Who lived at Bishops' House? - 1886 to 1974
In 1886 Sheffield Corporation bought up the land of the old Meersbrook estate
and it opened as Meersbrook Park in September 1887. Photographs taken at the time
show a general tidying up around Bishops’ House. Two of the original brick chimneys
were replaced by stone chimneys. A small stone structure to the north was demolished.
The panelling in the Parlour was stripped out. An 1890 report says that the House ‘has
come into possession of the Corporation’ and ‘has been restored and put into a safe
condition’. The 1891 census shows farmer Joseph White living in the adjacent cottages
and at some time between 1886 and 1891, Bishops’ House was occupied by a succession
of gardeners and Park Keepers, and of course their families, to maintain the new park.
We have some biographical information on some of the park keepers:
The Ryalls family 1886-1929
Harry Ryalls was born in 1858 in Sheffield, Yorkshire. His wife Lucy was also born
in 1863 in Sheffield
Harry and Lucy had two children:
1-John William was born in 1892.
2-Charlotte E was born in 1894.
Both the children were born in Norton, Derbyshire. From around 1886 they lived at
Bishops’ House where he was employed as a park gardener.
Kenneth John Ryalls, (grandson of Harry Ryalls) was born in Bishops’ House on the
12 th of July 1923.
Harry Ryalls died in March 1929 aged 71. After his death his widow remained in
Bishops’ House for a short time.
The Cheetham family 1886-1902
The first family of gardeners, living in the east part of the House was James H
Cheetham. He was born in 1865 in Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire. His wife Kate was born in
1867 in Waleswood, Yorkshire.
James and Kate Cheetham had five children:
1-Elizabeth E was born in 1891.
2-Sarah was born in 1893.
3-Albert H was born in 1896.
4-Arthur was born in 1898.
5-Gertrude was born in 1900.
All the children were born in Norton, Derbyshire. From around 1886 they lived at
Bishops’ House where James was employed as a park gardener and domestic servant, until
1902. After that he left to work in Hillsborough Park some time before 1901.
Thomas Carter 1905-1906
Thomas Carter was a gardener at the same time as Harry Ryalls, living at Bishops’
house in 1905 and 1906.
The Chester family 1907-1927
Charles William Chester was born in 1878 and started living at Bishops’ house in
1907, aged 29 as a gardener. He married Lily, born in 1884, in 1907.
Charles and Lily had two children:
1-Jack, born in 1909.
2-Beryl, born in 1911.
After 1917 he is listed as a Park Gardener and after 1919 as a Park Keeper. He died in
June 1927 aged 49.
Charles Watts 1910
Charles Watts was listed as a gardener in 1910.
The Hogg family 1929-1944
James S Hogg, Assistant Park Keeper, was born on the 18 th of April 1876 and his wife
Amy Alice Hogg was born on the 21 st of June 1875.
The Scott family 1931-1940
Harold Scott, assistant park keeper married Doris Jenny Armitage in 1915 at Ecclesall
Bierlow. She was born in 1893. After leaving work at Meersbrook Park he went to
Greystones Road and worked at the Forge Dam and later to Templeborough after his wife’s
death. Her parents were Herbert and Clara Edith Armitage, both born in 1862. Clara died in
The Hallas family 1939-1947
John Henry Hallas, park keeper and former gardener was born on the 8 th of February
1913. His wife Mabel Hallas was born on the 6 th of October 1912.
The Allen family 1945-1962
George F Allen and his wife Ethel lived at Bishops’ House from 1945 to 1962.
The Goodwin family 1947-1948
Mostyn A & Muriel G Goodwin lived at Bishops’ house in 1947-48.
The Hitchin family 1948-1949
Clifford & Elizabeth Hitchin lived at Bishops’ house in 1948-49.
The Height family 1948-1952
The Height family lived at Bishops’ House for three and a half years to 1952. Roland
Height married Doris Sutton in Wolverhampton in December 1930.
They had five children:
4-Kenneth George who died in 2016.
5-Michael Roland, who was born in 1942.
The family left for Dudley in 1952.
Thomas Lloyd is listed as living at Bishops’ house in 1959.
The Wattam family 1959-1974
George Wattam worked as a Park Attendant from about 1959 until 1974. He lived
there with his wife Margaret and daughters Jean and June, and later Joyce Dean.
The Gill family 1963-1974
Peter and Elizabeth Gill lived in Bishops’ house from 1959 until 1974, from Trudy
Birt’s memories of her childhood in Bishops’ House. The register of electors doesn’t mention
the Gill family living there until 1968. Peter was a Park Attendant. They had four children:
Trudy was born on the 22 nd of August 1963. She had an older brother and two younger sisters.
All were born at Bishops’ House.
After the Gill family left, the House was boarded up and four hundred and
twenty years of continuous occupation of Bishops’ House came to an end. Sheffield City
Council restored the building between 1974 and 1976 and it opened to the public as a
museum in July 1976.
Here is a summary of the Park Keepers and Gardeners. Please note that some of these
people may have been in occupation earlier, and left later than the dates below as the
available information does not cover every year and sometimes, especially towards the end,
mention anyone. Some of the information is contradictory and comes from more than one
1886-1929 Harry Ryalls
1886-1902 James Henry Cheetham
1905-1906 Thomas Carter
1907-1927 Charles William Chester
1929-1944 James Stanley Hogg
1931-1940 Harold Scott
1939-1947 John Henry Hallas
1945-1962 George Frederick Allen
1947-1948 Mostyn Goodwin
1948-1949 Clifford Hitchin
1949-1952 Roland Height
1959 Thomas Lloyd
1959-1974 George Wattam
1963-1974 Peter Gill
The information on the Cheetham, Ryalls and Chester families comes mainly
from the census returns. The Sheffield Trade Directories from 1895 to 1974, and the
Register of Electors from 1945 to 1974 were also checked.
Apart from that, thanks are due to Sarah Shepherd for the information on
Kenneth John Ryalls, to the Armitage family, to Janet Moore nee Height, and Michael
Height, and to Trudy Birt nee Gill.
The Sheffield Trade directories, available at the Local Studies Library on the 1 st floor,
Central Library, Surrey Street Sheffield S1 1XZ.
The Sheffield electoral registers, available at the Local Studies Library on the 1 st floor,
Central Library, Surrey Street Sheffield S1 1XZ.
The census returns for 1841 to 1891, accessed via Ancestry.com.