Hillsborough House

Hillsborough House, later called Hillsborough Hall is a large stone built mansion built in the Adam style in the latter part of the 18th century. It stands 2½ miles NW of the centre of Sheffield at grid reference SK331901 in the suburb of Hillsborough within Hillsborough Park, a council owned public recreational area. For 124 years the house was a private dwelling, however since 1906 it has housed the Hillsborough branch library. It is a Grade Two listed building.

Private dwelling

Hillsborough House was built in 1779 as a dwelling for Thomas Steade (1728-1793) and his wife Meliscent, who had been living in nearby Burrowlee House, which is situated just 250 yards to the east. The Steades were a family of local of landowners whose history went back to at least the 14th century. At the time of construction the house stood in rural countryside well outside the Sheffield boundary. Steade named his new residence in honour of Wills Hill who at the time was known as the Earl of Hillsborough, an eminent politician of the period and a patron of the Steades.

Stead acquired more land and the grounds eventually had an area of 103 acres (0.42 km2), they were much more extensive than the present Hillsborough Park, stretching north to the current junction of Leppings Lane and Penistone Road, and included the site on which Hillsborough Stadium now stands. It extended further south encompassing the site now occupied by the Hillsborough arena. The grounds had areas given over to agriculture but there was also extensive parkland featuring a lake, two lodges and a tree lined avenue. There was also a walled garden, which still exists today, which provided fresh produce for the house’s kitchens.

Broughton Steade inherited the house upon his father's death in 1793 but sold it in 1801 to John Rimington Wilson of the Broomhead Hall family. In 1838 it was sold again to John Rodgers, the owner of a well known local cutlery firm. Rodgers renamed his residence Hillsborough Hall as he thought this better reflected the significance of the property. Between 1852 and 1860 the Hall was occupied by the family of Edward Bury (1794-1858), the pioneer locomotive builder and part founder of the Sheffield steel firm of Bedford, Burys & Co. A plaque by the front door of the present day building commemorates the residency of Bury and his family. In 1860 the Hall was sold to Ernest Benzon, a German born financial advisor.

In 1865 Benzon sold the house to James Willis Dixon, son of the founder of the well known Sheffield firm of James Dixon & Sons, silver and metal smiths. Dixon made considerable alterations and redecorated the property. Archives record that at that time there were six servants' bedrooms with a nursery on the second floor and five family bedrooms on the first floor. On the death of James Willis Dixon in 1876 his extensive library over 1,000 books was sold off, his art collection which included works by Rembrandt, Rubens and Watteau were also auctioned.

The death of J.W. Dixon junior in 1890 caused the hall and its grounds to be divided into 14 lots and auctioned off. Sheffield Corporation (now Sheffield City Council) bought Lot 1 which included the hall and the surrounding 50 acres (200,000 m2) of land. A northern section of the estate on the far side of the River Don was sold to Sheffield Wednesday Football Club who needed a new home ground as the lease on their Olive Grove ground had run out. Lands on the western side of the estate were sold to build Hillsborough Trinity Methodist Church and to accommodate new housing as the city of Sheffield expanded. The streets that these new houses were built on were named Dixon, Wynyard, Willis, Lennox and Shepperson, all names connected to the Dixon family.

Hillsborough Library

In 1906 the house opened as Hillsborough library, although there were suggestions that it could be an art gallery and museum. The surrounding 50 acres (200,000 m2) of land purchased by the council became Hillsborough Park. Hillsborough’s first librarian was Henry A. Valantine who received a salary of £111. In 1929 a single storey extension was added to accommodate a new junior library. In the 1940s and 1950s a maternity and child welfare clinic was located on the first floor. In 1978 the building was found to have dry and wet rot and was closed for a period for repairs. The rooms on the library’s upper floors are used by local councillors and Members of Parliament for surgeries. Former politician Roy Hattersley who was brought up in Hillsborough had this to say in his autobiography A Yorkshire Boyhood, “The library remained our constant joy. It was part of our lives, a home from home housed in what had once been a mansion owned by a local worthy”.