RETRO: Time gentlemen please

Ox roast at the Old Heavygate Inn, Walkley
Ox roast at the Old Heavygate Inn, Walkley
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Ah, the grand old traditional Sheffield pub.

Nothing fancy - a pint of Wards, bag of crisps and a box TV in the corner.

Scores of these venerable institutions have shut over the years whether to be replaced by a themed bar, turned into flats or flattened completely. Lots more stand boarded up looking more than a little forlorn.

That’s not to say that Sheffield nightlife isn’t alive and kicking, or that plenty of beer isn’t still flowing around the city of an evening, but few would deny that the nature of the vast majority of pubs has changed.

It is a debate that has raged - often at the bar - for many decades and plenty of books have been written on the topic. Beer has played an important role dating back centuries and its links with working life shouldn’t be underestimated.

Men working on the hot furnaces of our steel industry could down many pints of the golden liquor during a shift just to avoid dehydration. In fact there were often young lads who were employed in large part to fetch pints and make sure the supply never ran dry. It was an essential part of the job when dealing with such extreme temperatures.

In the days when Sheffield’s sewerage left a lot to be desired, beer was also a great way to avoid the germs and bacteria breeding in the city’s water.

Pubs have played an equally essential role. They were not only a social place to mix with friends but over the centuries have been the place where wages were paid and a roaring fire was always available when the same couldn’t be said of home.

In 1881 there were over 1400 licensed premises in the district although many of them would have been simply serving beer in the back yard to takeaway or in the living of a simple terraced home.

So where did the beer come from? Sheffield is now rightly proud of the number of micro-breweries springing up across the city. seemingly bringing the industry full circle. Yet in the 1880s there were more than 30 breweries in Sheffield and the city boasted one of the largest brewing industries in the country.

Beer, pubs, breweries ... all are inextricably linked with our city’s history.