The Rose Garden Cafe, Graves Park , Hemsworth Road , Sheffield , S8 8LJ

100 yr old cafe building in Graves Park Sheffield

The Rose Garden Café was built in 1927 and is a detached single storey timber framed structure with a brick built flat roof extension (formerly toilets) now used as a kitchen and store. A toilet block extension was added at a later date. The main roofs are pitched and finished in plain clay tiles. The gable walls are solid masonry. The original building was gifted to the people of Sheffield along with the Graves Park within which it sits by Alderman J. G. Graves.

Dedicated park café buildings are by their nature comparatively rare. Sheffield’s other park cafés are within other buildings, in temporary buildings or of relatively recent construction, making the Rose Garden locally rare as an older purpose-built park café building. Durable timber-framed buildings are also very rare in Sheffield, and one of this age is a significant survival.

Architectural and Artistic Interest

The building, which survives in its entirety, is in a mock-Tudor style of good quality, very typical of public houses of the era either newly-built or applied in an attempt to update older buildings. In an urban setting it often looks incongruous, but here it successfully captures the idea of a rural vernacular without attempting to create a fake. Graves Park is an informal park of rich historic landscape interest, and the timber construction is perfectly chosen for this quasi-rural setting.

The domestic style is well-chosen for a building always intended to be used by families during their leisure time. This is a simple, not plain, building, the quality of which lies in good design choices and respect for its setting rather than bold architectural statement.

Group Value

Graves Park is a multi-layered historic landscape and contains various structures and landscapes of historic importance that collectively illustrate the story of its change over the ages, including the burial mound, the schoolroom and former park keeper’s lodge, gateposts and other boundary features, the well in Waterfall Wood, the ponds and cascade, the former quarry, the course of the former turnpike to London, the Rose Garden Café itself, and the nationally listed St. James’ church, Norton Hall and associated buildings, Bole Hill Lodge and Bole Hill Farmhouse. Any one era may be represented by only a single structure, without which the historic record would be incomplete. This creates a strong group value amongst all these assets.

Historic Interest

The building and the park in which it sits were the gift to the city of Alderman J. G. Graves, arguably the most prominent and significant of all Sheffield’s benefactors, and a defining influence in the nature of the city today. The fact that the park, the largest of the city’s many parks, bears his name and that he was present at the formal opening of the café building creates an especially close connection.

The café building marks the transition in the use of the park from private estate owned by a wealthy family to public recreation. This was a national trend connected to long-term changes in society, and the size and historic richness of Graves Park makes it an especially important example, with its café a key signifier.

Archaeological Interest

There is potential for underground remains associated with historic landscape uses, including the grounds of the adjacent summer house (now demolished).

Landmark Status

The café building is one of a limited number of buildings that can fairly be described as “iconic”, being a much-favoured choice for images such as postcards, its architecture making it instantly recognisable and unmistakeable. Its situation at the top of and wide open space that slopes gently down to the ponds makes it highly visible, prominent but not dominant.

It has continued to serve a very large catchment area for nearly a century, as well as being popular with Sheffield residents who do not live locally and has touched the lives and created enduring memories for many thousands of people in that time. Its position close to the historic end point of the unique Sheffield Round Walk makes it a destination for ramblers, which also associates it with Sheffield’s history as a centre for rambling and land access activism.

The building is a much loved, well-used and popular community asset providing food and refreshments to the local community, to walkers, parents, dog-walker and visitors from across the country. It has provided a meeting place especially during the recent pandemic to the lonely, isolated, elderly and people with mental health issues, having remained a going concern up until its recent abrupt and unexpected closure on safety grounds.

Conversations with current users quickly reveals an extensive repository of communal memory, with the café potentially the focus for the recording of oral history.

On Weds 28th July following an inspector’s report which highlighted a litany of defects indicating many years of neglect and failure to maintain by the council a campaign group named ‘Save the Rose Garden Cafe’ was formed to demand that this cafe be repaired and reopened as soon as possible and the 12 staff reinstated to their jobs serving the public of Sheffield. On 2nd November 2022 the campaign presented a petition with 11,000 signatures calling for it to be repaired and reopened. The Council began propping up the cafe on 24th October 2022 and a new series of surveys are taking place throughout December 2022 to assess the condition of the building and the potential cost of its reinstatement and refurbishment.  The Save the Rose Garden Cafe Campaign and the Friends of Graves Park are fundraising to support its repair and reopening.