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Other Places

How the Norfolks and the Fitzwilliams took the people’s acres

Once upon a time Sheffield town was surrounded by fields, moorland, and pasture. Much of this land was ‘common’ or ‘waste’ land. Common land was under the control of the Lord of the Manor, with certain rights, such as pasture, held by certain nearby properties. Waste was land without value, unsuitable for farming, and often in awkward locations.

In 1773, during the reign of George III, an Act of Parliament created a law that enabled inclosure (or enclosure) of land, at the same time removing the rights of commoners’ access.

As a result, common land, moorland, and other property of the people, was distributed amongst landowners of the district.  

In the Manor of Ecclesall about 1,000 acres of common land was lost by an Act in 1779.

Three Commissioners – William Hill, of Tadcaster, Samuel Brailsford, of Rowthorne, and John Renshaw, of Bakewell – distributed the land accordingly among landowners.

The Marquis of Rockingham (Fitzwilliam) of Wentworth Woodhouse, as Lord of the Manor, benefited most, while the Earl of Surrey (as Duke of Norfolk) obtained all the tythes and two thirds of the small tythes in Ecclesall that lay on both the north and south side of the Porter Brook.  Andrew Wilkinson, Bethiah Jessop, Philip Gell, John Gell, Mary Catherine Gell and Mary Gell were entitled to the other third part of the tythes for the land lying on the south side of Porter Brook, and James Wilkinson, as Vicar of the Parish Church at Sheffield, was entitled to the remainder of the small tythes on both sides of the Brook.

The commoners were outraged, it caused significant unrest, but they were powerless to stop the loss of land.

In 1909, the old deed was rediscovered in archives at the Ecclesall Board of Guardians, and the full extent of the land division laid bare.

It showed that some of the most fashionable residential quarters of Sheffield had developed from these waste lands, that the most thriving centres of industry had sprung up on old moorland, and that what were once common lands had become villa residences paying fat ground rents.

Land that fell within the Inclosure Act included Little Sheffield Moor, Carter Knowle, Brincliffe, Bent’s Green, Whirlow, Millhouses, Greystones, Sharrow Moor, and Sharrow Head.

The streets in the vicinity of Sheffield Moor were set out by the Commissioners.  For instance, Carver Street, Rockingham Street, Bright Street, Earl Street, Alsop Lane, Jessop Street, Tudor Street, Duke Street (later Matilda Street), Cumberland Street, Hereford Street, Bishop Street, Button Lane, and Porter Lane, were all inclosure roads formed at this time out of what was then called Little Sheffield Moor.

Other new roads indicate the localities where inclosure took place, it being necessary to make new roads to give access to the owners of the new allotments – Fulwood Road, Clarkehouse Road, Manchester Turnpike Road, Whirlow Road, Ecclesall Wood Road, Dead Lane, Button Hill Road, Cherrytree Hill Road, Tapton Hill Road, Broomhill Bridle Road, Whiteley Wood Road, Greystones Road, High Storrs Road, Ranmoor Road, Dobbing Hill Road, Little Common Road, Holt House Road, Brincliffe Road and Machon Bank Road.

The discovery of the buried deed caused quite a stir in Sheffield with the naïve realisation that land had long before been taken from the people and gifted to aristocracy and the well-to-do.

In 1909, there were  a great many people complaining about unfair taxation when it was proposed to take a generous portion of their money.

The irony was not lost on the Sheffield Daily Independent:

“It would be interesting to know what those who were crying so loudly, about the people taking from their landlords, would say about what the landlords had taken from the people.

“There was a large amount of land at Bradfield which was taken from the people, chiefly by the Duke of Norfolk. It was taken from them under the pretext that it was waste land, and if it were inclosed and given to private individuals, they would cultivate it. It was still moorland, however, and if the people dared go off the roadway, and walked on to the moors, they would soon meet somebody who would inform them that they were trespassing.”

And so, Sheffield expanded, swallowing the gifted lands that became the roads and suburbs we know today. Somewhere, concealed in dusty old archives, will be the story of how these lands, taken from the people, delivered a huge fortune for the landowners.

NOTE: Thanks to Sheffield Indexers and the British Newspaper Archive for details of the Ecclesall Inclosure Act.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Livesey-Clegg House

The last remaining Victorian building on Union Street is due to be demolished. (Image: David Poole)

Union Street is not a fashionable road, its role as one of Sheffield’s important thoroughfares, and its ancient connection with Norfolk Street, long diminished.

Post-war redevelopment deprived Union Street of its character, and one of its most important buildings, the shops and offices that made up Cambridge Arcade (with its covered walkway into Pinstone Street) disappeared in the 1970s.

A walk along Union Street today shows that almost all its architecture is from the sixties onwards. All except for one narrow building, a survivor of Sheffield’s Victorian past, sandwiched between unsightly 20th century structures.

However, Livesey-Clegg House, at 44 Union Street, is expected to go the same way as its long-lost neighbours soon.

If plans to create Midcity House, three new tower blocks, up to 25-storeys high, are given the go ahead, then this old building will be demolished.

The last Victorian building to survive on Union Street was built for Thomas Henry Vernon, cork manufacturer, in 1881. His father’s business had originally existed at 2 Union Street at the junction with the old line of Pinstone Street.

Street improvements in 1875 resulted in the creation of Moorhead and comprehensive redevelopment in the area. As part of this, Vernon’s old premises were demolished, with Thomas Henry Vernon succeeding to the business and relocating to Milk Street. When his new premises were built in 1881, he moved to 44 Union Street, and employed about a dozen people.

Vernon died in 1919, the ground floor becoming a small car showroom for Midland Motors, later Moorhead Motors, and the upper floors converted into offices.

The ground floor was taken over by Hardy’s Bakery in the 1970s, and frequently changed hands afterwards, used as a shop and several food takeaways, and is now empty and boarded-up.

Livesey-Clegg House. The ground floor was occupied by Moorhead Motors in 1961. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

While most Sheffield folk were interested in what went on at street level, it is the floors above that provide the real sense of history.

The name above an adjacent door – Livesey-Clegg House – indicates that this was once home to the British Temperance League.

(Image: David Poole)

In Victorian times, high levels of alcohol consumption and drunkenness were seen by some as a danger to society’s well-being, leading to poverty, child neglect, immorality, and economic decline. As a result, temperance societies began to be formed in the 1830s to campaign against alcohol.

The British Temperance League, a predominantly northern teetotal and Christian society, was the new name in 1854 for the British Association for the Promotion of Temperance. In 1880 it moved its headquarters from Preston to Union Street in Sheffield, largely due to the influence of the Clegg family.

Successive members of the Clegg family served as chairman of the executive committee: William Johnson Clegg (1826-1895), sometime alderman of Sheffield, and his son Sir (John) Charles Clegg, best known as chairman and president of the Football Association. His brother, Sir William Edwin Clegg, sometime Mayor of Sheffield, was a vice-president.

By the 1890s its finances and prestige were in decline, but the society persevered and by 1938 was looking for new premises.

“Street widening and re-planning will shortly make it necessary for us to vacate the offices in Union Street, of which we have been tenants for more than 50 years,” said Herbert Jones, the secretary. “We have long felt the need of a permanent home for books, pictures, and other treasures of the movement.”

The ground floor was occupied by Hardy’s Bakery in the 1970s. The sign above the doorway to the right of the shop still exists. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

In 1940, the society moved into 44 Union Street and called it Livesey-Clegg House – named after Joseph William Livesey (1794-1884), a temperance campaigner, politician, and social reformer, and Sir John Charles Clegg (1850-1937), chairman and president of Sheffield Wednesday and founder of Sheffield United.

As well as the headquarters of the British Temperance League, its collection of journals, monographs, bound collections of pamphlets and non-textual items, including lantern slides, posters, banners, textiles, and crockery, were housed in Victorian bookcases in a large old-fashioned room that was used as a library.

The BTL merged with the London-based National Temperance League in 1952 to become the British National Temperance League, with the HQ in Sheffield. It remained until 1987 when the historically valuable library was transferred to the University of Central Lancashire in Preston (now known as the Livesey Library after teetotal pioneer Joseph Livesey).

The old offices and library at Livesey-Clegg House were eventually turned into student accommodation.

Alas, the building is not considered to be of architectural importance and will most likely be demolished soon.

(Image: David Poole)

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Places

Little Sheffield

Fairbanks’ Map of Little Sheffield in 1808. South Street became The Moor. The road marked Little Sheffield is now London Road. There are some familiar road names in the top half of the map. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

Once upon a time there was a small hamlet near Sheffield town that went by the name of Little Sheffield.

During the early 1800s, Sheffield’s rapidly growing population needed to expand outside the historical boundaries, and Little Sheffield disappeared.

We know where Little Sheffield was, but its boundaries blurred over time, with experts long contesting where it started and finished. The area has never been clearly defined, like those forgotten places of Port Mahon and Hallamshire.

We must go back to olden days when Sheffield was a town surrounded by fields and countryside. It gradually expanded until its southern edges skirted a gorse-clad swampy common called Sheffield Moor.

Today, we know this marshy land as The Moor with its surrounding streets.

A path was made by throwing up two embankments, between which was a deep ditch, with only a footbridge over Porter Brook.

By the 1760s, travellers had to go down Coal Pit Lane (Cambridge Street) and Button Lane (long disappeared) to Little Sheffield – a group of poor and time-worn cottages. The road to it ran across Sheffield Moor, thence up a sharp rise to Highfield. The only house you came to after passing Moorhead was Mr Kirkby’s, standing on Button Lane (opposite where the ramp to Sainsbury’s car-park on Charter Row now stands). There was one other building nearby, with a bowling green attached to Sheffield Moor. Beyond was Little Sheffield, the outlying hamlet.

By the nineteenth century, the fields around Little Sheffield had been swallowed up for the working classes, a poor and densely populated area, its houses with roofs of stone slabs, low windows, and red brick walls.

Nowadays, we can define Little Sheffield’s northern boundary as being where the Moorfoot Building stands, taking in Young Street, South Lane, St Mary’s Gate, London Road, and surrounding streets like Hermitage Street, Sheldon Street, Hill Street, John Street, and Boston Street (once called George Street), up towards its southern boundary at Highfield.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
People

The Adventures of Roger L’Estrange

The fascinating story of Roger L’Estrange stands alongside Sheffield’s claim to Robin Hood, and if it is true, makes him one of our most remarkable sons.

This account begins in 1891 when Dominick Daly, barrister-at-law, and former editor of the Birmingham Gazette, was in Mexico City on private business, and was asked by his friend, Colonel Hoffman, of New York, to see if he could find documents that he could use in a forthcoming book about Quetzalcoatl, the Mexican Messiah – a strange legendary white man with a long beard, reputed to have imparted the doctrine and practices of Christianity on the Aztecs, hundreds of years before the Spanish Conquest.

Daly visited the city’s library and was allowed access into its archives.

“One day, I happened to pick out from amongst the contents of an old cedar-wood chest, a strongly, though roughly bound book of quart size, secured by a broad strap of leather.”

Written in English and Spanish, it appeared to be a diary written by Roger L’Estrange, ‘Sometime Captain of the Florida Army of His Excellency the Marquis Hernando De Soto, Governor of Cuba, and Captain-General of all Florida,’ who accompanied De Soto in the invasion of Florida in 1541, when the Mississippi River was discovered.

De Soto (1500-1542), the Spanish explorer and conquistador, was famous for leading the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States, through Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, where he died on the banks of its great river.

Daly spent the next few years translating the document and it was published as Adventures of Roger L’Estrange by Swan Sonnenschein & Co in 1896.

The book came with an impressive preface by Henry Morton Stanley, journalist, explorer, author, and politician, famed for his exploration of central Africa and his search for missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, whom he later claimed to have greeted with the now-famous line, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

“What I most admire in Roger is that he is so fresh, naïve, and candid, and can tell a straight story. Even Daniel Defoe, of whose style he reminds me, could not have told it better.”

The reference to Defoe was not lost on a reviewer in The Bystander magazine:

“I read with immense pleasure the book by Mr Dominick Daly. The book contained an extremely interesting account of De Soto’s ill-starred expedition, together with an elaborate route map; but I confess I am still in doubt as to whether it was a work of fiction or fact. I accepted it as the latter; but many critics treated the book as pure romance.”

The Sheffield connection appeared in the opening chapter of the translation:

“My father, Roger L’Estrange, was son of a yeoman in a Yorkshire holding in fee by ancient descent a small but sufficient estate in land not far from the town of Sheffield. My mother was daughter of Sir Geoffrey Stanley, of the ancient and noble family of Stanleys of Hooton Manor, Cheshire.

“My early years were partly passed in my father’s house, and partly in that of a bachelor brother of his, Uncle Richard, who was a founder and worker of metals, at Sheffield, where he made knives, scissors, and cutting implements of all kinds, as well as many other useful things. Now Uncle Richard was much attached to me from my earliest youth, and desired greatly that I should come into his trade at Sheffield and keep it as my own business after he passed away. Therein I was nothing loth, nor was my father unwilling; but my good mother and the Stanleys were cold to a proposal which they said would turn me from a gentleman into a mere mechanic.

“So, though much was spoken about it, nothing ever came of Richard’s plan; though all the same I spent a good deal of time with him, and by his help gained some knowledge of the many curious arts of his business, and also of those appertaining to other trades carried on by artificers engaged in making metal implements and utensils, pottery, bricks, grindstones, charcoal, lime, and other things. For Sheffield is a town where there are five rapidly flowing streams, which are made use of to turn a multitude of wheels for all kinds of purposes. Besides which, great quantities of metallic ores, stones, and clays of various sorts, and wood, are found very near the town, or not far off. What I learned with my Uncle Richard in Sheffield was afterwards very useful to me.

“I was nigh seventeen years when my father died somewhat suddenly, and then my brother Hugh succeeded as heir to the paternal estate. Thereupon my Grandfather, Sir Geoffrey, sent to my mother to say that she should come back to Hooton to live again with him, and should bring me with her, and he would take charge of my education and future advancement.”

Roger L’Estrange, along with his cousin Stanley, eventually left Hooton, travelling to Bilbao, and via Madrid, ended up in the Florida expedition with De Soto, going through thrilling adventures and continuous fights between the Indians and the Spanish invaders. That was in 1538.

L’Estrange never returned to Sheffield but married an Indian woman and established a ‘Little Sheffield’ on the banks of the Mississippi River. He began making spades and ploughs made of wood, then, having built a furnace for melting copper, made hammer heads, nails, household utensils, and other useful articles. He built a large trade by barter with neighbouring Indian tribes.

Then the L’Estrange’s found iron and tin, and his implements and weapons greatly improved, the first steel saw fashioned from an old cuirass (piece of armour).

Roger eventually built a corn-grinding mill alongside his works, but they didn’t last long. The Mississippi River having little sympathy with foreign invaders, flooded the land, and ‘Little Sheffield’ was destroyed.

The story didn’t end here.

L’Estrange, looking into his affairs, found that he possessed a fortune in jewels, settled in Mexico with his Indian wife and five children, where Antonio de Mendoza, the Spanish Viceroy, bestowed on him a large estate, and where, as alleged, he wrote his diary, subsequently lost, rediscovered, and then forgotten about.

In the 1930s, Mr Cecil L’Estrange Ewen, author of “Witch Hunting and Witch Trials’ and “A History of British Surnames,’ published a pamphlet designed to show that there never was a Roger L’Estrange, and that Sheffield’s claim “to have produced the first Englishman to navigate the Mississippi must be relegated to the limbo of the chimerical.”

The Telegraph and Independent responded:

“For our part, we intend to go on believing it – as in the case of Robin Hood. Learned persons assure us that Robin was a myth. Not to us, he wasn’t; Nor are we going to consign Roger to that category. Whether Mr. Ewen is right or wrong in the contentions he puts forward in his pamphlet we shall make no attempt to decide. But we don’t like parting with Roger and the ‘Little Sheffield’ story. If it wasn’t true, it ought to have been. It was just the sort of thing a Sheffield man would do.”

But it appears that Sheffield did forget Roger L’Estrange – ignored until now.

For my part, I’m afraid that “Adventures of Roger L’Estrange” was probably an elaborate work of fiction, a story brilliantly orchestrated by Dominick Daly.

With the benefit of modern technology, it appears there never was a Roger L’Estrange from Sheffield, neither does there seem to have been a Sir Geoffrey Stanley at Hooton Manor (although the family and house did exist until 1788). Colonel Henry C. Hoffman died in 1883, eight years before supposedly asking Dominick Daly to search the library archives. And, in 1891, the year of the diary’s discovery, Daly appears to have spent most of the year in the English law-courts, and not in Mexico!

But, there again, you never know, and it makes a compelling story.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings Other

“Suddenly, there was a deafening roar, a crash of breaking glass and – silence!”

On Tuesday April 4, 1923, about nine o’clock in the evening, London Road, at the corner with Sharrow Lane, was quiet, only a handful of people going about their business.

Suddenly, there was a deafening roar, a crash of breaking glass and – silence!

The loud explosion caused terror in the neighbourhood and within minutes hundreds of people swarmed out of their little houses and surrounded Highfield House at the bottom of Sharrow Lane.

Police officers from Highfield police station, about 100 yards away, rushed to the scene but had difficulty reaching the house through the crowd.

Highfield House was the home of Dr George Scott Davidson and he emerged at the front of the house to speak with the police.

Dr Davidson and his wife had just finished dinner and were traumatised by a loud explosion at the back of the property.

The police tried to move the crowds away from Highfield House and used flashlights to search the garden at the rear.

The house was unscathed, but remains of garden trellis work was strewed across the ground and glass in small garden frames had been destroyed.

“We rushed into the grounds, but could see very little, of course, except the frames were badly smashed,” said Dr Davidson. “I have not the slightest doubt the damage was caused by a bomb, but I cannot imagine any reason for the affair.”

And so, Sheffield newspapers filled their pages with the story of ‘another bomb,’ because a week earlier a similar explosion had occurred 200 yards away, in the back yard of a shop at the junction of Randall Street and London Road.

After the Highfield House episode, people told stories of the event.

“It was a noise like rumbling thunder,” said a woman who lived in a house some considerable distance away, “and the windows shook in their frames.”

A boy named Alec Winston, who was playing cards with a friend at 38 Sharrow lane, the nearest house, was thrown to the floor.

“It was a terrific bang, and I thought someone was showering stones onto the windows of the house.”

Closer inspection revealed that broken glass covered the window-sills and steps to No. 38, pieces of glass had shot over the 10ft walls from Highfield House into yards of several adjoining properties. Worse for others, soot had fallen down chimneys filling rooms and covering furniture.

The following day police began investigating the bomb explosion and worked on the theory that it had been thrown from one of the courts at the rear of Grosvenor Square or Sharrow Street, behind Highfield House, but no suspicious characters had been seen.

The neighbourhood was a small, congested area, a far cry from the days when Highfield stood in large grounds in the countryside. It was now isolated by shops on London Road, a large garden in Sharrow Lane, and the houses in Sharrow Street and Grosvenor Square behind.

It was suggested the bomb had been thrown towards the house but had hit the garden trellis causing it to fall short of its target.

However, further examination by police officers revealed a more menacing scenario.

A portion of time fuse was found in the garden, and furthermore the force of the blast had been downwards, suggesting a certain deliberateness that defeated the suggestion it had been thrown by some irresponsible person.
It seemed the device had been made up from gunpowder or dynamite, possibly a mining or quarrying charge, because no fragments of a bomb were found.

The perpetrator must have entered the grounds to lay and ignite the fuse.

Police made numerous enquiries but could not find a reason for the bomb.

There were suggestions it might have been placed by those with Irish connections and suspicion was directed at the out-of-control gangs from around West Bar and Park.

The leaders of the Communist Party in Sheffield denied any knowledge.

“It is not in our line, and we would not do things this way.”

In the end, police believed the two separate explosions, undoubtedly linked, might have been carried out by a ‘desperate man,’ who might have got possession of an explosive.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph tried to downplay the incident, possibly at the request of puzzled police.

“It seems scarcely conceivable that anybody who deliberately was trying to cause serious damage would place whatever explosive in a cucumber frame many yards from the house, while such a receptacle would certainly add to the effect of any efforts merely to produce a ‘big bang.’

“On the whole there seems no cause for anyone to get very nervous, though the sooner the practical joker, or escaped lunatic, who is responsible, is brought to book the better.”

The mystery was never solved but the bomb scares caused many people to look uneasily at their First World War souvenirs – nose caps, cartridges, ‘dud’ bombs and in many cases live bombs which for the previous five years had occupied an honoured place on the mantelshelf or sideboard. Dozens of people paid hurried visits to the Central Police Station in Water Lane to hand them in.

NOTES: Built about 1788 for John Henfrey, Brightfield House was renamed Highfield House by Dr Charles Nelson Gwynne in 1880. His surgery was later taken over by Dr George Scott Davidson. It remained a doctor’s surgery until the 1970s and later became the Charnwood Hotel. The house has since been converted into apartments known as Wisteria Gardens. In the 1920s, Randall Street ran from Bramall Lane to London Road but only exists today between Bramall Lane and Hill Street.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Brightfield House: a ‘doomed’ house that survived

Brightfield House and to its right, the soon-to-be-demolished Highfield Club in 1885. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

In 1885, a large and commodious house situated at the bottom of Sharrow Lane was threatened with demolition. The Sheffield Independent printed an article, ‘Doomed Houses at Highfield’, highlighting the plight of Brightfield House, along with an adjacent property fronting London Road, once a family residence, and in its declining years used as the Highfield Club.

“Brightfield House is one of the few remaining examples of comfortable homes of well-to-do manufacturers at Highfield, in the time when it was quite a journey to go ‘over Sheffield Moor’ to that region ‘then a bit of country.’ Where now are long rows of brick houses stood the mansions of the Brights, the Woodheads, the Henfreys, the Lees, and others.

“A long, square house, standing in its own grounds, reminds one of the olden times. It is a pleasant break in the landscape; but appearances point to its early demolition, the builder approaching perilously near with his army of mortar men ‘to make the old order give way to the new.’”

Astonishingly, it wasn’t demolished, the Highfield Club was, and Brightfield House still stands, a monument to Sheffield’s forgotten past. Today, it goes by the name of Wisteria Gardens, divided into apartments, but to many it is known as the former Charnwood Hotel.

Brightfield House, now called Wisteria Gardens. (Image: Rightmove)

As will be explained, Brightfield House lost its name in the 1870s, renamed Highfield House, until losing its identity altogether.

It was erected about 1788 for John Henfrey, a prominent scissor-smith, whose family had been involved in the scissor trade for generations. He became a Freeman in 1753 and was the fourth generation to be apprenticed by The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire. He went on to train his brother and his sons in the Brightside area, and was listed in the 1787 trade directory as having premises in Norfolk Street.

“He built for himself a country mansion at Highfield and being asked by his friends if he was not afraid of going over Sheffield Moor after dark, he replied that he took good care always to get home by daylight.”

Brightfield House, the Sharrow Lane home of Dr Gwynne in 1885. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)

At that time Sheffield Moor was ‘a shocking road for coaches’. There was quite a steep slope from the Moor head to the Horse Dyke (at the bottom of what eventually became Ecclesall Road), Sharrow Lane being the only road for wheels. Coaches coming from the south were often met by two extra horses at Heeley, to pull them up Goose Green to Highfield, and then up Sheffield Moor. It was a crooked road, with houses few and far between – there were practically none past Little Sheffield, and the surrounding area was rural.

It was no coincidence that John Henfrey built his house opposite Mount Pleasant, built for Francis Hurt Sitwell a few years earlier. This was on the Buxton Road which ran via Sheffield Moor, to Highfields, up Sharrow Lane, along Psalter Lane and up Ringinglow Road.

When it was built in the 1780s, Wisteria Gardens was in the countryside. (Image: Cocker & Carr)

Brightfield House was named after the field it was built in, the suggestion being that Henfrey wanted to call it Highfield House, but a house of that name belonging to the Wilsons of Sharrow already existed at the top of the hill looking towards what became Sheaf House (yes, the pub on Bramall lane) with a large lawn bordered with fine sycamores and horse chestnut trees.

John Henfrey’s family was involved in a scandal when in 1791-92, one of his daughters eloped to Gretna Green with Thomas Leader, ‘one of those dashing young men of the time,’ a young Colonel in the Sheffield Volunteers.

John Henfrey (Image: The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire)

After Henfrey’s death, Brightfield House became home to William Wilson, a member of the same family at Highfield House.

Following Wilson’s death, the mansion was offered at auction but failed to sell for several years, the empty house left in the care of a servant, and subjected to burglaries.

“Comprising drawing room, dining room, and breakfast room, lofty and well-lighted. Seven bedrooms, with closets and dressing rooms. Principal and secondary staircases, capital kitchens, dry cellars, bathroom, water-closet, and brewhouse.

“The views from the house, notwithstanding its proximity to the Town, are extensive and diversified, comprising, in front, the Park, studded with mansions and villas, and the line of the hill stretching towards Norton, and behind, ranging over Sharrowhead, the Botanical Gardens, Broomhill, Crookes, etc.”

The big houses of Highfield. The original Highfield House was demolished. (Image: National Library of Scotland)

It appears that Brightfield House was still in the possession of the Wilson family until the 1870s until bought by John Parkinson Mawhood, of Farm Bank, in 1874. He was head of Stevenson, Mawhood and Company, tool manufacturers, of Pond Street and later the Palm Tree Works at Attercliffe.

His tenure was short-lived and following the failure of the company in 1879 it was bought by Dr Charles Nelson Gwynne, an Irishman, who came to Sheffield in 1875 when he purchased the practice of Dr Webb at Highfield, and built up connections in Sharrow, Highfield, and Heeley.

Gwynne became Honorary Medical Officer at the Children’s Hospital in 1879, after completing a special study of diseases in children.

In 1879, the nearby Highfield House estate was available for development, suggesting the mansion had been demolished, allowing Gwynne to rename Brightfield as Highfield House.

Gwynne died in 1906, and Highfield House became home to Dr George Scott Davidson, who ran a practice here with his son, Dr John Davidson, of Repton Lodge, in Sharrow.

Later this week we’ll look at a remarkable event that took place at Highfield House during Dr Davidson’s tenure.

Davidson practised for over thirty years, his son later moving into Highfield and taking over the practice, the house remaining a surgery until the 1970s.

It became the 22-bed Charnwood Hotel in 1985, opened by Chris and Valerie King, and operated almost 20 years as a wedding venue, along with two top restaurants, Brasserie Leo and the smaller more upmarket Henfrey’s.

Charnwood Hotel in 2004. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

The Charnwood Hotel closed in December 2004 after being unsuccessfully marketed for £1.3 million. It was turned into apartments in 2005 and renamed Wisteria Gardens.

The house and adjoining former coach house are Grade II listed by Historic England.

Wisteria Gardens. A survivor of Georgian England. (Image: Redbrik)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

A brighter future for Tapton Court

Tapton Court. (Image: BNP Paribas Real Estate)

Some time ago, I wrote about Tapton Court, off Shore Lane, a big house that had fallen on hard times.

Tapton Court was built in 1868 as a residential villa before being converted into nurses’ accommodation in the 1930s. It was later taken over by the University of Sheffield and used as a hall of residence for student nurses.

Speaking at the opening of Tapton Court as a nurses’ home in 1934, J.G. Graves spoke of a Royal connection, seemingly forgotten today.

“Tapton Court is a historic house. It once belonged to Henry Steel, who was a friend of King Edward, and King Edward visited and probably stayed here.”

Those days of grandeur are long gone.

The approach to the Main House. (Image: PJ Livesey)

Today, Tapton Court lies empty, damaged by fire in 2010, and although the University of Sheffield carried out repairs, it is on Sheffield Council’s Buildings at Risk register and large sections of the site have been boarded up to prevent damage and vandalism.

Main House tower and detail above southern entrance. (Image: PJ Livesey)
Main House feature window above the south entrance. (Image: PJ Livesey)

Now plans have been lodged for the redevelopment of the grade II-listed building to create new housing.

PJ Livesey Holdings, supported by Pegasus Group, has submitted full planning and listed building applications to Sheffield City Council for the change of use and conversion of the buildings for residential use.

The application site includes the main house and adjoining terrace wall and conservatory , as well as the Ranmoor House Annexe, former stables block and lodge building.

Tapton Court would be converted to create 14 apartments, with a further 18 in the Ranmoor House Annexe. The Stables and Lodge would be converted into individual residential units. Four new houses would also be built to the north-west of the main building.

See also Tapton Court: a ‘brass castle’ above the fog of the town, and Tapton Court: When the nurses moved in

Photograph of Tapton Court taken from the 1915 sales particulars. The house was built in 1868 for John Henry Andrew, a steel manufacturer. (Image: Picture Sheffield)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings

Another old building falls victim

Admire this old building while you can… because its days are numbered.

Down it will come, to be replaced with a 27-storey residential development that will provide accommodation for more than 500 students.

Niveda Realty has been granted planning permission for the Calico Sheffield development on the site bounded by Hollis Croft and Broad Lane in the city’s St Vincent’s Quarter.

It will mean demolition for this 90-year-old building, originally constructed for the Hallamshire Tyre and Motor Company in 1930, and recently occupied by Sytner Sheffield.

The smell of oil, grease and petrol is a vague memory for the art-deco building, remarkable for the clever configuration of ground-floor windows that reduce in height with Broad Lane’s incline.  

A familiar site for over 90 years (Image: David Poole)

This area was once considered a slum, with an outbreak of cholera in 1832 blamed on poor sanitation. This caused an exodus of the better-off and the area became the preserve of the working-class poor, with a large influx of Irish immigrants seeking work in the growing cutlery trade in the years following the potato famine.

The site eventually became the Royal Oak public house, fronting Hollis Croft, with access to Court 2, Broad Lane, and a blacksmith. By 1928, they had been replaced with a large building for the Dunlop Rubber Company and shortly afterwards Nos. 2-4 Broad Lane were built alongside for the Hallamshire Tyre and Motor Company, tyre and tube repairers, petrol and oil dealers, motor-car, and electrical engineers.

It was owned and operated by Charles M. Walker, of Whirlowdale Road, and Maurice F. Parkes, of Hoober Road, who turned it into a limited company in 1932.

Hallamshire Tyre & Motor Co in 1939 (Image: Picture Sheffield)

The firm became the Hallamshire Motor Company, specialists in Standard, Triumph, Ford, and Vauxhall cars. It subsequently became an Austin-Rover dealer on a new site, on the opposite side of Hollis Croft, until the franchise was transferred to Kennings who built a showroom next door.

The Hallamshire Motor Company became the Sheffield dealer for BMW, modernising the old workshops to sell used cars, and in 1995 was acquired by Nottingham-based Sytner Group to become Sytner Sheffield.

Sytner transferred to purpose-built premises at Brightside Way in 2017 leaving the old site vacant for development.

Awaiting demolition. 2-4 Broad Lane. (Image: David Poole)

Had the building been anywhere else, it might have been suitable for use as an exhibition or art-space (reminiscent of the Kenning’s Building on Paternoster Row), but the area’s multiplying student accommodation meant the outcome was predictable.  

The new development will replace the old garage. (Image: den architecture)

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

An exciting future for Fargate and High Street

Looking up Fargate. An artist impression of the future. 

Sheffield is one of 15 towns and cities to receive all the money they had bid for, in the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.

Sheffield will receive £15.8m in recognition of the ‘forward-thinking and innovative’ proposals to help progress plans to boost its reputation as an ‘Outdoor City’ with high quality public spaces for the community.

The historic streets of Fargate and High Street will become a high quality place to live, work, and socialise, in plans drawn up by Sheffield City Council and the University of Sheffield.

A radical programme of improvements and modern digital infrastructure will complement well-designed residential and workspace conversions, making the most of unused floorspace. Particular blocks will be redeveloped to increase density by adding height while opening up new green spaces and views.

This transformation will play a major role in completing plans for a ‘Steel Route’ through the city centre, turning a declining shopping area into a mixed-use link between the two distinct regeneration projects already underway in Heart of the City at one end and Castlegate at the other.

The funding has been awarded as part of the Government’s flagship £831 million Future High Streets Fund and will help areas to recover from the pandemic while also driving long term growth.

A ghost story

Every Christmas Eve, as the clock strikes midnight, a young boy materialises at the edge of the dark Lyceum Theatre stage. Ben, a lad of teenage years, glances into the auditorium to see if there is anybody he recognises. He runs barefoot into the centre of the stage, faces the audience, and takes a bow, the same as last year, and the year before that, and the same as he has done every year since 1893.

Ben is a good looking lad, with bright blue eyes, a mop of mousey hair, and the clothes of a horseman. He squints into the darkness and sees the shadows.

“Is that you Ben?” a woman’s voice calls from the circle.

He cups his eyes with his grubby right hand and looks upwards. His eyes adjust and he makes out his lady, standing in the same place as she did last Christmas Eve.

As always, the auditorium is soothed by pale light radiating from the old gas lamps.

And now, Ben can see her clearly.

The lady with beautiful hair, dazzling as ever, wearing the same long grey dress, and a single red rose pinned to her breast. She smiles and turns away, climbs a few steps, and then walks along a row of empty seats towards the other side.

“Aye, it’s me Estelle,” he replies. “Same as always.”

The lady stops at the end of the row and smiles.

“Merry Christmas Ben.”

“And to you Estelle, but tell me, what news?”

“Patience, my dear boy. We shall speak, but first I’d like to hear you sing.”

“I’m a horseman my lady, not meant to grace this fine stage.”

Ben looks around the auditorium and sees the others for the first time.

About a dozen people sit scattered across the stalls in various attire from different ages.

He grins and shows them his missing front tooth, lost when his favourite horse kicked him in the face.

“What news, ladies and gentlemen?”

“Sing Ben,” shouts an old lady. She raises her umbrella in greeting. “I like to hear you sing.”

“That’s reyt lad,” cries a flat-capped fellow a few rows behind. “A Christmas treat for us.”

“Who is this boy?” shouts a buxom woman at the back.

Ben stares at her, unaccustomed to her presence.

“I’m Ben Harker missus, a humble horse-boy, but I’ve never seen you here before.”

“I’m Mrs Edith Langford, and it’s been an awful week.”

“What news missus?”

The curvy woman fumbles in a handbag and finds a scrap of yellowing paper. She holds it up for all to see.

“I need to use this before it’s too late.”

There is a gasp from a whiskered fellow nearby.

“What do you have there missus?”

“My ticket. Aladdin. Tonight.”

“And you come alone missus?”

“My Albert is busy. He’s drinking with his pals at Marple’s. Same time every year… same as we both do… but this year…”

“But what, dear lady?” asks Estelle who floats gracefully from one side of the circle to the other.

“There were bombs,” says Edith Langford, “Lots of ‘em. They rained down on us. The cheek of it, just before Christmas as well! We all went down the cellar to drink, and then, as if by magic, it went quiet and the bombs went away… and now I want to see the pantomime”

There is a long silence.

“Would you like to hear me sing, missus?”

“Aye lad.”

And the same as it does every Christmas Eve, a lonesome spotlight picks out Ben on the stage.

“I’m a young boy, and have just come over,
Over from the country where they do things big,
And amongst the girls I’ve got a lover,
And since I’ve got a lover, why I don’t care a fig.

“The girl I love is up in the gallery,
The girl I love is looking now at me,
There she is, can’t you see, waving her handkerchief,
As merry as a robin that sings on a tree.”

Ben gives heart and soul and the small gathering sings along.

“The girl I love is up in the gallery,
The girl I love is looking now at me,
There she is, can’t you see, waving her handkerchief,
As merry as a robin that sings on a tree.”

The song ends to enthusiastic claps and cheers that echo around the theatre.

“Lovely, Ben.”

“A fine voice, Ben.”

“Well done lad.”

The same voices. The same cries of encouragement every year.

Ben closes his eyes, captivated by his audience, and ticks off each customary plaudit.

“I love that song, Ben.”

“Sing it again, Ben.”

“A fine young lad.”

“Bravo, my boy. Bravo.”

Alas, the voices fade until only whispers of the dead can be heard. Quieter and quieter they get, until a stony silence remains.

Ben opens his eyes, and the auditorium is black except for the wonderful glow around Estelle.

She unpins the red rose and throws it to him. He holds out his hands to catch it, but once again the rose that never reaches him drops into the abyss.

And then, Estelle has also gone.

Ben is all alone, and with a teary eye he walks into the shadows from where he came, but not before he turns to the empty balcony and in his soft voice repeats the same words as last Christmas morning.

“Farewell Estelle. Merry Christmas. I’ll see you next year… what news?”

And, once again, he too disappears… until next Christmas Eve.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.