NOSTALGIA: The changing face of Wincobank Hall

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When archaeologists excavated the site of Wincobank Hall in 2004, prior to the building of the Amaranthus development they recovered numerous diamond shaped fragments of glass from the leaded windows, now on display in Weston Park Museum.

It is extraordinary to think that from these same windows, world famous campaigners like William Wilberforce, William Lloyd Garrison, Garibaldi and the escaped slave Frederick Douglass once looked out onto beautiful flower gardens and the ancient oak woodland of Wincobank Hill.

Wincobank Hall developed from “Le Wynkeabancke” a farm that was first recorded in 1574.

The earliest recorded resident was John Browne, merchant of Wincobank and Sheffield who was recorded as having been elected Town Trustee in 1713. His wife Martha Staniforth, had brought the property to her marriage as a dowry.

In 1727 their daughter Lydia and her husband John Sparrow from London are credited with developing the Hall into a Georgian Mansion.

In 1789 the estate passed to their elder daughter, the widow of Joseph Roberts then sold to Mr Jonathan Walker of Ferham.

In 1816 Wincobank Hall was bought by Joseph Read who was looking for a place in the country for his growing family. In those days High Wincobank was a quiet rural hamlet with a population of farm-workers, nail makers and a fork maker.

The Reads had been living in Royds Mill, Attercliffe the family business, a silver and gold refinery that is still trading as TheSSCo.

Joseph Read purchased additional land behind the house reaching Wincobank Wood and up to the track leading to the Iron Age Hillfort.

“Here he laid out gardens and orchards, and pleasure grounds, encompassed with meadows and plantations, whose exceeding beauty was enhanced by the splendour of the distant landscape.” (Sheffield Telegraph 1821).

Joseph and Elizabeth Read had five daughters and one son.

With their mother, the older girls were founder members of the Sheffield Ladies Anti-Slavery Society and actively supported many other campaigns for social reform.

By 1817 they had established a chapel in the coach house and a Sunday school in the laundry, there being no other place of worship nearby.

In 1835 Joseph Read suffered a financial disaster and put the estate up for sale, dying shortly afterwards, a broken man.

However, his eldest daughter Mary Anne, who had married William Rawson from Nottingham, was tragically widowed and by a strange stroke of luck inherited a legacy through her late husband’s family which enabled her to clear her father’s debts and return to live at Wincobank Hall with her mother, sister Emily and baby daughter Lizzie.

Mary Anne and Emily ran a private school for young ladies in the Hall and in 1841 they provided land and raised funds for a day school for the local children. The ladies entertained many world famous speakers at the hall and their extraordinary influence reached across the globe. Mary Anne died in 1887 leaving the school building and grounds to a charitable trust.

The school became a chapel in 1905 and is still in use today as Upper Wincobank Chapel.

Wincobank Hall had fallen into disrepair as Mary Anne had exhausted her funds on her campaigns. However, it continued to have a social purpose by becoming first housing orphans from the workhouse and later as a Salvation Army refuge for women.

Eventually, it was purchased by the Winco brick maker Alfred Schofield, and in 1925 it was demolished to make way for the final phase of the ground-breaking Flower Estate, one of the first social housing schemes in the country.

A development that Mary Anne would have whole heartedly supported.

* For more information about Wincobank Hall and its history please visit htpps://upperwincobankchapel.blogspot.com.