18th March 2024 – The history of Bishops’ House, Meersbrook, Sheffield – Ken Dash

Steeped in history and full of charm, Bishops’ House is both a museum and Sheffield’s best preserved timber framed building. Ken Dash, upon retirement as an archaeologist, developed an interest in the building and is now a Trustee of The Friends of Bishops’ House.

Bishops’ House is one of only four oak-framed half-timbered houses left in Sheffield and dates from the reign of Mary Tudor. It was built in 1554 in the tiny village of Norton Lees and was surrounded by Derbyshire fields. Sheffield was a small town a couple of miles away.

In the 16th century the local construction method was to fell large mature oak trees in the autumn and to saw the beams and rafters to size in the following spring. Joints were prefabricated in a framing yard and the timbers moved to the levelled site. Large roughly dressed stone corner blocks were installed and then stone blocks under the main posts were carefully laid on to which large perimeter beams wre placed. The gap underneath these
beams was filled by stone plinth walling. The main oak frames would then be erected and fixed by oak pegs.

The house has many daisy wheels, burn and witch scratch (apotropaic) marks. Until the early 18 th century there was a fear of witches and a need to protect one’s family from evil spirits. There are also Marian marks to invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary and dated about 1630. This may indicate that the family at that time were Catholic.

Ken is an excellent advertisement for Bishops’ House and an encouragement to visit this free facility on the south edge of Meersbrook Park.