Retro: looking back to old Sheffield pubs, cock fighting spur makers and the first cigarettes!

The Brown Bear pub on Surrey Street, Sheffield
The Brown Bear pub on Surrey Street, Sheffield
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Today’s stroll through the past-times of Sheffield takes place in 1856 - as Mr Dickens wrote in Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

How true that was depended on your place in society, the poor will always be poor and the rich just get richer.

Our walk today takes us up Norfolk Street, on Surrey Street, on to Tudor Street, down to Sycamore Street then on to Pond Street and towards Howard Street.

Among the beerhouses, taverns and hotels throughout the town were a fantastic array of artisans producing such fantastic pieces of work plus in 1856 Henry Bessemer invents his Bessemer converter.

Cigarettes were first seen in London after Crimean soldiers discovered them being smoked by the Russians. Meanwhile, back in town, in Pond Lane Mr Sleigh was producing cock spurs for the cock-fighting fraternity, straw hat makers were producing their hats in Pond Street, Jeremiah Saynor lived on Castle Street and was the town beadle and jailkeeper.

There were ivory dealers, feather merchants, fell mongers, needle and fish hook makers. All these specialised firms have long gone, just like our deep coal mines, damn government.

Beerhouses were so called because the licence only allowed the sale of beer and usually the place didn't have a name, it was usually called after the landlord as in Fagins, Marples etc. After a spirits licence was granted, it was then but not always that the pub acquired a name.

We meet for our first taste of the day at the sign of the Yeomanry Arms at 32 Norfolk Street but at the time of our visit it's just a beerhouse its name came later.

I couldn’t find who was selling beer in this establishment but it had a licence from 1833 until it closed on December 31, 1908. The beerhouse stood near where the Central Health Clinic is today.

I sit in this snug little pub waiting for my two street urchin friends Mr Dawson and Mr Sorsby, who are uncontrollably happy at the thought of Santa bring them a new turnip each for Christmas.

They turn up so I drink up and proceed to our next beerhouse at 65 Norfolk Street, just further up on the other side of the street. At the time of our drink William Ashforth was the licence holder. Like most of the people who ran beerhouses and pubs at the time, they had a day job which was always in the cutlery trade as a grinder and such.

Again, it was given the name of the Bank Tavern much later as the fashion took off.

On leaving this rowdy place we turn to our left walk up the hill across Arundel Street past the Hays Spirit Vaults that operated from 1797 until around 1970.

I can remember going in here for a drink in the sixties. It was a step back in time, glorious.

We come to our next pub, which is the Brown Bear, and the name on the licence is John Townroe. It is numbered No 75 in 1856 but prior to that it was no 26 and 109.

Sometime in the 1930s the then Sheffield Corporation bought it and when the lease was up for renewal it was stipulated that the character and appearance could not be altered, one of the better decisions of the then council, its still open today.

On leaving the Bear we keep to the left and head towards Surrey Street, mingling with the townsfolk who are going to the music hall on Surrey Street itself.

We walk on Surrey Street and turn down Tudor Street to reach the Crown and Cushion at no 9, it was here that the Revolution Sick Society was formed by Benjamin Crofts in 1789.

They decided a large iron-bound strongbox was safer than a bank. Every month 1/4d was paid in, 1/2d went in the box and the odd two pence went in the beer kitty.

Members had to be between 21 and 31 and after an initial 2/6 membership fee, you were entitled to 10 shillings per week for 12 weeks then five shillings until the member was fit enough to return to work. Because of its popularity members were restricted to 200.

We sample just a half and the beer is a bit cloudy but I don’t drink with my eyes as the taste does it for me. We squeeze our way out to go to our next pub, keeping to our left we turn on to Arundel Street and cross over to enter the Tudor Tavern at no 5.

James Bates has his name above the door and the inside this little pub the brass shines, reflecting the gas lights. It opened in 1833 and closed at the turn of the century.

Leaving the Tudor, we turn left and go to the Wagon and Horses just a few short steps away at no 13. Opened in 1825, again it was just a beerhouse and the man with the waistcoat was John Daniels. This little pub opened in 1825 and was gone by the 1900s.

Our landlord at the time of our drink is James Appleyard but he was out at the music hall.

We now head for the Adelphi at 13 Sycamore Street. Yes, I know it stood on Arundel Street but the letter box was on Sycamore Street.

The landlord is Henry Sampson, a very quiet man but a fair man and he keeps an orderly house. It was here that the Yorkshire County Cricket Club was formed in 1863 and in 1867 the shop lads who had Wednesday afternoons off formed a football club and it was named Sheffield Wednesday.

The Adelphi nearly had a Marples disaster in the Blitz as a bomb went straight trough the roof but didn’t explode.

This much-frequented large pub was demolished in May 1969. The Crucible stands in its footprint - I know which I prefer.

Next week we'll continue this journey, heading on to the Turf Tavern.