Sheffield Old Town Hall: An Abandoned Steel City Landmark

sheffield-old-town-hall (All images by Carl Hartley – see Facebook Page)

Elegant and unloved, the hulking form of the Old Town Hall in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, has fascinated local historians and those with an enquiring mind since its doors were closed in 1997. Here, photographer Carl Hartley takes a look beyond the neglected facade of a local landmark, to places unseen by the public for almost 20 years.


Located on Waingate opposite Castle Market, Sheffield Old Town Hall opened in 1808. Despite its name, the imposing building replaced an older structure that had become impractical for the needs of the burgeoning Steel City. As Sheffield boomed, driven by the Industrial Revolution, the new civic building came to house the courts of petty and quarter sessions alongside the Town Trustees.


Originally opening onto Castle Street, Sheffield Old Town Hall was remodelled several times over the following century. Ultimately reoriented to face Waingate, 1866 saw the addition of its landmark clocktower courtesy of local architect William Flockton. But just as its predecessor had been unable to cope with modern civic demands, so too was Sheffield Old Town Hall considered two small by the end of the century, when a grand replacement was built on nearby Pinstone Street.



As council officials relocated to the new building by the end of the 19th century, the Waingate building was dubbed the Old Town Hall or Old Courthouse, serving as the city’s Crown Court and High Court for the next century. Prisoners awaiting trial were held in a cell block in the bowels of the building. Meanwhile, subterranean passageways connected the courtrooms to an adjacent police station.



But when the law courts relocated to modern premises in 1997, Sheffield Old Town Hall was left without a purpose and fell into disuse. Almost two decades later the landmark building is externally intact. But inside lies an abandoned Victorian courthouse frozen in time, its ornate fixtures at once elegant and haunting.


sheffield-old-town-hall-9 (All images by Carl Hartley – see Facebook Page)

In 2007 the Victorian Society added the Old Courthouse to its list of Britain’s 10 most endangered buildings. In recent weeks, the Friends of the Old Town Hall have launched a renewed effort to save the building from decay. Also check out the Save Sheffield Old Town Hall website for more information.

Keep reading – explore 5 Pillars of the Abandoned World


About the author: Tom




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