Bishops' House – Sheffield, England - Atlas Obscura

Bishops' House

This house was home to a succession of park keepers for more than 90 years, but in all that time, it never had a toilet. 


This half-timbered Tudor house in the southern corner of Meersbrook Park in Norton Lees was built around 1500. The building is one of three surviving timber-framed houses in the city, and is said to be in the best condition. It served as the residence of the park keeper for many years, and today has been restored to its original design and serves as a local museum. 

When it was first built, Norton was a scattered farming community and the center of scythe manufacturing. It is known as Bishops’ House because it was said to have been built for two brothers who both became Bishops—John Blythe of Salisbury and Geoffrey Blythe Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry. Unfortunately there is no written evidence that they actually lived in the building and the connection is likely just local folklore.

The land that Bishops’ House stands on was owned by the Blythe Family from 1377 until 1737. The first known resident of the house was William Blythe, a farmer and scythe manufacturer, who lived there in 1627 . In 1886, ownership passed to the then Sheffield Corporation (now Sheffield City Council), who put it to use as housing for park employees. While one might think they would feel privileged to live in such a storied property, the house had no toilet of its own, even outside. Occupants had to use the nearby public toilet block within the park.

It is currently open as a museum and has been so since 1976, two years after the last occupants left. Since that time many of the original Tudor features have been restored. The house contains exhibitions on life in the 16th and 17th centuries with two rooms decorated in Jacobean Style. The upper floor of the building houses a fantastic reproduction of a Tudor bedroom and some amazingly warped wooden floors. Renovation has been funded by English Heritage and Sheffield City Council. Since April 2011, management of public opening was passed from the City Council museums department to the Friends of Bishops’ House volunteer group.

Know Before You Go

Bishops' House is open most Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Street parking is available directly outside but it is limited.

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February 7, 2020

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