“From my notebook” by Eric Cox.
Lees Hall is now only a name at Norton. A visitor would have to search hard for evidence of its former location. There is Lees Hall Road, Less Hall Avenue and Lees Hall Place together comprising about 200 dwelling houses but the old hall was not built on the site of these properties. To find the spot it is necessary to go down Lees Hall Avenue along the part formerly known as Kidnapper Lane on almost a parallel line with the Meersbrook, then pass through Coney Gree Wood and across the field. Straight ahead is the old site of Lees Hall. The last remaining outbuildings of the farm were demolished in 1965. Alongside is Cat Lane, probably deriving its name from “coed” meaning “wood”, which crosses the Meersbrook lower down.
A careful search of the ground-level reveals the outline of part of the ancient mansion site. The entrance to the old cellar is Just visible. Part of the old orchard struggles for existence and at different levels the ground indicates the gardens. Nearby is the Lees Hall Golf Club. From this vantage point abounds the progress of the mid twentieth century. Housing developments complete with towering blocks of flats in the Gleadless Valley. In place of Thorpe House and The Hollies which once stood near, in the isolation of their own delightful grounds, are hundreds of modern houses and up the lane stands the parish Church at the centre of Norton Lees.
It was not without a struggle that the ancient mansion was demolished. The tenant in the 1950’s when the local authority intimated its intention of removing it, was a M H.Earp who lived there with his wife and son Harry. The local newspaper “The Star” reported on Friday, 15th November, 1957 that;
“Sheffield Corporation have decided ‘with reluctance’ to demolish Lees Hall which is believed to be over 500 years old and is listed as one of the country’s historic buildings.”
The Estates Department considered the cost of renovation was too high. The roof timbers were riddled with woodworm and the fabric was in various stages of decay. The site was not required for building purposes and it would remain as farm land. Detailed records were to be kept and items of interest carefully removed for preservation. Mr. Earp received notice to quit in March 1958. This news was something of a shock as he had lived at Lees Hall for 28 years.
Lees Hall was a three storied house with mullioned and transomed windows, oak panelled rooms and an oaken staircase of areas architectural interest. It had no modern conveniences, gas or electricity, and water was drawn from a well. It is believed that the house of that time was a fragment of a much larger building. The origin of the Hall is lost in antiquity and it was popularly believed that an underground passage led from one of the cellars to Beauchief Abbey. The supposed entrance had been bricked up. In the cellar was a massive hexagonal stone table around which it was thought the monks gathered, who are believed to have occupied a building on the same site.
Local tradition thought the Hall served as a refuge for Mary Queen of Scots when she was in the care of Lord Shrewsbury at Sheffield Manor. His Lordship was friendly with the Parkers of the Hall at that time. Like many old mansions this, at the Lees, has its own story of being haunted. A tenant of the supposed haunted room said it was all rubbish. The story gave rise to the lines of John Holland;
“Forgetful of thy haunted glen, Lees Hall I Through which we hasten home.“
Mr. Earp the 65 years old pig farmer lost his appeal to save the old hall. The cost of restoration was estimated at £4,000 and though the tenant was willing to bear part of the cost the project was considered to be uneconomic. The building was demolished and the spot which had provided a colourful history with all the people who had come and gone over the years, was restored to farmland. “The days of man are but as grass: for he flourisheth as the flower of the field. For as soon as wind goeth over it, it is gone: and the place thereof shall know it no more.”