ST PAUL'S CHURCH - SHEFFIELD (1720 - 1938)

Line Drawing taken from Hunter's Hallamshire 1819

Originally built on the outskirts of the town, on land bounded by Pinson Lane (later Pinstone Street) and Alsop Fields (later to become Norfolk Street). The site itself was known then as Shaw's Close or Oxley Croft. The building of St Paul's Church was funded by public subscription in 1720 and 1721 with the first stone being laid in 28th May 1720. The dome was added in 1769. A Mr Platts of Rotherham who designed Wortley Hall was appointed architect

It was made possible by a gift of £1,000 and the promise of £30 a year for the Minister from Robert Downes, a Sheffield goldsmith, in return for him and his heirs having the right to appoint the minister, and it was to be a Chapel of Ease to the Parish Church.

The then Vicar of Sheffield objected on the grounds that since it was a Chapel of Ease to his church he had the right to appoint the Minister. At the same time the Patron of the Parish Church, William Jessop, claimed that as such he should automatically be Patron of St. Paul's. The argument continued for nearly twenty years, during which time the church remained locked and unused. Things were brought to a head in 1739 when Robert Downes threatened to open the church, as he was legally entitled to do, " as a meeting house for Protestant Dissenters". As a result a compromise was agreed under which the Vicar was to be the Patron, but the first Minister was to be Robert Downes nephew, John Downes. And so the church was actually consecrated on 2nd May 1740, twenty years after the laying of the first stone. But it was only used for worship for less than 200 years. Baptism and burial records date from 1743 and those of marriages from 1848. Burials in the adjoining church yard ceased in 1855.

Pawson and Brailsford's "Illustrated Guide to Sheffield and Neighbourhood 1862" noted that

"(St Pauls) is a spacious building: and improvements have been recently made which greatly add both to the beauty of the interior of the edifice and the comfort of the congregation. The organ is by the celebrated builder Snetzler. It is one of his best productions, and was built one hundred and five years ago. Since its erection it has, however, been considerably modernized, but the original portion still bears its distinctive excellence. The latest additions have been made by Mr Brindley, (see notes) of this town, who supplied the pedal organ and several new stops to other portions of the instrument, and also equalized the whole It has three manuals and a pedal organ. The organist is Mr J. C. Walker. About 40 years ago, performances of sacred music on a grand scale were given in this church, Madame Malibran and other distinguished vocalists singing within its walls. There is a mural monument by Chantrey, in St. Paul's Church, not unworthy of the great sculptor's celebrity. It is erected to the memory of the Rev Alexander Mackenzie, one of the incumbents of the church, who died in 1816....... "

(Snetzler’s church organs were described by those who knew them in their near-original condition as ‘of exquisite beauty, fullness and richness of tone … blended to absolute perfection’, or as ‘remarkable for the purity of their tone, and the extreme brilliancy of their Chorus stops’ and as spirited, charming and cheerful.)

St Paul's Church - 1890

In November 1923 The Sheffield Master Silversmiths Association donated two oak chancel screens to the church in memory of Thomas Bolsover, the man who discovered how to make Sheffield Plate

St Paul's was closed in December 1937. The following year the Church of England announced that it had no further use for the building. In fact according to David Lunn, a former Bishop of Sheffield in his book on the History of the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Sheffield the site of St. Paul's was sold for the sum of £23,504, which went towards an appeal for the building of a new 'Quire and Chancel' at what had become the Cathedral.

This is at odds with a report that appeared in The Times dated 2nd August 1937 page 13. In the report a six figure sum is quoted for the purchase of the site.

The Manchester Guardian dated 11th December 1937 gave the following report

The church was demolished to make way for a proposed extension to the Town Hall - the proposal never got beyond that stage due to the advent of the Second World War. All that remained of the church were the churchyard walls, within which the Council laid out a temporary garden. This was named St Pauls' Gardens but soon became known as the Peace Gardens, reflecting the popular desire for a return to peacetime. (see note 1)

The site after demolition

There is an interesting post-script to the Church's demolition. There was a post on a local history message board in June 2007 that gave the following information

Trap Lane is situated in the Bents Green suburb of Sheffield. There is a small row of houses, between the junction of Trap Lane and Muskoka Drive which are essentially built from large blocks of stone, with bands of ornamentation along the front. The stone was recovered from the demolition of St. Paul's, hence the decoration that appear on the houses. It appears that the  builder of the houses also had the contract for demolishing the church and made good use of the stone.

The Church Organ that was built by one of the world's greatest organ builders, John Snetzler (1710 - 1785) and the Chantrey mural monument mentioned in Pawson and Brailsford's 1862 Guide were removed from the church. The organ to All Saints in Wingerworth, while the Chantrey memorial was moved to Sheffield Cathedral

Another memorial was also moved to Sheffield Cathedral - the memorial to those who had died in the Great War

Canon Odom’s Memorials of Sheffield;-
'At the east end of the north aisle is a side-chapel, the carved oak communion table and reredos of which were given by Mrs. Mitchell-Withers, who died October 23, 1920. The War Memorial therein consisting of beautiful figures in bronze representing Abraham and Isaac, cost £140. The pedestal on which it stands bears the names of 130 men who fell in the Great War.’

The "beautiful figures in bronze representing Abraham and Isaac" have been stolen from the pedestal! (Information supplied by Sheffield Soldiers of the Great War)

 I do seem to recall that the bells from St Paul's were taken down and re-installed in the church of St Paul's in Arbourthorne, as were other pieces from the church.

Rather ironically St Paul's in Arbourthorne was demolished circa 1974. From a contemporary account the "new church was very run down though, half the small square windows had been put through - we had our vandals then. It was bleak and cold with no heating"

As for the churchyard, the headstones were removed and placed initially around the churchyard walls. They have since disappeared. As for graves themselves the situation was more complicated. No burials had occurred in the churchyard for over 80 years and so given the nature of the site and the circumstances surrounding the demolition, it seems as though the Church went for the most practical (and economical) means of "disposal" which was to exhume what ever remained, and re-inter them in just fourteen graves in Sheffield's Abbey Lane Cemetery. Once interred a large stone cross was placed in memory of all those who had been buried in St Paul's churchyard

 One famous grave that was in the Churchyard was that of Thomas Boulsover, of Whiteley Wood Hall (1804 - 1788) who was the inventor of what is now known as Sheffield Plate. Others included John Eadon, who was a mathematician and the schoolmaster of The Free Writing School which stood on the corner of Campo Lane and Townhead Street Eadon's brother William Eadon was the ancestor of Eadons, the auctioneers, and his brother Mathias was the father of another John Eadon who had his own school the Eadon Academy at Redhill. His most famous pupil was Mark Firth the future steel baron and donator of Firth Park to the city. This John Eadon was also the grandfather of Robert Eadon Leader, publisher of the Sheffield Independent newspaper and local historian.  

 

Note 1

The Council and its officers erected a plaque that infers that the Peace Gardens were a post 1985 name and were previously called St Pauls' Gardens. The name "Peace Gardens" goes back much further than 1985 - the gardens were called the Peace Gardens when I was growing up in the 1960's. Following the demolition, the gardens were laid down just as the then prime minister Neville Chamberlain made his "peace in our time" speech after meeting Hitler in Munich, and this is the REAL origin of the name. The council were evidently unaware of this (or chose to ignore it) when they decided on the wording of the plaque.

Note 2

From Michael Sayer: 'Charles Brindley', Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 24 Jan  2008]),

Brindley, Charles. - English organ builder. He established a business in Sheffield in 1854. A follower of Edmund Schulze, he built solid instruments with powerful choruses using Vogler’s Simplification system. Pipes placed in chromatic order on the soundboards allowed for a simple and reliable key action and permitted similar stops to share the same bass; this kept both space and cost to a minimum. The Swell organ was often mounted above the Great as an Oberwerk in the German manner. Brindley went into partnership with Foster in 1884 and began to manufacture more complex pneumatic mechanisms for stop combinations; he also concentrated on the production of orchestral effects. The business was absorbed by Willis in 1939. An unspoilt example of Brindley’s work dating from 1863 survives in Christ Church, Market Drayton, Shropshire. A full discussion of the works of Charles Brindley is given in J.R. Knott: A Study of Brindley & Foster, Organbuilders of Sheffield, 1854–1939 (Bognor Regis, 1974, 2/1985).

BRINDLEY & FOSTER ORGAN BUILDERS SHEFFIELD 1854-1938 BY J.R. KNOTT. Originally published by J. R. Knott  Bognor Regis 1985, reprinted by Old Chapel Lane Books, Burgh le Marsh, Lincolnshire, 2012,  108 pages,  25 illustrations. The first section is a history of the firm and the second, a Gazetteer of organ built by Brindley & Foster,  listed by  counties and the an overseas section.  A5 size stapled.  

J R Knott tells us in the introduction to the book that he had been collecting information on Brindley & Foster for over fifty years. The first edition was published in 1974 and this second enlarged edition in 1985. He typed it himself and had it duplicated and it was limited to about 200 copies and so very few have survived.  Their organs were influenced by those of the German organ builder Edmund Schulze of Paulinzelle, who built the organ at Doncaster Parish church. There is a history of the firm made up from newspaper articles, the memories of some of the employees of the  firm and organists who played on their organs. The firm were among the first to use pneumatic action for the entire mechanism of an organ, including the stop action and to develop a sliderless soundboard. Their metaphoric system gave two separate systems of stop changing and their later 'Charles Brindley' system gave even more registration helps. There are some very fine technical drawings of these mechanisms by the late Mr Herbert Norman and photographs of some of their instruments. They built about 2,000 organs in total, several large 'town hall' organs and numerous moderate sized organ for churches and chapels, particularly in Yorkshire many of which survive.  Their only cathedral organ was in their home town of Sheffield. The firm along with many others began to decline after the first world war and carried on in a much reduced way until it finally closed in 1939.

Note 3

One fondly remembered feature of the Peace Gardens was a standard ruler, 100 feet long, manufactured of metal and running along what was St Paul's Parade. It was accurately horizontal and varied in height above the pavement from a few inches to about four feet. It was possible for a small child to run along the ruler, as it was about a foot wide. It was presented to the City by the Lord Mayor in 1910, partly as a Standard of Length, and partly for its public education value. The ruler showed pre-metric measurements such as chains, links and rods. After the redevelopment of the Peace Gardens, it was moved across the Gardens to a site adjacent to Sheffield Town Hall

Note 4 St Pauls Church was not the only church to be decommissioned by the Church authorities

The Times dated 15th January 1936 carried the following report

Note 5 - This is from an article that was written for the Grapevine magazine in December 2008. The photographs and text are excellent

Sources

Pawson and Brailsford's "Illustrated Guide to Sheffield and Neighbourhood 1862"*(pages 41 - 43)

Chapters towards a History of the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Sheffield - David Lunn, former Bishop of Sheffield

The Times dated 2nd August 1937 page 13

The Manchester Guardian dated 11th December 1937

The Flowing Stream" Summer 1996 - vol17 no 2, (the journal of the Sheffield and District FHS)

Sheffield Star dated 24th January 2013

Sheffield Soldiers of the Great War

Sheffield History Forum

Grapevine - December 2008

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