Meersbrook Hall is a Grade II listed Georgian house located at the north west corner of Meersbrook Park.
The land that formed the estate attached to Meersbrook Hall, (and that later would become Meersbrook Park) had been owned by the Blythe family for hundreds of years before being sold in the eighteenth century.
Fields used for grazing once stretched from where Bishops’ House is down to the road that today is Chesterfield Road. The roads immediately surrounding the park were all carved out of the Meersbrook Hall estate much later, in the late 1800s, when the houses on these roads were built.
The land on which Meersbrook Hall was built was purchased from Benjamin Blythe by Sheffield businessman Benjamin Roebuck, on the 2nd of May 1759. Construction began on the 3rd of July 1759 with the cellar being dug out. When Roebuck bought the land there were already two useful buildings on the site – a stone U shaped barn and, to its west, a solitary brick building which may have been an eighteenth century workhouse in Norton parish. Both these buildings could be repurposed as estate offices, servants’ quarters, stables etc. The barn was 16.85m long and 5.5m wide and adjoining it was a two storey building, 11.35 by 14.1m. To the west of this combined structure, and separated from it by no more than 1.4 m was the solitary brick building, 8.5 by 8.7m. Just three years earlier, the old Sheffield to Derby Road, previously no more than a horse and cart track, had been properly laid down for the use of coaches and wagons. The road passed very close to the Hall and no doubt Roebuck would have used it to go into Sheffield, but, as importantly, it could have been used to transport the materials to build the Hall.
By December 1759 the walls, doors and windows were being put in. The new Hall was 16.6 m long and 15.5 m wide with a large bay window on its north side. Roebuck, 39 at the time, moved in with his wife Elizabeth, 45, and children Sarah, born in 1748, Thomas, born in 1749, Robert, born in 1753, Benjamin, born in 1755, Elizabeth, born in 1756 and Mary, born in 1756. His wife died in 1769 and in 1770 he launched The Sheffield Bank in partnership with John Shore and John Parker, but by 1778 he withdrew from the partnership, almost certainly selling his share to Parker and Shore. The probable reason was the crisis which had overtaken his brother Dr John Roebuck, proprietor of the Carron Iron works.
Roebuck sold Meersbrook Hall to the Shore family in 1778. He married for a second time to Helena Maxwell. There were no children from his second marriage. He retired to Bath in Somerset and died in 1796. Helena died in Bath in 1801.
The first of the Shores to live in Meersbrook Hall was Samuel Shore, born in 1738. He married Urith Offley, born in 1736, in 1759. They had four children; Offley, born in 1760 who died in 1767, Samuel, born in 1761, William born in 1762 and Bohun born in 1763. Urith died in 1781 and Samuel married Lydia Flower in 1788. Samuel died in 1828. Lydia outlived him by more than a decade, passing away in 1839 aged 92. His son, another Samuel, born in 1761, was one of a succession of Shores who made their fortunes as steel makers and merchants in Sheffield. He married Harriet Fitzwalter- Foye, (born in 1760), in 1798. They had ten children: Sydney, born in 1790, Julia, born about 1790 and probably died young, Elizabeth, born in 1793, Anne born in 1796, who died in 1799, Offley born in 1797, Harriet born in 1799, Urith Lydia born in 1800, Amelia Theophilia born in 1802, Maria Theodosia born in 1803, and Octavia born in 1805, who died
Samuel Shore died in 1836, and between 1836 and 1842, his son Offley Shore used the Parker Shore bank’s assets to pay his late father’s bequests. £10,000 each was paid to his sisters, three of whom, Urith Lydia (1800-1864), Amelia Theophilia (1802-1862) and Maria Theodosia (1803-1855), were living at Meersbrook Hall. None of the sisters were married and these bequests allowed them to live out their lives in comfort. Urith Lydia was the last to die in 1864. In 1843 the Sheffield Bank, opened by Benjamin Roebuck and his partners in 1770, and now called the Parker, Shore and Company of Bank Street, stopped trading. It was later revealed that the Shores had been using the bank as a personal account. During the enquiry that followed the end of trading it became evident that the long commercial depression and previous heavy losses were not sufficient to explain the bank’s collapse. It was clear that there had also been dishonesty bordering on theft with former senior partners withdrawing large sums of money that were never likely to be repaid, and poor accounting.
There do not appear to have been any prosecutions. Instead, following the bank’s collapse, much of the Shore estate was auctioned off in July 1850 to pay off the family’s debts. The auction list totals 879 hectares of land in the surrounding area, much of it in Norton parish. After Urith Lydia’s death, the estate at Meersbrook was rented to a lawyer, William Pashley Milner, a J.P. for West Riding and Derbyshire and a Magistrate, and also a keen gardener. Milner had been born in 1806 in Retford, Nottinghamshire. He married Susannah Aldam in 1852. They had one son, William Aldam, born in 1854. William Pashley Milner died in 1884 after which his wife and son moved to Totley Hall, where Susannah died in 1911, having outlived her husband for 27 years. After William Pashley Milner’s death the estate passed to a syndicate of London stockbrokers, the Lands Allotment Company, in 1885.
At that time Sheffield Corporation was considering the use of the land left by the estate. It had not been built on but the local area was rapidly being developed with streets built in Heeley from 1872. There was public concern that the whole estate would be built upon if the Corporation didn’t acquire some part of it. Following a meeting in 1885, the Corporation bought 15 hectares from the Lands Allotment Company for £7,500. The area became Meersbrook Park, which was opened in September 1887. Elsewhere in Sheffield, John Ruskin, one of the principal art patrons, critics, writers and collectors of the Victorian period had established a museum in Walkley, from 1875. By 1890 he was seeking a new, larger building for the museum’s collection. Meersbrook Hall was chosen and opened as the Ruskin Museum from the 15 th of April 1890. Its first curator was William White, who remained until 1898. His position was taken over from August 1899 until August 1931 by Gill Parker, who lived in an apartment with his wife Lizzie, daughter Ursula and son Raymond. In the autumn of 1898 Constance Genevieve Pilley, then aged 20, began working for the Museum, first as a Librarian and then Assistant Curator. When Parker retired, she became, in effect, the acting curator. She moved into the Hall about 1933 with her friend Clara Streets, remaining there until after her retirement in 1947 and finally moving out in May 1949.
There were minor additions to the Hall between 1849 and 1875. Two rooms, one atthe front and one at the back were added on the ground floor and a brick bridge was built to link the House with the stone structure to the east. The east wing or aisle of the early stone barn was demolished at some time between 1898 and 1905.
From 1891 until after 1901 George Parkes was living at the Hall as the caretaker of the Ruskin Museum, with his wife Jane and daughter Mary. At the start of the Second World War, the Museum was temporarily closed from the 29th of August to the 12th of September 1939 for special exhibits to be packed and removed to a place of safety. An RAF barrage balloon was stationed by the Hall, opposite the bay window. Twelve RAF men were billeted on the ground floor. In December 1941 the RAF men were replaced by sixteen WAAFs. They left on the 24th of June 1942 and were replaced by two RAF men. With visitor numbers falling, the Ruskin collection was moved out in 1953 and the Hall was closed to the public. From December 1954 until 1971, Henry Ellis was employed as caretaker, living in a flat created for them on the first floor of the Hall, with his wife Vera and children Denis and Roger. They were the last occupants of the House.
After being closed for seven years, in March 1960, central office staff from the Parks Department of Sheffield City Council were allowed to temporarily use the Hall as office accommodation. This temporary measure effectivelybecame long term use. In 1986 the original courtyard of the early barn was filled in to first floor height to provide extra office accommodation. By 2015 Sheffield City Council were considering centralising their office staff and on the 24 th of April 2016 the Parks and Recreation Department moved out of Meersbrook Hall, locating to 1 Moorfoot, Sheffield S1 4PL. The Friends of Meersbrook Hall and Heeley Development Trust received the keys to the building on the 3rd of May 2016.
At about 1820 a walled garden was built about 80 m to the south west of Meersbrook Hall, to produce vegetables and fruit for the residents. Private walled gardens were often a feature of the residences of wealthy Georgians and Victorians and the one at Meersbrook Hall would have been built in the time of Samuel Shore senior (1761 1836). After the last of the Shore family, Urith Lydia Shore died in 1864, Meersbrook Hall was occupied by William Pashley Milner (1806-1884), a J.P for the west riding and Derbyshire and magistrate. Milner was also a keen gardener and had a daffodil named after him. The walls are about 3.3 m high and their total length is 274 m. The garden covers an area of 3,616 m square . Now blocked up, the garden had two entrances in the east and west walls, just south of the north wall, with the main entrance, wide enough for a horse and cart, in the centre of the south wall. This entrance led to a path connecting to the Cliffefield House estate, and eventually to Derbyshire Lane. The garden seems to have got its water supply from a well, 23 m to the SE of the SE corner of the garden wall. The north wall of the garden was a Hot Wall. Hot walls were popular in Georgian and Victorian estate walled gardens and were used to stretch out the growing season fo vegetables and fruit. A Hot Wall is basically a cavity wall. Furnaces on the outside would have forced their hot air and smoke into the cavity, heating the wall and creating a microclimate on the inner surface which would have been south-facing. A total of 21 flues, now blocked up, were found on the outer surface.
The earliest known gardeners,who lived in the sandstone building to the immediate east of Meersbrook Hall were John Tyzack, born 1805, gardener, and his daughter Mary, born 1825, housekeeper; with Thomas Cant, born 1797, gardener, and his daughters Elizabeth, born 1837 and Sarah born 1845; all listed in the 1861 census. By 1871 the gardener was Samuel Bowler born 1821 and his wife Susannah born 1826. In 1881 the gardener was Robert John Knott, born 1846, living with his wife Mary Elizabeth, born 1842 and daughter Elizabeth Charlotte born 1872. By 1891 the gardener and park keeper was William Knowles, born 1849, living with his wife Charlotte, born 1852, son George born 1876, and daughters Jane, born 1875, Clara born 1880 and Catherine born 1882. By 1911 he was living there with his second wife Caroline born 1860. He is recorded as the park keeper and head gardener up to 1912, after which William Faulkener took over until 1937. Abel Garnett, born 1903 living with his wife Doris, born 1904 was listed as gardener and park keeper from 1938 until at least 1944, with James Hogg as gardener. From 1951 to 1963 Cyril Castleton was listed as park keeper. The walled garden became a plant nursery and training area for Sheffield Parks from 1975. From 1999 it has been run by an enthusiastic group of volunteers. See: https://www.meersbrookpark co.uk
Please note that on all the early maps, the building is at first called ‘Meersbrook House’ and then ‘Ruskin Museum.’ The current name, ‘Meersbrook Hall’ first appeared in records from the 1880s and then after the Council left in 2016.
Drury C, Parker, M.D., W S (1927) The Parish Register of Sheffield, transcribed by Charles Drury and William S Parker M.D. Indexed by Edith M Ordish. Edited by T Walter Hall F.R. Hist. S. privately printed for the Hunter Archaeological Society of Sheffield. Available at the Sheffield Archives Library at 52 Shoreham Street Sheffield S1 4SP.
Fairbank W (1759) Benj. Roebuck’s purchase surveyed on 02/05/1759. Ref: FC/FB/15. Available at the Sheffield Archives Library at 52 Shoreham Street Sheffield S1 4SP.
Flavell N (2009) A Sheffield banking scandal, the fall of the house of Parker, Shore. Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological society v 23, p 45-52. Available at the Sheffield Archives Library at 52 Shoreham Street Sheffield S1 4SP.
Simpson L L (1908) Register of Norton, Co., Derby transcribed by Llewellyn Lloyd Simpson. Printed by Harper and Sons, Derby. Available at the Sheffield Local Studies Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield S1 1XZ.
Smith H (2003) The Sheffield and Chesterfield to Derby Roads. West Bar Printing Services. ISBN 0-9521541-5-3.
Various authors (2013) Meersbrook Park Sheffield Green Flag Management plan. The Roebuck family tree on the Ancestry.com website accessed on the 6 th to 8 th June 2022.
Ordnance Survey maps from 1875, 1894, 1898 and 1904.
Sheffield Trade Directories from 1900 to 1951.
The electoral register from 1945 to 1971. Available at the Sheffield Local Studies Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield S1 1XZ.