'Astonishing' discovery reunites long lost Sheffield chimneypiece with its historic home in city

A long-lost and precious carved oak fireplace has been brought back to its historic Sheffield home – more than a century after it was removed.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 6:00 am
A long-lost and precious carved oak fireplace has been reunited with Grade 2* Bishops' House, located in Meersbrook Park, Sheffield, some 130 years after it was removed. Picture: Chris Etchells
A long-lost and precious carved oak fireplace has been reunited with Grade 2* Bishops' House, located in Meersbrook Park, Sheffield, some 130 years after it was removed. Picture: Chris Etchells

Captain Blythe’s chimneypiece dates back to 1655 and was taken out of the Grade 2* listed Bishops' House museum, which is a rare surviving example of Sheffield s pre industrial past located in Meersbrook Park, around 1885.

Lecturer and consultant in cultural history, David Bostwick, previously of Sheffield City Museums, learnt of the chimneypiece in 1988 when he discovered an advert for an auction that took place in 1922.After it was removed from the 16th century Bishops' House, it found its way into the collection of Dr Morton.

When Dr Morton died the chimneypiece was auctioned off and until now had been lost without a trace.

An auction advert from 1922 shows items from Bishops House up for sale

In 2018 Dr Bostwick put out a call for help through the Attingham Society, believing the chimneypiece, installed at Bishops' House in 1655 by Captain William Blythe, to have probably been bought by an American collector.

However it was his fellow researcher, Andrew Bower, who in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, finally discovered the location of the fireplace in the south of England.

The pair met with Friends of Bishops' House Chairman, Nick Roscoe, who was able to make contact with the owner.

Nick said: "I was astonished to discover that Captain Blythe's chimneypiece had been located - many of us have searched for it to no avail and it is a testament to Andrew Bower's detective skills that he was able to track it down.

A long-lost and precious carved oak fireplace has been reunited with Grade 2* Bishops' House, located in Meersbrook Park, Sheffield, some 130 years after it was removed. Picture: Chris Etchells

“Equally astonishing was to discover that the owner of the chimneypiece, who wishes to remain anonymous, was willing to consider selling it to us", said Mr Roscoe.

"We were incredibly lucky and the owner was very kind, letting us buy it for half its estimated value.

“We had been saving for another project and it has sunk our bank balance, but it was so important to seize the opportunity whilst we could."

The Friends of Bishops' House, which is a volunteer run charity, celebrates its tenth anniversary of opening Bishops' House to the public this year.

A sketch that appeared in a Sheffield newspaper in 1885, showing the room with oak panelling and the chimneypiece

Mr Roscoe said the restoration of the chimneypiece was the "cherry on top of the cake" for their celebrations.

Coun Cate McDonald, who is a long-standing volunteer at Bishops' House, congratulated the Friends.

She said: "This is a well deserved boost to the Friends who have worked tirelessly to maintain public opening and have had a very successful partnership with Sheffield City Council, who own and maintain the building.

"This is also a great boost to what was already one of Sheffield's finest heritage assets and we anticipate great interest from the public," said Cllr McDonald, who represents Gleadless Valley for Sheffield Council.

Grade 2* Bishops' House, located in Meersbrook Park, Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

Bishops' House is able to re-open to the public after being closed for months due to the Covid-10 pandemic this weekend, on Sunday July 4.

There members of the public will be able to view Captain Blythes' returned chimneypiece for themselves as well as enjoy the rest of the house’s charms.

The house is Sheffield’s best preserved timber building. Inside some rooms are made out in Jacobean style and others with cabinets of artefacts and information boards.

Due to Covid19 precautions and the size of Bishops' House, the Friends strongly recommend pre-booking via the Bishops' House website, in order to guarantee entry.

For the first few weeks of reopening they will only be able to open on Sundays.

Booking information, as well as more information about the discovery of the chimneypiece, can be found at www.bishopshouse.org.uk

Bishops’ House was thought to have been constructed by the Blythe family in the early 16th century.

Later resident, Captain William Blythe, was also part of Parliamentary forces charged with slighting Sheffield Castle in the mid-17th century.

It was later home to Meersbrook Park park keepers and their families.