Retro: Past life of gallery stays in the frame above shops

Chapel Walk, Sheffield - The Provisions Stores founded by Mr Alwin Hibberd Holland
Chapel Walk, Sheffield - The Provisions Stores founded by Mr Alwin Hibberd Holland

You may have the feeling of déjà vu when reading this article and that’s because I have covered this hidden piece of Sheffield before.

However, that was not in great depth, so here it is again my friends.

Chapel Walk, Sheffield - The Provisions Stores founded by Mr Alwin Hibberd Holland

Chapel Walk, Sheffield - The Provisions Stores founded by Mr Alwin Hibberd Holland

The perfectly executed, deeply carved relief in the clue picture is set in a small portico above a small retail outlet on Chapel Walk and often goes unnoticed on this very busy, narrow thoroughfare.

The relief used to act as the street sign to the art gallery that was housed above, and the name “HOWARD GALLERY” appears as a raised relief across a ribboned banner supported by two groups of trees, in a depiction of a wooded copse.

To the left there is a group of lemon trees, bearing fruits, and to the right are oak trees with acorns.

These are carved in high relief and display an impressive skill, showing great detail in the depiction of all aspects including an abundance of leaves which appear to be tumbling over one another.

The Provisions Stores founded by Mr Alwin Hibberd Holland, Sheffield

The Provisions Stores founded by Mr Alwin Hibberd Holland, Sheffield

Unfortunately, fairy lights are strung in front of the Gallery and a cable is strewn across it.

The Chapel Walk shops housed a high class grocery establishment “The Provisions Stores” founded by Mr Alwin Hibberd Holland.

Mr Holland Snr started out as a shop-man at No 80 Division Street sometime before 1840 and by 1862 he had opened his own shop at No 167 West Street as a Grocer and Tea Dealer.

The building is still there and is used as a Domino Pizza place.

By 1879, he was operating from No 3 Fargate and he was classed as a Provision Dealer.

When Fargate was widened in 1889 the shop was demolished and the business transferred to No 9 Fargate, the building we see today.

Mr Holland Snr died on April 16, 1898, aged 71, and was laid to rest in Ecclesall Parish Church yard.

His son Alwyn Henry Holland had taken over the business some years before.

He designed and built the building we see today, thanks to financial help from his fathert.

Alwyn was born on November 26, 1861 and was one of five children.

He was educated at Brampton Schools, near Wath and on gaining a good education he was articled to a local architect, Mr JD Webster of Church Street.

He quickly became Mr Webster’s assistant.

Alwyn was also an artist and in 1897 as Queen Victorian celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, she visited the town to open the new Town Hall.

It was Alwyn who designed and supervised the erection of all the decorations for her in Fargate.

In April 1898, the Sheffield Society of Artists held their annual exhibition at the Gallery.

It comprised of two gallery spaces, each 60 feet in length, with light from above supplied by a lantern roof (you can still see this lantern roof today) and was situated above a parade of eight single shops built in the English Renaissance style.

The Gallery was named after the Duke of Norfolk (family name Howard), a local dignitary and benefactor, and the depiction of this wooded scene is possibly a reference to the local parkland that he had created in a style fashionable during the Victorian period.

In 1848, Norfolk Park became one of the first in Britain to be opened free to the general public as the Duke became concerned at the level of poverty and overpopulation of the area.

It was donated by the Howard family to the people of Sheffield in 1909.

The quirky width of the shop that fronted Fargate was determined by Chapel Walk on one side and Black Swan Walk on the other.

What it lacked in width it made up for by its height.

The land for the building was leased from the Church Burgesses and the plans for a shop on the site were originally submitted by John Walsh as an annexe to his shop in High Street but this plan was dropped by the building of a new store for Walsh on High Street.

The Gallery was opened just five days after the death of his father with an exhibition of pictures from the Goupil Gallery in London.

Unfortunately, the success of the Gallery was short-lived and despite extensive alterations, the gallery, the showrooms over the main shop and four of his Chapel Walk shops were reopened as a café and restaurant.

The suite of rooms that had been decorated and furnished by Alwyn provided dining and refreshment rooms together with a ladies’ writing and retiring room and a gentlemen’s smoking room was also provided for his customers.

It was said that the service and comfort provided was second to none in the town.

Unfortunately, the café went the same way as the gallery despite its high-class facilities and only survived for a short time and by 1910 the entire business was closed down.

Both the buildings were offered for sale in April 1910 but failed to reach the £40,000 price tag – the bidding only got to £24,500.

But it was sold and the Chapel Walk premises went back to commercial use.

Alwyn died in 1935 at his home at The Laurels, Broomgrove Crescent – his house is still there but it has been converted into flats.

His building is virtually unchanged today apart from new shop name and windows.

In the 1970s, Salisbury’s Handbags were there and since then several occupants have come and gone.

Today Virgin Media are the tenants.

I’ve been slightly worried about my two medically unfit compadres.

Mr Dawson has had major surgery on a pimple on his ear, while Mr Sorsby has been experiencing bad dreams.

His last one was Nightmare In The Merrie Monk – very frightening, thunderbolts and lightning too!