Several days reading in Sheffield Archives has shed dazzling light on the distant and dusty years of the chapel’s history. Tucked amongst the papers of the Sheffield Smelting Company lie letters, documents, accounts and records, waiting for someone, one day to find them. Once pieced together with our working knowledge of the chapel, originally a school, it all begins to make sense.
Mary-Anne, in her will, leaves £400 to be invested to provide an income for the school. In a handwritten note, written in 1885 she adds the furniture and stove from the chapel in the laundry for use in the room in the school building that will be “appropriated” for worship. This brief note helps clarify our confusion as to the original function of the building. It seems it was built as a school for multi-purpose use when Wincobank Hall and the outbuildings were sold off. What foresight – how modern!
In addition to the £400 left to the school trust that she had set up, Mary-Anne planned that the proceeds from the sale of Wincobank Hall should be invested in an annuity fund so that the school master and his wife would have a permanent income and so would never have to leave Wincobank. They were also bequeathed the rights to live in the School House for their lifetime. Mary-Anne estimated that the Hall was worth the £4,000 specified in her will, but by the time she died the building had fallen into such a state of disrepair that it could not be sold.
Despite the fact that they themselves, only received a quarter share of the sale of furniture from the Hall worth £59, her nephews, Henry Joseph Wilson and John Wycliffe Wilson seem to have honoured the commitment anyway. Records show that there were outstanding debts for the school and that it was at least temporarily closed while they sorted out what can only be described as a well intentioned mess.
Like her father before her, Mary-Anne had been ambitious, innovative and a compulsively generous risk-taker. It was just as well that her sister’s descendents proved to be people of great integrity and conviction who honoured their respected aunt’s intentions and acted as trustees of the charity well into the next century. Well done the Wilsons!
We should love to make contact with any direct descendents of HJ or JW Wilson and show you how hard we are working to carry on their good work.
This is the 1880 document that sets out the terms for the conveyance of the school building, house and grounds from Mary Anne Rawson to the Charitable Trust that she established to safeguard her legacy. It is a lengthy, wordy document, but here is the section that sets out the original purpose:
“Upon trust to permit the Schoolroom erected or built upon the said piece or parcel of land or any other building which may be at any time hereafter erected therein in place of the present building to be used as a Day-school or place for the instruction of children in secular and religious knowledge either gratuitously or otherwise by the present Teacher or Teachers thereof or such other or others that may from time to time be appointed by the said Trustees and who may hold and teach the religious views now commonly known as and called decidedly Evangelical. And upon further trust to permit the said building to be used as a Sunday School for the gratuitous religious instruction of children and as a place for the public worship of God and the preaching of Christ’s Holy Gospel on the Sabbath or on any other days.”
With an eye to the future, there is a clause regarding alternative use if the building cannot be advantageously used for a School, provided such use is considered to be of benefit to the neighbourhood. If the building is to be used as a place of worship this must be for “the simple preaching of Christ’s Gospel without any exclusive or sectarian or denominational bias.”
Hence the chapel’s designation as “Undenominational”.
So – it’s back to the Chapel for us to look again at the treasures that have been passed down, donated and collected. Some pieces whisper across the years and bring the past alive. The schoolwork of Amelia Knight and her sister Elizabeth was donated by an anonymous donor who was left with the task of clearing a house of a descendent of the of the girls. The work has recently been on display at Sheffield’s Weston Park Msueum.