Story: Christina White
Photos courtesy of the Local Studies Library
I was intrigued when I came across the above picture which was taken in 1940. Whatever is the large structure at the bottom of Roe Lane and who would build a house with a tower attached? I had to find out who lived in that house and why they built the tower.
A visit to the Local Studies library was required and it was there that I found out that a Wright Chadburn had built the house in the 1860s and that he lived there with his wife Frances and daughter Ida. In the census of 1891, Wright’s profession is listed as ‘retired optician’.
The Chadburn family
Wright’s father William Chadburn went into business with David Wright in 1818. They manufactured spectacles, reading and opera glasses, telescopes and were also dealers in all types of hardware. Their premises were on Nursery Street where the Harlequin Pub now stands.
Wright and his brother Alfred joined the firm in the 1830’s and the firm was named Chadburn Brothers in 1837.
The firm prospered
By 1845 the company was described as opticians, mathematical, electrical and philosophical instrument manufacturers at the Albion Works. They also had a photographic portrait gallery on Norfolk Street.
In the Local History Library I found an old catalogue of the prices and description of the glasses that they made. I have listed a few below:-
Common Spectacles, 1s
Buffalo Horn Spectacles, 1s 6d
Tortoise Shell Specs, 4s 6d
Strong Silver spectacles, 10.00s
Extra Strong Fine Gold, 70.00s
They manufactured 1,000 dozen pairs per week.
The great exhibition 1851
Britain was one of the leaders of the Industrial revolution and Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert was interested in all new inventions. It was his idea to hold a Great Exhibition in Hyde Park where British goods could be displayed. Crystal Palace was specifically built for this purpose and goods from all over the world were on display. Millions of visitors attended. Wright and his brother Alfred exhibited and received an honourable mention.
By 1860 they were shown as being opticians to Prince Albert. They must have made quite an impression.
Wright died at the age of 72 in 1891. As Wright’s wife had already died his daughter moved out of the house and married in 1896 in Christchurch, Hampshire. The extended family carried on the opticians business. Many of you may remember Chadburn opticians on Spital Hill in the 1960s/70s.
What happened to the house and tower?
The house eventually came into the ownership of Mrs E Dey and she ran a dance studio from the premises from the 1930s to the 1950s. It was called ‘The Tower Ballroom’.
In the early 1960s the house was bought by Peter Stringfellow and became ‘The King Mojo Club’. The artists that appeared there included Ike & Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Hendrix and Elton John. When the club closed in 1967 it was used as a bingo hall named ‘Kings Bingo’. The house had quite a chequered history.
The answer to my question as to why the Tower was built is pure speculation. As Wright manufactured telescopes, I believe he had it built as an observation tower and would even bring his clients to the Tower in order to sell his goods.
I am not sure when the tower was demolished but I do know that a bomb fell at the bottom of Roe Lane in the second world war (The Sheffield Blitz – December 1940), so maybe it was damaged and had to be taken down.
The House was demolished in 1982 and Firshill Mews now stands on the site.