It might be out of the question now, but if you get chance to visit Spain’s capital city there is a Sheffield connection.
The answer lies in a tablet over the south door of St George’s Anglican Church, on the corner of Calle Núñez de Balboa and Calle Hermosilla in the barrio Salamancadistrict of Madrid.
“To the memory of William Edgar Allen. Born March 30th, 1837. Died January 28th, 1915. By whose generosity, this church was completed A.D. 1925.”
William Edgar Allen is a familiar name in Sheffield history. In 1868, he founded the firm of Edgar Allen and Co, Imperial Steel Works, at Tinsley. Taking advantage of his knowledge of continental firms, he soon obtained extensive orders for foreign arsenals, dockyards, and railway companies.
Besides other donations, Allen gave, in 1909, the Edgar Allen Library to the University of Sheffield, contributed £10,000 to Sheffield hospitals, and founded, in 1911, the Edgar Allen Institute (in Gell Street) for Medico-Mechanical treatment, the first institution of its kind in this country. It proved especially beneficial during the First World War; a great number of soldiers having recovered the use of their limbs through the effectiveness of the treatment.
In 1913, Edgar Allen, staying in Madrid, asked Edward Mitchel Gibbs, the famous Sheffield architect at Gibbs, Flockton and Teather, to visit the Spanish city and draw up plans for a Protestant Church.
The church, in Early English-style was to have seated 150 people, funded entirely by Edgar Allen. Unfortunately, the estimates for the building amounted to £10,300, a larger amount than Edgar Allen had anticipated, and the plan was abandoned.
However, at the suggestion of the architect, Edgar Allen, who was in failing health, bequeathed a legacy of £6,000 for a new church to be built.
Edgar Allen died at Whirlow House two years later, and his bequest was put towards the building of St George’s Church, the church of the British embassy, completed in 1925.
Spain was a Roman Catholic country, and rules as to the building of churches other than those of the Roman Catholic communion, were strict. Because St George’s was built on the premises of the British Legation, such restrictions did not apply.
“The workmanship and material of the church throughout were the best, and everything was in excellent taste.”
St George’s was designed by the Spanish architect Teodoro de Anasagasti, who blended elements of the Spanish Romanesque style (cruciform plan, semi-circular apse, bell tower, tiled roof) and the characteristic brick-and-stone construction of the uniquely Spanish “Mudéjar” tradition with specifically Anglican forms.
The chaplain of the church was the Rev. Francis Symes-Thompson, who received a grant of £250 per annum from the Foreign Office.
“If you want to see a monument to this man, look around you.”
Here is a man once described as “one of the makers of Sheffield,” for he was responsible for many of its principal buildings and played a leading part in changing the shape of the city.
His long list of work can be seen around Sheffield today.
In his earlier years, Edward Mitchel Gibbs was architect for the branch libraries at Upperthorpe and Highfield, and later designed the Mappin Art Gallery, St. John’s Church at Ranmoor, the University of Sheffield, the Sheffield Telegraph Building, Lodge Moor Hospital, Channing Hall, Glossop Road Baths, Foster’s Building in High Street, and the White Building at Fitzalan Square. He was also responsible for some of the finest shops of the time in High Street and Fargate.
E.M. Gibbs (1847-1935) was born in Sheffield, educated at the Milk Street School, and articled to architects Flockton & Abbott between 1862 to 1868, remaining as principal assistant. He attended classes at Sheffield School of Art and subsequently spent time in London, studying at the Royal Academy Schools and assisting in the offices of Alfred Waterhouse.
Gibbs worked as Superintendent of Works to Archibald Neill of Leeds from 1868 until 1872, when he was taken into partnership by Flockton & Abbott.
He continued in partnership with Thomas James Flockton after the retirement of George Lewslie Abbott in 1875, and the partnership was joined by Flockton’s son, Charles Burrows Flockton, in 1895.
Gibbs became senior partner in 1902 (as Gibbs & Flockton), and the partnership was joined by John Charles Amory Teather in 1908, and Gibbs’ son, Henry Beckett Swift Gibbs, in 1921.
Like all good men, it was only after his death that people appreciated his contribution to the city.
His funeral in December 1935 was held at the Unitarian Upper Chapel on Norfolk Street (in which Gibbs had designed much of its interior) where the Rev. Alfred Hall paid tribute:
“Gibbs’ aim was to make Sheffield beautiful. All his artistic insight and architectural skill were devoted to that end, and, though tastes and fashion had changed, all men would acknowledge that the buildings he conceived and erected were dignified and noble.”
The funeral achieved national attention because Rev. Hall read out a document left by Gibbs:
“Born of Unitarian parents, I was a staunch supporter of the Unitarian precepts for many years, but under the teaching of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer became an agnostic. I hope the Minister, if he accepts the responsibility of conducting my funeral, will do so in the simplest manner possible, remembering that I die an agnostic.”
The clergyman admired his “sterling honesty” after which Gibbs’ remains were taken to City Road for cremation.
During his lifetime Gibbs thought positively and deeply and was a man of definite views. He was afraid that the country might fall into the hands of extremists and had the foresight to see the danger it faced arising out of Germany’s ambitions.
But he was not just an architect.
Gibbs had knowledge of property values and was retained by Sheffield Corporation in all cases of arbitration under the Tramways and Street Widening Act of 1897.
He also published essays: ‘The Town Planning of Sheffield’ and ‘The Finance of Housing and Reform of Rating’. In 1895, he presented a scheme for a central railway station in the vicinity of Haymarket. The plans were dismissed, as was his big scheme for housing.
Gibbs’ grand expansion plan was based on garden city principles with radiating main roads linked by a ring road with suburban settlements at its junctions.
As well as being a city magistrate, he was a trustee of Woofindin Homes, a director of the Gladstone Buildings Company and a governor of the University of Sheffield, where he was awarded a Master of Arts, and was instrumental in establishing the Department of Architecture.
He was admitted to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1892 and was also president of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Society of Architects and Surveyors. Gibbs also succeeded Thomas James Flockton as Consulting Surveyor to the Town Trustees, for which he designed the Fulwood Park estate.
Gibbs was married to Lucy, daughter of a manager at the Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank, who died a year before him, and lived at Woodcroft, 7 Riverdale Road. On his death he left gross estate of £52,939 (about £3.8 million today).
In another post we looked at Brincliffe Towers (Brinkcliffe Tower), and through this old Victorian house we come across Dr Robert Styring, a name overlooked by Sheffield history.
Styring was one of the city’s good people, neglected in favour of his friend, J.G. Graves, a man who will be forever remembered for the substantial gifts to its people.
However, although Styring’s benevolence was modest in comparison, I hope that this synopsis will allow us to appreciate his impact on the city.
Robert Styring was born in Sheffield on March 18th, 1850, the second son of Henry Styring, an estate agent, and completed his education at Hebblethwaite’s School in the old Freemason’s Hall in Paradise Square.
He left school at fifteen becoming a clerk and collector in his father’s business, leaving four years later when his older brother, Henry Ashmore Styring, returned from his travels
Robert moved into law and was articled as clerk to George Edward Webster, qualifying as a solicitor in 1875, and later going into partnership until Webster’s retirement in 1908.
Shortly afterwards, with his two sons, he founded Robert Styring and Sons on North Church Street. He became president of the Sheffield District Incorporated Law Society in 1907.
Styring became a City Councillor for St Peter’s Ward, in 1886, and, after four re-elections, was promoted to the aldermanic bench in 1899. He held this position until 1926, when, after forty years’ public service, he was one of the aldermen who were refused re-election by the Socialist majority which gained power that year.
He was Lord Mayor in 1906-07, and for a considerable period was chairman of the Electricity, Water and Parliamentary Committees, and reputed to never have worn the same tie twice when attending Council sittings. In 1912, he was successful in the inclusion of Tinsley into the city boundaries.
As a member of the City Council it fell to him to organise the Sheffield Electric Supply Department, initiated the Surplus Lands Committee, made arrangements for the purchase of the tramway system and subsequent conversion to electric, and led a Parliamentary struggle for Sheffield to claim a share of the Derwent Valley Water Board scheme in Derbyshire.
Styring was interested in education and appointed a member of the Education Committee in 1903.
To the civic and educational life of the city Styring gave generously. He was a staunch supporter of Sheffield University, in fact, may well be said to have been one of its pioneers. He was a member of the Council of the old University College from which the University sprang, and when the proposal for a University was made, he was a sincere and determined supporter of the scheme.
In those days there was a suggestion that Leeds and Sheffield should combine to form a Yorkshire University, but Leeds declined to co-operate. Styring was a strong advocate of a University for Sheffield and when it was granted a charter became a member of the Court of Governors and expressed faith in its future by having his sons educated there.
In 1923 he anonymously presented the University with £20,000 for the endowment of scholarships and research work. It was only later that his identity was revealed and the following year the University conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) and only a few days later the Corporation presented him with the Freedom of the City.
His departure from the Council meant he ended his work on the Education committee but was reappointed not long after, as well as being chairman of the Governors at King Edward VII School.
In other public life, he was leader of the Liberal party in Sheffield, a Justice of the Peace, became a member of the Licensing Committee, and was elected a Town Trustee in 1925. .
A Congregationalist, for many years Styring was associated with Cemetery Road Congregational Church, was chairman of the Sheffield Congregationalist Organisation, treasurer of the Sunday School Union, and completed more than half a century’s service as Sunday school teacher and superintendent.
Styring married Annie Frances Hovey in 1880, who helped him in his public duties, and became a rock in his life for 45 years.
For a while they lived at Moorseats Hall, Hathersage, a house identified with Jane Eyre, and he frequently walked from there to his office in Sheffield.
A man who always looked younger than his age, he attributed his good health to gardening. When living at Hathersage, he had a delightful garden, which he reproduced on a larger scale at Brinkcliffe Tower, which he purchased in 1897.
While addressing a meeting of women at the Victoria Hall in March 1925 Annie Styring remarked, “Excuse me one moment,” sat in her chair, collapsed, and died.
Her death affected Styring deeply. “It was entirely due to her that I entered public life, and due to her efforts, won what was thought to be a forlorn hope, a seat in the City Council for St. Peter’s Ward in 1886.”
In November 1925, he decided to gift the Brinkcliffe Tower estate to the city. To be handed over after his death, as well as the house, there were twelve acres of grounds which were to be used as a public park.
“We have enjoyed the pleasure of the estate and nothing would have given her greater satisfaction than to know the purpose to which it was to be adapted.”
Styring was a lifelong abstainer and non-smoker and indulged in the healthy pursuits of walking and golf.
In later years he became a world traveller and completed a 33,000 mile round the world tour during which he visited Egypt, India, Ceylon, China, Japan, and the United States.
After handing over the deeds to the council, Styring remained at Brinkcliffe Tower until 1935, by which time he chose to enjoy retirement in Paignton, Devon. As a result, he vacated the property, gave the keys to Sheffield Council, along with three houses on Brincliffe Edge Road, and left behind a Japanese tapestry and two large oil paintings. He died in 1944, aged 94, at Lancaster House in Paignton.
Brinkcliffe Tower, later known as Brincliffe Towers, became a care home until 2011 and is currently empty awaiting redevelopment. A better fate has befallen its former grounds, opened in 1935 as Chelsea Park, although arguably it maybe should have been called Styring Park.
John George Graves (1866-1945) packed a lot into his 79 years. He was a hard-working businessman, councillor, and cared a lot about his adopted city. A much-travelled man, he knew Europe intimately, and visited America, Egypt, South Africa, India, and Palestine, and spoke fluent French, German and Italian.
Seventy-five years after his death, his name still echoes across Sheffield, and yet, we are guilty of under-estimating the influence he had on the city.
J.G. Graves was born in Lincolnshire, grew up in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, and was educated at Batley Grammar School. When he was 15, he moved to Sheffield to take up apprenticeship with a German watchmaker in Gibraltar Street, and at the age of 20, he started his own watch-making business in town.
He moved to larger premises in Surrey Street where he expanded his business to include jewellery, cutlery and silverware. His decision to sell goods by mail order was pivotal and, through advertising on the back pages of the national press, became incredibly successful.
Graves was one of the first to embrace the idea of selling goods, notably watches, on ‘monthly’ terms, and by 1903 employed 3,000 people with products sold through extensive catalogues.
Graves was first elected to the city council in 1896 as a Liberal member for the old Nether Hallam Ward and retained his seat for six years. In 1905, he was returned to the Council as a member for the Walkley Ward but did not seek re-election in 1908. His third entry to the Council, again for Walkley, was as an Independent councillor in 1916.
Graves went on to serve as Lord Mayor in 1926 and was granted Freedom of the City in 1929.
“Alderman Graves brings to his work unusual gifts of business acumen and a kindly spirit towards the general welfare of the people,” reported the Sheffield Daily Telegraph in 1930. “A fluent, dignified speaker, with originality of thought, he can marshal facts well and present a case strikingly. He always impresses his hearers by his transparent earnestness and sincerity in whatever cause he is pleading. Truly, he is one of the big men of the Council – big in stature and big in vision.”
However, J.G. Graves should be remembered for being Sheffield’s “Fairy Godfather”, probably the city’s most generous benefactor in its history.
When he died at his home, Riverdale House, at Ranmoor, in 1945, newspapers calculated that he had gifted more than £1 million to the city, that amounts to more than £44 million at today’s value.
His first gift to Sheffield, probably Pearl Street playground in 1903, was the start of small projects for children, but these grew in significance with gifts that included Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, Barker’s Pool Garden, Concord Park, Graves Art Gallery, Graves Park, Graves Trust Homes, Blacka Moor, and playing fields. He was a generous benefactor to Sheffield University and the Children’s Hospital, gave much of the land forming the green belt around Sheffield, made gifts of land to the National Trust, and at the outbreak of World War Two, made an unconditional gift of £250,000 to the nation.
Graves Art Gallery cost him £20,000 as well as a further £10,000 towards the cost of the Central Library. He had started collecting art in 1899 and throughout his life collected over 3,000 pictures, 700 of which he gave to Sheffield to be displayed in the Graves Gallery.
“It has seemed to me the most natural thing that I should engage in effort and outlay which has for its object the betterment of the city in which my own lot has been cast, and which I love and understand so well.”
Graves had loved the countryside and was a keen cyclist, with one of his ambitions being to provide Sheffield with beautiful open spaces. As well as Concord Park and Graves Park, he provided £10,000 towards the acquisition of Ecclesall Wood and gave much of the land forming the Green Belt around Sheffield.
One such place was Blacka Moor that had been owned by Norton Rural District Council since 1929. The small council was poor and unable to fight off advances from developers and so, in 1933, had approached J.G. Graves as a last resort. He bought the land and duly presented it to the city.
Ethel Haythornthwaite, a prominent environmental campaigner, recalled a conversation she had with Graves at the official opening in 1933.
“Now, after we’ve done all this for you (by ‘we’ he meant the Graves Trust) will you promise to never trouble us again?” I took a deep breath, thought I had better be truthful and said, “Whenever the countryside around Sheffield is in danger, I shall appeal to you.” He looked at me, severely but not unkindly. “Well,” he said, “Now we know.”
After his death, the mail order company was absorbed into Great Universal Stores, but his legacy lives on through The J.G. Graves Charitable Trust, a grant-making body established in 1930 derived from £400,000 of shares of his company.
Today, the Trust is managed by nine trustees, including Adrian Graves, the fourth generation of the family to serve on it, and continues to support projects that relate to the charitable interests of its founder.
These include parks, open spaces, recreation grounds, art galleries and libraries for public use, promotion of education and community projects, and medical, recreational and sporting facilities.
Periodically, the Trust is in a position to make significant contributions including the J.G. Graves of Sheffield Lifeboat (1958), the redesign of Tudor Square (1990), the J.G. Graves Tennis Centre (1991), the J.G. Graves Woodland Discovery Centre (2007) and the purchase of ‘Comfort Blanket’ by Grayson Perry for the City’s art collection in 2016.
In the first part of our story about Tapton Court, we looked at its role as a family home for John Henry Andrew, Henry Steel and Albert Victor Derry.
Derry moved to Bristol in 1931 and died in Cairo the following year. Tapton Court had been put up for sale, and it was left to his widow, Olga, to find a suitable buyer.
In the summer of 1933, the first indication of Tapton Court’s future use was found in the legal sections of newspapers.
Olga sought to alter covenants on the house and land, put in place by Henry Spooner in 1865, that forbid change of use to non-residential. Her application being successful, Olga then negotiated the sale of empty Tapton Court to the J.G. Graves Charitable Trust, which presented the house to the Royal Hospital as a nurses’ home.
The Charitable Trust, created by Sheffield’s ‘Fairy Prince’, J. G. Graves, was set up in 1932 with capital of over £400,000.
The nurses’ home was intended to replace existing accommodation in three different places – at the Royal Hospital, where nurses were removed from Eldon Street to make way for an x-ray extension, Ranmoor, and later Crookes.
The new nurses’ home, also with a Nurses’ Preliminary Training School, was opened on 20 July 1934 by Alderman J.G. Graves, the event reported in the Sheffield Independent: –
“A few months ago, it was a sorry reminder of Sheffield’s spacious days of entertaining. Dust clung to the walls, rust coated the iron of immense stoves and cupboards gaped, empty and desolate.
“A tiled entrance leads into a large nurses’ lounge, furnished in rose and green. Settees, easy chairs, carpets, a grand piano and all the furnishings have been provided through gifts. A grandfather clock is the contribution of the nurses and sisters.
“The beautiful ceiling, which was painted for the visit of King Edward, has been restored in its original colours.
“The old kitchen has been converted into a delightful dining room. Stone flags have been replaced by wooden flooring. Eight old stoves have ended their days on the scrap heap.
“The room is decorated in a soft green with rich flame-coloured curtains. Green rubber-topped tables are matched by bronze tubular steel chairs upholstered in green leather.
“Each bedroom is curtained and partitioned in a different sunshine shade, and each nurse has her own small suite of furniture in limed oak.
“Jacobean curtains give a rich note of colouring to the sisters’ lounge, and the settees and chairs are covered in bronze.
“Old fashioned covered baths have been replaced by modern ones in the three bathrooms. In the kitchen, a gas stove with two ovens has been fitted into a white tiled alcove, and a teak sink has taken the place of the stone one.
“Two lawns, large enough for a hockey field, skirt the house and the gardens are shaded by beautiful trees. Raspberries, loganberries and blackcurrants grow in the kitchen gardens and in a large vinery clusters of grapes are ripening.”
The opening was performed by John George Graves, the man responsible for buying Tapton Court and handing it over to the hospital:-
“Some thanks are due to those who have gone before and spent their money so lavishly in providing this wonderful house. I sometimes hear lamentations about the uses to which fine houses in the West End of Sheffield are being put. I do not share those feelings.
“Such houses as Tapton Court were provided for purposes which are perhaps not well appreciated today. They were built for entertaining, for people indulged in very elaborate dinners in those days, and the more successful of the people had ‘rich man’s gout’ which gave them an exclusive touch.
“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.”
The cost of the scheme had been £25,000, but plans were already in place to add two new extensions to the old house.
By 1936, two new wings had been built, at a cost of £28,000, on the site of an old peach orchard, and included contributions from a fundraising campaign. A floor was named after each donor of £5,000, while bedrooms were named after each donor of £100 (in all, 20 people had rooms named after them).
The east wing was occupied by nurses on 20 March, and the west wing on 10 July.
“The re-adaptation of the old house is also in progress, and by removing the dome on the tower, the cost of maintenance will be reduced, and the structure more substantial. The supply of electricity has been improved by the building of a sub-station with transformers. It has also been decided, that as the electrical wiring in parts is no longer efficient, to re-wire throughout.”
The Duke of Kent officially opened the new extensions in October 1936. A canopied entrance from Tapton Court to a large marquee, where the ceremony was held, was lined by a guard of honour from the sisters.
“It houses the whole of the nursing staff in the pleasantest possible conditions, in five-acres of wooded grounds,” reported the Sheffield Daily Telegraph.
“In the west wing is a light and spacious dining hall, opening out onto a paved terrace and loggia. Above the hall are 20 bedrooms for sisters with its own wash basin and oak furniture. The east wing is entirely devoted to nurses’ bedrooms and bathrooms. Each of the 100 bedrooms has a fitted wardrobe, and the colour scheme is bright and cheerful. Shampoo rooms and shower baths are among the amenities, and there are ironing rooms for home laundry work.
“The old house has been adapted for recreation and sitting-room purposes.”
There was a touch of nostalgia in the Royal proceedings, said the Sheffield Independent. “A little grey-haired woman, who left Tapton Court as a bride fifty years ago, saw the Duke of Kent open her old home as a home for nurses. She was Mrs E.W. Turner, formerly Miss Andrew, wife of the Rev. George W. Turner, Vicar of St. Judes’s Church, and daughter of the late John Henry Andrew.”
And so, the nurses lived in relative harmony until, that is, the Royal Hospital closed in 1978, by which time Tapton Court had fallen into the hands of the University of Sheffield and used as halls of residence. A three-storey north wing, bridging the east and west wings, had been added, as well as the modern-looking Ranmoor Annexe (120 bedrooms over three floors), all of which are empty today.
Up for sale, the interiors of Tapton Court remain a secret, hidden behind steel-gated windows to deter urban explorers, but the sales brief provides us with a final insight: –
“The original house comprises two floors centred on a top-lit hall surrounded by a gallery at first floor level on three sides. The central court (surrounded by the 20th century wing extensions) is approached from the external portico on the eastern façade, through the entrance hall and with a major room opening off the opposite side of the court. The southern side of the court is flanked by corner rooms separated by a central hallway which gives access to the garden and houses the main staircase. Sections of the original service wing to the north still survive.”
NOTE: A planning application was submitted in December 2020 to convert Tapton Court into apartments.
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.
I need to write about Sir Charles Clifford, KBE, CMG, LLD, JP (1860-1936), because it appears very little has been written about him, and yet, apart from a dental hospital taking his name, he did a lot for Sheffield.
The name and life of Sir Charles Clifford were closely identified with the Sheffield Telegraph. He combined his powers of leadership and administration with an acute journalistic instinct. The journalists knew him as ‘The Colonel,’ one of the biggest figures in North country newspaper life, and one who did much to maintain the highest traditions of the press.
Charles was the fourth son of Frederick Clifford, Q.C., one of the original partners in the firm of Sir W.C. Leng and Company, publishers of the Sheffield Telegraph, and for many years a writer for The Times.
Born in London in 1860, Charles was educated privately and came to Sheffield in 1878, beginning an association with the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, originally destined for the commercial side, but in later years playing an important part in moulding its editorial policy.
In 1888, he established the Sheffield Evening Telegraph, and later negotiated the purchase of the rival Evening Star, later incorporated into the Evening Telegraph, and what we now know as the Sheffield Star.
Charles had taken a leading part in the management of the newspaper some years before the death of its original partners, becoming a partner himself in 1900, and in 1903, when the firm became a private limited company, becoming a director, and subsequently its chairman.
He became president of the Newspaper Society of Great Britain in 1905 and chairman of the Press Association in 1908, a position his father had held thirty years before.
But there were other strands to Charles’ busy life.
In the political sphere he was founder of the Conservative and Unionist organisation in Sheffield. The Brightside Divisional Conservative Association had given him early opportunities to demonstrate his fighting spirit and he became chairman in 1906, the association later presenting him with the chairman’s chair on which was inscribed his motto ‘Nec sine labore Fructus – ‘No fruit without labour.’
In 1928, Charles played an important part, along with Captain A.E. Irwin, of the London Central Office of the Conservative Party, in reorganising the party in Sheffield. Afterwards he was elected chairman of the new Central Committee, and continued until his retirement in 1933, becoming vice-president of the federation.
Despite his political allegiance, Charles never held municipal or Parliamentary honours, though as a young man, he made two unsuccessful attempts to enter the City Council, and in 1913 was invited to become Lord Mayor, an honour which he refused.
His third great public service was in connection with national defence. At the age of 21, Charles had obtained a commission in the 4th West Riding Artillery Volunteers. His promotion was rapid, becoming a lieutenant in 1882, Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel in 1902, and Lieutenant-Colonel in 1909, a year after the Territorial Scheme had been introduced and the volunteers had become the 3rd West Riding Brigade Royal Field Artillery.
He received the Volunteer Officers’ Decoration in 1902, and in 1911 the Coronation medal was awarded to him.
As officer in charge of the Brigade, he was not only responsible for the many improvements at the Edmund Road Drill Hall, but he, along with Lieut-Col H.K. Stephenson, acquired the old Redmires Racecourse as a training ground.
In 1913, Charles’ time as Commanding Officer expired, but it was extended for another year, and when he was at the point of definite retirement, war broke out.
His request to be allowed to remain was granted, and almost as soon as the Territorials were mobilised, he crossed to France in command of the Brigade.
On four occasions he was mentioned in dispatches, but in 1916 the Brigade was broken up and he returned to England to train another company which he took out to France and commanded during the Passchendaele operations. During 1917 he frequently acted as Brigadier-General in the field.
For the service he rendered in France and Flanders, he became a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in the New Year’s Honours List of 1918, and in 1920 he received the Territorial Decoration.
Four years later, the officers of the 71st West Riding Field Brigade Royal Artillery, as the Territorial artillery had become, decided to honour him.
In December 1924, Charles was entertained to dinner at the Norfolk Barracks and was presented with a portrait, dressed in the uniform he wore when he took the Brigade to France. The portrait was later hung in the barracks and a replica presented to Charles for his own collection. From 1920, until the time of his death, he was Honorary Colonel.
Away from day-to-day life all forms of sport appealed to him, and he was particularly fond of shooting and was to be regularly seen on the moors on ‘The Twelfth.’ Cricket also excited him, as did bowls, and he was elected president of the Sheffield and District Amateur Bowling Association in 1908.
For several years, he was president of the Sheffield Philharmonic Society and an enthusiastic stamp collector.
Charles was also a keen supporter of movements to foster friendships between Britain, America and Italy.
In 1922, he was elected a member of the Sheffield Town Trust, was involved with the Sheffield Club, the Junior Carlton and the Junior Constitutional, but his greatest honour was confirmed on him in 1925 when he received a knighthood.
Charles’ interest in Sheffield University extended over many years during which time he was a member of the University Council, and in 1934 an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred on him.
Shortly afterwards, he presented the University with the house known as Broom Bank, on Glossop Road, as a dental hospital, and provided £77,000 for ‘general purposes of the University.’ However, he died in 1936, before plans had been finalised. The story of the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital wasn’t as straightforward as he might have hoped and is subject to a separate post.
Charles married Alice Emma Davy, and lived at Clifford House, on Ecclesall Road South. He was survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.
It stands rather grandiose, next to Broad Lane, on the way to Brook Hill roundabout. St. George’s Church, aside from Sheffield’s two cathedrals, is one of two magnificent churches around the city centre.
St. George’s was built for the Church Building Commission between 1821-1825, one of three churches to have been built in Sheffield under the Church Building Act of 1818. (The others were St. Mary’s, Bramall Lane, still standing, and St. Phillip’s at Netherthorpe, demolished in 1951).
A Commissioner’s Church was an Anglican church built with money voted by Parliament, aiming to increase the number of church places for parishioners.
By the start of the Industrial Revolution, people had moved from rural areas into towns and cities, putting unprecedented demand on places of worship. Before these three new churches, Sheffield had just 6,280 seats for a population of 55,000 people.
The foundation stone for St. George’s, built on a piece of spare land, was laid by Thomas Sutton, Vicar of Sheffield, on 19 July 1821, the Coronation day of King George IV, hence the name.
The church was designed by Woodhead and Hurst, in Perpendicular Gothic style, at a cost of £15,181 (about £1.2million today) and was planned to have been completed by October 1824.
It was an ambitious building scheme, overseen by John Smith, Superintendent of Works for Thomas Flockton, builder and contractor for many of Sheffield’s churches.
The construction was carefully planned with master craftsmen brought him from various Yorkshire companies.
Ironwork was provided by Raynor and Company, of St. James’s Street, while Nowell’s of Dewsbury afforded masons and bricklayers, the slate roof completed by Brown’s of Division Street, Sheffield, and plumbing and glazing carried out by Smith and Binks of Rotherham.
William Nicholson, of St.James’s Street, provided plasterers, and Robert Drury, from Eyre Street, supplied a team of painters and decorators. Carpentry and joinery were completed by a team from Thomas Flockton, based on Rockingham Street.
St. George’s was finally completed in 1825, the consecration ceremony held by Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt, Archbishop of York, on 29th June 1825.
A procession formed in the chancel of the Parish Church (now Sheffield Cathedral) and proceeded to St. George’s, the parade made up from members of the clergy, charity girls and boys, the Town Collector and Trustees as well as the Master Cutler and members of the Cutlers’ Company.
Such was the demand to view the ceremony that members of the public were only admitted by ticket.
The finished church was 122ft long and 67ft wide, with a flat-ceilinged nave of six bays, a single-bay chancel and a 140ft high tower. Galleries extended the length of the north and south walls, and there was a two-tiered gallery on the west wall, providing total seating for 380 worshippers.
It was soon apparent that St. George’s was going to be a success, attracting a congregation from nearby high-density housing. However, the Archbishop considered it unfit for the internment of the dead, due to the churchyard not being properly fenced off, and burials only commenced from 1830.
St. George’s prospered, but declining attendances during the 1970s resulted in its closure in 1981. It stood unused for many years until the University of Sheffield bought it in 1994, its presence slowly extending towards the city centre.
The church was converted by Peter Wright and Martin Phelps, with a lecture theatre sited in the nave, seating provided in the west gallery, a dais set in the chancel, and three floors of student accommodation built in the aisles.
Standing at the centre of St. George’s Square, the former church is best seen at night when it is floodlit.
The tower of St. George’s Church, Portobello, now owned by the University of Sheffield and used as a lecture hall and three floors of student accommodation.
The church was built between 1821-1825 using money provided by the Church Building Commission, the result of the Church Building Act of 1815.
Designed by Woodhead and Hurst, the church was built by Thomas Flockton of Rockingham Street, Sheffield. The foundation stone was laid by Thomas Sutton, Vicar of Sheffield, and consecrated in 1825 by Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt, Archbishop of York.
During the construction of the 140ft high tower, St. George’s claimed the lives of two workmen.
In 1823, apparatus used to draw stones up to the tower was being dismantled, when part of the machinery gave way, precipitating three workmen onto rafters of the floor below. James Bower was dreadfully crushed and dead within minutes, his two colleagues being seriously injured.
Further tragedy occurred a year later, in 1824, when a plank on which Charles Lee, a labourer, gave way, causing him to fall to the bottom of the tower. He pitched onto beams and died a few minutes later, after being removed to a nearby public house, and before medical help could arrive.
St. George’s closed in 1981 and stood empty for thirteen years, its condition deteriorating, until bought by the University of Sheffield in 1994, and restored.
For fifty-five years, the University of Sheffield’s Arts Tower has dominated the Sheffield skyline.
This was once the city’s tallest building at 78metres, built in a commanding position on high ground, eventually eclipsed by St. Paul’s Tower in 2011.
A Building for Arts was first discussed in 1953, with designs submitted by architects Gollins, Melvin, Ward and Partners, and it went through several radical changes before the University’s planning group chose a “cube of steel, glass and concrete.”
Thirteen storeys were originally planned, with six more added, including two floors in which additional funding had to be found because the University Grants Committee refused to underwrite it.
“Every time the planning group for the building met, the height went up by two storeys.”
It finally reached nineteen storeys (although a further two can be found underground) and became the tallest university building in the country.
Construction started in 1961, the foundations built on solid rock thirty feet beneath the surface and was topped-out in October 1964.
The University moved in during the summer of 1965, with accommodation for 18 departments and 160 staff. The Architecture Department occupied the top floors (as it still does), because “it gave them a very good view over Sheffield to see all the town planning that was going on.”
The Arts Tower was officially opened by the Queen Mother in June 1966, where she was made an honorary Doctor of Music, and memorably described the structure as “the tower of light and learning.”
The tower was built with a concrete frame, exposed at ground level by sixteen columns, and sheathed with glass-curtain walling, long being subject of speculation that it was based on the Seagram Building in New York City, as well as the CIS Tower and New Century House in Manchester, although no documentary evidence supports any of these theories.
It was connected at first-floor level with the Library (built 1955-1959) and originally had a wide bridge between fountains over a shallow pool in front of the building, but this was drained and covered over due to strong down-drafts, resulting in people getting soaked when entering and leaving the building.
In 2009, the Arts Tower underwent major renovation, the interiors being reorganised, and a new façade added.
Being as tall as it is, stories have persisted about the tower’s sway in strong winds – this turns out to be true, reported as being “slight but measurable” on windy days.
And, of course, we cannot fail to mention the famous Paternoster lift, subject to a separate post.
“Like the big wheel in a fairground,” this was a revolutionary solution to save space (there was only room for four lift shafts), designed to speed up movement of students and staff between floors.
Thirty-eight cars continuously circulate allowing people to step on and off at each level and is now said to be the largest surviving Paternoster lift still in use in the UK.