Birley Spa, Sheffield – a remarkable survival

The outside of the spa building. The left from the car-park, the right showing the two storeys

Back in September I re-visited the delightfully surprising Birley Spa. This is a rare spa building survival which was once in Derbyshire, but now firmly in the suburban edges of Sheffield.  

An old origin?

Our first record is when it was established as seven baths by Earl Manners. However, it may have an ancient origin, the spring is located along Neolithic trade routes and indeed implements have been found in the vicinity. Some authorities have noted that there was a Roman bath here supported by the proximity to the Rykneid way. There is however no direct archaeological evidence to support this theory and it may have been spread around by the proprietors to support the quality of the water.  A work by T. L. Platts (1976) contains much of the information and it is from this work I have taken most of the notes. The earliest establishment of the spa is thought to be in the early 1700s being built by a Quaker named Sutcliffe. The spa then consisted of a square stone building with a cold bath within with a bolt fixed on the inner side to ensure privacy. This structure appeared to exist until 1793 when the bath was ruined and filled with stones.

A spa reborn

In 1843, the Earl Manvers who owned the Manor developed this spa for a larger and more upmarket clientele. A Leeds chemist West analysed the waters stating that they were beneficial for those suffering from constipation. An administrative committee was appointed and even a Bath Charity was started so that poor people could benefit and take the waters.

A spa in decline

Unfortunately the baths did not make profit and by 1895 only one plunge bath remained; the Hotel apparently ceased to function as such about 1878.  It is believed that Earl Manvers removed the marble from the warm bath for his own use. The site then went into a slow decline. In the 1920s and 30s a children’s pleasure ground was established but the grounds were closed in 1939, due to the prohibition of assemblies of crowds, introduced as a safety factor in case of air raids.  The buildings and grounds were allowed to decay and become very dilapidated. Since the building of the Hackenthorpe Housing Estate in the 1950s Sheffield Corporation have become owners of the property.








The museum room (old warming room) and the coal room

A re-born again!

Fortunately unlike other sites, the bath house still exists, probably as a consequence of the first floor being used as community centre. The cold bath was derelict and rubbish strewn, but a splendid restoration has been undertaken. The bath house can be found in a small wooded dell in the housing estate. Despite predations by vandals on the house, the interior reveals an impressive oval stone lined cold bath with steps into the water either side. To the other side are a small collection of artefacts and the history of the site. There is also the store room where coal was stored for the warm bath which no longer exists.

Birley Spa is now open for special events and the first Saturday in the summer months; however it is best to check that the site is open as it is open by volunteers. It can be viewed from the outside when closed and can be reached off the A1635 take Occupation Lane then Birley Spa Lane on the left and once passing a school on the left there is a lane going into the woods on the left by a side, down here is the Spa. There is some parking.

Revised from Holy wells and healing springs of Derbyshire.

Copyright Pixyled publications

About pixyledpublications

Currently researching calendar customs and folklore of Nottinghamshire

Posted on November 4, 2011, in Restoration, Spa, Yorkshire and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. can you give a bit more info as to the author of the booklet, and the author of this revised article?

  2. I’m interested in Birley Spa history- what is your particular interest in the Spa? Are you local? it’s interesting to read your description; it must be a few years ago. Are you aware of the current interest; the Council are anticipating selling it: are you a historian?

    • My interest comes from a general interest in such sites as per the website and books. However, I don’t live far from Sheffield I must have visited in around 2008 I reckond. I just checked and see it is now derelict again and notice the attempt to see. I’d be happy to spread any information to support its continuation as a historic site you deem fit. I also have over 8000 members of a very active facebook group which may also help support any cause. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

  3. Thanks very much for your support- we may be in touch in the future… I can also tell you that T L Platts wrote his book “A Spa in Sheffield” in 1976…

  4. Glad that you know the booklet. I thought you would be pleased to know the date as in your blogg on Birley Spa you state “A work by Platt, (undated but around 1930s)” The author is T.L.Platts. It was published in 1976. I just assumed that you would be interested enough to make your informative article correct for all who read it. Thankyou

  5. very pleased to see your interesting work now references T L Platt (1976) Forgive me if you don’t mind me pointing out again the name is Platts -with an s. You will think I am very particular; indeed I am; T L Platts is my late father, local historian. Thank you vey much.

  6. hello- as you obviously have an interest in Birley Spa, you will be interested to know that the City Council has now put the Bath House up for sale by Auction on 4th September. There is a petitiion to object to this, and it is also possible to sign up to a facebook page “Friends of Birley Spa.”

    the petition can be found at “Birley Spa”, or by this link:

    Thank you very much for your interest

  7. Thanks I’ve signed and share with the 8000 members of the Holy, Healing Wells and Sacred Springs of Britain Facebook group. I shall do a piece for my news part as well. I’ll also change the name, apologies again…I’d imagine your father would be greatly impressed his interest and support for the site continues with you but equally saddened to see that the council are wantonly trying to sell it off!

  8. Thank you very much for adding the s to my father’s name on the article. It is also good to see your interest in Birley Spa. Thank you for forwarding information to the group.
    After a meeting on the 10th it seems that the Council will not rethink their decision to sell by auction on the 4th Sept. Nor will they include in the Legal Pack restrictions to further preserve the historical integrity of the site, which is what has been asked for. The council hope a developer will buy the site. Further details can be found on the Mark Jenkinson website.

  9. Countess Smirnoff

    I see no reason why an investor (or a group) – can invest in restoration of this historical place & leave it to posterity.

    Because, once carefully restored – it will be easy for a person with vision to create brilliant marketing material combined with a few interviews on Radio & TV. I see it as a success story! Countess Smirnoff (Economist: X- Swedish Institute/ Foreign office + Ministry of Health, Stockholm).
    I see it as a

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