Underwood House

View From Garden Terrace Ch 1930
View From Garden Terrace Ch 1930

Story: Christina White

I joined the local history class this year and as part of the course we were asked to undertake a research project of our own choice. I went to school at the Convent High School on Burngreave Road which was a large house that had been extended. I thought it would be interesting to find out when the house had been built and who had lived there. Most of you now will know the building as St Catherine's Nursing Home. By using internet research sites and the local history library I was able to find out quite a lot about the house and its occupants.

A family home

The first reference I can find to the house is in the census of 1841 when it is referred to as Underwood House and its occupants are Henry Cadman aged 30, his wife Ann aged 25, and two children Henry and Charles. Henry and Ann brought nine children up at the house, the last being born in 1853. Henry's brother Edwin and his familly lived next door in the Poplars for a short time before moving to Westbourne House at Fulwood.

Henry and Edwin inherited a steel company from their father Charles Cadman. Henry is referred to in the census of 1851 as a steel merchant. He must have been quite a prominent figure in the city at that time because in 1860 he was made a freeman of the city. He died in 1886 and left an estate of £6,837. Shortly after his death the family moved out of Underwood House.

Doctor in residence

Doctor George Robinson (surgeon) and his wife Emily moved into Underwood House in the late 1880s and they were there until the late 1890s. Doctor Robinson had previously lived at 1 - 3 Burngreave Road and these premises were still used as his surgery. In the late 1890s Doctor Robinson moved back to live at his surgery.

Doctor Robinson and his wife had an adopted daughter Kathleen Johanna Thompson who married Doctor John Weir in the early 1920s. Doctor Weir praticed in the area all his life and he took over the surgery in Burngreave Road from Doctor Robinson. Doctor Weir's son Doctor W Weir Jnr also practiced in the area and many older residents of Burngreave area may well remember him.

Convent and Private School

The house was bought around the turn of the twentieth century by the Catholic Church to be a convent and private school. The Sisters of Mercy came to Sheffield in 1883 from a convent in Commercial Road, London's East End, to teach at St Catherine's School. Initially they lived in Andover Street before moving to Underwood House. In Kelly's Directory dated 1902 it is listed as "St Catherine's Roman Catholic Convent Middle Class High School and School of Music." The Lady Superior was a Mrs Snn McDonald. The school did not have many pupils at this time and they were all of various ages.

In the early 1930s the school was considerably extended and a brochure was produced for prospective pupils. The fees were ten guineas per annum payable in advance of each school term. A reduction was made for two or more pupils. The aim of the school was to give the children a throughly sound education. The subjects to be covered were English, Latin, French, German, mathematics, drawing and elocution.

Chapel Convent High School 1930
Chapel Convent High School 1930

In the local history library I found a number of Christmas calendars from the late 1930s that had been sent to the parents of the pupils. These listed events that had taken place during the year and included details of both past and present pupils, covering marriages, children being born, academic achievement, and celebrations. The following are two extracts from the calendars:-

"One of our most successful garden parties was held on Saturday June 27th 1937. It was opened by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield (Alderman F Thraves J.P.) and his wife was also present. She was presented with a bouquet by little Cecily Dawson. The dances were all beautifully performed the favourite items being 'Shepherd and Shepherdess' by the juniors and 'Minnette' by the babies." (1937)

Classic Dance Garden Party 1930
Classic Dance Garden Party 1930

"On Thursday, October 21st 1938, we had a half-holiday for the visit to Sheffield of the King and Queen (Queen Elizabeth's mother and father). Those privileged ones who viewed the procession from the convent grounds, were very fortunate, for the royal car moved along very slowly, and the King gave us the friendliest of greeting, and the Queen the loveliest of smiles. We shall remember this wonderful day all our lives, and it is no exaggeration to say that the majesties won our hearts." (1938)

It must be remembered that the convent was not only a school but also a place where all the Sisters of Mercy who worked in the area lived and worshipped. Many of the nuns were teachers at the local schools.

The school was renamed at some stage to become the Convent High School and did very well up to the 1970s. Pupil numbers fell at the end of the seventies and the school eventually closed in the early eighties. It was the last of the private schools to close in the area.

I attended this school in the 1960s. They were very happy days.

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The content on this page was added to the website by Chris Blythe on 2009-11-29 20:33:41.
The content of the page was last modified by Jamie Marriott on 2009-11-30 15:22:25.

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