Tuesday, June 27, 2017

News: £6m restoration planned for former country club


Detailed plans have been revealed for the restoration of an historic hall in Rotherham which has a colourful past, including a period as an exclusive country club that reportedly attracted high profile visitors such as Edward VIII and aviation pioneer, Amy Johnson.

Firbeck Hall is a Grade II listed building that has remained unoccupied since it closed as a hospital in 1990. Previous owners and developers have been unable to bring the hall, which was built in 1594 by William Best, back into use.

Owners and developers Ashley Wildsmith and Mike Gibbs took on the dilapidated property in 2015 and brought forward plans for restoration, reuse and redevelopment. Now a detailed planning application has been submitted to Rotherham Council based around renovation parts of the estate to create apartments and demolishing more modern extensions to be replaced by dwellings.

A public consultation was carried out at the end of 2016.


The plans, drawn up by local architects, Building Link Design, state: "The proposals will create 21 apartments in the hall, three apartments in the stable block and nine new dwellings within the grounds of the hall in place of the derelict buildings currently occupying the site. The construction of the new build dwellings allows for sufficient funding which is vital to the restoration of the listed buildings."

Work on the hall includes replacing the whole roof and the wooden roof and floor timbers. The state of the property was exacerbated by a fire in 2009 and by the theft of roof lead. The stable block, which is also a listed building, is in slightly better condition.

The applicants estimate that the work on the hall and stable block will cost in the region of £5.8m, over £1m more than an expected sale price at the end of restoration. Eight new build dwellings to the rear of the hall, and a unique five bedroom property in the walled garden, will create the financial means of restoring the hall.

A biomass combined heat and power (CHP) facility is also proposed in the pavilion area away from the listed buildings.

The applicant adds: "The massive expense in refurbishing the hall and stable block far outweighs the potential resale value and as such would not be a viable option without looking at alternatives to increase funding.

"Without something urgently being done to save the hall and stables they would soon be beyond saving. With the hall being within the Green Belt this restricts the available options and so a departure from policy is sought.

"In its current state, the hall is an extremely dangerous structure and access is restricted. If left to continue to decline the hall is dangerously close to being beyond saving.

"This proposal saves two listed buildings, one of which is over 400 years old, the likes of which are few and far between throughout the country. The new dwellings do not cause a negative impact on the setting of the listed buildings or the Green Belt, in part due to their location between the hall and the woodland to the west."

The main hall was later remodelled in 1820 when the property was let to the Peech family of the steelmakers Steel, Peech & Tozer of Templeborough in Rotherham. Further additional alterations occurred in 1935 when the Hall was opened as a country club. At the outbreak of the Second World War the Hall was used by Sheffield Royal Infirmary and the Royal Airforce.

It was bought by the Miners Welfare Commission for use as a rehabilitation centre for injured Miners and was last used as a Rehabilitation Centre for Industrial Injuries.


It is the period of ownership under Sheffield Stockbroker Cyril Nicholson that is of most interest. The country club opened in 1935 and was described as "one of its kind in the north of England."

The heritage statement accompanying the application discusses the £80,000 revamp (a large sum at the time, around £5m in today's money) which saw the old family house turned into the Firbeck Hall Club, complete with art deco interiors, billiards room, ballroom, cocktail bars, restaurant and wine cellars. There was also the 18 hole golf course, tennis and squash courts, a swimming pool, fishing, riding and even an aerodrome.

The club, managed and served by staff brought in from Savoy, Adelphi and Picadilly Hotels in London, once featured in Vogue magazine and reputedly attracted guests including the then Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson.

Images: Sophia Property Developments Ltd / Building Link Design


Scott Engering June 27, 2017 at 1:40 PM  

A very interesting development.

Like so many historic buildings that are built of Magnesian Limestone, it is not always so easy to find a good matching stone that will satisfy English Heritage etc - especially since the vast majority of the original quarries will have long since closed and there are not many alternatives.

Last year, during a detailed investigation of numerous mediaeval churches (and associated historic buildings in these villages) in South Yorkshire - many of which are built of Magnesian Limestone - I encountered considerable variation in the colours of the stone used. The specification of a suitable stone for a substantial programme of repairs needs to take this into account: http://thelanguageofstone.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/stone-matching.html


Scott Engering

Anonymous,  July 19, 2017 at 5:53 AM  

How do we contact the owners? Very interesting in buying. My family owned it for a long time...Barbara

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