'It's a shame as it was an icon to Sheffield' - Former landlady of the 'Full Monty club' on its possible demolition and the reasons for its decline
Ann Bentley gazes at the derelict Shiregreen Working Men’s Club, the sign once proudly proclaiming it as ‘Home of the Full Monty’ hidden behind metal fencing.
“It’s a shame as it was an icon to the city,” she says. “It’s the Full Monty Club.”
Ann was stewardess at the club for 15 years with her husband Roy - the pair had met there in 1958 then in later years went on to run the place.
She’s one of more than 900 people who have signed a petition to stop the club, which closed in 2018, from being demolished.
Owner Peter Eyre says he has tried numerous times to work with local people and councillors to reopen the club as a community asset.
He said: “I spoke to two local councillors about a joint venture but I haven’t had one phone call since then. I have asked twice a month for the past four months for this meeting and I’ve been ignored.
“If someone from the 900 people who signed the petition wants to ring me that’s great. I would be more than happy to do a deal with somebody to help save the club and see if they could make it work as a community asset.”
Ann saw the start of the demise of working men’s clubs and while they were such a big part of many people’s lives, she understands how times have changed.
“It was always a good club, it was full and took good money,” she recalls. “We saw the decline in clubs as it happened everywhere but we were always busy and when the Full Monty came it was a big buzz.
“I met all the stars from the film and it was an absolute pleasure. They were filming for two or three weeks and put in all new furniture and we did a live interview to Hollywood.
“There were that many TV crews and people ringing up the following morning and we ended up being in the film. It was a privilege to have worked alongside the stars and film crew and what an experience it was, it’s something I will never forget.”
Ann says the problems started when Stones brewery refurbished the club in exchange for being its sole beer.
“When I first came to the club in 1987 there were a lot of breweries but going 100 per cent to Stones had an effect,” she says.
“We started going into decline then as we didn’t have a choice of beers and were tied to Stones.”
But it was the cusp of 2000 when Ann really noticed a shift in people’s drinking habits. “On Millennium Eve I said we are going to be so busy, we always were on New Year’s Eve and we stayed open until 3am.
“But at 11.45pm there wasn’t a sole person in. I stood on the drive watching the fireworks over Don Valley and I knew everybody was having a house party because they could buy cheap cans from the supermarket. That was when it really started going into decline.
“It was still a shock when it closed though. I thought no, it can’t have. I have such fond memories.”
Dave Howden was former secretary of the club for 14 years. “The club opened in 1928 and we had a fishing club and a football club which I ran for 25 years. A lot of our members came from the Flower estate and we did table tennis, pool, darts and games nights. When it closed it was shocking because it was the only one left in the area.”
Local councillor Peter Price even used to hold his surgeries there. “We used to fundraise with pie and pea suppers and I loved it. They used to announce I was in the house and I used to do my surgery there.
“It’s a tragedy what’s happening to clubs across the city. These were clubs which hosted massive bands and had multi million pound turnovers. It was an amazing working class culture which has been destroyed.”
Coun Price highlights the pubs and clubs already lost, or up for sale, in the area - the Bellhouse, Wincobank Hotel, Roman Ridge, Foundry Arms, Rising Sun and Sheffield Arms.
A shift in our lifestyles and drinking habits has sounded the death knell for many clubs and pubs but residents are still sad to see the buildings go.
Coun Bob Johnson, Cabinet member for development, says he will work with developers and the community to try to find a way forward.
“We have received no planning application and for any form of demolition, planning permission would have to come forward. In the meantime I’ll work with colleagues and community groups to see if there’s any possibility of bringing it back into alternative use.”