Skip to main content
A Magazine for

Modernist mural saved: William Mitchell work to be relocated

No decision yet made on where 1972 poured concrete frieze will be moved to within city centre development, says Council.

1172 1594126868
William Mitchell's frieze on Burgess St. Photo by Tom Hunt.

Work will start this week to carefully remove a celebrated postwar work of art ahead of its relocation in Sheffield city centre.

William Mitchell's unnamed frieze is currently attached to the side of Barkers Pool House on Burgess Street, which is due to be demolished as part of the Heart of the City II development.

Specialist contractors have already captured a 3D scan of the work in its original location, before it's placed in secure storage to protect it from damage or deterioration.

"We know that the William Mitchell frieze is a much-loved piece of artwork that reflects the quirky, creative character of our city, and that's why we're ensuring that it is carefully removed and stored safely before work begins on the site," said Council Cabinet Member Mazher Iqbal.

1172 picture2 1594126959
Cllr Iqbal in front of the frieze. Photo by Sheffield City Council.

Mitchell, who died in January at the age of 94, was one of the UK's most celebrated and prolific modernist sculptors. Creating abstract, highly stylised designs out of poured concrete, he undertook a series of large public commissions in the sixties and seventies for councils, cathedrals and universities across the UK.

"Bill Mitchell was extremely inventive in his use of concrete and pioneered robust, highly textured public art which could be constructed at an affordable price and successfully enliven even the most challenging of urban locations," Catherine Croft of the Twentieth Century Society told Now Then.

The Burgess St frieze was previously at risk of demolition, but Sheffield City Council told Now Then in February that they were investigating whether it could be saved.

Our Favourite Places have named it one of their top three Sheffield artworks, noting that it has "been here, in the shadow of the department store and barely noticed, since 1972."

No decision has yet been made about whether the work will be moved to a new location or reinstalled as part of the proposed Radisson Blu hotel on the Burgess St site.

1172 picture3 1594127157
Another work by Mitchell in Harlow. Photo by 14GTR (Wikimedia Commons).

"We are working to identify the right location to showcase the piece going forward," said Cllr Iqbal.

"Whilst we are keen that it remains on its original site as part of the new building, and this is our preference, we will also consider relocating it to another prominent location within the Heart of the City II scheme if this isn't possible."

Croft said that the Twentieth Century Society were "concerned" that the future location of the frieze has not yet been decided. "We urge the council to make sure that the future of this significant art work is secured long term and remains publicly accessible for all to enjoy," she said.

Tom Hunt, who has led a campaign to save Mitchell's work, welcomed the Council's statement but said it was "still really important" that supporters respond to a consultation on the future of the site. The consultation closes on 21 July.

"Lots of people support the artwork staying in the city centre but it's still really important we let the council know," he tweeted.

Related articles

How does Sheffield ‘build back better’?

With the world under a cloud of COVID-19, decisions made right here in Sheffield could still meaningfully combat climate change and improve our collective quality of life.