What does the future hold for this historic Sheffield suburb?

It was 175 years ago when Sheffield Master Cutler George Wolstenholm started laying out the new suburb of Kenwood and building his own substantial house and gardens, known as Kenwood Park.

Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, 11:45 am
How one of the apartment blocks could look (credit Franklin Ellis Architects)

A successful businessman trading with America, George Wolstenholm owned plenty of land in the area and reinvested his wealth in the highest quality materials and craftsmanship for his own home and the surrounding tree-lined avenues on the hills above the industrial heart of Sheffield. 

Vine Hotels, which owns Mercure Sheffield Kenwood Hall Hotel, wants to build 36 apartments in the grounds but is well aware of the heritage of the site and has included a potted history in its planning application.

Mercure Sheffield Kenwood Hall Hotel & Spa. Picture Scott Merrylees

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Kenwood developed from an area of green fields to a middle class residential suburb during the mid 19th century.

Wolstenholm employed Sheffield architect William Flockton to design his house Kenwood in the Gothic style and landscape gardener Robert Marnock to lay out the gardens.

Marnock was also influential with the setting out of the tree lined avenues around Kenwood in a style seen by Wolstenholm on his trip to Kenwood in Boston, America. 

Marnock laid out a series of curving roads radiating from the rond-point, to the north of the grounds of Kenwood which were then built upon over the following 50 years with grand villas.

After the First World War the house and gardens were sold to create a new hotel and nearly 100 years on, the hotel is still trading as the local landmark with its mature setting of substantial trees, historic lawns and ponds. 

Vine Hotels says it has made substantial investment into the hotel and has “reinvigorated the business” to ensure that the hotel will continue to be a successful local business. 

But it says further investment is needed for the long-term management of the 12 acres of gardens and the apartment plans are “an opportunity to consider the future use” of the redundant stable block, banqueting suite, yard areas and underused parts of the grounds.

The application says: “The proposed homes will respond carefully and confidently to the challenges and inspiration provided by the special and precious setting of the historic buildings and idyllic gardens.” 

History timeline

1868 Wolstenholm constructed the North Lodge and archway which displayed his arms and crest at the junction of Rundle Road and Kenwood Road 

1876 Wolstenholm died and Kenwood Park was inherited by his wife Eliza 

1882-3 Eliza and her second husband, Thomas Beaumont added a large extension on the north side of the house

1899 the estate passed into the hands of a group of trustees 

1922 the estate was sold by auction to Kenwood Ltd for £5,000 and the house adapted to a residential hotel

1930 a new bedroom wing was erected to the east 

1956 four greenhouses were cleared to the west side of the garage and a banqueting suite was erected (completed in 1958) and the property was renamed Kenwood Hall 

1975 a new hotel named the Hotel St George was built in the grounds of the Kenwood Hotel and it provided 78 guest rooms overlooking the gardens and lake

1983 the two properties were combined to form one hotel providing 115 guestrooms

1987 – 2000 various permissions granted for an extension and conference centre amendments

Seventy objections to apartments plan

Nether Edge residents are passionate about the heritage of their neighbourhood and have made emotional pleas to planning officers.

One resident said: “Kenwood Hotel was where my father’s wake was held and so it holds memories for us as a family. The hotel where our mother’s wake was held, 

“The Beauchief has already been turned into private dwellings. There seems to be no understanding of the memories and emotions associated with buildings and no opportunity to go and say goodbye to them once a decision has been made and the contractors fencing is erected.”

One resident points to it being a conservation area. “The purpose of creating such an area us to preserve buildings and sites of historical significance which the Kenwood Hotel site certainly qualifies as the home created by one of Sheffield’s leading industrialists who was also the individual who did more than anyone to create the unique suburb of Nether Edge. 

“To despoil the estate which he created and which subsequent hotel developments have left largely untouched is contrary to good planning principles and an example of wanton destruction of a much loved and appreciated piece of local history.”

A third resident said: “Once lost, the specific characteristics of Nether Edge that make it so special, cannot be recovered. It would not be right to just sit back and watch as more of the existing and precious green space in Nether Edge continues to be concreted over.” 

And another resident said: “I write as a 50 year resident of the immediate locality. Not surprisingly, I care deeply for this lovely area and know it practically brick by brick. The proposed development of three flat roofed blocks within what is a wildlife haven and area of beauty can be nothing but detrimental.”

Planning officers are still considering the application, which can be viewed here