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Construction begins on Pound’s Park in Sheffield City Centre

Pounds Park, named after the man responsible for creating Sheffield’s first fire brigade. The former John Lewis store is seen at bottom-left, and might even be demolished to become a green space itself. Image: Sheffield City Council

Once upon a time, the Sheffield construction company, George Longden and Son, might have been chosen to build a new park. From Victorian times, the company was the powerhouse behind many city landmarks. But it lost its way, and the name is all but forgotten.

Instead, the creation of a green space in the city centre will fall to another stalwart of Sheffield construction.

Henry Boot has been appointed to deliver Pounds Park, the landmark new public space, and work gets underway this month.

Sheffield City Council sees this as a key piece of the Heart of the City programme, and it is another project that Henry Boot has been involved with. The builder is underway with the residential development at Kangaroo Works, the Elshaw House office development and the Cambridge Street Collective – a food hall and restaurant destination.

(Left) Tony Shaw, Managing Director for Henry Boot Construction, and (Right) Cllr Mazher Iqbal, Executive Member for City Futures, Sheffield City Council. Image: Heart of the City

Pound’s Park is named after Sheffield’s first Chief Fire Officer, Superintendent John Charles Pound, and is being built on the former fire station site between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street.

Pound’s Park and two new office buildings within the Heart of the City masterplan. Image: Sheffield City Council

As we move forward, Pound’s Park probably won’t be the only new green space in the city centre.

Projects like this are seen as a critical tool in revitalising cities, regenerating poor areas, bringing nature into the city, rejuvenating neighbourhoods, creating a space for physical interaction in our increasingly digital world, and improving city sustainability.

“They are almost being viewed as like anchor stores, as a way of bringing people into a certain part of town,” says Dr Danielle Sinnett, director of the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments at the University of the West of England.

Previously, she reckons, there was some tendency for green space to be tagged onto the end of developments where land was left over. Not so much anymore. “Now it is being seen as key infrastructure in and of itself,” she says.

As well as being a green space, Pound’s Park will have a childrens’ play area, water features, and a new bus interchange. It will also provide an accessible new home for the William Mitchell frieze, which was removed from demolished Barker’s Pool House.

© 2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Buildings

Banner Cross Hall: “And the work proceeded so rapidly that its pinnacles were seen rising above the woods around it in the summer of next year.”

Banner Cross Hall. 1966. Image: Picture Sheffield

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”.

An early print of Banner Cross Hall, Ecclesall Road South, which dates from 1821. The house was in countryside outside Sheffield. Image: Sheffield Star
Banner Cross Hall: a perspective view by Jeffry Wyatt, 1817, showing the old house retained on the left, and an unbuilt conservatory on the right. Image: Landed Families

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.”

Banner Cross Hall: plan of the house as rebuilt by Jeffry Wyatt in 1817-21 (main block) and later (service wing). Image: Landed Families

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.

Banner Cross Hall. 1987. Image: Picture Sheffield

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.

This rather grainy photograph from 1919 shows Lloyd George outside the home of Henry Kenyon Stephenson, Master Cutler, where the Prime Minister had stayed overnight.

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.

A detailed sale notice from April 1921. The house failed to sell at auction. Image: British Newspaper Archive

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.”

Banner Cross Hall. 1987. Image: Picture Sheffield

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.

Aerial view of Banner Cross Hall. The house originally stood in countryside but its former lands were sold off for housing. Image: Google

© 2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Buildings Companies

Banner Cross Hall: “It is leaky and draughty and would cost millions to upgrade.”

There will be angry cries. There will be tears. People will call out to protect the trees.

Banner Cross Hall once stood in rural idyll. Then Sheffield grew and surrounded it. In the 1930s, the fate of the old mansion was precarious. It was on the market and people feared that it would be demolished, and the beautiful trees would be lost. Many already had, but for 90 years since, it has been the company headquarters of Henry Boot and some of the surrounding habitat survived.

However, faced with enormous costs to modernise it, and make it environmentally friendly, Henry Boot is reconsidering its future at the Grade II listed mansion.

If it chooses to vacate, the likelihood is that Banner Cross Hall will be converted into luxury apartments with possible development in its grounds.

If this happens, prepare for objections, just like there were almost a century ago.

© 2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Categories
Buildings People

Sugworth Hall and Boot’s Folly

Photograph by Blenheim Park Estates

When Sugworth Hall, at Bradfield Dale, was on the market last year, it was offered in the region of £1.5million. Not a bad price considering the Grade II listed country house is in beautiful Sheffield countryside, and it has a long history.

According to experts, this was once a farmhouse dating to about 1535, later listed in the will and testament of Robert Hawksworth in the 1560s. Passing down the family it eventually belonged to the Gould family and was extended in the late 19th century.

By this time, Sugworth Hall was in the possession of Charles Henry Firth, also of Riverdale House at Ranmoor, son of Thomas Firth, a steel manufacturer, whose company would eventually become Firth Brown. After he died in 1892, the house passed to his widow and eventually put up to let as a substantial family residence or shooting box.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

It was subsequently bought by Philip Henry Ashbury of Mushroom Lane, managing director of Philip Ashbury and Sons, Bowling Green Street, silver and electro-platers, who used it as a “delightful summer residence” until his death in 1909.

It was inherited by his son George W. Ashbury, a man who soon made headlines by accusing two of his servants of stealing beds, bedding and towels and was promptly sued for libel, his accusations costing him £15 in damages.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

The house was briefly occupied by Alfred Percy Hill, of the firm of J and P Hill, engineers, and later Russian Consul for Sheffield, and by the early 1920s it was owned by Charles Boot (1874-1945), son of Henry Boot, founder of the famous Sheffield construction firm, and notable for creating Pinewood Studios.

Charles Boot

It was Charles Boot who made significant alterations and extensions to the house, with a tower and battlements, probably the work of architect Emmanuel Vincent Harris, the man who designed Sheffield City Hall.

The work is said to have taken place around 1930, about the time Vincent Harris was working on Sheffield’s new civic building, but based on the architect’s workload, it seems more likely the alterations were made between 1926-1927.

Photograph by Blenheim Park Estates

Boot’s wife, the splendidly named Bertha Boot, died at Sugworth Hall after a long illness in 1926, giving rise to speculation that an isolated tower, Boot’s Folly, built in 1927, about 330 yards to the north, was constructed so that he could see the graveyard at High Bradfield where she was buried.

Another story suggests that Boot’s Folly was built to provide work for Sugworth Hall’s workmen during the Depression, but more likely it was built as an observation tower for Boot and his guests to view surrounding countryside.

Whatever the reason, Charles Boot remarried five months later, to Kate Hebb, at St Peter’s Church in London.

The materials for Boot’s Folly, also known as Strines Tower or Sugworth Tower, was reputed to have come from leftover stone when nearby Bents House was built, itself said to have utilised sandstone and gritstone from three demolished farms – Bents House Farm, Pears House Farm and Nether Holes Farm.

Considering that Bents House was built in 1828 for Thomas Makinson, it seems a little fanciful, and if it was built from any surplus stone, the likelihood is that it came from Boot’s extension at Sugworth Hall instead.

Photograph by Brian Mosley

Charles Boot bought Thornbridge Hall, near Bakewell, in 1930, declaring that this would be his main residence, and that Sugworth Hall would be maintained as a shooting box instead.

By 1934, Boot had sold Sugworth Hall to Brevet-Colonel William Tozer, of the Hallamshire Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment, the grandson of Edward Tozer, one of the founders of Steel, Peech and Tozer, steel manufacturers.

Photograph of William Tozer by Picture Sheffield

Having lived for fifteen years at Grange Cliff, Ecclesall, Tozer became Master Cutler in 1936, the ceremony highlighted by Anthony Eden, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and later Prime Minister, coming to stay at Sugworth Hall.

The Tozer’s left Sheffield for Buckinghamshire in 1939 and since then Sugworth Hall has survived quietly in Bradfield Dale.

Boot’s Folly has fared less well. The 45 feet high tower, 20 feet square, once had a furnished wooden panelled room at the top, connected by a spiral staircase, but has sadly become ruinous over time. (The staircase allegedly removed after a cow ascended the steps and became stuck).

Photograph by Brian Mosley