Passengers with time to spare at Sheffield railway station can trace the origins of some of the city’s finest buildings – all designed by the same family.
Over four generations in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Flockton firm of architects left an indelible stamp on Sheffield’s surroundings, drawing up the plans for important places such as King Edward VII school in Broomhill and St John’s Church at Ranmoor.
Three years ago the Sheffield Society of Architects, a local RIBA branch, bought the company’s archive – a treasure trove containing over 500 sketches, blueprints and artist’s impressions that have been painstakingly digitised to preserve for future generations.
Now a selection of the archive’s best examples has gone on display at the railway station, with the aim of giving Flockton’s their due, said Neil Orpwood, a society member who is an associate director at HLM Architects.
“It’s really to let people see the breadth of the projects the Flockton family did, recognise buildings they walk past on a daily basis, and just connect the architectural drawings to the reality they know,” he said.
Large wooden boards have been placed in three rows opposite M&S, covered in prints from the scanned documents. There are the original plans for the Rising Sun pub at Nether Green, the Wesley College – now King Edward’s – and the Kenwood Hall Hotel. Some buildings haven’t survived; the Surrey Music Hall and the Cambridge Hotel are now demolished, and there are even unbuilt proposals for a church in Madrid. Intriguingly, designs for a card game called ‘Cardinal’ or ‘Moyance’ are included too – like the Madrid church, this was never completed.
The free exhibition has been curated by Sarah Foxwell, of Robin Ashley Architects, and Leonora Simmonite of Axis Architecture. Sarah has been in charge of archiving the drawings.
Neil said Flockton’s contribution to Sheffield needed to be more widely appreciated. The company tended towards an elaborate style, favouring stone carvings and columns. “It’s one of those things that we as architects are aware of, but they have influenced and affected society without really any public recognition.”
The firm’s roots were laid in the early 1830s when William Flockton, the son of a carpenter and builder in Sheffield, established himself as an architect. He operated the business from 1845 to 1849 with partner William Lee and son Thomas James as Flockton, Lee and Flockton, continuing with Thomas as Flockton & Son until his death in 1864.
This era produced many fine buildings, including The Mount in Broomhill, dating from 1830, which is used as offices but has the look of a miniature Chatsworth and Tapton Hall, finished in 1855. Like most Flockton schemes, these are both listed.
The company carried on as partners came and went, changing names through the years – Flockton & Abbot, Flockton & Gibbs, and finally with Thomas’s son Charles as Flockton, Gibbs & Flockton. Endcliffe Hall, from 1865, and The Towers, a baronial country house completed in 1896 on Sandygate Road, belong to this period.
It has since emerged that Thomas Flockton instigated the setting up of the Sheffield Society of Architects in 1887, and was its first president, something that was unknown at the time the drawings were purchased from the Sheffield City Archive.
“Without the SSA it’s unlikely the archive would have seen the light of day, but without the Flockton companies the SSA would not have existed,” the curators say.
Parts of the archive are in a ‘rather bad state’, Neil admitted. Some sketches were made on vellum, and others on poor quality paper that has torn. “They’ve picked some of the interesting ones out,” he said.
The exhibition links to walking tours the society has created, with accompanying notes. Printed guides have been provided at the station alongside the displays, and can also be downloaded online from the SSA website, where a further Flockton project is under way.
“There’s an interactive map that shows as many Flockton buildings as we can identify,” said Neil.
The exhibition runs until Saturday, October 6. The organisers hope to repeat it elsewhere in future. Visit www.sheffieldsocietyofarchitects.org.uk for details.