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“The mansion stood in a rural situation within sight of Sheffield, surrounded by farmland.”

It is one of Sheffield’s forgotten big houses, but the future of Mount Pleasant on Sharrow Lane looks much brighter.

Hermes Care, supported by Axis Architecture, has submitted a full planning and listed building application to Sheffield City Council for the conversion of the grade II* listed Mount Pleasant building, together with the partial demolition and retention of the former Highfield School building and new build extensions.

Planning permission is sought for the redevelopment of the site to create a care village offering supported living, assisted living and 24-hour specialist care.

The Mount Pleasant Building would be converted into one-, two- and three-bed residential care spaces, and a new-build 39-bedroom care home would be built on the playground area of the former Highfield School building.

The ground floor of Highfield School would be converted to create communal spaces for the new care home with the remainder providing a communal residential care lounge and day centre. The first floor would be converted into four one-, two- and three-bed residential suites.

The plans also include the demolition of former Highfield School extensions and a three-storey new build extension to the south to create 12 one-bed residential suites.

Artist impressions of Mount Pleasant care village. Image: Axis Architecture

Mount Pleasant is an 18th Century mansion and was built for the Sitwell family by Francis Hurt Sitwell. The house was constructed in 1777 using the architect John Platt (1728– 1810) of Rotherham. When first built, the mansion stood in a rural situation within sight of the centre of Sheffield, surrounded by farmland at the top of a slight gradient overlooking the valley of the River Sheaf.

The Sitwells owned Mount Pleasant for less than 20 years as in 1794 it was sold to Samuel Broomhead Ward. By the 1850s, the family of Thomas Tillotson, a Sheffield merchant, were living at Mount Pleasant, after that the building was utilised for various purposes.

In 1868, the committee of the West Riding County Asylum at Wakefield acquired a five-year lease on Mount Pleasant and used it to alleviate overcrowding at their main hospital. As an asylum, Mount Pleasant accommodated approximately 75 residents, with eight staff, and in 1872, all residents were transferred to the newly built South Yorkshire Asylum at Wadsley.

In 1874, Mount Pleasant became the Girls’ Charity School when it was relocated from its original location in St James Row at the side of Sheffield Cathedral. In 1927, the school was renamed the Mount Pleasant School for Girls.

It was requisitioned for use by the Government during World War II and afterwards the building continued to be used by various Government departments with the Ministry of Works Engineering Department, the Ministry of Fuel and the Ministry of Transport all having office space there.

Mount Pleasant, with former Highfield School to right. Image: Google

Mount Pleasant was designated a listed building in May 1952.

By 1961 there was just the National Assistance Board and the Drivers Examiners Department using the buildings, with the latter using the old stables and coach house buildings as offices.

When the building was vacated by the government, it fell into a state of near ruin during the late 1960s and early 1970s, but was restored by the mid-1970s and converted into a Community Centre with the stables used as a Youth Club known as The Stables Connexions Centre.

Only the Stable Block currently remains in use, by Shipshape Health and Wellbeing Centre, with Mount Pleasant left vacant for several years along with the former Highfield School, which was vacated and relocated to a new school on an adjacent site in 2006.

The Stable Block does not form part of the development proposals, with Shipshape being retained as tenants for the foreseeable future.

Mount Pleasant House, Sharrow Lane (Girl’s Charity School). Established in 1786, the school relocated from St. James’ Row to Sharrow Lane in 1874. Image: Picture Sheffield

The Guardians of Mount Pleasant were granted permission to occupy the Mount Pleasant building to maintain a level of on-site security.

However, the former Highfield School building was left empty and has been badly vandalised and impacted by pigeon infestation, and drug users, although thankfully now, the building is secure and has been cleaned internally by the new owners.

The area has suffered extensively from petty crime and the misuse of drugs, with the limited security to the perimeter of the site compounding matters.

Mount Pleasant, Sharrow Lane, Sheffield, pictured in 1974. Image: Sheffield Star
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.