Moor Oaks House
Moor Oaks House was built in by George Shepherd in1822. It was a very fine, large house whose entrance gate was on Crookesmoor Rd and whose principle rooms faced east and south. Given the topography of the land this would have given the house exceptionally fine views down along the Crookes Valley. The area that was to become Broomhill was in fact over the ridge to the southwest, on the slopes of the Porter Valley rather than the Crookes Valley, so it wouldn’t have been visible from here. To the west, you would have seen Pisgah House at the very head of the valley. George Shepherd was one of Sheffield’s many (>200) 18thc razor manufacturers and he was a wealthy man of 60 in 1822. The Sheffield trades directories mention that his work premises were in Solly St. We know that by 1820 he was described as a ‘gentleman’ so no longer actively involved in manufacturing, though he was very much involved with the Sheffield Water Company and was well known as a local benefactor, subscribing to the development of many of Sheffield’s civic institutions. The 1841 census shows that George Shepherd was still living here at Moor Oaks with his wife Mary; he was 79 years old and described as being of independent means. I haven’t been able to find of any children. George Shepherd lived here until his death in 1844. The Moor Oaks Estate was then bought by George Ronksley who was a wealthy landowner with extensive farming and property interests around Bradfield and Stannington. The 1851 census also lists his sister Maria Ronksley, and her husband – a cousin – also called George Ronksley, plus their children, in residence. George Ronksley the elder remained unmarried and was living here alone in 1861, the year he died. After this the Ronksley family retained ownership of the house until 1874 but leased the house to Edwin Hunter, a scissor manufacturer. In 1865 the Moor Oaks Estate was affected by a parliamentary bill that was enacted to deal with the aftermath of the Sheffield flood a year earlier. The bill empowered the Sheffield Waterworks Company to compulsory purchase of several tracts of land that were critical to Sheffield’s water supply, to enable essential works to the reservoirs and dams. This included the estate at Moor Oaks. The dams here in the Crookes Valley had been constructed by the same engineer who built the Dale Dyke Dam whose failure caused the flood and there was quite a lot of alarm that others may also have been poorly constructed. Once the works were finished the waterworks company retained the freehold of the estate, but leased the land between the reservoirs (what we now call the Moor Oaks Triangle) for development in 1878. (refer to maps for 1843 and 1903) The bill of sale for the development of Moor Oaks said that the ‘.estate was to be let on lease for 800 years in suitable building plots. On direct omnibus route to Broomhill, near Broomhill cab stand and omnibus station [corner of Taptonville rd], Broomhill post and telegraph office [corner of Glossop rd]. The estate is well timbered with ornamental trees, roads 40ft wide and provided with efficient drainage.’ When the development scheme for the Moor Oaks Triangle was laid down the boundaries of the garden around Moor Oaks House were altered. The garden was extended to the south (with a new carriage entrance added from the new Moor Oaks Rd) in order to compensate for the loss of the land to the east, where Highnam Crescent Rd was built. The gardens to the east had originally extended all the way to the ‘narrow walk’ footpath. Refer to the large scale maps for 1850 and 1894. As for Moor Oaks House itself, to my knowledge no good photos of the original house survive though there is one distant view of it taken all the way from the end of Moor Oaks Rd, and there is a good depiction of it in the painting by William Ibbit (1858). There is however a good description in sale particulars dating from 1910, when the house was sold at auction. This reads: “Detached residence known as Moor Oaks House with ornamental garden ground having frontage to Crookesmoor Road and Highnam Crescent Road and carriage drive from Moor Oaks Road. House commands extensive views and contains — Capital Entrance Hall with Porch, Dining Room with two windows, Drawing Room with two windows, Large Kitchen, Scullery, Larder, Pantry. Four bedrooms, one fitted with lavatory and two fitted with wardrobes and cupboards in recess, large Bathroom, separate W.C. and Servants bedroom and separate staircase. In the basement — cellar. The outbuildings consist of stabling for four horses with Chambers over, Carriage or Motor House with chamber over, Washing Shed and WC. Large stone pitched and flagged yard with entrance from Crookesmoor Road. The Grounds are nicely laid out with Grass Lawns and are planted with well grown shrubs and trees. “ (Refer to the picture accompanying the sale) After WW2 the house was extended and turned into a hotel; it was demolished in 1970.