Historic furnace revealed in full glory as work continues on more than 900 new homes in Sheffield

May 2, 2019

HSBC’s old offices on Hoyle Street, in Shalesmoor, have been demolished, opening up views of the Grade II-listed furnace at the former steelworks site to passing drivers on the ring road.

Work is underway on more than 900 new homes at the site, but the 19th century furnace, which is a scheduled ancient monument, will be staying put as part of the huge new development.

Cassidy Group, which bought the plot from Mace in December, is building 260 rental apartments and 663 student bedrooms there.

The furnace, which stands just off Doncaster Street and is described as the only surviving steel-making cementation furnace of its type in the country, is set to be restored before becoming the focal point of the residential courtyard.

A spokeswoman for Cassidy Group said construction was on schedule, with the rental apartments and student lodgings expected to open late next year.

The student lodgings will be en-suite and will include access to a communal lounge/games area, while the private apartments will be a mix of studios and one and two bedroom properties, with access to an on-site gym.

The furnace may not be on public view for long, with hoarding due to go up around the site in the next month or so.

It was one of several furnaces operated on the site for almost 100 years by Daniel Doncaster and Sons, according to an information board at the site, and was last used in 1951.

The cementation process for making steel was first developed in Germany in around 1600, but was not adopted in Sheffield until 1709.

The conical towers used became a common sight in the city, where they played a key role in the expansion of the steel industry before being replaced by more modern technology.

Charcoal would be packed around wrought iron inside chests within the furnace, and a fire would be lit and left to burn for a week while the iron absorbed the carbon, becoming steel.

The furnace would then be left to cool enough to allow workers to climb inside, break through the rock hard ‘piecrust’ used to seal the chests, and remove the steel.

The steel produced in such furnaces was known as ‘blister steel’ because the carbon would react with impurities in the iron to form bubbles of gas, creating blisters on the surface.

HSBC occupied the now-demolished four-storey office block on the site until 2016, since when it had been vacant, with part of the land used as a public car park.

The furnace was previously restored by Midland Bank, which was part of the HSBC group, in 1992/3.