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

Ted Hudson puts the finishing touches to a commission for Lyons Tea, Martin Gilbert, centre, Jack & Philip Drury, background
Ted Hudson puts the finishing touches to a commission for Lyons Tea, Martin Gilbert, centre, Jack & Philip Drury, background

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

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

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

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

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. 

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.

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

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

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.

“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.

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

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

“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.”

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.”

Work in Leahs Yard workshop, late 1960s. All pictures courtesy of Philip Drury

Work in Leahs Yard workshop, late 1960s. All pictures courtesy of Philip Drury

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.

Workers at Leah's Yard, Cambridge Street. Pictures courtesy of Philip Drury

Workers at Leah's Yard, Cambridge Street. Pictures courtesy of Philip Drury

E & G Jewellery on Cambridge Street

E & G Jewellery on Cambridge Street

Leahs 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

Leahs 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 Leahs Yard

Howard Teanby in the workshops at Leahs Yard

Jack Drury in the Leahs Yard workshops

Jack Drury in the Leahs Yard workshops