Why Jeffie?

Jeffie Bainbridge Children's Centre inscription, Norfolk Street, Sheffield

Jeffie Bainbridge Children’s Centre inscription, Norfolk Street, Sheffield

For years I wondered, when I walked along Norfolk Street in Sheffield’s city-centre, about the carved stone on the corner of the Halifax Bank, which says “JEFFIE BAINBRIDGE CHILDREN’S SHELTER”.  Why, in particular, does the lettering say “Jeffie” rather than “Jessie”?

The building which now contains the bank was built in 1893-4 by Emerson Muschamp Bainbridge (1845-1911), a towering figure in nineteenth-century industry in the north of England.  He was the son of the founder of Bainbridge’s department store in Newcastle-on-Tyne, trained as a mining engineer, and became manager of the Sheffield, Tinsley and Nunnery Collieries in Sheffield.  His industrial directorships extended to other collieries in Yorkshire, and he was effectively the founder of the colliery and village of New Bolsover in Derbyshire.  He was also a director of the Yorkshire Engine Company, and an instigator of the huge Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway (which ultimately only extended from Chesterfield to Lincoln), intended to connect Warrington on the Mersey with a major coal-exporting port to be built at Sutton-on-Sea (and which was eventually built at Immingham).

He was MP for Gainsborough from 1895 to 1900, built a villa near Monte Carlo and purchased a 40,000 acre deer-forest in Ross-shire.  He died worth a quarter of a million pounds (worth according to http://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/result.php nearly £19 million now).

He was a strong supporter of the YMCA, and his building on the corner of Norfolk Street and Surrey Street was partly intended to house the YMCA headquarters.  He also provided a children’s shelter, the Jeffie Bainbridge Home for Waifs & Strays, which included a dining room and dormitories for homeless children and was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Portland.  The interior was swept away behind the façade in 1977-8.

Why Jeffie?  Emerson Bainbridge’s first wife was born Eliza Jefferson Armstrong (died 1892);  their daughter was Eva Jeffie Bainbridge.  Jeffie is simply short for Jefferson.

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