current economic climate [autumn 2008] might be the worst possible time to say a private developer or a local authority should spend money on this - but what happens if they don't?..."

last updated: 23/10/2008 at 11:28
created: 21/10/2008

Have Your Say

Have you ever been inside the old Town Hall? What do you think should be done with it? What should its purpose be next?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Robert Chester
I used to work as a Court Clerk in the Castle Street building in the late 80's and although by then it was not the best building to work in it as it was becoming quite grotty as the Court Service were unwilling to spend any money on the building. It did have character though and I remember being able to get onto the roof via a secret staircase next to the Judge's chambers in Court 4. It was also very handy for the market and I remember watching from the Clerk's office window the antics of some of the customers outside the Cannon and Hen and Chickens.I went back to Sheffield recently and was appalled to see the condition of the building. It is a disgrace to the city of Sheffield and something must be done urgently. Having worked in the building though I know that converting it into shops, club etc would be very difficult and presumably it being a listed building does not help.

Mrs Janet Oakland
Please turn it into a museum It's location is ideal, known to all. In easy reach of Visitors and locals alike. Just think Mums and dads may take their children there. Exposing Kids to art, history, science, and our own past will hopefully ignite interest, curiosity and stimulate some to greatness. You never know! The building would be one of the exhibits just like in York.If you haven't visited them, you haven't lived!!!

Cynthia Marsh
I have never been inside the old Town Hall but i would love to go in and see it.its part of our history. i think they should open it up.and we should save it, its part of our history .

andrew bruce
get one of the universities to buy it and renovate it, it would make great lecture halls, without compromising the building.

chris dobson
i believe the infamous victorian cat burgler /murderer charlie peace was tried for murder and locked in one of the cells of this grand old building;.

Mike Horbury
Give it to Yorkshire Forward They would have it done in a jiffy!(Demolished)

chris oxley
No personally i have never been inside, i used to live near sheffield and i know alot of history has gone into that building i would be a big loss if tht building were to go to waste!

Keeley Thompson
i think we should save it, its part of our history, other countries have repected their history like roma and paris but we seem to distory it and its just a sad state our grandchildern dont realise where they have come from and history of where they live

jon
i know someone who spent a night in the police cell there! i haven't been in it but it's a shame to see it go to rack and ruin. a bit of sandblasting like they did with the present town hall, and it would look lovely. that whole area's a bit of a dump though, it all needs smartening up.

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