Restorations - Sheffield steel barons' old moorland hunting venue near Bradfield has one last shot at survival

For years, remote Thornseat Lodge, high on the moors above Bradfield, hosted shooting parties for Sheffield steel royalty.

Friday, 25th February 2022, 1:15 pm
Updated Friday, 25th February 2022, 1:41 pm

Then, somewhat improbably, it became a council-run home ‘for toddlers’.

Today, after standing empty for 42 years, it is a wreck that is well on the way to ruin.

WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR THE BUILDING?

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After standing empty for 42 years, Thornseat Lodge is a wreck well on the way to ruin.

But there is a chance it could be restored to glory under £4.8m plans to convert it into holiday apartments, a bunkhouse and wedding venue.

Already turned down once by the Peak District National Park Authority, the Hague family of Sheffield is trying one last time to give it a future.

The property, originally known as Thornsett Lodge, is on Mortimer Road above Dale Dyke Reservoir and deeper into the wilderness than the Strines Inn, which is on the same narrow and twisting lane leading to the A57.

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The interior is a chaotic mix of timbers, masonry and vegetation dotted with holes down to who knows where. Pic by Gina Phillips

It was built in 1855 for Sidney Jessop, son of the founder of eminent Sheffield steel-making firm William Jessop and Sons, which had a huge works near where Forgemasters is today on Brightside Lane.

It passed through four generations before being sold to Sheffield Corporation in 1934, and the building was last used in 1980.

Since then, it has become a study in decay.

WHAT STATE IS IT IN TODAY?

The aim is to restore the Lodge to form five self-contained holiday dwellings.

The roof is nearly gone. Stacks of slipped roof tiles teeter above crumbling walls.

One of two dormer windows on the front has fallen, leaving a radiator bizarrely suspended in mid-air. The interior is a chaotic mix of timbers, masonry and vegetation dotted with holes down to who knows where. The best preserved element is a castellated square tower.

Rachel Woodhouse-Hague, one of the directors of Thornseat Lodge Ltd, the owner of the site, thinks another winter’s battering will leave them nothing left to save.

WHY WERE THE PLANS TURNED DOWN?

Thornseat Lodge, 'Home for Toddlers, Mortimer Road, Bradfield' in 1952. Copyright Sheffield City Council

In October, their plans were turned down by Peak Park councillors stating it would ‘harm’ the building, the landscape and the area’s tranquility and dark skies.

It was not a ‘sustainable’ location, the proposal did not ‘mitigate the impacts of climate change’ and it would ‘exacerbate the impact of traffic’, argued councillors.

But Rachel said her team were encouraged by some of the comments and, with the help of Sheffield-based planners Urbana, they are making changes and trying again.

The aim is to restore the lodge to create five self-contained holiday dwellings, build a large wedding and function hall on the footprint of the former stableyard, restore the former engine room for ceremonies and construct a bunkhouse for ramblers on the site of a ruined cottage.

She said: “As a family that is embedded into the local community, we are determined to not give up on the restoration of this important non-listed heritage asset, and we firmly believe that there is still an opportunity to redevelop an historic building and the surrounding romantic scenery, to maximise a site that has fallen into recent decline.”

The ambition is to build a large wedding and function hall on the former stableyard.

They hoped to submit another proposal in the next few months, she added.

“We firmly believe this is not only the best, and most viable, option to secure the future of this important asset, but the plans will also create a mixed-use development to contribute to the economic, social and cultural life of Bradfield, fortifying the area as a popular tourist and cultural destination, as well as providing possible accommodation for hikers and ramblers along a number of well-used trail," she said.

“The building has been subject to looting over the last few decades, despite our numerous attempts to protect it. The lodge is in a desperate need of redevelopment to preserve the decaying structure. Our development plans aimed to preserve the front façade as much a possible. Sadly, there is little that remains internally of any heritage value.”

WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE BUILDING?

Website houseandheritage.org produced a detailed history of the lodge.

It states that as early as 1858, Sidney Jessop was entertaining party of 50 gentlemen for the ‘Glorious Twelfth’.

His brother Thomas also visited, reportedly spending long summers enjoying the fantastic view down the valley to the city centre. He will alway be remembered in Sheffield as the generous donor of the Jessop Hospital for Women which was established in 1864 on Figtree Lane, and a new hospital which opened in 1878.

When he died at Endcliffe Grange in 1887, his son William took over the firm. When William died in 1906, the right to use the lodge passed to his son Thomas.

But just two years later it was advertised to let, described as having ‘three reception rooms, 12 bedrooms, excellent servants’ offices, extensive stabling and outbuildings’.

It also came with relatively rare electric lights and ‘all modern conveniences’.

In 1928, the contents were auctioned off and soon after the house and estate were sold to a property investment company. In 1934, it was bought by Sheffield Corporation and when war loomed, in May 1939, it was announced that Thornsett Lodge would house infants from Herries Road Nursery ‘in case of emergency’. The frequently harsh conditions must have been character-building.

A swimming pool was built at the rear of the house and in 1973 it was described as a home for 16 emotionally disturbed children. By 1978 it was listed as an Intermediate Treatment Centre accommodating 12 young people. It closed in 1980.

In 2004, the council sold the property to Hague Plant Excavations Ltd and in June 2016 a new company was formed called Thornseat Lodge Ltd.

The building’s fate was mirrored in the decline of the steelworks on Brightside Lane which were demolished in 1992. It is remembered today in the name of Jessops Riverside business park.

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Thomas Jessop (1804 -1887), Mayor 1863-4. He was the donor of the Jessop Hospital for Women which was established in1864 on Figtree Lane and a new hospital which opened in 1878. Courtesy of www.picturesheffield.com
One of two dormer windows on the front has fallen, leaving a radiator suspend in mid-air.