Children from the slums of Sheffield bowled over by Priory convalescence home

Denaby 1935 Silver Jubilee celebrations
Denaby 1935 Silver Jubilee celebrations
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Allport (1913) states that the Priory/Godfrey Walker’s Convalescence home – now occupied by the DMBC, is unquestionably a very old house, but contrary to the generally accepted theory, never was what its name implies, though closely connected with the Church.

The building appears to have been the priest’s house before the Conisbrough vicarage was built and the grounds were largely used as a graveyard. In making a cellar under the house in 1868 ‘cart-loads’ of human bones are said to have been dug up.

A few years later, the entire skeleton of a woman was discovered only a few inches under the surface, close to the main entrance gate.

Allport also states: “The date when the Priory was built seems lost in antiquity; but the entire Priory Manor, or lands belonging at one time to the Priory at Lewes, came into the possession of a Mr Tudor, who rebuilt the old house and named it the Priory.”

The house passed through various owners including Godfrey Walker, ‘one of the best known and most popular public men in the Don Valley’.

He was senior partner in the firm of Walker & Crawshaw’s Ashfield Brick works, whilst he was also connected with agriculture.

Thereafter, his widow gave the Priory to the Sheffield General Infirmary as a convalescence home for children. Allport states: “Most of the children come from the slums of Sheffield, and to many of the poor little things the change must seem like a foretaste of paradise. Some Conisbrough people were displeased at the Priory being given to Sheffield, but it is questionable whether any other scheme would do more good or be more appreciated by those for whose benefit it was intended.”

The home was closed in December 1937. During the Second World War, the building was used for Civil Defence purposes. However, in recent years the property has been used as office accommodation by Conisbrough Urban District Council and the DMBC.

n The SYT of May 10, 1935 stated that Denaby Main had risen to fame on more than one occasion and its fame had been ‘noised abroad’ for its wonderful display of street decoration in honour of the Silver Jubilee of the King and Queen.

On that occasion, Denaby put its politics aside and, like one family, joined in the joy and happiness of the occasion.

There was not a street in the village that was not gaily and artistically decorated. Lampposts were decorated (and even whitewashed) and in some cases the lamps had covers and lanterns over them to enhance the beauty of the scene.

Shops were bedecked with flags and papers, and though, in many cases, coppers were spent that could be ill afforded, the spenders found joy in the thrills which followed.

n Adwick-le-Street Rectory was purchased in 1952 by the then Adwick-le-Street UDC to house the treasurer’s department.

The transfer took place in August 1954, the rest of the UDC departments remaining in the old Council Offices in Village Street.

During the following year, the new Council Chamber was completed and an official opening took place on December 6 ,1955.

When reconstruction work started it was discovered that there was extensive infestation both past and present of deathwatch beetle, furniture beetle and house longhorn beetle in the roof timbers and other woodwork.

Consequently, all timbers were removed from the old rectory and pre-stressed concrete beams and floors substituted.

Archaeological excavations proved disappointing, the sum of one shilling and one penny being discovered. The penny was dated 1700, the shilling 1817.

A booklet published about the building to coincide with the building’s opening as a town hall, includes the following historical information: “[The building] dates back to the reign of King Charles the Second, to be precise the year 1682. One Albrede de Lisureo gave the ‘glebe’ of St Laurence Church to the Nunnery at Hampole, but after the dissolution of that order, a Mrs Anne Saville of Methley purchased it at a cost of £900 and settle it on the church for ever. The Rev Joshua Brooke being the incumbent and having his income considerably enlarged by the addition of [that] benefice, built at his own cost [in1682] the present parsonage house from the foundation.”

n Westfield House, in Fisher’s Park, Balby, was built during the early 19th century and was, for many years, the residence of Frederick Fisher, Town Clerk of Doncaster from 1824 to 1835, and afterwards an Alderman and Mayor of the Borough, and his son, FW Fisher, clerk to the Borough magistrates.

The widow of the latter gentleman survived him for many years. After she died negotiations for the purchase of the estate were concluded in 1937 by the Doncaster Corporation.

Shortly afterwards the house was demolished, the grounds being used as a park. Earlier, in 1913, two people were charged with an attempted suffragist outrage at Westfield House.