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The old house near Washford Bridge


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This article first appeared in the Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society Vol 2, (1920-24),p 62, and is reproduced here by kind permission of the Society.


By A. B. SHAW.

ON the Attercliffe side of Washford Bridge, to the south of the main road, there is a house which bears upon its doorhead, within an inverted heart-shaped shield, the initials E R and the date 1671. The house is a small one - it measures only 35 feet by 20 feet -and in its original state contained simply a living-room or houseplace, a parlour, and two bedrooms above. It faces towards the west, and upon the ordnance map of 1853 it is shown with a garden before it, extending to the river bank, laid out with walks and lawns or beds. A statue is marked close to the river; there are also a number of trees. The building of which the house then formed part extended in both directions, and towards the north reached the main roadway. On the land to the east of the house other buildings are shown and there is a small field next the road. Across these are the words " Sugar House."

The house is built of coursed rubble laid in thin flat courses, with large dressed quoin stones at the north-west angle. The doorway, in the centre, has dressed jamb stones with a chamfered angle; the head is cut in a shallow semi-ellipse. Above the doorhead there is a weather mould of the usual semi-Gothic section.

To the north of the doorway is a window of three lights with chamfered stone mullions and jambs; it has a weather mould similar to that over the doorway. Above this, on the upper floor, there is another window of the same character. A slight emphasis is given by a deeper course of stone, flush with the wall, which carries the line of the upper sill.

Southwards of the doorway the wall has been rebuilt in rough rubble and the windows are ordinary wooden casements. The lower room towards the south, formerly the parlour, contains an overmantel of plaster in low relief. This is divided into three panels by vertical strips of ornament. The outer panels have ornament of conventional design; in the centre one are the letters E R and the date 1676.

There are traces of an old doorway and a mullioned window of two lights at the rear or east side of the house. This side also shows evidence of alterations and possibly there was originally a small project¬ing wing or offshot.

This extremely interesting and almost sole surviving relic of ancient Attercliffe is now surrounded by modern tenement houses; it is difficult to imagine that at any time it was a quiet, restful country cottage. The initials F R upon the doorhead seem sufficient indication of the builder's name, but further evidence appears in an Estate Rental of I671-2 : " For Stone got out of Dick Bank for Widow Roades house at Attercliffe 3/-.'' Dick Bank is the steep slope at the side of the River Don near Attercliffe Church, and the stone obtained from it was probably rubble, while the dressed stone would come from further afield.

The building of a house in a country village such as Attercliffe was at that time would not be a very frequent event. In 1670 the first stone bridge at Washford was completed; it replaced an earlier wooden structure. The house built by Elizabeth Roades adjoined this bridge, and it may be that surplus building material was ready to her hand.

The family of Roades or Rodes of Attercliffe and Darnall, although apparently of humble origin, was associated with that neighbourhood at least two hundred years; there are many very early references to he name in the Sheffield records. An Account Roll of the Receiver of Hallamshire for 1442-3, transcribed by Mr. A. H. Thomas, states that William Rodes, senior, paid £10 "for the farm of iron ore with the right of having wood sufficient to burn with it, - - - within the forest Revelynge and elsewhere within the lord's lordship, in order to get iron ore.". This is an interesting link in Sheffield's great industry.

John Roades of Attercliffe, carpenter, born in 1569, in the early years of Queen Elizabeth's reign, was the owner of the land adjoining the River Don upon which the old house now stands. He was recorded tenant in 1592 of three cutlers' wheels, later called Roades or Royds Mill and of land which he held on lease from the Earl of Shrewsbury; he had also a house at Darnall.

By his will, dated July 22nd, 1617, he left to Peter, his second son, his household furniture, goods, &c., in and about his house at Darnall; to Richard, his youngest son, his husbandry goods, &c:, in and about his house at Attercliffe Mill; to Jane, his wife, and his son Peter, all his leases from the Earl of Shrewsbury, and finally to his wife and sons, John, the eldest, Peter and Richard, the residue of his estate to be equally divided amongst them.

Richard, the youngest son of John Roades, was tenant of Roades Mill. He was somewhat of a spendthrift, or else unfortunate in his business, for he sold several pieces of freehold land at Attercliffe and when he died in 1638, at the early age of thirty-seven, he owed a considerable amount. Letters of administration of his estate were proved at York, November 23rd, 1638, not by his widow, but by Lionel Copley, of Rotherham, one of his principal creditors, who afterwards held the Ironworks at Attercliffe.

After the death of her husband Elizabeth Roades held the mill " at Will " until, in 1650, she agreed to a lease of the premises, for twenty-one years. This lease expired in 1671, when the premises were let to William Fenton. He had married her daughter Ruth, apparently her only surviving child.

At the age of sixty-six, after a lifetime of hard work and years of widowhood, Elizabeth Roades seems to have retired from the business, which she had conducted for thirty-three years, and built the house near Washford Bridge for her own occupation. She died January 1678-9 and was buried on the 8th of the month. It is significant that William Fenton was tenant for several years of Royds Mill and the adjacent land. After his death the property passed William and Michael Burton.

Mr. Charles Paul has kindly supplied the following information concerning the Fenton and Burton families. 'The will of William Burton of Royds Mill, dated January 10th, 1718, and also a Deed of Partition dated 1716, and relating to the Fenton family, with whom the Burtons had intermarried, show that the old house near Washford Bridge can came to the Fentons' about the year 1700, through a Mrs. Ruth Fenton. This is useful as showing its descent from the Roades family.

The later history of the house may be briefly traced. About 1783 Fairbank, on one of his plans, describes the house and land as property of Madame Elizabeth Fell, who lived at Newhall. Martin’s engraving or view of Washford Bridge in 1791 shows that it had ceased to be a private house and was then an inn. A drawing made by William Topham in 1879, reproduced in the Sheffield Independent in 1885, shows that it was still an inn, known as the Fleur-de-lis. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the property was owned by the Oakes family, of Oaks Green, Attercliffe; in comparatively recent years it was sold by them to Mr. J. H. Mudford, who is the present owner.

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