FOR well over 100 years, it was a pub with one of the best views in Sheffield.
Now the former Bell Hagg Inn on the edge of Crosspool, overlooking the Rivelin Valley, is being converted into a seven-bedroom family home.
Businessman Mark Dunstan is aiming to move in by around March next year after an extensive renovation that covers the main five-storey tower facing Manchester Road with a new link to a four-storey barn at the back.
It will become one property for Mark, his partner Linsay Taylor, and their four children, who are moving from Mexborough.
“I had been looking for a nice place for the last ten years and I hadn’t seen anything that took my eye,” said Mark, who is managing director of the Automotion CPM Group, which owns car dealership Car Motion.
“I saw this from the bottom of the Rivelin Valley, and at first I couldn’t find it. But I could see the potential. I love old buildings. It was basically rundown and I couldn’t see anybody doing anything with it that would bring it back into use.”
The pub, which was briefly called The John Thomas in its latter years, closed in 2005, and Mark bought it from the receivers.
The barn had already been converted for residential use, but it had been vandalised. “We haven’t done much work in the barn apart from ripping out the fittings and putting in new fittings.”
Now the focus is on the main pub building, which comprises only two storeys facing the road, masking the sheer drop at the back. Built in stone, some of the rooms are small and are being knocked together, but the foundations and the structure are “fantastic”, said Mark.
“It’s a big job and it’s a slow job, but it is straightforward if you take it step by step.”
Apart from securing planning permission for the changes to a historic building in the green belt, Mark has had to get a bat licence to ensure bats are not disturbed. It means that the work can only be carried out at certain times of the year.
Although it became a victim of waves of pub closures, the Bell Hagg is remembered by many local people. Mark said he had been inundated by people giving him bits of history and recalling their drinking days there.
It is thought the building dates from 1832 and was originally a tea room, used by quarry workers across the road and as a stopping off spot for travellers between Sheffield and Manchester, secure enough to hold prisoners.
It was certainly a pub by 1901, and it is commonly believed the inn was a folly by a gambler called Hodgson to annoy the vicar of Stannington who disapproved of gambling and had to look upon it from his vicarage at the other side of the valley.
After 20 years in Mexborough, Mark is preparing to move to the edge of the countryside with his partner Linsay Taylor and children Cameron, aged 12, Corban-Rio, aged ten, Cienna, aged seven, and Chelo-Monroe, aged three months.
The children can’t wait - they are looking forward to the snow!
Architects for the project are Hooley Tratt Partnership of Ecclesall Road, which has been working with Mark, council planners and conservationists.
Amended proposals have been submitted for the link, which is designed to have large glazed areas and a sedum roof, “which will blend into the surrounding green belt landscape and also facilitate access for future maintenance of the pub tower”.