In March 2014 I found an 1846 record of Bishops’ House in the Derbyshire Record office in Matlock. It describes ‘an old, ancient, half-timbered house, in which are several rare oak carvings’. I assume that this refers to Bishops’ House. Today we have no way of knowing how many oak carvings there were but we do know that all but one are now lost. A sketch of the Parlour in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent from 1885 shows the entire room with wood panelling. A similar sketch from the same newspaper from 1890 shows that this has all been removed except for some panelling below the gable window. The 1890 report says that the House ‘has come into possession of the Corporation’ and ‘has been restored and put into a safe condition’.
The March 1922 edition of The Connoisseur magazine has a photograph of one of the lost panels and by examining the 1885 sketch we can see that it is the one that would have acted as an overmantel in the parlour. The magazine says that this is part of the sale of the estate of Dr Morton, deceased and includes the ‘exceptionally fine overmantel removed from the “Bishop’s House”, Norton Lees, Derbyshire.’ It clearly has the initials WB in the centre and the date 1655 carved to either side and was being auctioned by Eadon and Lockwood at the sale room, St James Street, Sheffield.
The Overmantel in the Parlour, from ‘The Connoisseur’ magazine, March 1922
The sketch of the Parlour showing the panelled walls in 1885 is shown at the top of this page. By 1890 the panelling was removed, with the image of the parlour below from that date showing a quite different room.
The History and Directory of Derbyshire (1846) p 657.
Sheffield and Rotherham Independent p 8. Saturday 11th July 1885.
Sheffield and Rotherham Independent p 5. Tuesday 15th April 1890.
The Connoisseur, March 1922