Remembering the good old days of Sheffield's Grand Hotel

It was a luxurious temporary home for the great and the good when they visited Sheffield.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 1:22 pm
Updated Friday, 5th November 2021, 1:22 pm
The Grand Hotel forecourt pictured in August 1959
The Grand Hotel forecourt pictured in August 1959

The list of luminaries who stayed at the Grand Hotel is truly impressive, even when viewed through the lens of the 21st century.

Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath and Harold Wilson rested their weary heads there. The entire hotel staff lined the foyer to say goodbye to Churchill when he checked out.

And it was the only place to stay for A-list entertainers such as Laurel and Hardy, George Formby, Diana Dors Wilfred Pickles, Gracie Fields, Danny Kayes, Arhtur Askey and Tommy Trinder.

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The Grand Hotel, Sheffield, which fronted onto Balm Green, is seen here in its early days from the Leopold Street side. Opened in April 1910, it closed in February 1971, and the Fountain Precinct development has replaced it. A famous long-time resident of the Grand was John Spitzer, former manager of the Empire Theatre.

The Beatles even hid from their screaming in there.

But on Friday, February 1971, it was the grand finale for the Sheffield institution as it closed its door for the first and last time after seven decades.

The Grand was a purpose-built hotel which opened in 1909, its main entrance then was on Leopold Street until post-war modernisation moed the front door to opposite the City Hall.

Strangely, the outside of the hotel was being redecorated when news of its closure was announced - and the painters were ordered to keep working.

The staff of the Grand Hotel, Sheffield, had a farewell party just before it closed down and long service awards were made to nine of them. Pictured from right to left (seated): Miss Doris Collier, Mrs Mable Ibbertson, Mr Eddie O'Neill, Mrs Ada Thompson and Mr Dennis Wilson. Standing: Miss Mary Blair, Miss Joan Higginson, Mr Clive Bond, Manager of the Grand, Mr Peter Price and Mr Stuart Heywood, February 23, 1971

Manager Clin Bond said at the time: "I told them to finish. The place might stand empty for some little time and it would look funny with a tide mark halfway up the wall."

He added: "I don't know what is to happen to the building. I imagine it will be sold for redevelopment."

But in January 1973 it still lay empty, going to rack and ruin, with for sale signs outside, shuttered windows and corrugated iron sheets around the foyer.

A glimpse inside revealed relics of its glory days - a discarded menu from February 5, 1968, among them.

Interior of the Grand Hotel, Sheffield, March 1970

Dinner for the lucky guests that evening was Hors d'Oeuvre, Supreme of Halibut Galliera, Saute of Beef Provencale with Noodles, followed by Camembert with biscuits. All for the princely sum of £1.15.

The building's days were numbered however - and in January 1974 a demolition team moved it, pulling out sinks, baths pipes and anything else that could be salvaged.

Souvenir hunters were out in force too - an old lady wanted a brass door handle, a restaurant owner taking figureheads from the Captain's Cabin bar and an Irish gent enquiring about the dancefloor for a new Irish centre.

But the Grand didn't give up without a fight. "We took up a floor and two feet below it there's another one," said the demolition gang's gaffer.

The Grand Hotel, Sheffield, 1970

They certainly built their hotels solidly in 1909.