View Full Version : Archived: Psalter lane Art College, Sheffield, October 2008

Yog Sothoth
15-11-2010, 12:56 PM
Report from work-related visit a couple of years ago. The buildings were mostly demolished this year.

The pics are from October 2008. If anyone wants to see the rest of them (and more text), they are on a blog post, which I last updated in January 2010:

Psalter Lane Art College is dead. Once a jewel in Sheffield's crown, a magnet for would be artists, designers, jewellery makers and film directors from all over Britain, it was swallowed up by Sheffield Poly, soon to become Sheffield Hallam University who took the decision, in 2008, to close it.

And close it they did. After years of rumours that its demise was imminent, it finally shut its doors in the summer. A skeleton of staff stayed on, moving stuff out for re-use down at the City Campus, tidying up admin loose ends until finally, in early September, the last handful of people walked out and the doors closed for the final and time.

With the removal of water and gas, the heating system, which for decades had kept the leaky buildings warm and dry, was dead. The interiors cooled down slowly, and the persistent, encroaching moisture, damp and drips from leaky rooves found itself unopposed.

In late October, I had to pay a visit to the site. I visited all the buildings, alone, wandering through the deserted rooms and corridors.

I arrived just as it began to rain, on a chilly, damp afternoon, a truly leaden sky setting the tone. The two on-site security guards greeted me and let me in. They 'live' in the old caretaker's house at the back of the site. The main buildings are empty and silent.

To begin, I had a walk around the exterior, looking for obvious ways in. A few months ago, you were hard pressed to get a parking spot on the car park. Now, it lay empty, but for a few vans belonging to asbestos contractors working in the old substation on the edge of the car park

Below: A Block, the orginal art college, empty for the first time in 150 years...

Below: Kid Acne's mural and farewell message, painted over the main entrance for the leaving party in June...

I began with A Block, the old Victorian building which, being Grade 2 listed, will not be demolished. It used to host the library, the film theatre and a series of offices. One thing which struck me was how much stuff had been left behind. Office furniture, stationery, personal nick-nacks, the place was far from being truly empty. It was as if people had left in a hurry, grabbing what they could along the way.


The other thing was the total silence. It was quiet outside, but no sound penetrated in here. I could hear every thump of my heart, and it was almost a relief when I entered a back room to be faced with a bank of still live telecoms routers, all flashing LEDs and humming relays. It was like finding life on Mars. Outside that room, there was a post-apocalyptic feel about the place, as if everyone had fled in the face of a zombie army or a plague of Black Death proportions


The empty offices were unnerving, but the library was worse. Ever played any of the 'Silent Hill' computer games? The library was like being in a real-life version. I expected to be menaced any moment by split-headed dogs or lumbering mutants. What made it all the more poignant were the messages which departed staff had scrawled on the walls, the day they left...


My camera malfunctioned here, in the ground floor library, so I couldn't get any pics of the upstairs. Eventually however, I managed to get it working again, just in time to enter C Block, the former home of the fine artists. A lot of the bigger degree pieces from 2008 were still in situ, but the encroaching damp, leaky ceilings and bone-chilling, grave-like cold, were causing the hardwood parquet floors to swell and rise up in wooden billows, artificial waves breaking into pixellations of collapsed blocks.


From C Block, I wandered through into D Block, former home of Metalwork and Jewellery, a single storey, one corridor building running between C Block and E Block, which used to be Printing and Photography. This section was particularly spooky. One of the security staff, a big bloke we'll call 'Bill' (because that's his name), swore he saw "something" moving across the landing of E Block stairs, as he came round the corner of the darkened D Block corridor at the stair foot. A pale mist or vague shape, it was enough (he said) to make him run back down the corridor to C Block and the main entrance.

Casting furnace:

D Block was utterly silent. The drip of a tap would have been a hammer blow there. You held your breath walking through, because the sound that came back from the cold walls was unpleasant.


Moving into E Block the print area seemed light and warm and full of sunbeams. Screen printing equipment lay untouched, destined for the skip, including the beautiful Victorian press (below).

B Block was creepy. Upstairs, the gloom of the dusk was seeping in like water and horror lurked around every corner until, suddenly, a beam of gold sunlight broke through the slaty sky and the dirty windows

Update: January 2010. Psalter Lane has been dead for 18 months. Over the past few weeks, a company have been employed by the university to remove all non-fixed items from the buildings. So that means that everything you see in these photos; all the benches, furniture, artwork, tools, everything that isn't bolted down, has been taken, most of it skipped, broken and nor lost forever. Most of it I guess isn't important, but what of the old victorian press in E Block? Sledgehammered to manageable chunks of cast iron and weighed in as scrap? Probably. [May 2010 update: yes it was]

Over the Yuletide holidays, a gang of people who knew exactly what they were doing broke into the buildings and methodically stripped it of lead and copper and anything else of use or value. The on-site security presumably slept through it.

Below- the lonely sentinel

There are lots more photos on my blog (link above). I also have lots more which aren't on the blog - be glad to post more on here if it's OK.