Sometimes you can drive past a nice Victorian property every day without knowing just who used to live there, until you start to dig a little deeper. One such building is No 68 Clarkehouse Road which has been home to Wake Smith Solicitors for 25 years but had stood empty for the last 18 months. An unsuitable conversion scheme was submitted a while ago but new revised plans with reduced units looks set to go ahead. It is now to be converted into 11 apartments and one house instead of two will be built in the grounds.

68 Clarkehouse Road - side elevation with 1960s extension
68 Clarkehouse Road – side elevation with 1960s extension

A new apartment block will be built where the nasty 1960s extension was and much of the existing tarmac will be replaced by green, which can only be a good thing. The new build will also be pulled further away from the main building and be more in keeping with it.

Now to the interesting bit. This must have been a magnificent mansion in its heyday and was originally known as ‘Lyndhurst’. There is a small stone pillared gateway a few feet away from the main entrance which has a notice etched into the stone pointing to a rear entrance to the house. Presumably this was for the tradesmen and household staff – and anyone else considered ‘not suitable’ to use the front door!

Its claim to fame is that it was occupied (and possibly built for) John Aizlewood the famous corn miller and corn merchant. A monument to his success is one of Sheffield’s finest buildings – Aizlewood’s Mill on Nursery Street. Aizlewood's Mill. Nursery StreetIt was originally known as Crown Mills and Mr A also had premises at the much lamented Corn Exchange (No 15 to be precise) which should never have been demolished. Aizlewood’s Mill so nearly met a similar fate but is now home to several businesses and is one of Sheffield’s leading business centres. It was built in 1861 on the former Nursery Gardens of Sheffield Castle and was under the Aizlewood family control all the way through to 1962 when it was sold to Associated British Foods. In 1969 all the milling machinery was removed and the building sold off.

In 1985 it was put on the market and a bid of £19,000 was made to demolish it. Fortunately the Sheffield Co-operative Development Group Limited came along and purchased it for £1. (Sounds a bit like Supertram and Sheffield City Airport!). After a £2m restoration scheme it was opened in 1990 by Gordon Brown and as they say the rest is history.

To get back to Mr Aizlewood’s grand residence on Clarkehouse Road he lived there until around the First World War and then downsized and moved to No 3 Brocco Bank which is almost a stones throw away. In 1921 his old home was shown as being occupied by a Mrs Emma Brown and in 1931 a Mrs Emily Brown. Was this one and the same woman and simply a misprint? We shall never know.

When the new residents move into their flats, they will fling open their bedroom curtains in the morning and be met by the same view as Mr Aizlewood had. The magnificent Botanical Gardens which, in land-locked Sheffield is about as near as you’re going to get to a much sought after sea-view.

A MILLER’S TALE

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