Grand villa that was home two Yorkshire tycoons set to return to residential use after £2m restoration

A grand Victorian villa that was home to two of Sheffield’s most famous tycoons is having a £2m revamp to restore it to future glory.

John Holmes of Dorsia Homes in the dining room at Riverdale House. Picture Scott Merrylees
John Holmes of Dorsia Homes in the dining room at Riverdale House. Picture Scott Merrylees

Sheffield steel scion Charles Firth spared no expense on Riverdale House in 1872, with a massive carved oak and stone porch, ‘splendid’ drawing room, grand dining room, ‘noble’ staircase and stained glass window.

It also had 15 bedrooms - nine described as ‘excellent’ and six for servants - as well as a coach house, glasshouse, woods and gardens.

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The house on Graham Road, Ranmoor, was just the ticket for mail order magnate John George Graves in 1901, by which time electricity had been installed.

Riverdale House is having a £2m refit.

He took special pride in the gardens and reportedly liked the view across to Bingham Park - created by Sir John Bingham in 1911 – which may well have provided the inspiration for him to develop Graves Park 15 years later.

The building’s grandeur came to an abrupt end in 1972 when it was sub-divided to create offices for 20 firms. Woodchip wallpaper made an appearance.

That period ended 48 years later in October, when it was snapped up by Sheffield-based Dorsia Homes, run by John Holmes and Charles Tordoff.

Now, as eight upmarket flats, it is returning to its residential roots.

Up on the roof - every tile has been removed and cleaned.

Mr Holmes said he hoped it would be a project they could be proud of.

He added: “This is certainly one of my favourite jobs, it’s a chance to bring back some of the grandeur and honour the original architect’s intentions.”

More than 100 tradespeople will restore and renovate the Grade II listed building, which is made from sandstone, believed to have been quarried in Ranmoor, and features granite mullions and Welsh slates.

Already, carpenters including Geoff Gray have spent weeks repairing rotten wooden fascias, every slate has been removed and cleaned by hand and leadwork has kept roofers such as Martin Flanaghan busy. Sheffield joinery manufacturers Des Marples has restored the original sash windows and plasterer Alan Wagstaff is one of many more plying their trade inside.

Roofer Martin Flanaghan. Picture Scott Merrylees

Mr Holmes praised the expertise of the team, who are set to finish in March 2022.

By then, Riverdale House will have a glass feature ‘fit for a Bond villain’ leading to one of the penthouse roof terraces. And the famous dining room, with original features intact, will be part of a three-bed duplex apartment.

Sadly, burglars have also shown an interest, targeting the site five times and stealing lead off the roof and tools and prompting Dorsia to hire full time security.

But the firm, with the help of conservation architect Simon Gedye and heritage consultants, had adopted a ‘considered’ approach that had found favour with English Heritage and Sheffield City Council, Mr Holmes said.

And interest from buyers was already running high despite ‘zero marketing’.

He added: “We both live locally, I was married in Ranmoor Church. I like the fact we have restored elements so it will be here for years to come. It’s nice to be a part of that history.”