Whose campus?

Jessop Hospital for Women, Sheffield:   Edwardian Wing (May 5th 2013)

Jessop Hospital for Women, Sheffield: Edwardian Wing (May 5th 2013)

Thomas Jessop (1804-1887) was a Sheffield steelmaker whose wealth took him from his birthplace on Blast Lane by the canal to the opulent Endcliffe Grange to the west of the town.  He served as both Mayor and Master Cutler, the two leading roles in the borough, in 1863.

His greatest benefaction to Sheffield was the Jessop Hospital for Women, a 57-bed facility, designed by the local architect John Dodsley Webster, which cost £26,000 when it opened in 1878.

An Edwardian extension, also by J D Webster, trebled the capacity in 1902, and an unremarkable new wing was added in 1939-40.

The whole hospital was replaced by a women’s wing in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in 2001:  http://www.sth.nhs.uk/our-hospitals/jessop-wing.

Sheffield University took over the site in 2007, demolished most of the peripheral buildings [http://www.bbc.co.uk/southyorkshire/content/image_galleries/jessops_hospital_old_gallery.shtml?1] and carefully restored Webster’s original wing as a base for the Department of Music, which opened in 2009:  http://www.shef.ac.uk/music/about.

The University then proposed to demolish the Grade-II listed Edwardian wing to replace it with an arrogantly modern £81-million New Engineering Building, and caused uproar.

The Director of Estates & Facilities Management, Mr Keith Lilley, told the Sheffield Telegraph (April 22nd 2013), “Having a new building across the whole site would allow us to provide around five per cent more space and cost 10% less per square metre.  A totally new building would create 19,600 square metres of space whereas incorporating the hospital wing would provide 17,300 square metres.”

Sheffield City Council chose to support demolition http://postcodegazette.com/news/9002814177/demolition-of-listed-edwardian-wing-at-jessop-hospital-gets-go-ahead-AT-sheffield-former-jessop-hospital-for-women, ignoring the recommendations of their own planning team:  “The proposals have
serious implications and constitute poor design and should therefore be refused
in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework.”

Specifically, the principal planning officer supported the 1902 block for its “positive townscape value”, and described the New Engineering Building as an “ungainly big box with an overly-complex external envelope that has no relationship with its setting”.

In bean-counting terms the argument has weight, but RMJM Architects’ showy cube cannot compare with Webster’s elegant building.

Moreover, there is a vital legal issue at stake.  Conservationists are deeply angry that listed-building legislation is being disregarded.

The Ancient Monuments Society, the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings and the Victorian Society [http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/news/university-demolition-plan-flawed-and-unfair] each condemned the decision, and the Hallamshire Historic Buildings Society declared this was simply “the easy way out” and “a dangerous precedent”.

Private Eye (March 22nd-April 4th 2013) described the University’s plans as “gratuitously destructive and wasteful”.

A request to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, to review the planning application was turned down.

SAVE Britain’s Heritage mounted a legal challenge, believing that the City Council “relies on an unsatisfactory interpretation” the new National Planning Policy Framework [http://www.savebritainsheritage.org/docs/articles/Jessops%20Hospital%20press%20release%20March%2013%20FINAL.pdf] and the social media buzzed:  https://www.facebook.com/oldjessophospital.

The challenged failed, and the Edwardian Wing was demolished in the late summer of 2013.

It was only one building, but the need to preserve it was hugely significant.  Why should a university, of all things, dump on the city a jazzed-up vanity building to gain 5% extra space in place of a polite, well-built, valuable piece of townscape?

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