Fulwood Guildhall

Origins

Where Fulwood Road broadens out before it ends at the junction with Canterbury Avenue is a large rectangular building with a forbidding façade. This substantial building had begun life in 1824 as a barn for Goole Green Farm so entrances and windows faced away from the road.

Date stone on south wall

On the track at the east of the Guildhall there are some kerbstones and it is possible to detect a curving path into the yard at the front of the building.

The Guildhall from the south (1950s)

None of the lower windows were part of the original building and it is likely that the round apertures were originally unglazed. There are ventilation slits in the upper parts of the wall. The original entrance is to the left of the down pipe.

The barn was part of Goole Green Farm which had been in existence when the barn was built. Neville Flavell in his book “From Goole Green to Nether Green” (2005) says that “in 1756, Sarah Woodhouse a farmer’s wife heard a Methodist preacher at Ranmoor and issued an open invitation to him to make Goole Green Farm the home of an emergent Society. The farm which was also an alehouse remained the Society’s home for nearly 30 years.

Flavell tells us that Sarah Moore, a young woman who was living in Fargate at the time, was tasked with establishing the Society. Moore and John Wesley corresponded and in 1791 he wrote of his intention to visit Sheffield, staying with the Moores, and that ‘probably I may see Hallam too’ but there is no record of his visiting Hallam.

When the 1851 census was taken, Thomas Andrew(s), a widower aged 60, was recorded as being a farmer of 11 acres at Gold Green (the name was spelt in many ways over the years) whilst most of his neighbours were cutlers. Thomas was still farming at Gool Green ten years later, sharing his house with 22 year old Horatio Lyden. Lyden was a monumental engraver probably working for the Hancocks, a family who for many generations were the local sextons and suppliers of gravestones, as well as builders. Thomas Andrew died in March 1871 a month before the census was taken so we don’t know when he stopped farming but we do know from the census that the farm was in the hands of Cornelius Hudson and his family.

Location

Cornelius probably wasn’t cut out for farming as by 1881 he had been replaced by William Watson, a ‘Cowkeeper, grazing 12 Acres emp a boy’ as recorded in the census. Watson was in turn replaced by Charles Spittlehouse 10 years later. Spittlehouse was the last person to be described as farmer on a census as in 1901 Joseph Westby and his extended family were living there. Westby, a cutlery manufacturer, had moved to the farm in 1905 and remained there until his death in 1929, his wife, Charlotte, continued living there until her death in 1936.

Ownership

From the Land Tax Assessments completed in the early C20th we know that the land (9088) was owned by Thomas Kingsford Wilson who was the son-in-law of Henry Dixon of Stumperlowe Hall. Wilson also owned the field below (9089). Henry Isaac Dixon owned much of the land in Fulwood and had sold the two fields to Wilson in 1907. As we shall see, Wilson was a key player in the conversion of the Guildhall. The Assessment also tells us that Westby leased both fields 9088 and 9089 and he may well have sub-let the field for grazing.

Land Tax Assessment 1912. The numbers in red show the reference in the LTA Field Book

Conversion to a Guild Hall.

The majority of the rest of this article is based on newspaper ‘snippets’ which may well have been provided by the Guild. The other source is Tom Dakin’s account of the Fulwood Sports Club written for its centenary in 2010. Dakin (born about 1930) is clearly speaking from personal knowledge and experience, although he is not always correct.

The barn was transformed into the home of the Fulwood Social Guild early in the C20th. The local newspapers first printed reports of the Guild in 1908 – an evening of song, sketches and a cinematograph show. Dakin says the Guild was a ‘farmer’s guild’ but from its first report the Telegraph refers to it as the Fulwood Social Guild’. A year later the Fulwood Musical Society was inaugurated with C D Leng (owner of the Sheffield Telegraph) as one of the vice presidents. Meanwhile, work to transform the building from a barn to a suitable venue was underway, funded, according to Dakin, by Wilson. This was to be more than a simple room and there is still evidence of the transformation the final layout.

At the western end a stage was erected with steps up from the floor. Below the stage was a space for storing scenery and props and behind the stage were dressing rooms on an upper floor. At the eastern end a balcony was erected with tiered seating. The door at the eastern end of the north wall and the one on the eastern wall gave access to the balcony and both opened outwards. The present owners told me that the lifting gear for the flats and scenery were still present when they bought the place in the 1970s. It was possibly at this time that the small rectangular extension at the eastern end was built. This had a simple urinal consisting of a cemented wall and gulley and was open to the sky. This basic provision was still in evidence when the present owners moved in but evidence of further provision was not. The conversion included catering facilities behind the stage at ground level.

The Guildhall was opened in November 1909 (Dakin gave 1912). Finance for the conversion had come from Thomas Kingsford Wilson. Dakin says Wilson gave the barn to the Social Guild but this is not corroborated by the newspapers, so it is likely that the Guild came to an arrangement with Wilson, possibly a rent of £20 per year. The newspaper report said Wilson presented the Guild with £20 which paid the first year’s rent. The conversion was not complete as there was still about £200 of furnishings but there was only £78 in the bank. Thereafter concerts were a regular feature along with children’s parties at Christmas and dancing classes. Occasionally the Guildhall was the venue for a wedding reception.

At some point (Dakin suggests the start of WW1) it was upgraded to act as a cinema. The projectionist accessed the projectors via a door at the eastern end of the southern wall. Unfortunately, the newspapers do not have any references to a Fulwood Cinema but Dakin says there were film shows during the winter months. The development of sound films in the late 1920s led to the demise of the cinema in Fulwood.

World War 1

When the first World War broke out, the Guildhall became the location for a massive effort to supply comforts to the troops and funds to support the Belgium refugees who had arrived in the City. The Army and Navy Aid Society was able to send nearly 100 garments to the Sheffield organisation by April of the following year. The members knitted, altered existing garments and created new ones from scratch. To fund this activity, they held jumble sales and concerts and at their first general meeting for ‘subscribers and workers’ they could report that over 2,500 garments had been made and £195 raised. The range of garments made were for the wounded who probably did not pack pyjamas, dressing gowns or slippers when embarking for France. The Annual meeting in 1915 heard that the Society had despatched 4700 garments since it began work, a feat that allowed them to top the chart for the number of garments produced by a Society in Sheffield.

After the war, the Guildhall returned to its usual function of being a venue for social activities. Dakin says the Guild itself seemed to lose its impetus after 1930 which may have been a result of easier access to transport from Fulwood where the trams now terminated and bus routes to the city were being planned. Car ownership was increasing and of course there were alternatives such as the Fulwood Sports Club.

World War 2

During WW2 the Guildhall was used as a Civil Defence First Aid post until the building was damaged by fire; fortunately the ARP wardens had a fire engine stationed on the land where the Scout Group has its HQ. After the War the Guild does not feature in the papers which supports Dakin’s comments about the lack of impetus.

After the War

The Guildhall became the base for many social activities based on the church. It was used by the Mothers’ Union and newly re-established Scout Group in 1949 and many will recall cub and scout meetings held there. In 1968 the Scout Group was able to build its present meeting place on land leased from the Church.

The Guild Hall as a private home

I haven’t established whether the church acquired the title to the Guildhall, though this has been suggested by others. A lady who joined the History Walk in September 2011 said that she was a member of the Church when the Guidlhall was sold in 1974 and confirmed that the Church was indeed the vendor.

In 1958 the Medical Officer for Sheffield surveyed the farm and other buildings in the area. The farm was condemned as unfit for habitation and demolished 10 years later.

Nethergreen Infant School was built and the school attached to church closed which enabled the church to consolidate its activities on one site. The Guildhall and the land where the farmhouse had stood were sold to the present owners in 1974. Since the they moved in, they have created a fascinating and unique home, retaining many of the features they found such as the tiered balcony and the stage.

The Guildhall was listed as a Grade II building in 1976.

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