Everyone at Portland Works is proud to be celebrating the completion of the renovations and repair to our magnificent chimney that stands in the smaller of the two yards.
This chimney, made of red brick and octagonal in shape, must have been quite a Sheffield landmark when it was built between 1876 and 1879. Although photographs show it was still in place in 1933 it was later lowered, possibly during the Second World War when it might have provided a “marker”’ for enemy bombers.
The survival of chimneys within former integrated cutlery works within Sheffield is rare, making this one, despite having been truncated, of great significance. And because Portland Works is a Grade 2* listed building, all repairs and renovations have to follow strict guidelines.
One of the problems was the vegetation that had self-seeded at the top of the chimney. Seeds must have been brought by birds there and the roots had invaded the mortar, making the top layers of bricks unstable.
Work to repair it required a lot of planning and consultation with a structural engineer. The project was led by Bill, one of our Tuesday volunteers, and by fellow volunteers Chris, Mike and John. All were involved in climbing the scaffolding wearing protective equipment and harnessing themselves to the top while working. It was an extraordinary feat but they came week after week, in all weathers, to carry out this vital work. Bill said that he climbed the chimney six times during his Tuesday stints!
We also used contractors to carry out some of the brickwork and repointing, along with our own blacksmiths at Portland Works who made the steel bands for the top.
There was a lot of debate as to how the top of the chimney should be finished off – and this presented a new challenge to get a great volume of concrete up to the top. But the volunteers persevered and you can see from the photographs what it looks like now.
The renovation work on the chimney has been an ongoing project over the last couple of years and we’re thrilled to see it finally completed. The Friends of Portland Works very kindly raised £2,000 pounds to pay for the scaffolding and we were delighted to receive a grant from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage, some of which contributed to the work. Additional materials were funded from our open days, donations and proceeds from the Christmas Market.
The small yard will feel very different once the scaffolding is removed, although this is due to reappear soon in the big yard at D block on the eastern side of Portland Works for urgent work to start on the roof and windows.
There is plenty for the Tuesday building volunteers to be doing over the next few months and we are delighted to see them gradually returning now restrictions are easing. Those who have had their vaccinations and feel comfortable doing so are now back working, all socially distanced. They tell us the work is great fun, a chance to learn new skills and make new friends. We hope some new volunteers will join us to continue to preserve this important historical building and contribute to the thriving community we have at Portland Works today.