According to Historic England, which gave Wharncliffe House a Grade II listing in 1995, this is a town house built for the Earl of Wharncliffe about 1885.
However, in this post we’re going to challenge these facts, although the Bank Street building does have a definite link to the Wharncliffe family.
Bank Street wasn’t created until 1792, and was intended to be called Shore Street, named after John Shore, a banker, and this was the name used on leases granted when he cut up his land for building purposes.
In 1793, we find reference to a “new” street in Sheffield called Bank Street, indicating that Shore had just built the town’s first bank here.
Wharncliffe House, or more correctly Wharncliffe Chambers, was described as a new building on Bank Street in 1874, probably built for John Henry Wood (1830-1914), a mining engineer and landowner, who had offices here, the building later forming part of his estate.
The original structure was of traditional brickwork, three-storeys and described as Italianate. (It had the misfortune of having an insensitive fourth storey added in 1980).
The central doorcase was decorated with masks, brackets and garlands, while bearded heads formed two keystones of two windows either side and on the left return, all below a deep bracketed cornice. Wrought iron railings were added to the little balconies over the doorway.
John Henry Wood was born at Burton-on-Trent and came to Sheffield in his youth. With the object of learning mining engineering, he became a pupil of John Jeffcock, and later went into business with Vincent Charles Stuart Wortley Corbett, a relative of the Earl of Wharncliffe.
For forty-six years, Wood was mineral agent and waterworks engineer to the Wortley family, retiring in 1907, and having the honour of serving under three heads at Wortley Hall, including the 1st and 2nd Earls of Wharncliffe, and was responsible for building the reservoir at Wortley.
He died in 1914, the 2nd Earl of Wharncliffe offering condolences to his son, Reginald Barritt Wood.
“Your father did the most valuable work for my family estate, and besides the regret I feel for his death, I have a very strong sense of gratitude for all he did.”
After John Henry Wood’s death, Wharncliffe Chambers, “the finest suite of offices in the city,” was put up for sale, advertisements describing a basement, lavatories, W.C.’s and cellars, as well as a suite of offices that were let, “in the best professional part of Sheffield, and always occupied by high-class tenants.”
Wharncliffe Chambers sold for £6,200, falling into different owners, but always retaining its use as offices for architects, solicitors and professionals.
In 1921, it was renamed Wharncliffe House, creating confusion amongst historians, and unsurprisingly linking it to the Earl of Wharncliffe’s London house of the same name on Curzon Street, Mayfair, sold to Lord Crewe in 1899 and renamed Crewe House.
This century, Wharncliffe House was acquired by the Mandale group, which restored the building, painting it all-white, and turning the offices into apartments in 2017.
The ground floor became Foundry Coffee Roasters, a coffee house, later taken over by Cassinelli’s, an Italian-inspired eatery.
And so, did the Earl of Wharncliffe build Wharncliffe House, and did he use it as a townhouse?
Based on this evidence, it was likely called Wharncliffe Chambers as a compliment to the Wharncliffe estate, to which John Henry Wood had very close connections.