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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
Sculpture Streets

King Edward VII Memorial

Photograph © 2020 David Poole

Despite the mixed fortunes of Fitzalan Square, one structure has stood proudly for well over a hundred years. The King Edward VII Memorial in the centre of the square was erected in October 1913, Sheffield’s commemoration of the King who had died three years before. The bronze statue has seen out two World Wars, surviving the destruction of the immediate area during the Blitz.

It might seem hard to believe now, but Edward was a popular King with Sheffield people. His mother, Queen Victoria, had been a relative stranger to the city, but as the Prince of Wales, he had opened Firth Park in 1875, and attended the opening of an industrial exhibition by the Cutlers’ Company in 1885. There were also stories of Edward’s incognito visits, including those to friends in the suburbs and a town centre hostelry.

He visited again in 1905, this time as Monarch, to open the University of Sheffield and to unveil the Boer Monument to the York and Lancaster Regiment outside Sheffield Parish Church (now the Cathedral).

After his death in 1910, it seemed appropriate that Sheffield should honour him with a statue. As always,  the proposal sparked debate amongst its people.

Photograph by The British Newspaper Archive

Sheffield Corporation made it known it intended to add an equestrian statue and fountains at both end of Fitzalan Square, already upgraded in 1909. However, opinion was divided because of the poor reputation the square had long held.

A grander scheme had also been proposed for a new King Edward Square nearby, on the site of the Fitzalan Market (where the easyHotel stands today). This scheme would have cost excess of £100,000 and after much deliberation was abandoned.

Any memorial to King Edward had to be funded through voluntary public subscription, and so Fitzalan Square was deemed more suitable as the cheaper option.

Sheffield Corporation had already been solicited by artists keen to work on the memorial, including Benjamin Creswick, Albert Bruce-Joy, Frederick Pomeroy, and Adrian Jones.

In March 1911, the city architect, Mr Edwards, invited artists to submit designs for both an equestrian statue and a standing figure. As well as those proposals already received, there were others from Alfred Drury, Francis Derwent Wood, William Goscombe John, Henry Alfred Pegram, Paul Raphael Montford, Thomas Brock and Charles John Allen.

It became known that King George preferred non-equestrian statues of his late father, and Sheffield respected those wishes with its choice.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

The winning design was by Alfred Drury (1856-1944), a sculptor with a fine reputation in London. He quoted between £1600 and £2000 for the design, and £2000 as his fee, although he eventually received 2000 guineas.

A photograph of the design was published in December 1911, and the following month Fitzalan Square was officially announced as the chosen site.

Fundraising was slow, and the project might have faltered, had it not been for a £5,000 donation from Samuel Meggitt Johnson, of George Bassett and Co, on the condition that a home and school for ‘crippled’ children also be built in the city.

The statue was winched into place in October 1913, quickly covered, and officially unveiled by the Duke of Norfolk at a high-profile ceremony on 28 October, the same day that the Duchess of Norfolk laid the foundation stone of the ‘Cripples’ home in the Rivelin Valley.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

Thousands of people turned up for the ceremony, curious to see the uncovering of a statue, something that was not commonplace in Sheffield. At the time, there were only three other statues on display – Queen Victoria opposite the Town Hall (now at Endcliffe Park), James Montgomery and Ebenezer Elliot. Sheffield had only recently possessed wider streets, and the old narrow congested roads had always been unsuitable for statuary.

Before the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, the vast crowd was entertained by the bands of the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters and the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons, playing in turn, while troops lined the enclosure around Fitzalan Square.

At 3.30pm there were speeches by Samuel Osborn (Lord Mayor), Colonel Henry Kenyon Stephenson (Chairman of the Memorial Committee), Thomas W. Ward (Master Cutler), Alderman William Henry Brittain (Town Collector), and Alderman John Hobson (Deputy-Lord Mayor).

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

The Duke of Norfolk drew the cord which allowed the covering to fall from the statue, to an outburst of cheering and the playing of the National Anthem.

“I highly esteem the honour of being allowed to unveil in this great city the statue of a great King. We have assembled to place a lasting remembrance in the centre of the city which will bring home to the minds of other generations who will only hear of him as a memory of the past, and as a historical character, the personality of their late King.”

The King Edward VII statue (2.9 metres high) was made of bronze, situated on top of an Aberdeen Kemnay Granite plinth (4.27 metres high), designed by a local architect, similar to one Drury had designed in Aberdeen, but also thought better to withstand Sheffield’s industrial pollution.

There are four panels in stone on all four sides of the plinth – ‘Fame and Truth’, ‘Philanthropy, ‘Unity’ and ‘Peace’, with the word ‘Peacemaker’ incorporated into a banner across one of the bronze reliefs.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

Photograph of the King Edward VII Memorial in 1918 by Picture Sheffield
Photograph © 2020 David Poole