How the historic Sheffield Club has bounced back to survive over the years

It’s been written off more than once but has bounced back to survive to this very day.

Monday, 27th September 2021, 10:17 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 10:02 am

As far back as 1961 The Star was reporting the winds of change were blowing down the corridors of the Sheffield Club. The 20th century seemed to have suddenly caught up with it.

May of us will be unacquainted with this historic city institution.

The gentlemen’s club was formed in December 1843 and, as the Illustrated Guide to Sheffield reported in 1879, ‘it is supported by the elite of the town and carried on with great spirit’.

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A bird's eye view of the old Sheffield Club, Norfolk Street, which is now in a very advanced stage of demolition, March 26, 1965

It was once the venue for three-hour lunches for the movers and shakers of the city. Deals would have been struck, key business decisions made.

At the peak of its popularity it has the luxury of turning down applications from would-be members not deemed worthy enough.

The club, originally in what became the Elephant Inn on the corner of Norfolk Street and Fitzalan Square, it occupied four floors, had sleeping accommodation for seven (gentlemen too worse for wear to catch a carriage home?) and had it own barber, while members had their own personalised napkin.

The well-heeled elite could enjoy breakfast (full English, I’ll wager) for 1s and dinner for 1s 6d, washed down by a pint of bugundy for 2s.

A view of Sheffield Club, George Street, June 22, 1982

In 1861, such was its popularity it moved to new premises on orfolk Street, bought for a hefty £3,990 and renovated for an eye-watering £7,000.

Still on the up, the club bought up two shops down the road for £5,700 in 1901 and expanded even further.

But it surely couldn’t last. We’d been through two world wars, people’s habits and family life were changing.

In 1965, the changing face of the city centre forced the club into new purpose-built premises on George Street.

And by 1982 things were looking a tad gloomy. Soaring overheads and falling membership meant members were asked to fork out an extra 50 quid on top of their £200 membership fee.

We needn’t have worried. N October 1983 there were 400 members and healthy waiting list.

1991 was a year of seismic change. After 148 years of ‘catering for a select collection of gentlemen in Sheffield’ the club opened its doors to women and moved to the Cutlers’ Hall.

And in the 1990s it was still going, trying to move with the time. “There is a place for it down in London but Sheffield is different,” said the club’s then chairman. “Sheffield has changed and we have got to change.”

And change it did. It went part-time, from a five-day-a-week lunch club to just a Friday event.

But what of the Sheffield Club today?

It’s still going – meeting on Fridays for lunch at Tapton Hall, where it moved in September 2000, and holding regular events throughout the year.

"We are always looking for new members,” says its website.