Bishops' House

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When was Bishops' House built?

Bishops' House hit the headlines of the local press last weekend.    "Bishops' House?..  Think again.. " the headline challenged.   It may be a little disturbing to some readers to discover that Bishops' House never belonged to, or was lived in by, bishops.  It's something we have long suspected, but have never been able to say with complete certainty, because until this year we have never been completely sure how old the house is.  That has all changed with the results from tree ring dating ( known as dendrochronology) study conducted earlier this year.


Ken Dash, a trustee of the Friends and archaeologist, has patiently surveyed Bishops' House over the last five years.  It was a result of questions that this surveying brought up, in particular about the stages of construction of the house, that we finally decided to try and get a clear answer on the date of construction of the house.  This was not an simple decision, for it is expensive to get the tree ring dating done and also the dating requires the removal of thin thin cores of timber from timbers in the frame of the house.  These are not noticeable, but it was obviously not something we wanted to do without good reason.  In the end we decided, with permission from SCC planning dept, to go ahead in the hope of learning more about the history of the house.

The results were surprising and have certainly advanced our knowledge -  in fact we are still coming to terms with the implications!  With regard to costs of the study, a big 'Thank You' goes out to all the supporters of last year's Medieval Fayre, for it is thanks to the organisers, volunteers and visitors each paying a small entry fee that we were able to completely fund the tree ring dating from the proceeds of the Fayre.

What did the study reveal?  You can read the Sheffield Star article using the link at the bottom of this article, and we will be publishing the tree ring study and more detailed articles from Ken shortly, but here is a good summary from Ken:

It had always been assumed that Bishops’ house was built around 1500 from the style of its construction and from its associations with the Blythe family. In 1977 an attempt was made using dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) to properly date the timbers in Bishops’ House but the results for the earliest periods were inconclusive, as the outer or sapwood had been removed and so the final year, the year of felling, could not be established.

So in 2017 the Friends of Bishops’ House commissioned the Nottingham Tree Ring Dating Laboratory to do a new batch of sampling. The results have at last given us absolutely firm dates for the building. We now know that the first phase, the two-floored north-south running ‘cross wing’ was the earlier structure. The timbers for this were felled in 1553, presumably in the autumn and we assume that the building was put up in 1554. The ‘hall range’, traditionally thought to be earlier had a felling date of 1579 and thus, we assume, a construction date of 1580, some twenty six years later.

As well as those who helped fund this study, thanks especially go to Ken for all his hard work, and also to Nottingham Tree-ring dating laboratory, who have been extremely supportive, offering their time freely to make extra visits and even to give a free talk to members of the public about the project.  That happened over the Heritage Open Days weekend, following on from the front page in the local paper (thank you Sheffield Star!).

 Click here for the online version of the newspaper article


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