Dus Tha Fancy a Pint on the Wicker?
Today’s stroll into the lost pubs of Sheffield centres around Wicker (not THE Wicker).
This area of the city is very ancient area, An early reference to Wicker comes from the records of the Sheffield Town Trust for 1572: “Item, paid to William Dyker and Johne Greave for makinge the nare butt in the Sembley grene”.
A butt refers to a mound or structure upon which a target is set for archery practice. Two existed on the Wicker – the near butt and the far butt.
The Wicker was also known as the Assembly Green or Sembly-green, and it was an open space where the inhabitants of the town engaged in sports and athletic activities, as well as archery practice.
In a tradition thought to date back to at least the 13th century, once a year on the Tuesday after Easter, called Sembley Tuesday, the freeholders of the town were required to assemble on the Wicker with their horses and arms before the Lord of the Manor.
The assembly took place in front of the courthouse of the manor, which was the only building on the Wicker, and was called Sembley House. This tradition was discontinued in 1715, although Sembley House (later used as a pub called the Crown and Cushion Tavern or the Bull Inn) remained the only building until 1775.
That bit of history of Wicker out of the way, we’ll start our stroll into the past. The first pub we enter is at the corner of Nursery Street and Wicker and it’s the Lion Hotel, aka Black Lion.
It was also known as the Grosvenor Temperance Hotel. This pub was opened around 1871 and closed in 1985. In 1893 the landlord was Hector Campbell, Scottish I wonder?
The pub was turned into The Riverside Hotel and is now offices. This pub has a sad episode in its life.
It was here on October 23, 1983 that Arthur Hutchinson met a member of the Leitner family and later that night he murdered three members of the family after a wedding party at Dore.
He was arrested on December 1, 1983 and he’s presently serving a life sentence.
Back to the past, our next pub is the Old White Lion, first mentioned in 1818. By 1893 it was registered as 3-5 Wicker and no publican is mentioned, just Duncan Gilmour & Co Ltd, Wine Merchants.
After leaving the Old White Lion smacking our lips, we cross over to the right-hand side of Wicker and enter the Corner Pin at no 14. This pub was in business in 1815 and its doors were closed in 1917.
I suppose technically it’s on Blonk Street but it’s on our route.
Its name was taken from the pub game, skittles, the corner pin was the hardest to knock down. Upon closure Samuel Osborne’s took over the building as offices.
Next we enter is The Big Gun/Great Gun on the other side of the road, more or less opposite the Corner Pin. This pub was first mentioned in records in 1796, making it 219 years old.
In 1848 it was just a beer house run by a chap called Waltham Cowham, what a great name. Gun Lane that runs alongside the pub was originally called Nursery Lane but was renamed in the 1860s after the pub.
In 1893 its keeper seems to be Richard Bathe & Co, Wine & Spirit Merchant. This pub is the only one left open out of 17 mentioned in this article.
Crossing over to the right-hand side we come to the Crown at 24/28. This was open in 1774 and is now just a distant memory.
Crossing over again, dodging the trams, carters and general traffic, we go into the New White Lion at no 23. Selling beer in 1825, it stood firm until 1991 when it was closed and was re-opened as a fishing tackle shop.
We now take our lives in our hands and dash through the traffic again, the beer is taking its toll. At no 26 we find The Cock, in business in 1825 but is unclear as to its closure.
Usually pubs with this name had a cock-fighting pit at the rear of its premises. Scott’s Barbers stands roughly on the site of The Cock.
On leaving we cross over again to no 37, The Railway. This pub was named after the upsurge of the railways and opened in 1833.
By 1893 Harriett Batty, manufacturing confectioner, was using 37 and 39, so it seems it either failed or the property was sold.
Leaving The Railway, we make a beeline for Sir John Falstaff Inn at no 56. This drinking hole was in business in 1825 and it closed in 1910.
The pub was named after a character from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives Of Windsor – we too had a merry time here.
We turn now to our right down Willey Street, strangely enough this street was named after a keeper of the Sir John Falstaff Inn in the early 1830s.
Besides the Falstaff he owned several properties around Wicker and Scotland Street.
On this short street stood The Bay Horse, it was in business in 1871 but as to when it closed I can’t say.
Also on this street stood the Belgium Consulate, the consul was Robert Schott, he was also vice consul for Sweden and Norway. His home address was 5 Brocco Bank.
Close by stood the Dannemora Steel Works of Seebohm & Dieckstahl. I can hear my two simpleton friends Mr Dawson& Mr Sorsby saying, ‘who?’
Well, this firm was a very successful steelworks but by the onset of the First World War, anti-German feeling was running high so the name was changed to Arthur Balfour, a name everybody knows, and its association with the steel industry.
We leave the Bay Horse on Sheldon Row and dash to the Blacksmiths Arms for a quick one, a beer and a call of nature.
By the late 1880s this short Row was a no thoroughfare. Retracing our steps back to Wicker, staying on the right-hand side of the street we walk into The Golden Ball at no 52.
It was selling its amber nectar in 1822 but by the 1900s it had fallen by the wayside.
On leaving we enter The Brown Cow at no 56. In business in 1841, this was a large pub with three storeys with a large attic space.
As usual this pub closed in the 1990s after falling customer numbers after the steelworks that surrounded it closed a few years earlier and their customer base disappeared overnight. Most of the pubs close by suffered the same fate.
It’s now one of the many horrible fast food outlets. Leaving The Brown Cow we cross the road again, not caring what the horses have left behind, and enter The Chequers at no 61.
This pub was slaking the thirst of the drinkers of the town in 1825. In the late 1890s a shoe maker called Thomas Lee was at the address, but by the turn of the century The Chequers was just a memory.
I suppose when drinkers got together, like we do, someone probably said “Do you remember The Chequers?”. Pubs invoke some brilliant conversations.
Going over to the right-hand side of the street again, we come upon no 62, what was the oldest purpose-built pub in Sheffield, The Bull and Oak Inn, a building on this spot being built in 1715.
In 1795 a new building was erected and was called The Assembly House.
James Montgomery, who was editor of the Sheffield Iris, one of the town’s earliest newspapers, frequented this old pub and was known as a hotbed of seditious talk.
The Assembly House was replaced by the Bull and Oak Inn, it was also known at one time as The Crown and Cushion.
Once again the planners thought it was a great idea to demolish it in 1998 just for the sake of the dammed motor car, what idiots!
As we leave this lovely old pub and without crossing the road we saunter into The Ball at no 64. This hostelry was also known as the Orange Branch, it was dispensing ales and beers from 1822 until its closure sometime in the 1890s.
Staggering across the road, we push the door open on the Viaduct at no 79. This pub was opened around 1852 and was named after the Wicker Viaduct (The Arches).
Always a busy pub but again with the loss of the nearby steelworks and the relocation of the populace after their houses were demolished as they were deemed slums, you can’t survive without customers.
It closed sometime in the 1980s/90s and is now another eating place, just how many do we need?
Our last pub is The Station Hotel at no 86, obviously named after the close by Victoria Station. The Station was opened for business in 1841 and this puts me in a bit of a quandary.
Victoria Station wasn’t opened until 1851, that’s 10 years after the pub was named, was it named in anticipation of the Victoria Station or did it have another name for its first few years of trading? Perhaps someone will tell me.
This ends our wander through alleyways and roads of Victorian Sheffield and Mr D, Mr S and I have thoroughly enjoyed relating our stroll to you by way of this article.
Just one last anecdote – in the mid 1800s on a busy, sunny afternoon a comely young woman rushed out of a passage completely naked, this was close to Lady’s Bridge.
She side-ooted the on coming horse and carts, she eventually disappeared from sight down the side of a pub, perhaps The Big Gun.
A small crowd had assembled in no time at all, waiting to see if an irate husband or lover was chasing her, but nobody appeared so after a short time the crowd drifted away.
It was reported in the paper and efforts by reporters to find out her identity all proved unsuccessful and to this day it still remains a mystery.