Bishops' House: Help needed to keep one of Sheffield's oldest buildings open to the public

The building in Meersbrook Park dates back to 1554 and has operated as a museum for many years
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Bishops' House in Sheffield's Meersbrook Park was built in 1554, during the reign of Mary TudorBishops' House in Sheffield's Meersbrook Park was built in 1554, during the reign of Mary Tudor
Bishops' House in Sheffield's Meersbrook Park was built in 1554, during the reign of Mary Tudor

It's one of Sheffield's oldest buildings, offering a fascinating insight into the city's rich history.

But Bishops' House in Meersbrook Park is desperately in need of more volunteers to keep it open to the public for its full hours each weekend.

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The people running the attraction, which is described as Sheffield's best preserved timber framed building and one of the region's 'architectural treasures', have issued an urgent appeal.

The house, which dates back to 1554, has already been forced to close early on a number of occasions recently due to a shortage of volunteers.

Jenni Sayers, secretary of the Friends of Bishops’ House, which runs the building, told The Star: "We urgently need more volunteers. If the friends group didn't keep the building open to the public it would shut because there's no one else who would open this amazing piece of Sheffield's history up to visitors."

The friends group wanted to make it clear there is no immediate threat of the building closing to the public but that without more volunteers the group will continue to struggle to keep it open for its full scheduled hours during the weekend.

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Bishops' House is owned by Sheffield City Council, which funds its maintenance, and the exhibits are curated by Sheffield Museums, but it is volunteers from the friends group who keep it open to the public.

Historic building in middle of popular Sheffield park also hosts gigs and weddings

As well as opening as a museum at weekends, it hosts gigs throughout the year and is also available to hire as a wedding venue

Jenni said volunteers are only asked to give three hours of their time on a Saturday or Sunday, on an 'ad hoc' basis whenever they are able to help out, and no experience is required.

In return, they get to play their part in preserving something she says is 'so special and unique to the city', and they get the chance to meet a variety of visitors and other volunteers.

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Describing the building's charm and importance, Jenni says: "It's an absolute delight. It's quite a surprise when you come round the corner into the park and you're suddenly faced with this iconic Tudor building in the middle of a 1930s housing estate.

"The interior offers a wonderful insight into Tudor and Stuart history, with rooms set up as they would have been in the 17th century and displays explaining what life was like back then.

"There's lots for children to do too, including the mouse trail, drawing and colouring, and dressing up, which is popular with the adults too."

What is the history of Bishops' House and who lived there?

Despite the name, no bishops are today believed to have ever lived in the house. The Blythe family lived there from 1554 until 1753 and two members of that family were bishops, of Salisbury and Coventry, but it is now understood they had both died by the time the house was built in what was then a Derbyshire hamlet.

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After the Blythe family departed, the building became home to tenant farmers and later to the gardeners and park keepers responsible for maintaining Meersbrook Park, which opened to the public in September 1887, the year after the land was bought by Sheffield Corporation. The house was occupied until 1974, after which it was restored and opened as a museum.

Bishops' House is free to visit and is usually open between 10am and 4pm every Saturday and Sunday, but due to the shortage of volunteers people are advised to check the website to ensure it is open as normal on the day they plan to visit.

For more information about Bishops' House, visit bishopshouse.org.uk. If you're interested in becoming a volunteer, you can email [email protected].