18 June 2021

Icon neon sign preserved as developer makes way for Sheffield's West Bar scheme

As preparation gets underway to deliver the City Centre's West Bar development, the University of Sheffield has been working alongside developers to secure the future of an original Woollen Sign that forms part of the city's industrial heritage.

Woollens for signs

As preparation gets underway to deliver the much anticipated new £300 million West Bar development in Sheffield City Centre, the University of Sheffield's City and Culture team have been working with developers to secure the future of an original Woollen Sign that forms part of the city's industrial heritage.

The iconic neon sign, measuring 21 metres in length, remains attached to the dilapidated former headquarters building on Love Street for Woollen Signs, a company that still represents the prosperity of Sheffield during the Victorian era when Sheffield became an internationally renowned city for steel makers, cutlers and silversmiths.

With support from the University, developer Urbo (West Bar) Ltd is working with sign specialist Neon Workshops to carefully dismantle the sign before it is refurbished and displayed at nearby Kelham Island Museum as part of Sheffield’s industrial heritage story and the city’s museum collections. The University of Sheffield’s relationship with Urbo first started through the development of Love Square and the partnership has continued through their work on Woollen’s iconic sign.

Woollen & Co Sheffield was first established in 1883 by Edwin Woollen, a sign writer and Frederick Ibbotson a lithographic printer. In 1897 Woollens become a limited company and moved to Love Street. The company was awarded seven gold medals for excellence, the earliest being presented in 1892 from the Yorkshire Trades and Industrial Exhibition.

The Woollen Sign is an iconic part of the Sheffield city scape and it is great to work with the University of Sheffield to give it a new lease of life which everyone can enjoy.

Tom Swallow

Urbo

The 20th Century saw Woollens at the forefront of new developments within the sign industry. Illuminated signs had become fashionable and in 1914 Woollens became the agents for ‘Electric Lamp Letters Signs’. By the 1930s neon tubes were introduced, but during World War 2 the prohibition of illuminated signs meant Woollens had to adapt once
again.

In 2005 Woollen and Company Ltd was bought by the Sheffield Co-operative Society but in 2008, after 125 years trading the business closed. Several former employees went on to form a new Woollens while maintaining some of the original customer base and continue to trade.

Tom Swallow at Urbo said, “We are delighted to be able to preserve this important part of Sheffield’s industrial heritage. The Woollen Sign is an iconic part of the Sheffield city scape and it is great to work with the University of Sheffield to give it a new lease of life which everyone can enjoy. This will ensure this key part of Sheffield’s history at West Bar is not forgotten as we embark on the sites regeneration.”

Eddy Foster, Head of Historic Engineering at Sheffield Museums said, “The Woollen Sign has an amazing history and we’re really pleased to give it new home at Kelham Island Museum. The museum is already home to the much-loved Made in Sheffield neon sign, and this fantastic new addition will enable us to share even more of the city’s remarkable
industrial story.”

I cannot wait to see it lit up and acting as a beacon for the people of Sheffield once again.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin

Director of City and Culture, the University of Sheffield

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City and Culture, Partnerships and Regional Engagement at the University of Sheffield, said, “We are delighted that our continuing relationship with Urbo which first started with Love Square has enable us to secure a future for an important piece of Sheffield’s industrial history. I cannot wait to see it lit up and acting as a beacon for the people of Sheffield once again.”

West Bar is Urbo’s much anticipated £300 million mixed-use development that will deliver much needed Grade A office and residential accommodation in the city centre. Once complete, the entire scheme is expected to create around 6,000 new jobs as well as supporting Sheffield’s major housing needs. The West Bar neighbourhood already boasts key office occupiers including the Home Office, top 50 law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Crown and Family Courts.

Urbo has been working with Sheffield City Council for several years to bring forward this important regeneration scheme, which enjoys a prominent position on the Inner Ring Road between the booming Kelham Island district and Sheffield’s Cathedral and Castlegate Quarters. West Bar was granted outline planning consent in 2017 and, in 2019, a Compulsory Purchase Order to complete assembly of site was confirmed. The site is now fully assembled and ready for work to commence.

Reserved matters planning applications were recently submitted to deliver the £150 million first phase which is being funded by Legal & General. The planning applications include a new 100,000 sq ft office building, ground floor retail and leisure space, and 368 Build to Rent residential apartments.

Urbo (West Bar) Ltd is a joint venture between Urbo Regeneration and Peveril Securities (the development arm of the Bowmer and Kirkland Group).

www.westbar.co.uk