Sheffield's steel art and heavy metal fans

Retro's look back at the imminent demise of the once luxury Grosvenor House Hotel in Sheffield city centre prompted some interesting memories.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 17th June 2016, 6:53 pm
Updated Friday, 17th June 2016, 7:58 pm
Legendary landlady Olga Marshall at the Wapentake
Legendary landlady Olga Marshall at the Wapentake

Jessie Dawson, also known as Babs or Barbara, wanted to know what happened to the impressive-sounding Living Steel sculpture that once stood in the hotel foyer.

It was described as nine feet high and weighing just under a hundredweight but the story goes it could still sway in time with the breeze from the air conditioning.

Sheffield rock fans on a night out

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Her late husband Malcolm Dawson made the sculpture to the specifications of artist Geoffrey Wax, who remains a well-known painter.

Jessie remembers that Geoffrey Wax was a director of Spartan Steels, where Malcolm worked.

She said that he also bought into the business Bramall and Wax on Herries Road, where a smaller version of the sculpture can be seen on a wall.

“Malcolm got a canteen of cutlery for making it,” said Jessie.

Rock bars like the Wapentake and Buccaneers were popular in Sheffield city centere

Jessie also has fond memories of Firth Park Working Men’s Club, mentioned last week. She said: “My husband ran the fishing section and my brother-in-law played the drums there on Sunday lunchtimes.”

Rock fan Carol Ann Castleton got in touch about the Wapentake rock bar that was once based on Wellington Street and was part of the hotel building.

Carol Ann remembered: “If it was 9.30pm Friday, Saturday or Sunday we could be found in the queue outside The Wap, as it was known.

“We would be impatient to get in to listen to the music but also because it closed at 11pm!

Sheffield rock fans on a night out

“This was the pub all of us lovers of rock music moved to when The Buccaneer closed and included the famous landlady Olga Marshall and DJ George Webster.

“Even on a weeknight the place would be full. I don’t think you could go in many pubs where everyone was quiet as they were listening to a track by Monty Python but it happened even on the busiest nights!

“Many a time I would hear a song and go out and buy the album the next day – it was my musical education.

“Most nights ended with Stairway to Heaven from Led Zeppelin. The perfect end to a perfect night!”

Rock bars like the Wapentake and Buccaneers were popular in Sheffield city centere

As The Star reported in 2012, Olga Marshall, a virtual teetotal mother of four, was an unlikely figurehead of Sheffield’s heavy metal movement.

She ended up running two of the city’s most enduring rock bars for nearly three decades and had a reputation for not taking any nonsense, even facing down Hell’s Angels.

Olga retired as landlady of the legendary Wapentake Bar in 1996. One of the last gigs at the bar before she retired was one of biggest rock bands in the world, the city’s own Def Leppard.

The band played some of their earliest gigs in her bar and returned to perform for Olga in 1995 in front of a VIP audience.

Olga started as a barmaid in 1964 at the Buccaneer on Leopold Street, which was part of the Grand Hotel building.

Seems to have been a pattern at one time for city centre rock bars to be part of hotel complexes.

Olga told The Star four years ago: “We’d only got a jukebox, so I spoke to the management about getting a DJ in.

“I tracked down George Webster, who was playing at the Cannon Hall social club at Page Hall.

“The Buccaneer took more on our first night with George than it did on its average weekend.”

She became landlady of the Wapentake in 1973. Apparently in its early days the Wap tried to cater for pensioners who came in for lunch as well as the night-time rockers.

Eventually rock won and the Wap went on to become one of the most legendary heavy metal venues in the country.

When it closed it became the Casbah, also now gone.

Lastly, Rosemary Morton confessed on The Star’s Facebook page: “Oops, I remember sneaking into the Grosvenor House Hotel as a drunk teenager and swapping all the shoes left outside the rooms to be cleaned and putting them at opposite doors.”