What We Do
Since 2013, the iconic but dilapidated Sheffield cutlery works has been undergoing a transformation. It’ll take a long time, but the aim is to restore the whole Works into decent low-cost workspace where we can promote creativity and small scale manufacturing by skilled craftspeople, and provide opportunities for young people to become the craftspeople of tomorrow.
“Saving Portland Works”: The Documentary
This film was commissioned in 2021 to tell the story of how our iconic building was rescued from development. It features interviews with some of the people at the heart of the campaign who share the steps, challenges and outcomes from a decade of work.
Portland Works is on Randall Street in the ‘John Street Triangle’, a heritage industrial conservation area. The Works is one of the last remaining working examples of a purpose built metal trades factory, most other similar buildings having being demolished or converted into flats and offices. Commissioned in 1876 and completed by 1879, the building is little changed since then, only the showroom area and some extensions being added later.
Latest Conservation News
Supporting Our Makers
Portland Works is not just a historical building; it is also a thriving cooperative of craftsmen, artists and small manufacturing. While these “makers” may cover a variety of products, they all share the same essential characteristic. They use their unique skills and experience to produce something that is hand made with pride. This kind of artisanal art and manufacturing feeds the local economy, enriches the cultural heritage of Sheffield and is thriving at Portland Works.
Outreach and Education
Over the last 2 years Portland Works has continued to reach out to the local community and provide educational opportunities. The building itself is a fantastic educational resource and has attracted many visitors though development work of the Outreach and Education Officer.
We have established a successful partnership with the Special Needs sector, and are now hosting single work placements for 14-18yr old students from Brantwood Specialist School and Freeman College in Sheffield.
We have increased the use of the building by third sector students, with close ties to both Universities. We have a strong relationship with the Cultural Heritage Management MA course at University of Sheffield. An annual visit is now part of their course and has generated many volunteers who have been invaluable in their support as volunteers. Students have also undertaken their work experience here. The Portland Works site has been used by first year Architecture students for their first collaborative group work project. We have an established link with Venture Matrix Department at Sheffield Hallam University.
The outreach officer proposed and now runs a lecture series using the volunteer-created public space. It was initially planned to hold four monthly events, but success has led to it becoming a ten event per year series, now in its second year. Attendance has been excellent with most lectures fully booked and it is in transition to an income-generating project.
May Open Day and Heritage Open Day in September have become an established part of the annual calendar and raised awareness of and increased public knowledge and understanding the works to an increasingly diverse range of visitors.
A Christmas Fair was piloted in December 2018, to provide a shop-window for tenants. Short notice meant a fairly small event but a larger than expected crowd attended and expressed satisfaction. It was repeated in 2019 on a much larger scale with a mix of tenants and outside stallholders, plus catering. Excellent attendance and a good income for stallholders ensured this will be a regular event in future.
Makerspace – this beautiful room has hosted many inhouse events over the last 2 years. It also available for hire. Interest in this facility has brought in a new income stream and a wider audience via exhibitions, meetings and social events.
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Other developments include monthly and bespoke tours for groups of all ages, self-guided tour leaflet and “What’s On” guides with maps, information and special features of each of the annual open days. QR codes have been developed to access closed workshops and areas not accessible to less mobile/disabled via 360 film.
We continue to work focussing more clearly on promoting the building as a cultural asset, particularly using the public space for hire. Further, through community ownership providing low-cost workspace for around 30 tenants, we offer a model of how property ownership and management can be an ethical and mutually beneficial business.
If you would like to use the Works for educational purposes, these resources may help you refine and develop your ideas. Have a look at what we have already done, and contact us to discuss taking your ideas forward.