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Dead Space

2 For A Pound - Castle Market.

Bargains, special offers and value for money – that’s what the people of Sheffield have been receiving from stallholders at Castle Market for a solid 50 years. But as the end of an era approaches and the curtain falls, we ask what the imminent market migration holds for the workers. Who will make the cut and what is to become of the buildings and site? Love it or loath it, Castle Market has been a fundamental part of Sheffield’s central commercial make-up since the war. If you are familiar with the eccentricities of the market then you have been fortunate to sample something that’s deep rooted in Sheffield’s identity. If you haven’t, get down there before this unique, messy haven shuts for good. Nothing like it will be built again in the city. This was one argument to have the market listed, but English Heritage judged it not to hold any significant value: “The building does not display the quality of design or materials, the technological interest in its construction or the artistic interest which is found in the best market halls of this era and consequently does not meet the criteria for listing.” The site does, however, because beneath the market lies the remains of Sheffield Castle, dating back to as early as 1270. Along with Sheffield Manor Lodge, the castle was home to the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots for 14 years before her execution. The food hall, the first part of the market to be built on the site between the First and Second World Wars, remains the same to the present day. The building that we see now was designed and completed in 1965 by J L Womersley and Andrew Darbyshire. At the time, it offered the same wealth of visionary, modernist ideals as other projects within the city, the most notable being Park Hill flats. From the play of levels and intricate concrete details to the streets in the sky, rooftop cafes and galleries linked by bridges, it was a futuristic beacon of Sheffield’s cityscape. The fate of Castle Market is sealed, but what does it all mean for Sheffield? We’ve heard the highs and lows, the credits, the merits, and the condemnations of this latest bold move by Sheffield City Council. In reality the city will be drawing a line under one urban design philosophy while heralding the launch of a modern version of the same thing. Is this the best we can do? On the one hand, Castle Market is definitely out of date and looking worse for wear. Few would say it does Sheffield’s image any good. This fact is borne out by the steady decline in footfall to the area. The main reason for this might be the long-term council plans to re-shape the look and feel of the city centre in an attempt to attract the more affluent shopper. That’s where the new offering on the Moor comes in. It has the looks and the facilities to adorn any tourist brochure, and that can’t be a bad thing if it brings more visitors with loose wallets and leads to further positive investment in the public realm. The Council has always intended to herd the retail traffic away from the Castle Market area and concentrate it on Fargate and the Moor, but some fear that without the Supertram route, the transport links to the new market will be inadequate and that it might suffer as a consequence. Meanwhile, the zone around the old market becomes deserted enough for it to be demolished in the name of progress and redeveloped as accommodation for the corporate sector. Plans include a public space set around the ruins of the old castle, but it’s worth noting that first they have to excavate to see if there is enough to make an attraction out of. The objectives seem ambitious enough, but we wonder what this really does for us besides providing a raft of premium construction contracts to a handful of big companies who’ll probably overcharge us and miss their deadlines. A perfectly good plan can be ruined by poor execution. Apart from that, the new market is being portrayed as a catalyst for further regeneration in the wider area. The site owners have reportedly had recent planning applications for several new retail blocks approved, including a new cinema and other add-ons. But there are those who fear that traders in the new market, who will have to pay some of the highest rents in the country, might lose out if the forecasted surge in footfall never materialises. So it’s a gamble, but who pays if the House wins? For now we wait until November, when the new market will open to fanfare and the Castle Market area will be abandoned in earnest. As for the Moor market hall, it has some big boots to fill so let’s give it some time. We hope it does become a lasting, positive thing for Sheffield, but we also hope it doesn’t cost too much. If you have any interesting photos, stories or experiences from Castle Market, please let us know – Photo by Chard Remains Photographical )

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