Look back to Sheffield Little Mesters history at Leah's Yard

These pictures give a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Little Mesters in one of their last surviving Sheffield city centre sites.

By julia.armstrong1
Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 5:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 7:14 pm
Ted Hudson puts the finishing touches to a commission for Lyon’s Tea, Martin Gilbert, centre, Jack & Philip Drury, background
Ted Hudson puts the finishing touches to a commission for Lyon’s Tea, Martin Gilbert, centre, Jack & Philip Drury, background

My colleague Sam Cooper, who obtained these pictures, has been covering the story about the future for Leah’s Yard in Cambridge Street.

The council, which bought the site in 2015, is currently looking at how to redevelop and preserve Leah’s Yard.

Sam spoke to Philip Drury, who took over family firm F Drury Silvermiths Ltd in 1981.

At work in the silver shop at Leah’s Yard. Edwin Speight, foreground, Jack Drury, Arthur Makepace and Bert Jefferies

Mr Drury started as an apprentice in his father Jack’s silversmith business in 1959 and worked at the site until it was sold to property developers in 2000.

At its height more than 100 people worked there.

The mid-Victorian workshop complex was home to various silversmith and cutlery firms in earlier years.

Mr Drury remembered: “We had eight silversmiths and it was a hive of industry.

A spinning workshop, with the chucks used to make up various pieces on the wall. Jack Drury is working at the rear of the picture

“We had to work 18 months in front because of the amount of orders for cutlery and silver – it was manic.

“The space wasn’t that big and with the compressors going it was very rowdy.

“We had belt-driven lathes and orders from all over the place.

“We had most of the building, three silversmithing shops including one that just did repairs, and other parts of the building were let out.”

A F Drury display at the NEC in Birmingham, early 1980s. Pictures courtesy of Philip Drury

Mr Drury, aged 73, added: “It’s very sad to see the state it’s in and how it’s deteriorated over the last 20 years.

“The work should have been done 20 years ago, it could have been superb.”

Engineers and developers who joined a tour of the site said any plans or work on the site would be subject to intense scrutiny from experts such as Historic England due to its Grade-II* status.

Work in Leah’s Yard workshop, late 1960s. All pictures courtesy of Philip Drury
Workers at Leah's Yard, Cambridge Street. Pictures courtesy of Philip Drury
E & G Jewellery on Cambridge Street
Leah’s Yard was a family business employing three generations of Drurys. Frank and grandfather Frank senior are at the back of this picture. Pictures courtesy of Philip Drury
Howard Teanby in the workshops at Leah’s Yard
Jack Drury in the Leah’s Yard workshops