The Ladies School

This was a small private school run by Sarah and Mary Rhodes who were the daughters of Hugh Rhodes, the minister of the Independent Chapel on Chapel Lane. Sarah had been born in Buxton and Mary who was eight years younger than her sister was born in Sheffield. By 1865, and probably earlier (in 1861 the sisters described themselves as ‘school mistress’), they had established the school at the ‘Chapel House’. The Chapel did not function as a place of worship between 1873 when Hugh Rhodes died and 1899 so the school might have provided an alternative use. Although named as the Ladies School in the 1881 census, the Rhodes sisters did not use this title when they advised readers of the Independent in January that they would ‘re-open their school’ on Tuesday 18th of that month and that they had a vacancy for two boarders[1]. They used this phrase in their announcements that were published just before the start of each term.

The census of 1871 recorded 6 girls between the ages of 10 and 14

The House and Chapel

The chapel had a school room and a house for the minister and his family but neither are large, so the house, at least, must have been quite crowded on census night 1881 when eight scholars slept there, along with the two sisters, their nephew Sydney and a 14 year old servant.

There is a gap in the newspaper announcements between September 1889 and September 1893 although Mary and Sarah continued to live in the Chapel House. The last entry is year later, in 1899 when Sarah was approaching 75 years of age and Mary was 60, so perhaps managing 6 vivacious girls was getting too much for them.

Perhaps the development of State Education (e.g. the Fulwood Board School) had reduced the demand for schools like this. In their notice in the Telegraph in January 1899 they said that they “Do not object to take Delicate Children” which suggests the sisters were not recruiting as many pupils as previously. This may explain why they began to let rooms in the Chapel House. Their notice in the paper in 1897 offering to accommodate bicycles suggests short stay lets, perhaps an early form of Airbnb! By 1904, they were looking for long term lets, offering 2 bedrooms and a sitting room in the house which was only 15 minutes’ walk from the terminus at Nethergreen!

Sarah and Mary Rodes disappear from the records from the middle years of the decade by which time the Chapel had become a home to a vibrant congregation. It was the location for ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoons’ but that another story!

[1] Sheffield Daily Telegraph 08 January 1881

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