Historic 1938 letter discovered on a construction site in Sheffield city center


The letter was found rolled up in a small canister and placed in a wall cavity in Bethel Chapel on Cambridge Street, which is under construction to become a new 15,000 square foot live entertainment venue.

The letter was dated around the start of World War II and was written by the foreman of the former Sheffield plastering company Bradbury & Sons, which was working on the site at the time.

The Sheffield Archives has confirmed that Bethel Chapel closed in 1936 and the building was purchased in 1938 by George Binns, who moved his Outfitters clothing store from Moorhead.

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Employees at Sheffield-based construction company Henry Boot Construction discovered a letter dated 1938 while working on their Heart of the City construction site in Sheffield city center.

In the course of the conversion and renovation work, the small churchyard at the front was removed and a two-storey extension was added to the front of the chapel. This work was likely the project the Bradbury & Sons plasterers were working on when they left their letter. The letter lists all the names of the workers involved – who were all members of the plasterers union. The letter also mentions “Boy Teddy” as an apprentice. At that time, trainees usually started at the legal age of 14.

It was found by employees of Sheffield-based Henry Boot Construction, who enclosed their own letter with the canister, which has now been placed back on the same wall.

The letter from Henry Boot recorded the employees working on the construction site today and as a direct allusion to the original, the letter is signed by today’s Senior Site Supervisor Carl Gelder and Harry Rodgers – one of the trainees on site. Ian Gresser, Operations Manager for Henry Boot Construction said, “At Henry Boot Construction we take great pride in working on flagship projects in our hometown and we always take our responsibility to protect all finds very seriously. Uncovering an old letter or artifact is always an exciting moment, but there is something special about finding something that is directly related to the construction industry protect, especially along Cambridge Street. So it means a lot for the team to add our own letter to the capsule and contribute to the history of the region. It’s nice to think that in another 100 years people will read our letter along with the letter from Bradbury & Sons. ”Henry Boot Construction is working on three major urban developments under the Heart of the City program – Kangaroo Works, Cambridge Street Collective and Elshaw House.

Kangaroo Works is a housing development with 365 high quality apartments; Cambridge Street Collective is a major cultural and social destination with a 20,000 m² food hall, fine dining restaurant and Bethel Chapel; Elshaw House is a carbon-free office development that contributes to the city council’s long-term ambitions to create a more sustainable and greener city center.

Senior Site Manager Carl Gelder, left, and trainee Harry Rodgers, right.
Senior Site Manager Carl Gelder, left, and trainee Harry Rodgers, right.

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