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John Street Conservation Area Sheffield

Conservation areas turn 50 this year as we mark the anniversary of the Civic Amenities Act. Here, we celebrate the conservation area of John Street, Sheffield.

What is a conservation area?

“A conservation area is an area of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance” (Section 69 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990).

What makes John Street special?

John Street was designated as a conservation area on 19 March 2007. It lies approximately one kilometre from the City Centre, historically an area known as Little Sheffield.

The area was originally a mixture of back to back housing surrounding courtyards, mixed with cutlery and small tool workshops. Eleven former metal trades buildings remain including the impressive and important Stag Works and Portland Works.

Its early 19th century street patterns, predominantly east to west, still survive. Its predominant character is of two to four storey brick buildings reflecting the 19th century vernacular.

Stag Works John Street
Stag Works, John Street Conservation Area © Historic England

The general usage of the land changed after the Second World War, and slum clearance programmes led to the growth in light industrial and warehousing uses becoming predominant. The area has several pubs typical of the past industrial era including the listed Albion public house on London Road. St Mary's Church, is a Grade II* listed church and community centre.

Its historic cobbled floors, stone kerbs and stone boundary walls are another distinctive feature that the conservation area designation protects.

Portland Works

Portland Works is a Grade II* listed integrated metal trades complex, dating from 1879. It was due to be redeveloped as apartments but when this project stalled, a campaign to save the works grew into a full blown community buy-out, which was completed in 2013. This coincided with the centenary of the invention of Stainless (or originally Rustless) Steel, by Harry Brearley. In partnership with Ernest Stuart of R.F. Mosley's - a local cutlery manufacturer based at Portland Works - Brearley developed the first stainless steel cutlery in the world 'Rusnorstain' from 1914.

It is now the home to a variety of businesses, including Stuart Mitchell Knives, Tietzsch Guitars, Locksley Distillers, Buffergirl Jewellery and 25 other small enterprises. Volunteers have slowly been repairing the complex.

How Historic England helped

The designation of John Street Conservation Area arose from a joint initiative between English Heritage (now Historic England) and Sheffield City Council, which aimed to identify and secure the future of Sheffield’s disappearing metal trades heritage. This led to the publication of One Great Workshop: the Buildings of the Sheffield Metal Trades in 2001, which described the history of the evolution of the different branches and processes of the Sheffield metal trades, by highlighting the surviving buildings linked with these activities.

In parallel with this, English Heritage reviewed the surviving listed and unlisted metal trades buildings in Sheffield, and this review led to the listing and upgrading of 30 buildings linked with the metal trades. Sheffield City Council undertook a study of areas where the metal trades were the predominant activity, and with English Heritage’s advice and support, identified five new areas for designation as conservation areas, alongside Kelham Island Industrial Conservation Area, which had been designated in 1985. John Street was designated as one of the new metal trades conservation areas, on 19 March 2007, joining the Cultural Industries Quarter, Furnace Hill and Well Meadow.

Since designation Historic England/English Heritage have worked closely with developers and the City Council to ensure appropriate new uses can be found for these buildings and areas.

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