Clifton House was built for Joshua and Susannah Walker in 1783 and has housed Rotherham Museum since 1893. It was designed by the Yorkshire architect John Carr, with additional work added at a later date by Rotherham architect John Platt. It is listed Grade II* due to the many original features still intact.
The Walker family lived here until 1861, when Henry Walker died. After his death the house was bought by William Owen who died 1881. In 1883 the house and grounds were put up for auction for redevelpoment but failed to meet the reserve. In 1891 the house was sold to Rotherham Corporation for £23,000 for use as a Municipal Park.
The park was opened by the Prince of Wales (Edward VII) in 1891 with grand celebrations, with the Museum opening in 1893. Many of the early collections were made up of items donated and lent by local people. A significant number were also provided by local societies, such as finds from the Roman excavations of Templeborough in 1877 by Rotherham Literary and Scientific Society. The first Museum Curator was also the President of the Rotherham Naturalists Society.
The house was in the latest design known as 'Palladian', after Italian Palladio who copied classic Roman and Greek styles with the very plain stonework, classical columns and symmetrical design. This was very fashionable at the time.
When it was first built Clifton Park was well outside the town in what was agricultural land. The private grounds covered all the area now used as a public park. There was a fishpond, an icehouse and some of the land was let for grazing. The main entrance was roughly where it is now, but there was a wall and gates to hide the stables and kitchen garden. The main entrance was moved in the 19th century to make a private carriage drive up the hill, with the main gates on the corner. The alterations meant that the house was now facing the wrong way.
In 1973 the old outbuildings and servants quarters were demolished and a new extension was built on the same ground plan. The courtyard was roofed over and new galleries, stores, offices and visitor facilities were provided. The soot-blackened stonework of the 18th century house was also cleaned so that it matched the new stone of the extension.
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