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.
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.
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.
There is an old house at Ranmoor that is looking distinctly down-at-heel these days. Tapton Court, on Shore Lane, is shuttered-up and anticipating its reawakening. It is owned by the University of Sheffield, most recently used as student accommodation but now, along with adjacent Ranmoor Annexe, it awaits a buyer.
Fortunately, the university has been good to Tapton Court, given Grade II listing in 1995, and following a fire in 2010, made sure essential primary repairs and rebuilding brought the building back to shell condition in accordance with Listed Building Consent.
Tapton Court came to light after a recent post about Henry Steel (1832-1915), a ‘leviathan’ of the racecourse and one of the founders of Steel, Peech and Tozer, once a well-known steel firm in Rotherham. He lived here from 1879 until his death in 1915, but further research throws up an exciting past, and reveals that this house was visited by Royalty, possibly on more than one occasion.
The house was built on land sold by William Spooner, a member of a farming and landowning family with large holdings in Ecclesall, Crookes, Nether Hallam and Bradfield, in 1865. Three years later, John Henry Andrew (1824-1884), steel manufacturer, built an Italianate mansion here, one of many ‘brass castles’ that sprung up in this pleasant part of town.
He was one of Sheffield’s self-made men, head of the Toledo Works (J.H. Andrew and Co), and rose from the ranks of labour. Early in life he was apprenticed to Wilson & Sothern, in Doncaster Street, and when he was 22, became a partner in Richard Graves & Son, in Snow Lane, remaining there for fifteen years. For the next ten years, up to 1870, he carried on his steel works in Malinda Street, then removing to Toledo Works which he had built at Neepsend.
A former member of the Town Council and Cutlers’ Company, he declined the office of Master Cutler on account of ill-health, that also forced him to relinquish duties to his three sons. He died very suddenly from asthma on his return from Bridlington in 1884, by which time, he’d already sold Tapton Court and was living at Oak Lawn, on Oakholme Road.
John Henry Andrew sold Tapton Court to Henry Steel in 1879. He was a man who had made his fortune as a bookmaker on the racecourses of England, a close friend of Lord Rosebery and King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales.
This larger-than-life character made a huge success of Steel, Peech & Tozer, subsequently merged with other steel firms to become United Steel Companies of which he became chairman.
In later years, J.G. Graves, that great Sheffield entrepreneur and benefactor, revealed that the Prince of Wales often visited Tapton Court, perhaps secretly, to see his friend. His ascendency to King curtailed their friendship and they next met in 1905 when Edward opened the University of Sheffield. “He recognised Henry, left the procession, and shook him heartily by the hand.”
After Henry Steel died in 1916, a newspaper advertisement spelled out the magnificence of the Victorian house.
“A well-appointed stone-built residence of attractive appearance surrounded by full-grown forest trees. The property is situated at an elevation of about 600 feet and is clear of the low-lying fogs which so often envelop the city.
“The contents of the property comprise lounge hall, three large reception rooms, smoke room, billiard room, nine principal bedrooms, three attics, two bathrooms and excellent offices, with servants’ hall.
“Well laid-out grounds, with entrance lodge, tennis court, fishpond, large sloping lawn, kitchen garden, paddock, stables, garage for two cars, and extensive glass-houses replete with full bearing vines and peach trees.”
Amongst the first items to be sold were the contents of the greenhouses: carnations, cypripediums, heliotropes, and maidenhair ferns.
The house contents were sold from a marquee in the grounds, the four-day sale including cabinet furniture, principally made by Manuel and Son, silver and electro-plate, books, linen, glass and china. The item that attracted most interest was a trophy, the Brighton Cup 1874, staged with figures, stags and hounds and sold to a Sheffield gentleman for 72 guineas.
Tapton Court wasn’t sold until 1918 and fell into the hands of Albert Victor Derry (1872-1932), another man airbrushed from Sheffield history.
Albert Kochs, as he was known, was born in Manchester, the son of William Edward Kochs, of German extract. He was educated at Cardiff and South Wales University, and then articled to his father and for a time was placed at the works of the Humboldt Engineering Company of Cologne, Germany.
Later becoming a partner in W. Edward Kochs & Company, consulting engineers, of Foster’s Building, Sheffield, he set up in 1901, along with Charles Rudolph Altenhein and Dr Heinrich Koppers, a company to build coke oven plants across Britain and overseas.
During World War One, Koppers Coke Oven By-Products was taken over by the Government (Altenhein was detained during the war), and afterwards Derry bought the company back and called it Koppers Coke Oven Company, its biggest order being for the Gas Light and Coke Company, London.
Unsurprisingly, the war had seen Albert adopt his mother’s maiden name and was hereafter known as Albert Derry.
In 1917, Derry started British Tar Products, at Irlam, Manchester, with offices on Glossop Road, and shortly afterwards started the Coal Products and Derivates Company, as well as Senrac, for the purpose of making concrete blocks for houses, several examples of houses built from these were found on the Manor estate. Along with Koppers, Derry also formed the Building Engineers’ and Contractors’ Company, which erected several buildings, including Rawmarsh Public Baths.
In 1931, Albert, and his wife, Olga, extremely rich by now, and with another house in Italy, left Tapton Court and moved to Wick House, Bristol. However, within twelve months Albert collapsed and died in Cairo while visiting his wife’s birthplace.
In part two of the story of Tapton Court, we’ll look at the next stage of the house’s history, and its role looking after nurses from the Royal Hospital.
NOTE: A planning application was submitted in December 2020 to convert Tapton Court into apartments.
Allow me to introduce you to Henry Steel (1832-1915), somebody you’ve never heard of, but one of Sheffield’s larger-than-life characters. This ‘Great Master of the Odds’ made a fortune from bookmaking, earning so much money that his account at the Westminster Bank in Sheffield was its largest.
It all started with fishmongery, but as a young man he was quick to realise the gains to be made from horse racing. At first, he speculated with the ‘silver book’, but soon established a vein of gold having received the commission for St. Albans and later moving into London.
He became acquainted with John Jackson and Harry Hargreaves, both racehorse owners, and, along with his best friend, William Peech, ended up securing their extensive Turf business.
Henry’s clients included the rich and famous, counting amongst his close friends Lord Rosebery, and King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales, and who once gave him a valuable breast-pin. When Edward opened the University of Sheffield in 1905, he recognised Henry, left the procession, and shook him heartily by the hand.
After Blue Gown won the Epsom Derby in 1868, it is said that Henry strolled jauntily and unconcernedly down to Tattersall’s, the auctioneers, and deposited £90,000 (about £10.2million today) to buy a horse.
Henry was known at every racecourse and his transactions so enormous that he became known as ‘the Leviathan’, leader of the ring in the 1860s and 1870s, with society magazine, Vanity Fair, speculating that he was probably the richest man ever to have made his fortune in bookmaking.
His frankness and freedom sometimes tainted his reputation as a bookmaker, but he was always equal to jibes, and a ready repartee gave him the better of his critics.
Henry eventually moved to London, buying the Archbishop of York’s house, along with an extensive wine collection, but soon tired of it. He returned to Sheffield in 1870, bought Westbourne, and after some years moved to Tapton Court.
However, away from the track, Henry Steel was also famous for establishing Steel, Peech and Tozer, a famous Rotherham steel firm.
In 1875, the works of the Phoenix Bessemer Company had gone into liquidation with liabilities of £140,000. Henry, along with William Peech, Edward Tozer and Thomas Hampton, bought the works for £36,500, and turned it into a private company with a capital of £70,000. After enlargements and improvements, the business became a huge success.
Henry Steel died at Tapton Court in 1915, his will worth £652,418, that’s around £67.5million today.
Steel, Peech and Tozer joined Samuel Fox & Co, Stocksbridge, and Appleby-Frodingham Steel, Scunthorpe, to form United Steel Companies in 1918, subsequently becoming part of British Steel Corporation.