There was once an old mansion called Bannerfield that stood on a hill. It belonged to a branch of the Bright family, from superior yeomanry, who replaced it about 1616 and referred to it as Banner Cross.
The Bright family became extinct on the death of John Bright of Chesterfield and Banner Cross in 1748.
In 1758, his granddaughter and heiress, Mary Dalton, conveyed the estate to her husband, Lord John Murray, of the well-known Scottish house of Athol. He was Colonel of 42nd or Highland Regiment of Foot (the celebrated ‘Black Watch’) and spent much of his time here.
Lady John Murray died in 1765. Her only daughter married William Foxlowe, a Lieutenant-General, who obtained the Royal licence to use the Murray name. He purchased the Athol interest in the hall and retired here with the intention “of spending within its tranquil shades the evening of an active and honourable life.”
Banner Cross was not in the best condition, unoccupied for some years, and was later described in a poem by Mrs Hofland (Barbara Wreaks, of Sheffield): –
“A gloomy mansion, where in empty state
And cob’web’d ruin hangs a goodly list
Of pictur’d lords, and many a beauteous dame
Of Athol’s princely race; for time has been
They grac’d these gloomy walls and e’en of late
Hath beauty’s queen here shown her peerless power,
And given her mandate from a Murray’s eye,
Bereft of these the mouldering mansion wears
In every view the signal of decay;
Slow whispering wind creeps through the chilling roof
The tatter’d hangings shake with every breeze;
Through the long passages, and cold dark hall,
(So fame reports) the flimsy spirits glide
In robes of white, or sweep the narrow stairs
In all the shapes of fear-form’d misery.”
Like most shut-up properties, it had fallen into decay, the grounds choked with weeds, the drives, and pathways grass-grown, the ornamental shrubs ragged and broken from the weight of uncleared snow in wintertime. Gates yawned on their rusty hinges, while rotting woodwork and empty window frames marred the handsome façade of the building itself.
According to Rev. William Bagshawe, who spent a night here in 1818, “A side of the house gave way. I was in much danger”.
General Murray had already decided to rebuild Banner Cross and in 1817 had appointed Jeffry Wyatt, the distinguished architect of parts of Windsor Castle and the north wing of Chatsworth House. Within three months plans had been chosen and work commenced. The plan was for a Tudor Gothic house composed around a central octagonal porch-tower, with reception rooms along the south front, overlooking views over the grounds.
“And the work proceeded so rapidly under the eye of its master,” says historian Joseph Hunter, “that its pinnacles were seen rising above the woods around it in the summer of next year.”
The work, supervised by William Dent, was well underway when General Murray died in 1818. Ownership passed to Rev. William Bagshawe, a younger son of Colonel Samuel Bagshawe of Ford Hall, Chapel-en-le-Frith, and his wife, Anne, who was the general’s sister. The main block was finished by 1821, and the intention had been to incorporate the old house as a service wing. However, the decrepit building was demolished and replaced by 1823 when the family moved in. A plan for a Gothic Conservatory was dropped, to offset the cost of replacing the old house.
Strangely enough, the estate went again with another daughter, Mary, and to her husband, Henry Marwood Greaves, of Hesley Hall, who died at Banner Cross in 1859. His son, William Henry Greaves-Bagshawe assumed the name of Bagshawe in addition to that of Greaves in 1853 and chose to let the property.
The Bagshawe’s never lived at Banner Cross again, although it passed to Henry’s daughter, Frances Alice Devereux, who married Edward Carter (later Bagshawe).
Notable tenants at Banner Cross Hall were Samuel Butcher (of W and S Butcher, Philadelphia Works), Douglas Vickers, also George Wilson, chairman and managing director of Charles Cammell and Co.
Colonel Henry Kenyon Stephenson, (later Sir Henry), also resided here. He was chairman and managing director of Stephenson, Blake & Co Ltd, later becoming chairman of the Sheffield Gas Company. He became treasurer of the University College of Sheffield, and later the first treasurer of its successor, the University of Sheffield. It was at Banner Cross Hall that Stephenson entertained Prime Minister, Lloyd George, in 1919.
When Colonel Stephenson moved to Hassop Hall in 1921, the Bagshawes put the house and estate on the market. It failed to sell and three years later was tenanted by David Flather, of the firm of W.T. Flather, Standard Steel Works, Tinsley, who moved from Whiston Grange. During his tenure, another Prime Minister visited Banner Cross Hall, Stanley Baldwin in 1928. Flather remained until 1931 when he left for Hooton Levitt Hall, near Maltby.
Land immediately adjacent from Ecclesall Road South to Archer Lane was sold for development, and the property once again put on the market.
“The mansion is delightfully situated with a southern aspect, overlooking a dell with woodland and parkland. Included in the sale are the parks and meadows, with ornamental water, cricket ground, and pleasant walks. The total area is over seventy-eight acres.”
In 1932, the house and just over an acre of land was bought by Charles Boot to replace offices for Henry Boot and Son at Moore Street.
“Certain structural alterations to adapt it for office purposes have been started and would be completed within a month,” said Charles Boot. “The front of the Hall will be somewhat altered, but it is not my intention to do anything to destroy the amenities of the district.”
As might have been expected, the interiors were much altered. The Dining Room became the Board Room and was decorated with 17th century carved wood from demolished Hayes Place (Kent) and a fireplace and panelling from RMS Mauretania, scrapped in 1935.
Most of the grounds were lost to development, and the history of Banner Cross Hall and the names of the distinguished families who occupied it are maintained in the naming of roads in the vicinity, including Tullibardine, Murray, Glenalmond, Gisborne, Blair Athol, and Ford roads.
© 2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved