Retro: Pub landlord and huntsman

Retro reader Michael Hardy from Dronfield has sent in this fascinating account of the life of one of his ancestors, who ran a Sheffield city centre pub.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 24th January 2016, 1:00 pm
The grave of David Sellars, Sheffield Victorian huntsman and pub landlord
The grave of David Sellars, Sheffield Victorian huntsman and pub landlord

Michael writes: I was interested to note that in his pub crawl around the Fitzalan Square area (Retro, November 14) Vin Malone was able to call for a pint at the Falcon Inn at 13 Flat Street.

Vin was there in 1856 but from the following year to about 1874 the landlord (or victualler) of the Falcon was my great-great-great grandfather, David Sellars.

The Sheffield Harriers, circa 1900-1905 outside the Stanhope Arms at Dunford Bridge. This pub hosted the hunts Christmas and New Year Dinner before their hunting in the Dunford and Thurlstone Moors area over the festive period each year at the beginning of the20th century

Born in the Wincobank/Shiregreen area in 1814, David Sellars was one of the more colourful of Sheffield’s Victorian characters and featured regularly in newspaper articles.

He was a radical, possibly a Chartist, and in 1838 was briefly jailed for riot and affray, a little mester, a publican, the huntsman of the Sheffield Harriers Hunt for almost 40 years, a respected footballer with Sheffield FC in the 1850s, when the club introduced the world to the modern game, and a champion grower and exhibitor of pinks and carnations.

Aside from his stint as landlord of the Falcon Inn, David was also landlord of The Barleycorn on Coal Pit Lane (now Cambridge Street) and, with his daughter and son-in-law George and Elizabeth Agus, helped manage the Travellers Rest at South Street (now The Moor), where he died in 1884.

David Sellars was one of Sheffield’s little mesters. A fork grinder by trade, he had narrowly escaped death in April 1854 when the grindstone of the trough he rented at the Grimesthorpe Wheel, Upwell Street, exploded whilst spinning at high velocity due to the negligence of the steam engine driver, who had left the steam engine unattended at full throttle to go home for his breakfast.

The Sheffield Independent of April 29, 1854 reported that: “David Sellars, a fork grinder, was in the act of throwing off his band, when, from the immense velocity which it had acquired, the stone on which he had been working broke in the centre and one half struck the horsing on which he was seated with such force that he was thrown over and seriously injured.

“Sellars had a most providential escape, as had the piece of stone missed the edge of the horsing, Sellars must have been struck by it, and probably killed upon the spot.

“Sellars was assisted to his home, where he was attended by Mr Richardson of Attercliffe, surgeon, and we are glad to learn he is doing well.

“He is a man well known as the huntsman of the Sheffield hounds, and respected by all who know him.”

The Sheffield Harriers, circa 1900-1905 outside the Stanhope Arms at Dunford Bridge. This pub hosted the hunts Christmas and New Year Dinner before their hunting in the Dunford and Thurlstone Moors area over the festive period each year at the beginning of the20th century

This incident appears to have contributed to David’s career shift into the licensed trade. Another reason was that, as the huntsman of the Sheffield Harriers Hunt, David Sellars was responsible for keeping the pack of beagle hounds owned by the hunt as well as organising the hunting and considerable social activities of the hunt.

The three pubs managed by David Sellars and his family regularly hosted dinners and social gatherings connected to the hunt.

Also, the pubs all had considerable outhouses, yards and workshops attached, where I assume David kennelled the pack of hounds.

David Sellars’ tenancy of the Falcon Inn offers us a unique glimpse into the social and cultural life of the “respectable” artisan working class in the second half of 19th-century Sheffield and the role of the pub in that culture.

In July 1864, for example, the Sheffield Independent of July 6, 1864 reported on an annual Sheffield event, the competition for the prize for growing the best carnations and pinks.

David Sellars’ carnation Defiance won the prize for first in class and he also won prizes in other categories for his Beautiful and his Lady Frost. It is hard to imagine today that these were competitors who grew their flowers in the city centre area, generally assumed to be grimy and dirty.

The Falcon Inn also played a major role in the activities of one of Sheffield’s more important institutions, the Sheffield Harriers Hunt, of which David Sellars was the huntsman, or master, for almost 35 years. The Harriers were unique in that, whereas most hunts were linked to the aristocracy and the rural gentry, the Sheffield Harriers’ membership comprised wholly of Sheffield artisans, pub landlords and self-employed little mesters.

It was important that members were able to observe ‘St Monday’ as the Harriers hunted primarily on Mondays, so those employed for wages were by definition excluded from membership as they lacked the freedom to not work on Mondays.

The Harriers hunted hares, not foxes, and they hunted on foot, not on horseback, with a pack of beagle hounds. However, the hunt also participated in the various fox-hunting groups in the region and Ow’d David, as he was generally referred as in the local newspapers, was a personal friend of the patrons of the major hunts in the Sheffield region – the Dukes of Devonshire and Rutland, the Earls of Wharncliffe and Fitzwilliam, Lord Galway and Sir George Sitwell of Renishaw Hall among others.

Like all the local hunts, the Harriers published their weekly itinerary and timetable in the local press and throughout the 19th century their exploits were reported on in great detail each week in the Sheffield Independent and the Sheffield Daily Telegraph.

Central to the hunting activities of the Sheffield Harriers was the social programme which was inevitably focused on Sheffield pubs and inns, particularly those run by members of the hunt.

The Falcon Inn hosted the opening dinner of the Harriers’ winter hunting season in November 1861.

However, the Falcon Inn was not immune from the general drunkenness which appeared to be the norm for many people in Victorian Sheffield.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of May 3, 1872 reported on the appearance at Sheffield Magistrates Court of George Baxter, a cutler, on a charge of drunken assault on the landlady, Mrs Caroline Sellars.

Around 1874 David Sellars quit the Falcon Inn and took over the Barleycorn Inn on Cambridge Street for a few years. However, the death of his wife at the Barleycorn hit David hard and he subsequently relinquished the tenancy and moved to live at the Travellers Rest on The Moor, where his son-in-law and daughter George and Elizabeth Agus were the landlords.

George succeeded David as huntsman of the Sheffield Hunt in 1884.

David Sellars died at the Travellers Rest in July 1884. Thousands turned out for his funeral. The Moor was full of people who followed the cortege of hearse, several mourning coaches and funeral coaches to City Road Cemetery where many more people, including representatives of all the local hunts, had already assembled.

His whip and hunting horn were placed on his coffin and buried with him and his gravestone is adorned with images of the whip and horn.

Local newspapers printed obituaries and he received the ultimate tribute with inclusion of his picture and life story in the Sheffield Illustrated of 1884, along with other eminent Sheffielders.

l There are many references to David and the activities of the Sheffield Harriers Hunt throughout the 19th century in Sheffield newspapers.

Many give accounts of the Harriers’ successes in the field, skirmishes with gamekeepers on private estates, legal action against the hunt for trespass and frequent reports of the dinners and other pub-related social activities.

There is even a report of the hunt finding a naked lunatic on the moors above Totley!