Medieval ‘Bishops’ House’ in Sheffield was not home to bishops, researchers say

15 September 2017

FRIENDS OF BISHOPS’ HOUSE 

House of myths: the Grade II* listed Tudor house in the Norton area of Sheffield, known as “Bishops’ House”

House of myths: the Grade II* listed Tudor house in the Norton area of Sheffield, known as “Bishops’ House”

RESEARCHERS have discredited a generations-old tradition that a Grade II* listed Tudor house in Sheffield was the home of two medieval brothers who both became bishops.

Records show that the two-storey timber-framed building in the Norton area of the city has been known as Bishops’ House since at least the early 1800s. It was thought to have been built for Geoffrey Blythe, a close friend and ambassador of Henry VII, who was Bishop of Coventry & Lichfield between 1503 and 1531, and his older brother John Blythe, Bishop of Salisbury from 1494 to 1499. Both men had Yorkshire roots, although there is no documentary evidence linking them to the house.

Finally, earlier this year, the Friends of Bishops’ House — a voluntary group that runs the house for its owners, Sheffield City Council — decided to find the truth. They called in dendrochronologists, who can date timbers from their tree rings. They took samples from several oak beams and were able to declare that the house was built no earlier than 1554, long after both clerics had died.

A trustee of the group, Ken Dash, said: “Tree-ring analysis was first done when the house was restored in the 1970s, and this suggested that it was built around 1500. Techniques have moved on, though, and when we got the results back they were accurate to the year, and very surprising. It is more recent than we thought, and was not what we expected. Perhaps there was an earlier house on the site which they lived in; we do not know.”

The house is a popular public venue, hosting events ranging from free history talks to children’s craft sessions, medieval fairs, poetry readings, live music, and weddings.

Nick Roscoe, who chairs the Friends group, said: “Our guidebook and guided tours will have to be rewritten, but it’s exciting to really enhance our knowledge of the building.”

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