Sheffield pubs: tributes paid to pioneering landlady who ran pubs in Handsworth and city centre

A pioneering Sheffield landlady who with her husband helped revolutionise the city’s pub industry has sadly died.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 3:02 pm

Patricia Crehan and her husband Owen ran The Plough, in Sheffield city centre; The Everest and The White Rose pubs, in Handsworth; and The Sitwell Arms, in Renishaw, during the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Her daughter Rachael described the couple as ‘great innovators’ who she said had introduced many firsts for Sheffield at their pubs, like the first jukebox, the first commercial microwave and perhaps most notably the first hot meals to be served at a pub in the city.

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Pat and Owen Crehan ran three pubs in Sheffield and one just over the border in Derbyshire during the 60s, 70s and 80s

She also told how her parents were hugely popular with their punters, including a number of celebrity customers, and were a ‘glamorous’ and ‘vivacious’ pair who ‘lived life to the full’.

The Castle Market pub serving city’s ‘roughest diamonds’

Pat, as she was known, died peacefully at home on October 6, aged 83, but her impact on Sheffield’s pub scene means she leaves a lasting legacy.

She and Owen ran The Plough on Dixon Lane, near the old Castle Market, during the early 60s, long before gastropubs were a thing, and the story of how they started serving hot meals there is an interesting one.

Pat Crehan was also a successful saleswoman

“They cut their teeth there, with patrons who were some of the city’s roughest diamonds. It was a real market pub, which was always full of barrow boys and workers from the abattoir,” explained Rachael.

“The abattoir lads always came in with bits and pieces to trade, and one day they brought a load of liver and asked to exchange it for some beer.

“They cooked it up with some onions in the back and the smell wafted all the way up to the market and became the only thing people were talking about.

Pat Crehan (nee Radley) as a young girl with her parents Amelia and Frederick Radley

The roots of the gastropub revolution in Sheffield

“My mum made up some sandwiches, which sold out, so they started selling hot food from that point and later they introduced the first Pukka Pies machine in Sheffield.”

Pat and Owen’s next pub was The Everest on Handsworth’s Ballifield estate, where they adorned the walls with some of the climbing equipment used to conquer the world’s highest peak, and invited mountaineer Chris Bonington who led the famous expedition in 1975.

They also organised a charity ‘penny push’, for which they invited comedian Dave Allen, who was a friend of Owen’s, along.

Pat Crehan and her husband Owen, who ran a number of Sheffield pubs, were described as 'great innovators'

From there they moved to The White Rose, also in Handsworth, where they specialised in weddings and other functions, and introduced what Rachael said was Sheffield’s first pub jukebox at the time.

Rachael joked that her mum’s famous sherry trifles, which were served at those special occasions, had ‘put the strain’ on The Jessop Hospital, as it was then known, because they were renowned for helping so many women to get pregnant.

She also told how Sean Bean lived near the pub and as children they all used to ‘knock about together’.

Celebrity guests included wrestler Giant Haystacks

Pat and Owen’s final pub was The Sitwell Arms, an old coaching inn in Renishaw, which Rachael says had been quite run down before they transformed it into a popular pub, restaurant and hotel, where the garden and its animals including horses and goats became a popular attraction for young families.

The venue, which they ran until around 1980, even became a bit of a celebrity haunt, attracting many of the wrestlers with whom her father worked as a photographer, including Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus, who were household names at the time.

Publicans Pat and Owen Crehan met at Nether Edge Dance Hall in Sheffield in 1957 and went on to have four daughters together. Pat is pictured here with the comedian Dave Allen

Before and after their years in the pub trade, Pat was a popular saleswoman who worked in the fashion departments of stores including Walsh's, Rackham's, Cole Brosand House of Fraser.

She was born in Essex and spent her early years in South Africa and Egypt, where her father was serving with the Army, before returning to England aged 11 and ending up in Sheffield where she met Owen at Nether Edge Dance Hall in 1957.

They had four daughters: Shani, who sadly passed away last year; Theresa; Rachael; and Patricia, and they were blessed with six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Enjoying retirement in Sheffield

Rachael said: “Mum and Dad were great innovators, who loved pushing the boundaries, and they were really glamorous too.

“Mum was very well read and well educated but she was also so vivacious and colourful, and she was always able to get everybody up dancing.

“She and Dad really loved life and they lived it to the full, with style, enthusiasm and vigour.

"People were instantly drawn to her because of her personality; she oozed charisma!”

Pat didn’t take things easy in retirement, with Rachael describing how her mum was ‘determined to grow old disgracefully, but with style’.

She spent her golden years reading, painting, swimming, and taking part in quizzes, and also took the chance to travel, with her many trips abroad including a return to Egypt where she had lived as a young girl.

But it is for her two decades as a pub landlady for which she is best remembered.

“She was really well loved by both her staff and customers and we’re only realising now just how popular and well known she was,” said Rachael.

“It’s been really lovely hearing all the nice stories people keep sharing with us about her life. Mum and Dad were very kind employers and they were really well respected.”

Pat's funeral is due to take place on Friday, October 22, at 10.15am, at Herringthorpe Crematorium, with the dress code in a nod to her inimitable style described as ‘a splash of animal print’.