Wonder Women, Wincobank and the Anti-Slavery Movement

Wincobank Hall, though it has been demolished, has a very interesting and important history. It started its life as a farm and was first written about in 1574. At this point it was called ‘Le Wynkeabancke’.

Sketch of Wincobank Hall

A man called Joseph Read bought Wincobank Hall in 1816 and had the old buildings at the east of the hall demolished. Next to the hall were two cottages and a smithy (the location where a smith, particularly a blacksmith, works their forge, making or shaping a metal object by heating it in a fire and hammering it).

Mr Read also purchased several acres of farmland between the hall and Wincobank Wood, where he laid out gardens, meadows and orchards. The house eventually passed down to his his widowed daughter, Mary Anne Rawson in 1837, and she and her sister Emily turned the house into a select boarding school and day school. The day school later became the Upper Wincobank Undenominational Chapel.

While the Hall may have been demolished, the Chapel still exists today – why not visit it?

The Rawsons were very active in many national causes. After the Government abolished (which means to put an end to) slavery in the colonies in 1833 Mary herself led the anti-slavery campaign in Sheffield, protesting the seven-year ‘apprenticeship’ for slaves. This meant they were forced to continue working for the same people who had owned them as property and may have cruelly mistreated them, as well as meaning they were often still not paid for their work.

Rawson is to the far right in the white bonnet in this painting which is of the 1840 Anti-Slavery Convention. Benjamin Haydon / Public domain

Mary also helped causes closer to home when she saw the social harm caused by alcohol abuse. Through contact with families at the little day school and Sunday School at High Wincobank, she worked to persuade workers to drink less to reduce domestic violence and help make the family budget go further.

Mary died in 1887, and in 1899 Wincobank Hall was opened as a ‘rescue home’ by the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army left the site in 1915 and by 1921 Wincobank Hall was said to be in ‘a state of desolation’. The hall was eventually demolished in the 1930’s to make way for the Flower Estate and the growing population of Sheffield.