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Firbeck Hall

The estate formerly belonged to the Segrave and the Cressy families. The manor and estate was purchased in the latter half of the 16th Century by William West. It is thought that an earlier Elizabethan house may have existed here but West built himself a new hall about 1594 which may have incorporated facets of the old one. West was a lawyer, steward to the Earl of Shrewsbury, a prolific writer about the Law and important in the affairs of Rotherham and Sheffield. He died about 1596/8. He was succeeded at Firbeck by his son, William, then his grandson John. John's estate was left to Sir Francis Fane, the son of John's sister Elizabeth.

Firbeck Hall
Firbeck Hall

In 1669 Fane sold the estate to William Woolhouse. He in turn sold it in 1676 to Jonathan Staniforth of Rotherham. The estate then consisted of Firbeck Hall, a dovecote, papermill, watermill, houses and land in Firbeck, Maltby, Blyth, Thwaite, Letwell, Gildingwells, Throapham, Laughton and the Ewes. Worth a few bob then! It them passed down the Staniforth family.

On the death of Amelia Staniforth in 1792 the estate passed to a distant relative, a Mr Butler, who sold it to Henry Gally of Langold. Henry Gally added 'knight' to his surname. His son also called Henry Gally Knight begun remodelling the house in Elizabethan style and landscaping the gardens about 1820. His architects were William Hurst( 1787-1844), and his partner John Woodhead who also built the church in Firbeck. In the 1846 the Firbeck estate worth £70,000 was left to the Ecclesiatical Commissioners who put it put up for sale in 1852. The sales brochure described the estate as:-

"Surrounded by beautiful gardens and pleasure grounds, with sheets of ornamental water in the midst of park like meadows, screened from the north and west by thriving plantations, and is approached by three lodge entrances. It contains upwards of 20 bedchambers with dressing rooms and water closets, entrance hall, billiard room, dining room, drawing room, library, vestibule and study, attached and detached servants offices, with noble vaulted and other cellars, there are cisterns on the top of the roof for hard, soft and river water. Upwards of 29 stables for horses with coach houses, carriage sheds, lofts, corn chambers and servants rooms."

It was bought in 1853 by Mrs Miles of Bristol who left it to the Jebb family in 1878. The Jebbs lived there until the beginning of the 20th Century. The estate was put on the market in 1909 but failed to sell. In the First World War was a home for Belgian refugees. In 1919 Firbeck hall was let to Mr A Peech of the Steel, Peech and Tozer company.

The hall was badly damaged by fire in 1924. In 1934 the house was sold to Sheffield stockbroker, Cyril Nicholson who converted it at a cost of about £80,000 into a country club, The Firbeck Sports and Country Club, renowned for its luxury. The interior was dramatically modernised with a state-of-the art lighting system and a mirror-walled ballroom. There was a heated outdoor swimming pool. Membership fees ranged from three to seven guineas, and the club was patronised by the likes of Amy Johnson and the Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson. Such was the reputation of the club, that the BBC transmitted its weekly Saturday show "Late Night Dance Music" with Henry Hall, Carroll Gibbons and Charlie Kunz from Firbeck. The nearby airfield provided an ideal means for the rich to arrive by plane.

When the Second World War started it was converted to an annexe of the Sheffield Royal Infirmary and the Royal Air Force, with the adjacent aerodrome becoming RAF Firbeck. In 1945 it was purchased by the Miners' Welfare Commission as a rehabilitation home for injured miners. It continued to be used for this purpose until 1984. It was then Transferred to Trent Regional Health Authority and used as a Rehabilitation Centre for Industrial Injuries until 1990 when it closed.

Firbeck Hall stood empty for some time until in 1996 it was sold to a gentleman by the name of Glen Saint who ran a local construction company called Cambridge Construction. Since Mr Saint bought the place it has continued empty and neglected and no plans have been released concerning what is to be done with it. The house is Grade II listed but is falling into neglect and needs a great deal of money spending on it. For the present is it 'watertight' which means that the roof isn't leaking. However local history and conservation groups together with Rotherham council are worried about its future. In May 2005 the hall was semi-derelict with the ground floor windows boarded up and the glass largely disappeared from the other floors. According to Rotherham Council the roof was water tight, but Tim Bristow (below) says that all the lead has been stripped so it can't be long before the leaks start. I expect that the hall has been entirely asset stripped. People who live in the neighbourhood say that the grounds have been used by itinerant travellers as a car wrecking yard, a scrap merchants and for tyre burning. As you can imagine the locals are not happy about it.

Firbeck Hall was damaged by fire on 10 July 2009 after a blaze broke out on the roof. A spokesperson for the Fire Service said "It was an accidental fire that broke out on the roof of the property which is derelict and currently undergoing a programme of renovation. The workmen had been working on the roof earlier in the day."

A spokesman for the Friends of Firbeck Hall said they were 'shocked and distressed' by the fire. "This calamity has come at a time when we are achieving early progress in our campaign to save Firbeck Hall. Temporary roof repairs are already in hand and we have established dialogue with Rotherham Council which promises greater action and a potential upgrading in the listing status of this historic building. We recognise the fire is a setback, however the incident only serves to underline the vulnerability of Firbeck Hall and our aim is to save it."

In 2010 Cambridge Construction went into liquidation and Firbeck Hall along with 41 acres of grounds was purchased from the liquidators, property consultants GVA Grimley, for the knockdown sum of £350,0000 by Jason Cooper of Doncaster on July 6th 2010. Cooper has a history of restoring Country Homes in the Yorkshire area. He led the successful renovation of Loversall Hall in Doncaster in 1998. Rotherham Council and the Friends of Firbeck Hall hope to work with the new owners to ensure the preservation and survival of the hall. In 2011 Mr Cooper has indicated that he wants to restore the hall and grounds as a family home. Given the time scale and the millions involved, personally I don't see this as a likely outcome unless it can be covered by some sort of development to fund it. There: I'm being cynical. No I'm not. In May 2013 Mr Cooper is seeking permission to demolish later outbuildings around Firbeck Hall with a view to building new executive apartments before commencing the restoration of the main house as - you've guessed - apartments.

Legend would have it that hall is haunted by a Green Lady who is believed to be the daughter of a former owner who drowned herself in the hall's lake when her Roundhead lover was killed. Naturally the hall is therefore beloved of parapsychologists, so if you see a light flickering after dark you can take your pick as to whether it is a ghost or a ghost hunter.

Links

Saving Firbeck Hall
Saving Firbeck Hall - a site dedicated to saving the Hall.
Friends of Firbeck Hall
The Friends Of Firbeck Hall are a group dedicated to saving Firbeck Hall.

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