Former Sheffield Coroner's Court damaged in arson attack

Sheffield's former Coroner's Court was found engulfed in flames following a suspected arson attack.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 22 October, 2018, 13:04

The building on Nursery Street was found burning at 10.40pm on Sunday and at the height of the blaze there were five fire engines at the scene.

The first floor of the disused building was engulfed in flames and crews spent three hours battling to prevent the fire spreading.

The former Sheffield Coroner's Court, Nursery Street. Picture: Sam Cooper / The Star.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said the blaze was believed to have been started deliberately.

It broke out two months after plans to demolish the building were shelved. 

Firm Firestone Developments had applied to Sheffield Council for permission to demolish the building to redevelop the land but later withdrew its plans following a number of objections from campaigners  keen to preserve Sheffield's heritage.

Graffiti on the walls of the former Sheffield Coroner's Court. Picture: Sam Cooper / The Star.

George Johnston, of Firestone Developments, said he had not been able to assess the damage to the building.

He added: 'We are now working on how to develop the site while fully retaining the building but I'm not sure how this will affect everything.'

At the time of Firestone's withdrawal, Councillor Jack Scott, Sheffield Council's cabinet member for development and transport, said the council would continue to work with the firm 'to discuss a better scheme that is more in keeping with our values as a city.'

There have been a number of reports of vandalism at the site. Picture: Sam Cooper / The Star.

He added: "We are seeing huge and very welcome development in this part of the city, which is a sign of great confidence in Sheffield as a whole. But the old Coroner's Court is a special building and so it's right that we examine any proposal to demolish it very carefully.

'Sheffield's heritage is unique, and plays a key role in the future economic success of our city. Heritage should only be lost when there are overwhelming reasons to justify it.

"That hasn't happened in this case yet. We had a number of concerns about this application, which we shared with the developer. I'm pleased they've now taken our advice and are going to come back to discuss a better scheme that is more in keeping with our values as a city. We are looking forward to working with them on this.'

The building was built in 1913 as a court, mortuary, post-mortem rooms, viewing chapel, witness waiting rooms and police accommodation.

The former Sheffield Coroner's Court, Nursery Street. Picture: Sam Cooper / The Star.

Bomb damage during the Second World War led to a remodelling in the 1950s and youth court facilities were added to the site.

It later became used as a business centre but is currently vacant.

Valerie Bayliss, chairperson of the South Yorkshire heritage group of the Victorian Society, said the blaze should act as a lesson.

She said: 'It really is a lesson in the problems we have with old buildings that are left unoccupied..

'The council is still consulting on having a conservation area down by the River Don but I gather they are not going out to consultation until the end of the year.

'It is extremely difficult to make sites like the Coroner's Court secure. The best thing to do is to bring them back into use, but with respect for the building.

'Nobody will question the idea that there needs to be some development at the back of the building but preserving the beauty of the building.'

An investigation into the arson attack is underway.