How a joint of beef hung in a Sheffield butcher's for 70 years - and why it was kept there

A search through Sheffield’s archives has uncovered the extraordinary story of a hefty joint of raw beef that hung – ‘shrivelled, dried up and deeply browned’ – on a market stall in the city for an astonishing seven decades.

By Richard Blackledge
Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 7:51 am
Updated Friday, 1st May 2020, 12:27 pm

The Sheffield City Archives on Shoreham Street are closed to the public to help enforce social distancing measures during the lockdown period.

But the building’s staff are still taking part in the annual #Archive30 challenge, which involves archivists posting on Twitter about a new topic each day throughout April.

One of the latest finds is a story from The Yorkshire Telegraph and Star – as The Star was known from 1898 to 1937 – which tells the story of a joint of meat that, when the piece was published in February 1906, had hung in Mr A Snape’s butcher’s shop on Sheffield’s Fitzalan Market for 70 years.

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The joint of beef that hung in a Sheffield butcher's for 70 years. Image: Picture Sheffield.

The ‘once juicy, tempting rump’ was something of a tourist attraction, the writer observed.

“Some 70 years ago a piece of beef was bought from Mr A Snape’s great uncle by a man who paid the bill, but did not return for his purchase for some time. Rather than permit the meat to spoil, the butcher naturally sold it, and, when the man returned and the circumstances explained, and, he was offered a similar joint. 'All right,' he said, 'hang that up till I can call for it.' It is still awaiting his return.”

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The ‘septuagenarian rump steak’, the writer added, was held aloft on a specially allotted hook.

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“In a sporting sense it is still going strong. This is, however, not intended literally. The joint, originally somewhere about a stone in weight, now scales only three pounds, and looks as little like meat as possible.

“Shrivelled, dried up, and deeply browned with age, the resemblance between it and a piece of gnarled, weather-beaten wood is remarkable. Beneath the surface, too, the shrivelled meat is like touchwood in colour and substance, only it is a good deal tougher.

“Someone presumably still has a right to claim the joint as the descendant of the actual purchaser, but after all these years Mr Snape is hardly likely to lose what is almost a family heirloom, and has become an object of interest to many.

“The piece of meat receives many visitors. Apparent forgetfulness, or another reason, prevented the purchaser from claiming the Sunday joint for which he had paid.”

Inside Fitzalan Market Hall, which closed in 1930. Image: Picture Sheffield.

Fitzalan Market Hall closed in 1930 – and the beef's whereabouts today are unknown.

See https://twitter.com/SheffArchives to follow the #Archive30 challenge.

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