Blog for November 2017

Click here for the Home Page  Click here to visit the website's Facebook page  Click here to follow on Twitter  Contact via Message Form  Click here for the Menu 

Wednesday November 1st 2017 : The End of an Era at Brierley Hill

In the photograph below Melvyn Wood receives a long service award from Ryan Hunt, Chairman of Dudley & South Staffordshire CAMRA for his 28 years managing the Vine Inn at Brierley Hill, the tap house of Batham's Brewery. Looking on is Mel's partner Wendy who has been a key part of the couple's success at the Bull and Bladder. They are going to be one tough act to follow ... good luck to the gaffer of the Lamp Tavern at Dudley who takes over from Mel and Wendy following the last shift on Sunday, the end of an epoch at Brierley Hill.

Melvyn Wood receives a CAMRA Long Service Award from Ryan Hunt at the Vine Inn at Brierley Hill #91;2017]

To the regulars of the Vine Inn, otherwise known as the Bull and Bladder, Mel has become known as 'Mr. Public House.' Some of the regular customers claim that he is the best pub gaffer in the area. Stourbridge born-and-bred, he learned his craft running pubs on the other side of the Black Country - the Ship and Rainbow at Coseley and the Market Tavern in Bilston. Looking for the model licensee to run their flagship pub, Mel was headhunted by Batham's in September 1989. Such has been his presence at the Vine Inn it is almost impossible to imagine anyone else running the place. But someone else has to give it a go and all the best to them. Incidentally, it was at the Vine Inn that Mel met Brierley Hill-born Wendy [on the right in the above photograph]. They had been together for some years before 1999 when Mel had a sudden romantic impulse and whisked her off to Gretna Green to tie the knot. Together, they have made the Bull and Bladder appear as though it runs like a trusty well-oiled machine but, believe me, it is only through the hard work that they have put in, week in, week out, that furnishes the pub with this impression. I have cycled past the Vine Inn very early in the morning, sometimes at 7.30am, and I wave at Mel and shout hello as he is already busy with his daily tasks.

Outgoing manager Melvyn Wood receives leaving gifts from Tim and Matthew Batham, Directors of Batham's Brewery at the Vine Inn at Brierley Hill #91;2017]

In the above photograph Tim and Matthew Batham, directors of Batham's Brewery, present Melvyn Wood with gifts in recognition of his long service at the Bull and Bladder. Tim Batham told the audience how Mel had sold 800 barrels of beer per annum in his 28 years at the helm of the brewery tap during which time Mel and his team had pulled 6 million pints of beer. When he took over as manager in 1989 a pint of Batham's Bitter was 75p, though the mild was the best-selling ale in those days. If you would like to add to this post or send your comments you submit them via the website or use the message service on the Facebook page.

Thursday November 2nd 2017 : The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Truth

Succeeding the late A.A. Gill as restaurant critic for The Sunday Times, Marina O'Loughlin slated a branch of Wetherspoon's for her third article last weekend. Her review didn't mince words and she described some of the food as "fag ash, impacted cardboard and the sort of thing you might scoop out of the bottom of Hannibal Lecter's recycling bin." Such colourful language certainly polarised opinion within the readership and caused something of a twitter-storm.

J D Wetherspoon

I found it interesting to read the reaction to Marina O'Loughlin's review and the pub-fodder classes that have risen up in anger to what they perceive as food snobbery. My hope is that some may re-evaluate what they shovel into their mouths. The food offered at JDW and EVERY other major food-led pub chain is generally frozen processed fodder - the sort of ready-made meals you can find in discount supermarkets. The food is delivered by large trucks in numbered boxes that correspond to the number to be used on the microwave - they do not need to employ trained kitchen staff because anybody can do it. However, when you operate around 900 outlets across the UK, you do have to get the logistics down to a simple formula. Consequently, you do get what you pay for. A good number of people realise this and accept the resulting plate of junk food placed in front of them. I wonder how many of the punters actually add up the calories that are indicated on the beer-stained menus?

In response to food critic Marina O'Loughlin's review, The Barefoot Rascal states that it is "like reviewing Ryanair. It's shit, we all know it, but there's a market. Was ever thus." Fair point and David Whitley makes a valid observation in that eating out "doesn't have to be a constant voyage of discovery." However, I am saddened that huge numbers of people are happy to sit in a familiar environment and peruse a menu that is the same in every single branch, the sort who are content to wander along a shopping mall where all the retailers are familiar brands and names, the folks who buy Norse-branded furniture that is the same as their neighbours and their neighbours too! I even meet people who go to holiday destinations such as Prague and Copenhagen and seek out a branch of their favourite burger chain or pizza restaurant. What happened to the individualistic spirit? I am also disheartened that a good number of JDW outlets [I prefer not to call them pubs] are promoted in the Good Beer Guide, as if Tim Martin needs a leg up or a boost to the company's share price.

We Love Dark Star Beer - Click here for more details

Wetherspoon's supports many a local brewery, giving customers access to a lot of different ales. We all know it's not a la carte dining but it serves its purpose. We go to higher end establishments also but the wallet doesn't allow a lot of people to do this regularly. Where would the pub trade be WITHOUT Wetherspoon's?
Richard RUFC Gleeson

You may need to speak to a small microbrewery to answer some of your questions. I get the impression that they are nailed down on price to the point whereby it is not worth supplying them and then chasing their empty casks. A recent trend for the small brewers is to creatively find new markets for their products. In answer to your final point - my hometown once had 60 pubs. About 20 of them were still trading when Wetherspoon's opened up in a former supermarket - now there are just a handful of pubs left - they simply could not compete on price.

There are no Wetherspoon's in my town but out of about 9 or 10 pubs and clubs only 4 remain. And I believe they buy a lot of beers that may otherwise go out of date. As regards to price, if Wetherspoon's are not offering a price sufficient to the brewery then don't sell to them. As you say, there are other markets.
Richard RUFC Gleeson

I suspect that more brewers are not supplying them these days hence the choice in JDW is mostly Doom Bar, Pedigree, Greene King etc. The rise of the micropub may be another reason for what seems to be less choice within the chain of late. In another possible answer to your queston "Where would the pub trade be WITHOUT Wetherspoon's£ other large regional brewers are closing down traditional houses whilst opening food-led operations similar to JDW's offer - Marston's are a good example of this. So, it could be argued that, by following the trend for cheap pub fodder, the traditonal pub has had to suffer. Just a thought.

I would rather have Wetherspoon's than a pub run by the likes of Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns. I hate seeing pubs and clubs close but selling food is a way of attracting custom. And obviously the smoking ban and supermarket prices have not helped at all. Where are all the people who were going to flood back to the pubs when they became smoke free? ALL pubs get my support.
Richard RUFC Gleeson

Because Marina O'Loughlin has been lambasted for criticising Wetherspoon's I thought, out of interest, that I would look at the branch nearest to me in order to see what everyday customers had to say about the place. Here I found comments like: "visited this Wetherspoon's for a small celebration meal. Now I know you 'get what you pay for' in this day and age and I'm all for cheap meals out, microwaved or not, but this 'food' was inedible." And this review made me chuckle: "Went there Sunday for food, ordered steak and eggs with a side order of onion rings and a portion of mushrooms. I was very disappointed when one very small mushroom arrived. I thought it was a mistake [or a joke] but when I went to the bar to complain they laughed."

Click here for more details

I know somebody who, a few years ago, went to the New Inn at Bournheath for a cheap servery with all-you-can-eat vegetables. The following day he complained that it was rubbish. I asked him how much he had paid for the meal to which he replied £3.99p. I asked him what he expected for £3.99p? I'm not sure what that pub is like now but I do know for certain that, at the time, this pub bought in all their vegetables, roast spuds - even the mash and sliced onions [how can you not know how to slice an onion?] from a frozen food firm. If he had ventured up the hill to the Nailers' Arms he could have spent an extra tenner per plate which would have featured a meal cooked by a REAL chef using fresh ingredients. "Pah," he said, "I'm not paying that for a meal." Nowadays, these people have the gall to pay bargain-bin prices for largely inedible pub-fodder and then pile onto Trip Advisor to slam the business for failing to deliver a fine dining experience.

Friday November 3rd 2017 : Real Ale Capital of the World

It has been a couple of years since we visited Sheffield and, being as it is a terrific city for pubs and beer, we thought we'd spend a couple of days wandering around happy in the haze of a drunken hour, though such a reference shows our ages somewhat. Not that dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984 is much more up to date, though it is at least more geographically accurate. On the return journey to Birmingham New Street, I proclaimed that I could happily live in Sheffield. Firstly, the city has a great collection of old pubs. Secondly, there is a mind-boggling offering of real ales and craft beer, many of which are brewed in, or close to Sheffield, the city named the real ale capital of the world according to a report commissioned by the University of Sheffield in 2016. Thirdly, this is perhaps the best place in England for vegetarian dining. Perhaps because of the large student population, the choice of vegan and vegetarian options is fantastic. Fourthly, the hilly terrain satisfies my desire to burn my legs on a bicycle and Sheffield acts as a good gateway to the Peak District. Also, the arts and culture scene is fairly vibrant in the old steel city where there is seemingly a large leftfield element. Sheffield, it would appear, is a great place to live.

The Tapped Brew Co. at Sheffield Tap [2014]

Once you roll into train station, you could easily go on the skids straight away by walking along Platform 1B and into the Sheffield Tap, a bar created within the former Edwardian Refreshment Room and Dining Rooms. In here there are 11 cask ales on draught, a dozen continental beers on keg, along with more than 200 world beers in bottles. Many of the draught beers on sale are brewed at the in-house microbrewery and, if you time it right, you can see the beers being produced behind glass screens. The Tapped Brew Co. uses kit with a maximum capacity of four barrels which means they can produce 16 firkins per brew. However, they can brew the same beer on consecutive days and ferment them together in the same vessel which can hold 2,000 litres. All this means that, unless you are disciplined, you could end up visiting only one bar before it's time for you to fall into your train carriage to take you home!

We determined to call back to the Sheffield Tap later in the day and to undertake some sight-seeing beforehand. Consequently, we departed the station and into Sheaf Square, one of the most spectacular gateways to a city centre from its rail transport hub. Sheffield Council started this transformation of the square in 2006, the centrepiece being the Cutting Edge Sculpture, a collaboration of local firm Si and international glass artist Keiko Mukaide. This stunning structure looks magnificent, the water running over the stainless steel increasing its shine. The steel is from Sheffield but I was slightly disappointed to learn that the panels were manufactured in Bristol. This is one piece of work that should have been totally made in Sheffield.

Mural of Harry Brearley on The Howard Hotel at Sheffield [2017]

Continuing on the pedestrian route into the city, you will not have to walk far to see, Harry Brearley, the man who invented stainless steel in Sheffield shortly before the First World War. Indeed, it was the Sheffield metallurgist's attempts to solve the problem of erosion in gun barrels that led him to the discovery of what he originally dubbed "rustless steel." He was subsequently awarded the Iron and Steel Institute's Bessemer Gold Medal in 1920. The giant-sized painting of Harry Brearley is featured on a wall of the Howard Hotel. Commissioned by Marketing Sheffield, the painting was the work of local artist Sarah Yates. The mural is one of many that have appeared around Sheffield, making it the Yorkshire version of Berlin with its graffiti and paintings. I like this side of the pub much more than the mock-Tudor frontage facing the railway station!

From the Howard Hotel it is worth looking back across to the hill behind the railway station. What looks like a slender church spire is actually Sheffield's Cholera Monument, a neo-Gothic Pinnacle erected in 1835 in memory of the 402 people who died during a cholera epidemic three years earlier. Scan to the left and you will see - well, you cannot miss it really - the Park Hill housing estate, a development that started in the late 1950's and has since gained international fame. Described as a 'Modernist icon,' Park Hill was awarded Grade II-listed building status in 1998.

A matter of yards further up Howard Street, on the corner of Arundel Street stands The Globe, a pub that we called upon during the following day. However, the building was surrounded by mounted police and security guards. The noise from within told us that the building was occupied by Hull City fans before their game with The Blades. Many of the other pubs in the locality do not allow entry to away fans. However, I guess they have to enjoy a pre-match pint somewhere - it's just that we don't like the macho testosterone-fuelled atmosphere in such places so we moved on to the Red Lion for a more genteel drinking experience. But back to Friday and our arrival in Sheffield. Discipline was holding firm, and whilst we were fully focused and receptive to visual stimuli, we headed to the Millennium Gallery to see a collection of the works of Eric Ravilious and his circle. He is now regarded as one of the most important 20th century British artists. During the Second World War he served as a war artist but, in September 1942 on a flight from RAF Kaldadarnes on Iceland, he and the crew with whom he was travelling where declared lost in action.

The Winter Garden at Sheffield [2017]

The collection was highly engaging and, later, we ventured into the adjacent gallery to take a look at Sheffield's metalwork collection, regarded as one of the finest in the world. This collection contains many of the beautiful items for which Sheffield became famous. It is a great pity that Birmingham does not have such a collection for, during the lifetime of Matthew Boulton, they were a great rival to Sheffield for such stunning domestic metalwork. Access to the Millennium Gallery is within the Winter Garden, the largest urban glasshouse in Europe. Opened in 2003, this is an incredible part of the city's urban regeneration. It's also a great place to seek shelter from the biting November winds!

What's going on you might ask? We'd been in Sheffield for a while and we hadn't yet drunk a beer to addle our brains. However, we were on a mission for lunch at Humpit, a fabulous Hummus and Pita Bar in Leopold Street. The food served at this place is plant-based meaning it's naturally cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat. I mean it's one thing piling on the calories with beer but no need to go berserk when eating too! Anyway, at Humpit you can tuck into a massive white or wholemeal pita loaded with hummus, falafel, fresh salads, pickles and sauces for only £4.50p. As it is enough to feed an army, it represents terrific value. It's also great for pre-loading your tummy before drinking!

The Exchange Brewery of Tennant Brothers Ltd. from Lady's Bridge at Sheffield [2017]

We thought we'd kick-off our walking pub tour by heading out towards one of Sheffield's famous breweries. We headed along Leopold Street before turning right and along Church Street where we could enjoy a quick view of the Cathedral and past Cutler's Hall. We wandered along Castle Street and the infamous former Cannon Hotel before heading down to Lady's Bridge. The first crossing of the River Don in this location was a wooden bridge erected by the Normans in the 12th century. A chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary was erected next to the stone bridge built in the late 15th century and the pedestrian crossing subsequently became known as Our Lady's Bridge. Improved and widened over the years, the bridge has had to endure several floods.

The Exchange Brewery dates back to 1852 when Tennant Brothers moved from a site near the Market Place. A brewery was established there in 1820 by Proctor & Co. but was acquired by Robert and Edward Tennant 20 years later. Howden-born Thomas Moore moved to Sheffield and joined the firm around 1843. He was instrumental in the growth of the business. He oversaw almost everything at the brewery and was the key reason for its success. He would later become a partner in the firm. When the Duke of Norfolk redeveloped the markets area of his estate, the brewery was forced to move to the site at Lady's Bridge. Initially, the brewery was amid a number of steelworks but was gradually expanded over the years and occupied the sites of former factories. To maximise the plot the buildings were extended on piers above the river. The brewery tower is thought to date from 1852. However, the offices and decorative gates date from 1867 and were designed by the architectural firm of Flockton & Abbott.

In later years Thomas Moore devoted much of his time to politics and served as the Mayor of Sheffield for four consecutive years. Shortly after his death in 1880, the brewery was turned into a limited company. Tennant's became one of the region's largest brewers and were eventually acquired by Whitbread in 1961 by which time they supplied 700 tied public houses. The Exchange Brewery closed in 1993 and now forms part of a development of apartments. The white stuccoed building in the above photograph is the former brewery tap that traded as the Lady's Bridge Hotel. In 1881 the manager, Mr. A. Glover, who was travelling with a brewery agent, probably the Exchange Brewery, were returning to Sheffield in a horse and trap when the horse fell and the carriage was upset. Thrown out and landing on his head, the publican later died from concussion of the brain.

Before heading off we took a look at the buildings on the opposite side of the bridge. Faced in attractive light brown glazed bricks, these were designed by Flockton, Gibbs & Flockton for John Henry Bryars, a horse breeder and vet. It is possible to wander down the riverside and look at the former stable block. The vet tended to sick horses here and also incorporated a dogs home for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In the early 1930's the buildings were used as pea-canning factory for Batchelors, a company founded in Sheffield in 1895.

The Wicker is slowly being tidied up after years of neglect, arguably synonymous with the decline of Sheffield's steel industries. The Wicker was a key route to some of the big steel factories and an area through which many thousands of workers travelled on their way to work - or on their way back home. The pubs fared well by serving those gagging for a pint after a hard shift. The name is thought to derive from the Wick-Yard of Sheffield's Castle, a large green close to the fortification's outer defences. It was here that the public butts were located and where the trained men of Sheffield honed their skills to flight their arrows. Immediately following Easter, an annual 'Sembly Tuesday' was held during which the town's horsemen would parade in front of the Lord of the Manor before a procession through the streets, a great day for celebratory drinking.

The Harlequin [former Manchester Railway Hotel] on Nursery Street in Sheffield [2017]

Heading towards Kelham Island, we turned left at the former Lion Hotel [if you follow our route look out for the painted advertisement for Gilmour's Extra Stout], walked past the derelict Hare and Hounds and along Nursery Street. The first building of note on the right-hand side is the former Coroner's Court, an impressive structure erected in 1913. Opened in April of the following year, the first inquest held within this building was the gruesome hanging case of Edward Willers, a labourer living in Sanderson Street. His widow told the Deputy Coroner that her husband, who had been in a depressed condition for some time, was ill and had gone to bed early on the previous Saturday. She told the court that about eleven o'clock she heard a thud so she hurried to the staircase. She found her husband lying at the bottom of the stairs. He had hung himself with the washing line and, despite the fact that the rope had broken under his weight, he had hung long enough to have died. A verdict of "suicide by hanging whilst of unsound mind" was returned.

At the other end of the street on the corner of Spitalfields is The Harlequin. I have used a wider shot of this former Ward's public house in order to show some of the surrounding buildings. Long gone is the former Railway Inn, a boozer that stood close to Holy Trinity Church, more recently the New Testament Church of God. This was paid for by Anne and Elizabeth Harrison, daughters of the saw manufacturer Thomas Harrison of Weston House, later to become the City Museum at Weston Park. The two women instructed the architect William Flockton to build a replica of Christ Church at Attercliffe, hence the Gothic Revival style of this building erected in 1848. The tower of this church has lost its pinnacles.

The complex behind The Harlequin is that of the Crown Flour and Corn Mills, also known as Aizlewood's Mills, that have since been converted into offices and business space. The omnipresence that is William Flockton, a man who seems to have designed much of Sheffield's prominent landmarks, designed this corn mill for John Aizlewood. Born in Rotherham, he moved to Sheffield when he took over the Albion Mills at Shude Hill. As part of his business expansion, this mill is thought to date from 1861 though some record a later construction date. The complex stands on the site of the former nursery gardens of Sheffield Castle. However, the site was chosen because it was close to Sheffield's early railway network. The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire railway terminated on the other side of Spitalfields and, as a result, grain could easily be transported from the goods sheds, across a bridge, and directly into the top floors of the mill. From the upper floor of the building, the grains descended by gravity through the various milling processes. Indeed, Aizlewood's Mill was one of the first mills to use the iron roller reduction method of milling.

Advertisement for the Harlequin Inn on Johnson Street in Sheffield [August 1954]

A staunch Wesleyan, John Aizlewood probably didn't approve of a pub right next to his corn mills. However, it was constructed on the corner to serve the railway terminus. Bridgehouses Railway Station opened in 1845 and was originally the terminus for the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway. The line was extended across the Wicker Arches six years later for the newly-constructed Sheffield Victoria Station. But for a brief period, the pub was in one of the prime locations for passengers and traded as the Manchester Railway Hotel. A close competitor for custom was just around the corner - the Harlequin Inn stood on the corner of Johnson Street and Stanley Street. The latter, once known as the Harlequin and Clown in the early 19th century, was operated by the Neepsend Brewery of Shepherd, Green & Hatfield, a firm acquired by William Stones Ltd.

The Harlequin and Clown shortened its name to the Harlequin Inn during the Victorian era. Despite gaining legendary status under the stewardship of Joyce Gregg and Linda Greatorex, the pub closed down around 2006 and was demolished. Joyce Gregg was noted for converting the building into a shrine to Elvis Presley with memorabilia covering the walls and the 'King's' music filling the rooms. Linda Greatorex went even further by staging an annual Bob Dylan Festival as part of her programme of live folk music.

The name of the Manchester Railway Hotel gradually evolved into the Manchester Hotel, Manchester Arms and, ultimately, The Manchester. Both the Manchester and the Harlequin Inn were Ward's houses. This brewery can be traced back to 1837 when William Roper and John Kirby founded a brewery at Effingham Street. Following William Roper's death, John Kirby formed a partnership with George Wright, a corn merchant from Lincoln. Pickering-born Septimus Henry Ward joined the company in 1868 and, as a major investor in the business, the beers were re-branded Ward's. The company enjoyed success and expanded by acquiring competitors. One such firm was Latham and Quihampton's Albion Brewery. In 1876 the company bought William Bradley's Soho Brewery and moved production to their premises, renaming it to the Sheaf Brewery. The company became S. H. Ward & Company Limited when the brewery was incorporated as a private limited company in 1896. At this time the firm had a tied estate of 96 public houses. The Ward and Wright families continued to run the business in the 20th century. In a defence mechanism against a takeover by Whitbread's, in 1972 S. H. Ward & Co. Ltd. merged with Vaux Breweries Ltd. of Sunderland. In reality they were bought out and continued as a subsidiary with members of the Wright family joining the Vaux Board of Directors. They later formed part of a group of four breweries, including Lorimer and Clark of Edinburgh and Usher's Brewery Ltd. The Sheaf Brewery was closed in 1999 though the Ward's brand was later bought by the Double Maxim Beer Company and brewed at Robinson's of Stockport.

Interior of The Harlequin on Nursery Street in Sheffield [2014]

The fortunes of The Manchester waned in the early years of the new Millennium and was closed for a period before re-opening in September 2006 under the name of the Johnson Street pub that had closed down. I have read that a previous landlady of the Harlequin Inn was involved in the re-opening of The Manchester and wanted the name to live beyond the bulldozers removing it from the landscape. I have not confirmed this story however. The 'new' Harlequin became a real ale outlet and was embraced by Sheffield's pub-goers. On a previous visit to The Harlequin we drank a range of ales by the Sheffield Brewery Company, or the Brew Co. This was founded by ex-Cadbury employee Pete Roberts in 2007 when he piled his redundancy money into a new venture. Looking for a fixed outlet for his beers, Pete and his partner Liz Aspen leased The Harlequin in 2010. He concentrated on the brewing whilst she became licensee of the pub. She appointed Dean Hollingworth as bar manager. He had worked for the previous licensee who retained the freehold. He would later work as a brewer with Pete. During our previous visit I remember that the beers were most excellent - my interior photograph [above] dates from December 2014 not long after the brewery name had changed to Sky's Edge Brewing. The Hop Monster, an award-winning brew, was tremendous.

The Sky's Edge name landed Pete Roberts in some sort of international copyright infringement tangle so he was forced to change the brewery's name once again - this time to Exit 33 Brewing. All very confusing but, whatever, these superb beers can be found in The Harlequin amid the 10 handpulls on the counter which also features around four guest ales. The pub also stocks up to 20 traditional ciders - no wonder the Harlequin scooped Sheffield CAMRA's Cider Pub of the Year award. Food is also available at The Harlequin which hosts live music and quiz nights. They also stage regular tasting nights and beer festivals. Oh, and they are dog friendly - top stuff! For a real unique experience, however, they should bring back the Mouse Club! By the way, I recommend the Oat Stout, the official tasting notes of which are "the initial flavour hints of cocoa followed by delicate coffee and molasses with a tremendously silky thick mouth feel provided by the addition of oats. Solid and satisfying." Pete Roberts has had a decade to hone his brewing skills and his passion for exciting craft ales is now coupled with ten years of expertise.

Beers by Exit 33 Brewing of Sheffield

From The Harlequin we headed a short distance to another former Ward's pub that has changed names in recent times. Just on the other side of Borough Bridge is The Riverside, a Victorian boozer once known as the Brown Cow. We knew nothing of this pub on Mowbray Street. We did not bring any real ale or pub guides, we were just wandering around looking at historic buildings. Our only plan for the day was to visit some Sheffield pubs that we hadn't previously patronised. In this respect, it was quite exciting and often we had a nice surprise. We often do this when visiting different places - it's much more fun! What I can tell you about The Riverside - and with some authority - is that the beer during our visit was absolutely first-class, and then some. If the beers are this good throughout the year then you need to place this pub on your 'must-do' agenda when visiting Sheffield. We could easily have justified staying here for the rest of our trip!

Walking to The Riverside from The Harlequin is a bit of a horror show in terms of crossing roads. It was not always like this - the A61 and the Bridgehouses roundabout has taken huge chunks of land, including much of the old railway terminus. Back in the day getting to the tiny settlement of Bridgehouses was a more serene experience. And if you go right back in time there was only a small wooden bridge crossing of the River Don. There is still an iron pedestrian bridge close to Borough Bridge - worth checking out. The northern side of this structure used to emerge next to the Bridge Inn, one of Sheffield's lost pubs. Indeed, across the road from the Brown Cow there used to be the Hope and Anchor on the apex corner of Pitsmoor Road. Just up from the Hope and Anchor, on the right-hand side where there are now industrial units, there was the Ball Inn. The Old Harrow wasn't too far away from the Brown Cow either. Those living in Bridgehouses in the old days had no need of going anywhere else to drink - it was all on their doorstep.

The Rear of The Riverside from Borough Bridge at Sheffield [2017]

I should return to the bridge across the River Don as it is here you can get a good view of The Riverside's location. In recent years the pub has benefited from a terrace on which drinkers can enjoy a drink overlooking the river. It's not a pretty river mind you, though much cleaner in post-industrial Sheffield. In the photograph above note the doorway into the large cellars of the building. Apparently they are quite extensive. In the above photograph you will notice a member of the pub's staff building a bonfire on the river bank. It was a tadge close to the tree for our liking. It was approaching bonfire night and I hope the event went better than the fire near the same spot in October 1862 when a fire was discovered one evening in a hay chamber belonging to William Meggitt, behind the Brown Cow. According to a report in the Sheffield Independent, the fire was supposed to have been caused by the smoking of vagabonds who had gone into the hay chamber to sleep. Once the fire was discovered, a messenger was sent for the fire engines. It took a while to raise the alarm in those pre-999 days and the emergency services often took a while to arrive. However, when they rolled up at the Brown Cow the fire had already been extinguished by the local policemen. Local bobbies are another thing we don't have these days!

Fire has been lower down on the risk register at this location. It is water that has beset the Brown Cow over the years. The old wooden bridge across the river was replaced by an iron structure in the late 18th century but this was damaged by flooding and replaced in the 1850's. Indeed, construction of the Borough Bridge was delayed by further floods. It was intended to commence work on the bridge in October 1852 but the foundation stone was not laid until March 9th 1853. Alderman John Carr, the former mayor of Sheffield, laid the first stone at the north-eastern side of the river. A bottle containing a parchment scroll was deposited in the stone. Incidentally, up until 1768, the river was crossed from Bridgehouses to Coulston Street by stepping stones a yard high. The 'new' ashlar bridge of three segmental arches with pointed cutwaters was part of the same development which saw the creation of Corporation Street and other new roads.

The Riverside on Mowbray Street in Sheffield [2017]

The pub's name derives from the agricultural activity of the locale around the time of the stepping stones crossing. At that period, there were no houses on either side of the Don, except the old assembly house, kept by a man named Hill. The land was open pasture occupied by Handley, of Hall Carr. He took in many cows to pasture, and tradition has it that the young women of the area used to go in large numbers every night to milk them. At the opening ceremony for the Borough Bridge, the town councillor Isaac Ironside, reportedly stated that he had advised his friend Steel to name his public house the Merry Milk Maid. The advice was clearly not heeded for the name of the Brown Cow remained.

Another reason for the name of the Brown Cow is that the yard was used to keep cows. Indeed, I am wondering if that network of cellars beneath the pub was part of this side of the business? However, in the great flood of 1864 most of the livestock was lost. The flood was caused by the failure of a newly-built dam at Low Bradfield on the River Loxley. The dam broke while it was being filled and an estimated 700 million gallons of water swept down the Loxley Valley which joins the River Don near Hillsborough. Around 800 houses were destroyed and 270 people lost their lives in the flood. Across the road at the Hope and Anchor several inhabitants of houses in the yard were drowned as they had no upper room in which to escape the deluge. William Empson of the Brown Cow yard had eleven cows and a horse, the latter only bought a few days earlier, drowned, several of them being carried away and the remainder left in their stalls. William and Elizabeth Empson's house, located in the yard of the Brown Cow, was flooded to a great depth and their furniture destroyed. The family only escaped by transferring themselves to the garret. They were fortunate but so many people were drowned by the sudden torrent of water. Next to the Hillsborough Inn a family of six were drowned. Poorly constructed houses were simply washed away with the power of the cascading waters.

Auction Notice for the Contents of the Brown Cow on Mowbray Street in Sheffield [1869]

John Coldwell was the publican of the Brown Cow at the time of the 1864 flood. The former saw grinder had been at the house for some years. Consisting of friends and customers, he raised his own cricket team during the 1850's and they would challenge others in friendly games, the losing team having to pay for a supper for everybody. John Coldwell was the last licensee of the original Brown Cow which, as can be seen from the above advertisement, dated February 1869, was to be demolished. The removal of the old pub was part of the redevelopment of Mowbray Street that saw new Corporation Baths erected on the corner of Mowbray Street and Borough Bridge. The older properties were deemed to be antiquated and dilapidated. The pub used to stand a little to the west of its present position. So, with the construction of the baths, the new Brown Cow was next to a large building where factory workers could wash off the grime accumulated during their toil. Mind you, the water in the main bath was only renewed twice a week. There were 82 dressing boxes for those using the pool. In the upper storey, along with a living room and two bedrooms for the attendant, there were twenty-four slipper baths, supplied with hot and cold water. This would have cost a little extra but arguably better than using the grotty water in the main pool. This was quite a building - it's odd that nothing remains of it, just an empty space on the corner of the bridge, making The Riverside the first building on this side of Mowbray Street.

It would not be long before the new Brown Cow would witness flooding. It was in July 1872 that the water rose dangerously. The swollen state of the Don proved a great attraction and crowds gathered where there was a good view of the river. The railings in Nursery street proved a great attraction to the children in the neighbourhood, many of them amused themselves by climbing the rails and sitting upon them. Thomas Wilkinson, a 13 year-old boy, whilst sat on the railings, lost his balance, and fell into the river. He had learned to swim, and struggled bravely to reach the wall, but the river was too strong, and he was carried away. As he was passing the back of the Hare and Hounds in Nursery Street, a drag was thrown to him by a son of the landlord, but it fell short. Almost immediately afterwards he was seen passing Lady's Bridge, but he then disappeared. Another man got into difficulty by the Brown Cow. A person in the yard at the back of the pub heard someone in the river calling for assistance. On looking over the wall of the pub, he saw a man standing up to his middle in the water. A cry was at once raised that there was a man in the river, and the news spread into the street. Several men who were in the Brown Cow ran into the yard, and a rope having been procured by one of the sons of the landlord, immediate steps were taken to render assistance. A policeman procured a lantern, and attached it to one end of a rope, which was lowered into the river, and reached by the man. He was instructed to fasten the rope around his waist, but either through his anxiety to escape from his perilous position or his inability to hear, in consequence of the noise made by the people on the bridge he failed to do so, and instead of securing the rope around his waist, he twisted it around his right arm. In this position he was drawn up a considerable distance, but suddenly the rope appeared to slip from about his arm, and he fell back into the water. The current being very strong, he was immediately washed out into the river, and there was no possibility of rendering him further aid. After being carried a few yards he was lost sight of, and nothing more was seen of him.

It was towards the end of the Victorian period that the Brown Cow was acquired by S. H. Ward & Co. The pub used to have raised lettering vertically placed between the upper floor windows but these have gone. However, The Riverside has retained the lovely etched-glass panes installed by this old Sheffield brewery. I believe that the pub remained within the tied estate of Ward's until they folded. In more recent times the pub was operated by the charitable arts organisation Point Blank Theatre Company who planned to open a 100-seat theatre next to the pub.

Interior of The Riverside on Mowbray Street in Sheffield [2017]

The True North Brew Co. took over The Riverside in October 2015. The former Brown Cow became their 8th acquisition, they already operated The Common Room, The Old House, The York, The Broadfield, The Crown & Anchor, The British Oak and The Blue Stoops. The brewery was started in 2012, though the firm's history dates back to 1992 when Kane Yeardley bought a disused warehouse on Devonshire Street and turned it The Forum. Subsequent venues fell under the Forum Café & Bars banner. The company's first beers were brewed and developed alongside Claire Monk at Welbeck Abbey Brewery in 2012. Other local breweries such as Stancill were also used before a new brewery was established in 2015 when Bob Phaff joined the team. He had previously been the head brewer at St. Andrew's Brewing Co. on the east coast of Fife in Scotland. The new brewery was established in Eldon Street behind the Forum Café Bar. The company's name changed to the True North Brew Co. in January 2016. Dean Hollingworth later took over as head brewer. He had previously brewed for Pete Roberts at Exit 33 Brewing.

A range of the ales produced by the True North Brew Co. can be found in this vibrant pub. They also stock a selection of guest ales. I wish the building had retained its old interior layout but it's been opened out. There is one smaller room to the right of the entrance. The food menu is a bit funky and features some veggie options. Butternut Squash and Chickpea Tagine is served with Tricolour Rice and Treacle Bread. There is also a Cashew Nut and Aubergine Korma served with Garlic Naan. Both of these dishes were £8.50p which, in a pub, is pretty good value these days. I couldn't work out why their Cheese Collective menu featured meat on most of the options.

True North Brew Co. Beer Range

The Riverside hosts live music at the weekends, stages a popular quiz night and generally has a friendly vibe. We really liked this pub and the beer was ... awesome. The True North Stout was one of the best I have tasted in a while. This was their 'standard' stout, not to be confused with their Vanilla Stout. We also drank Hops & Dreams, a Session IPA brewed by the Hop Foundation. Despite my prejudice for IPA's that are less than 5.0% this was fantastic. The official tasting notes are that it is "made from Magnum, Cascade and Rakau hops to give the beer a citrus, floral and tropical, hoppy flavour and aroma. It has a base of pale ale malt with a dash of crystal malt to allow these three hops to work their magic on your senses." And, wow, did they work their magic - a wonderfully fruity, refreshing beer. I believe that the Hop Foundation, a father and son team, cuckoo brews at the Wincle Beer Company near Macclesfield. There are so many new beers being produced by an ever-growing number of small breweries. Although it is hard to keep up with them all, it's a most exciting time to be a beer drinker.

The Fat Cat on Alma Street in Sheffield [2017]

We had to drag ourselves away from the excellent beer in The Riverside as we still had a lot of exploring to do. We walked back across Borough Bridge and turned right down Alma Street. We are very familiar with the pubs on Kelham Island but you cannot really pass an opportunity to refresh the experience. Moreover, I was on a mission to visit the shop at the Kelham Island Brewery. A number of independent brewers have expanded their merchandise to embrace cycling. To be honest, I think that those who have produced cycling jerseys are keen cyclists themselves. But I just had to check if Kelham Island had anything available to wear on my bike. We ventured inside and were joined by Mick who was busy in the office but gave us a precious gift - his time! Oh, and a bottle of beer. Top bloke! Indeed, when he sussed out we were on a beer tourist meander of Sheffield he drew up a list of pubs that he thought we would enjoy. The shop has plenty of merchandise but, alas, nothing for two-wheeled adventurers. However, I did buy a smashing tee-shirt featuring an old 45rpm record design. I remember drinking this beer a few years ago at the Fountain Inn at Lower Gornal - funny [or sad] how one remembers where and when certain ales are quaffed! And just to check, I have gone into my folder for that pub and plonked the image of the pump clip here.

There can be few beer drinkers who have not heard of the Kelham Island Brewery and the adjoining Fat Cat pub, both multi award-winning businesses. Consequently, I do not need to waffle on too much as it has probably all been said before. You can probably click around the Internet and find zillions of words about the pub and brewery. I will focus a little on some history. A quick summary for the uninitiated is that the Fat Cat pub is widely credited for kick-starting the real ale revolution in Sheffield. It all started in the summer of 1981 when the Alma Hotel, a public house once operated by William Stones Limited, was offered for auction. Bidding almost £34,000, Dave Wickett, an Economics Lecturer, together with the solicitor Bruce Bentley, won the auction and opened the old boozer as The Fat Cat in August 1981. Their philosophy was to offer beers from small independent breweries. Not only would this provide customers with new choices, it was the basis for a sound business model. The diverse range of beers became the pub's unique selling point. This was a period when most public houses in Sheffield were run by big breweries or retail companies and, as a result, the steel city's consumer choice was fairly restricted. Publicity for their new venture was boosted when they got Derek Dooley, a Sheffield football legend, to pull the first pint. The re-launch of the pub saw queues in the street to gain entry into the Fat Cat. Working behind the bar that day was Diane Johnston who became part of the fixtures and fittings, working behind the bar and cooking the food. Joining the team a little while later Allison Cundy also clocked up more than 30 years service at the Fat Cat. The manager of the pub for many years was Stephen Fearn who is credited with running the pub to the highest standards.

The Fat Cat is everything we could want in a pub. House beers brewed next door, guest ales, vegan and vegetarian food - all served in a historic pub with a lovely interior. On entry to the building there is an important legacy from the pub's earlier days in the form of a mosaic tiled floor bearing the lettering of Cannon Ales, the beers sold in the pub from 1876 when the building was acquired by William Stones Ltd. The pub's layout has changed only slightly and features two downstairs rooms and a terrazzo floor passageway. The former hotel also has a club room upstairs. Some of the fittings were introduced to the pub before it re-opened in 1981, such as the fireplace in the former tap room and the servery in what was the old public bar. This rather unique feature once served as a payment settling kiosk within a Co-op butchers in Rotherham.

Sale of Lease for the Kelham Tavern on Alma Street in Sheffield [1837]

According to the pub's official website the building dates from 1850. This is perhaps accurate, particularly if the owners have consulted the deeds for the property. However, and here's where it gets intriguing ... the pub was originally known as the Kelham Tavern. The original address of the building was in Cotton Mill Walk. You can see an old street sign for this narrow thoroughfare on the right of the building. But as you can see from the above advertisement the Kelham Tavern was offered to let during October 1837. Accordingly, the former beer house is either of greater antiquity than previously thought or the house was rebuilt. Old maps of the area seem to indicate a property of different size and shape to that of today's building.

Cotton Mill Walk was once a longer route that followed the river to the Kelham Wheel and around the arse-end of Sheffield's Union Workhouse. Replacing an earlier institution, the Union Workhouse was created within a former cotton mill fronting Kelham Street. A new workhouse was built at Fir Vale between 1878-81 and the Kelham Street site was later occupied by the Globe Steel Works. The frontage of the latter, which is situated on Alma Street just up from the Fat Cat, features a protruding globe motif. The Globe Steel Works was operated by Ibbotson Brothers and Co. Ltd., a firm founded in 1809 manufacturing a wide range of steel products. At their height of their success the business employed over 1,000 people who were engaged in the production of railway buffer springs, saws, wrought-iron buffers, shipbuilders' tools and a wide range of steel products.

Following the construction of Borough Bridge in 1853, this area was considerably changed and new roads laid out, including Alma Street which actually passes through part of the old Union Workhouse site. The street name is mentioned as early as 1855 when Abraham Cooke applied for a spirits licence at the Sheffield Brewster Sessions held in July of that year. The address of the Kelham Tavern was given as Alma Street and Cotton Mill Walk. Attempting to upgrade his pub from a beer house, he had been badgering the magistrates for a few years. Three years earlier his solicitor told the bench that "Mr. Cooke was both owner and tenant of the house; that it had a large yard attached; was in a line for the intended new street from the Borough Bridge and Bowling Green Street; that there were five large manufactories close to the house; the workmen employed at which, had signed a memorial that it would be a public convenience if a spirit licence were granted." His application was refused.

Abraham Cooke's case, heard at the Town Hall in August 1853, reveals an approximate date for the creation of the new street. The thoroughfare would not have been named Alma Street until after the famous battle of the Crimean War which took place in September 1854. Abraham Cooke, like a good number of publicans around England, adopted the name for his house. The Alma is a river in the Ukraine. It was there that the Allied forces won their first battle against the Russians. Not only did pubs and streets adopt the name but many of the daughters of soldiers who fought there were given the name. The Crimean War was fought for two years by Great Britain, France and Turkey against Russia. The underlying struggle was for control of the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. The main action of the war was the prolonged Russian attempt to relieve the besieged city of Sebastopol. The two most famous engagements were the battles of Balaklava and Inkerman.

Abraham Cooke had originally kept the Kelham Tavern with his wife Emma. However, she died at an early age and he continued to run the pub with his eldest daughter Elizabeth. The pub's name was at first changed to the Alma Tavern but, by 1863, the building was known as the Alma Hotel, the new status perhaps reflecting the upgrading of the licence. The house was used for a number of Coroner's inquests during the mid-Victorian period. These may have been held in the club room. Abraham Cooke's hotel was considered to be of sufficient importance for the Sheffield and Hallamshire Lodge of the Nottingham Ancient Imperial Order of Oddfellows to hold their annual festival here in August 1863. Mind you, the publican was himself a member of the brethren! Up to 70 guests sat down to an 'excellent dinner' at the Alma Hotel, after which they were entertained by the Hallamshire hand bell ringers.

Sale Notice for the Alma Hotel in Sheffield [1876]

Ashover-born Henry Mycroft was the publican of the Alma Hotel by March 1867 for, in that month, he appeared before of the magistrates for serving short measures in earthenware jugs but was nabbed by the Chief Inspector of Weights and Measures. He was fined five shillings plus costs. Henry Mycroft had previously worked at the Beehive Inn on Glossop Road before becoming a manager at the Old Cherry Tree in Gibraltar Street. He moved to the Alma Hotel as a tenant. As can be seen from the above advertisement dated April 1876, Abraham Cooke had leased the property to William Stones Limited. but the property was now being offered for sale, along with seven cottages. The sale notice suggests that development of the site took place after 1822, perhaps the construction date of the original Kelham Tavern. With their product already being sold in the Alma Hotel, William Stones Limited were not about to relinquish the pub to a rival brewery during this sale.

Like his predecessor Abraham Cooke, Henry Mycroft lost his wife whilst at the Alma Hotel. His commercial life was more providential. After running the Sheffield Moor Hotel, he became a successful wine and spirits merchant and owned a number of properties, including the Sun Inn on Westbar. The latter was rebuilt during his time as part of Sheffield Corporation's street improvements of 1891.

Kelham Island Brewery on Alma Street in Sheffield [2017]

Fast forward back to the 1980's, at the tail end of which Dave Wickett bought out Bruce Bentley's interest in the Fat Cat. Using brewing plant from the Oxford Bakehouse & Brewery, he established his own brewery in the beer garden of the Fat Cat. Now it is one thing to set up a brewery, it is quite another to bag the country's top prize within a few years - but that is what happened when the brewery's Pale Rider scooped CAMRA's 2004 Champion Beer of Britain award. The demand for ales produced at the Kelham Island Brewery was such that a new brewery had to be erected in 2007-8. I can remember attending an open day not long afterwards where we were all given a brewery tour before sampling a range of the beers in the pub.

There simply weren't enough hours in the day for Dave Wickett. Somehow, between running a busy brewery, he teamed up with an American business partner, and launched the Old Toad pub in New York's Rochester district. He also acted as a consultant to the fledgling Thornbridge Brewery that was launched in garden buildings at Thornbridge Hall, Derbyshire, in 2005. Five years later he took the original brewing plant from Kelham Island and opened a new brewery at Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire. Returning to the academic world, he was instrumental in establishing a Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at Sheffield University, a key aim being to offer post-graduate courses for brewers. In 2011 the University awarded him with the Professor Robert Boucher Distinguished Alumni Award. Dave Wickett packed a lot into his life which ended early through cancer in May 2012. His son Edward succeeded him as Managing Director at the Kelham Island Brewery and, in 2015, opened a new pub in Cambridge Street called the Tap & Tankard.

Pump Clips for Kelham Island Beers [2017]

Click here to share this page on Facebook

Click here to share this page on Twitter

More Photographs from November 2017

Melvyn and Wendy Wood of the Vine Inn at Brierley Hill [2017]

I was glad to capture a photograph of Mel Wood with his partner Wendy as I thought she didn't perhaps get enough recognition during the presentation ceremony. She has most certainly been one half of a hard-working team at the Bull and Bladder. Indeed, having worked at the Vine Inn since 1994, she too deserved some form of recognition from the brewery. I wished them both well for the future .... they are taking three months off but I reckon we haven't seen the last of them yet!

The Globe in Howard Street at Sheffield [2014]

The Globe is located on the corner of Howard Street and Arundel Street. The building is in a part of Sheffield that was developed in the mid-late 18th century on the estate owned by the Duke of Norfolk. The street names are associated with the family - hence Howard Street. The Duke of Norfolk also held the subsidiary title of the Earl of Arundel. The next building that you can see here on Arundel Street is the old Venture Works which has an old courtyard and workshop. These were the premises of Herbert M. Slater Ltd., a firm involved in the production of butcher's cutlery, provision knives, trade knives and cutlery. On the opposite side of the street is the large Cooper Buildings, once the factory of the Don Plate Works owned by the Cooper family. Manufacturers of electro-plated and nickel silver spoons and forks, the firm occupied the building until 1983. The thirsty workers in these factories would have formed the main business for pubs such as The Globe. The old tavern was formerly a beer house so the building was not originally a public house. The corner building however is thought to date from 1797. The Globe stands in isolation these days but was once part of a crowded block. The old London Works used to stand next to the pub fronting Howard Street and separated The Globe from the nearby Black Horse, an old boozer that was later converted into a musical instruments shop.

Inn Sign of the Brown Bear in Norfolk Street at Sheffield [2017]

This inn sign at Sheffield was hanging outside the old Georgian public house operated by Samuel Smith's of Tadcaster. The building dates from a period when bull and bear baiting remained a popular spectacle. These events would often take place in the open air, often in front of a tavern. The royal endorsement of bear baiting helped to make such events popular. Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James I were all fond of the entertainment. Indeed, Elizabeth I opposed an early legislative attempt to outlaw the practice. It was not until 1835 that a Cruelty to Animals Act was passed by Parliament which outlawed bear baiting. Sheffield still has a bear pit within the Botanical Gardens but this was not erected until 1836, the year after baiting was made illegal. The Sheffield pit was only used to house a bear as a zoological exhibit. However, the overwhelming stink from the bear pit made it unpopular with the Victorians.

Inn Sign of The Cannon in Castle Street at Sheffield [2017]

If you think a cannon is a dangerous piece of equipment, check out the relatively recent history of this city centre boozer. I took this photograph as we walked past The Cannon which looked as though it had been closed down for quite some time. It wasn't until later that I learned this Sheffield pub was branded the "most dangerous pub in Britain." One newspaper report told how this "den of iniquity" was so bad that people crossed the road in order to avoid its customers! Chris Brown, liquor licensing sergeant for South Yorkshire Police, said the venue had been a haven for drug users and dealers for "many years." The Police were called to the pub 142 times in 12 months for drugs, fighting, threatening behaviour, thefts, drunkenness, and under 18's on the premises. It is claimed that during the same 12 month period some 42 recorded crimes took place at The Cannon. The Star reported that one mother abandoned her three young children to take part in a fight at the pub. As for the name of the pub it possibly derives from the Cannon Brewery of William Stones Ltd., based at Rutland Road near Kelham Island. The brewery's name is thought to have come from the nearby foundry that cast gun barrels. One of the most noted cannon manufactories was a little further from the town, heading towards Rotherham, where Samuel Walker and Company cast about 80 of the 105 guns aboard HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Inn Sign of The Big Gun on Wicker at Sheffield [2017]

When I first spotted this sign I thought of the De Dulle Griet, or 'Evil Woman', a great bier café in the Flemish city of Gent named in honour of the massive cannon in nearby Grootkanonplein. But back to Sheffield where this sign hangs on Wicker. The lane next to the pub is called Gun Lane but used to be Nursery Lane so the pub cannot be named after the street along which, it is claimed, that a large cannon was hauled to be fired at Sheffield Castle by Parliamentarians. Probably historically inaccurate but a great story nevertheless. The pub has traditionally been operated by William Stones Ltd., a company based at the Cannon Brewery. They used to have a slogan : "Stones, It goes down great guns." This pub was, during the 19th century, known as the Great Gun. It is thought that the Cannon Brewery was named because of a nearby foundry that cast gun barrels. Sheffield once had a number of firms involved in the manufacturing of gun barrels.

Inn Sign of The Harlequin in Nursery Street at Sheffield [2017]

This is the signboard of a Sheffield pub in Nursery Street, though the name was taken from another Harlequin Inn just around the corner. The latter was demolished and the name removed to the former Manchester Hotel. The older pub was originally known as the Harlequin and Clown, a time when, in theatrical circles, the Harlequin was routinely paired with the character Clown. Developed by Joseph Grimaldi around 1800, "Clown became the mischievous and brutish foil for the more sophisticated Harlequin, who became more of a romantic character." Clad in a chequered costume, the Harlequin character first appeared in England during the early years of the 17th century.

Inn Sign of The Brown Cow in Penny Street at Lancaster [2010]

This is NOT the sign of the Brown Cow in Sheffield as, at the time of our visit, the pub did not have a pictorial signboard. However, the pub has such a good story behind its name I have 'borrowed' a sign from the Brown Cow in Penny Street at Lancaster, a signboard I photographed in 2010. Click here to read about the naming of the Brown Cow at Sheffield.

Guest Beers at The Riverside on Mowbray Street in Sheffield [2017]

Stained Glass for Ward's Fine Malt Ales at The Riverside in Sheffield [2017]

The Alma Hotel in Alma Street at Sheffield [1971]

This photograph of the Alma Hotel was taken in the summer of 1971, a time when Middle Of The Road's "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheepy" was being toppled off the top of the UK singles chart by T-Rex wtih "Get It On." Check out the Ford Cortina parked outside the front of the pub. I think the car in the foreground is a Wolseley 15/50. Note the illuminated sign mounted on the front of the pub. The Fat Cat is little changed from this view of the Alma Hotel. One key difference is the tall chimney in the background which was part of the Horseman Works of Willaim Tyzack, Sons and Turner, manufacturers of Steel, Scythes, Files, Saws and Agricultural Knives. The site had previously been used as an extension of the Globe Steel Works operated by Ibbotson Brothers and Co. Ltd., This firm was founded in 1809 and manufactured a wide range of steel products. At their height of their success the business employed over 1,000 people engaged in the production of railway buffer springs, saws, wrought-iron buffers, shipbuilders' tools and a whole range of steel products. Before the Globe Works however, the site behind the Alma Hotel was once the Eagle Works of the Peace family, a very old firm founded in the early 18th century. This company manufactured crucible and special steel, files, saws and edge tools. Robert Ibbotson married into the Peace family and by 1845 the business traded as Ibbotson, Peace & Company with a trademark of three feathers.

Former King William Inn on Alma Street at Sheffield [c.1938]

In this photograph, the western wall of the Alma Hotel can just be seen with a painted advertisement for Cannon Ales by William Stones Limited. By the time of this inter-war image W. A. Tyzack & Co. Ltd. had taken over the former King William Inn. The ground floor fenestration can still clearly be seen. Succeeding his elder brother King George IV in 1830, King William IV reigned until his death in 1837 - possible clues to the date of this public house.

Mosaic Floor for Cannon Ales of William Stones Ltd. inside the Fat Cat [former Alma Hotel] at Sheffield [2017]

William Stones Limited was one of Yorkshire's largest brewery concerns. The history of the firm can be traced back to 1847 when William Stones, a resident of the Philadelphia district of Sheffield, formed a partnership with Joseph Watts of Dewsbury. Their early brewing took place in Acorn Street at Shalesmoor, not far from Kelham Island. The brewery was situated within a yard behind the Acorn Inn. The premises would later be used as a foundry. In its days as a brewery it was called the Cannon Brewery, thought to be a reference to a nearby foundry manufacturing gun barrels. Certainly, the brewery abutted to another foundry that fronted Dun Fields. Joseph Watts died in 1854, his interest in the business passing to his brother. Two years later William Stones bought him out and became the sole owner. The business flourished and by the early 1860's William Stones employed more than 20 employees. In 1868 William Stones signed a new lease for the Neepsend Brewery, the business premises of Shepherd, Green & Hatfield, a firm founded 1838. William Stones transferred production to the Rutland Road site, electing to take the Cannon Brewery name with him. In the same year he disposed of the old brewery, along with ten adjoining cottages. One assumes that the takeover of another brewery included the tied estate of the company. William Stones gradually added to this property portfolio. However, whereas other growing breweries opted for the limited company route to raise capital to develop tied estates, William Stones went about his business in a quiet understated fashion, buying properties as and when the economic climate allowed. The son of Joseph Stones, a cabinet case maker in Watson's Walk, William lived a relatively secluded life. Remaining a bachelor, he lived with his mother and sister at Lowfield Cottage whilst he developed the business. It was only in later years that he moved to Ash Grove, a large residence at Clarkehouse Road, where he pursued his main interest of gardening. Unlike many other successful brewers, he did not seek public office or meddle in local affairs. He was, however, noted for his liberality, especially to the poor. He died in November 1894 and his estate was estimated to be worth in excess of £300,000. His sister had died just before him so the bulk was bestowed to the brewery manager James Haynes, and Richard Wigfull, the manager of the two malthouses that William Stones had built in Worksop. At the time of William Stones's death, the brewery controlled a tied estate of 84 public houses. Almost immediately, the brewery was incorporated as a limited company with Richard Wigfull appointed as chairman. He had bought out the interest of James Haynes. Over the years William Stones Limited mopped up other breweries in order to develop their tied estate. Chambers' Brunswick Brewery in Sheffield was one of the first victims of this approach and, along with their 14 pubs, were bought out in 1912. Meanwhile, individual pubs were snapped up so that the company were supplying beers to a wider geographical area to include towns such as Chesterfield, Mansfield and Barnsley. One of the boldest moves came after the Second World War when, in 1954, together with Tennant Brothers Ltd., they acquired the Sheffield Free Brewery and divided up the firm's estate whilst closing down the production facility. Also in 1954, the company acquired Mappin's Brewery at Rotherham and did the same thing - took the firm's estate of around 100 pubs and closed the brewery. However, in the brewery takeover madness of the 1960's William Stones Limited were themselves acquired by Bass Charrington in 1968. Bass set about replacing the beers brewed at Rutland Road for their own national brands including Worthington's. They even outrageously re-branded some Bass beers with Stones pump clips or, more likely, electric fonts. They retained Stones Best Bitter, a popular brand introduced in 1948 by Ted Collins, the company's head brewer. He had detected signs that the taste among Sheffield's drinkers was shifting from mild to bitter and created a beer that would become a local favourite. Ted Collins was from a family that had been in brewing for 300 years and he became the firm's managing director. By the time William Stones Limited came under the control of Bass Charrington, the company had 260 public houses and 60 off licences. The firm also traded with 300 free trade customers and, as a result, annual production was 210,000 barrels. Bass eventually closed the Cannon Brewery in April 1999 and moved production to their Burton-on-Trent and Tadcaster breweries. Of course, Stones Bitter was never the same again.

William Stones Best Bitter of Sheffield

Inn Sign of the Fat Cat at Sheffield [2017]

Kelham Island 45rpm at the Fountain Inn at Lower Gornal [2013]

Kelham Island Pale Rider : Champion Beer of Britain [2004]

Have Your Say

If you would like to share any news, views and information on any topic on this page it would be great to hear from you. Simply send a message and I'll post it here. Alternatively, you can post a message on the website's Facebook page.

Click here for more details

Click here for more details

Click here for more details

Click here to visit the website's YouTube Channel


A Halted Mail Coach by Henry Thomas Alken [The British Postal Museum and Archive]

"At each Inn on the road I a welcome could find; At the Fleece I'd my skin full of ale; The Two Jolly Brewers were just to my mind; At the Dolphin I drink like a wheale. Tom Tun at the Hogshead sold pretty good stuff; They'd capital flip at the Boar; And when at the Angel I'd tippled enough, I went to the Devil for more."
Mail Coach Guard

Related Newspaper Articles

"On Friday evening a very interesting gathering took place at the Howard Hotel, Sheffield, on the occasion of a presentation of a massive marble timepiece to Inspector Evans [who is well known in this district] on his promotion to Detective Inspector. Mr. Evans was for some time a police sergeant on the Midland Railway at Nottingham, and four years ago he was promoted to the dignity of Inspector at Sheffield. He has now been appointed Detective Inspector of the North District, with headquarters at Leeds. This is the highest position attainable under the police service of the company. They have only four officers bearing this rank ' one in Loudon, Derby, Bristol and Leeds, and to attain one of these appointments is regarded as a very high honour. That Mr. Evans is worthy of the honour, everyone who knows him will readily bear testimony. By his attention to duty and uniform courtesy he has won esteem of all with whom he has come in contact and his many friends felt that they could not allow him to leave them without some expression of their goodwill, and a handsomely worked massive marble timepiece which weighs upwards of one cwt. and a half was purchased. The presentation was made by Mr. John Taylor, inspector of Permanent Way, of the Midland Company, in the name of the subscribers and the gift was suitably acknowledged by Mr. Evans."
"Presentation to Detective Inspector William Evans"
Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald : May 21st 1890 Page 3

Sun-Bright Ale by Carter, Milner and Bird Ltd of Sheffield

"The passengers at the Sheffield railway station on Tuesday evening were much alarmed by hearing the loud and continued screams of a woman, and a rush was made to the place whence the sounds proceeded, to ascertain the cause. It appears that a wedding took place in Sheffield on that day, and the bridal party, after the ceremony, adjourned to a house, where they partook too liberally of certain intoxicating liquors. On the bridegroom presenting himself at the station to start, perhaps, on his bridal tour, the porters refused him admission. He thereupon became extremely violent and commenced to fight his way into the station. Hereupon the bride set up piercing screams, which resounded through the station. After a hard struggle, in which one or two of the porters were dashed about in a very rough manner, the man was pushed into the pointsman's office, and ultimately, we believe handed over to the police. The disconsolate bride would not be pacified for some time, but was carried out of the station by several of the bridesmaids and friends, still screaming and gesticulating wildly."
"An Incident in a Wedding Day"
Leeds Times : November 12th 1870 Page 8

Gilmour's Milk Stout

"A terrible accident occurred on Wednesday, to Godfrey Widdowson, aged 34, engine tenter, in the employ of Messrs. Tennant Brothers, Exchange Brewery. Messrs. Tennant have on their premises a well 53 yards deep, the staging at the bottom of which was undergoing repair. The deceased and a joiner named Edward Smith, before descending the well, put candles down to see if there was any foul air, and the lights went out. Smith was standing with a candle in each hand, lighting them, preparatory to sending them down again, when the deceased came out of the engine house and said, "It is the rain that has put them out; stand out of the way, and let me pass thee." Smith stood forward to let him pass behind, and directly afterwards felt a snatch at his leg. He turned quickly round, and just saw the deceased, with his arms stretched up, falling down the well, and heard him cry, "Oh dear." He did not see what caused him to fall, but it was done so quickly that there was no possibility of saving the unfortunate man. When the body was got up it was found that his head, his left leg, and his left arm were shattered to pieces. Of course death was instantaneous. The top of the well was wet and slippery, and was ordinarily kept closed, but on this occasion it was open for repairs. An inquest was held on the body on Thursday, at the Wheat Sheaf Inn, Bridge Street, by J. Webster, Esq., when the above facts having been proved, the Jury found a verdict of "Accidental death."
"Fearful Death at Messrs Tennant's"
Sheffield Independent : September 14th 1861 Page 6

Sheffield Free Brewery Matchless Nut Brown Ale

"On Saturday evening last, the workmen in the employ of Messrs. Davy Bros., engineering department, dined together at Mrs. Upton's, Harlequin Inn, Johnson Street, Wicker. After the usual loyal toasts, the health and prosperity of the firm was drunk with musical honours. Other toasts, songs, and recitations followed, and a very pleasant evening was spent."
"Social Event"
Sheffield Independent : February 23rd 1864 Page 8

"At the Second Court of the City police this morning, before Mr. Frank Mappin and Dr. Hunt, a licensed victualler, named Henry James Maddams, was summoned for permitting drunkenness on his premises on June 29th. Mr. H. W. Clambers appeared for the defendant. Police Constables Matthews and Weathers, said that they visited the defendant's house, the Manchester Hotel, Nursery Street, on the night of June 29th, about nine o'clock, and found a labourer named Herbert Bailey drunk and lying on the floor of the concert room. For the defence Mr. Chambers said that the landlady had refused to serve the man with any more beer because he was drunk, and had ordered him out. He managed to elude the vigilance of the landlady, she being very busy at the time, and went upstairs. It was not known that he was in the house until the policemen brought him downstairs. Several witnesses bore out this statement, and the Bench dismissed the case on payment of the costs, 3s. 6d."
"Licensing Offences"
Sheffield Evening Telegraph : February 23rd 1864 P.8

Richdale's Rich Ales of Sheffield

"Mice! Mice! Mice! Thousands of them! Women are no longer scared of these little creatures. Times have changed, and now women devote their leisure hours to breeding them and preparing them for show. One Sheffield mouse-lover has as many as 2,000 of them in his back garden. Their colours are numerous and there are from 40 to 50 different varieties. Sheffield interest in this type of hobby is so keen that recently a Sheffield Mouse Club was formed, and exhibitions are held monthly at the Manchester Hotel, Nursery Street, Sheffield. Points are awarded and a cup has been put up for annual competition. This is the first club formed in Sheffield to be devoted exclusively to mice breeding. There are other clubs which show mice such as the Sheffield Original Fur Society, but members also breed rabbits and cavies. Mr. Charles B. Peters, of 113, Meadow Hall road, Kimberworth, Rotherham, member of the Sheffield Mouse Club, who himself has over 500 mice, told a "Daily Independent" reporter yesterday, that he thought mice-breeding was one of the most interesting hobbies. "The Sheffield Mouse Club is one of the liveliest clubs," he said."
"Mice Are Women's Pets Now's"
Sheffield Independent : November 8th 1934 Page 11

"A fatal accident happened a little before three o'clock on Saturday afternoon, near to the foot of Chapel Street, Bridgehouses. The daughter of Mr. Bellamy, fishmonger, a child about three or four years of age, had strayed into the middle of the road and was knocked down or fell under the lege of a horse drawing a cart laden with coals. One of the wheels of the vehicle passed over the head of the child, crushing in the skull and scattering tbe brains on the road. Death was instantaneous. An inquest was held at the Brown Cow Inn, Bridgehouses, on Monday, before Mr. W. W. Woodhead, Deputy Coroner, and tbe jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death."
"Shocking Accident at Bridgehouses"
Sheffield Daily Telegraph : May 13th 1865 Page 10

Gilmour's Sheffield Shield Golden Beer

"Mr. Tom Rolley, licensee of the Brown Cow Inn, Bridgehouses, Sheffield, and his wife, had a fortunate escape from suffocation following what is believed to have been a leakage from a gas main under their house. Awakening in the early morning, Mrs. Rolley was almost overcome by the smell of gas in the bedroom. She awakened her husband with difficulty and an alarm was raised. The gas appeared to be coming into the bar immediately under Mr. and Mrs. Rolley's bedroom, and two cats that were in the bar were found to have been overcome. One of the cats died. All the windows and doors of the inn were opened, and workmen from the Gas Company were quickly on the scene. Dr. Herbert England was called in and attended to Mr. Rolley, who was partially overcome. He recovered in the course of about an hour."
"Gas Fumes in House"
Sheffield Daily Telegraph : February 26th 1929 Page 8

"Yesterday [Wednesday] inquest was held at Mr. Abraham Cooke's, Alma Tavern, Alma Street, before Thomas Badger, Esq., on view of the body of a child, aged two years and seven months, named Henry Hunt, whose parents reside in Waterloo Row, near Cornish Place. From the evidence given before the coroner and jury it appeared that at about ten minutes to four o'clock on Monday afternoon the mother, with the deceased, on her left arm, was crossing a back lane near the King William Inn, Alma Street, when a horse and cart laden with coal, belonging to Mr. Samuel Thorpe, carter, Harvest Lane, was turning down the lane, and knocked them down. At the time of the accident the driver of the cart was [according to the evidence of the witnesses] in advance of his horse some four or five yards. The horse came suddenly upon them and knocked them down, the wheels of the cart running over the lower part of the child's stomach. He was immediately taken into an adjoining shop, where he died in about an hour after the accident. After a consultation which lasted nearly four hours the jury returned a verdict of "Manslaughter" against the driver, William Thorpe, who resides in Lambert Street, and brother of the owner of the horse and cart, and he was committed to the next York assizes for trial."
"Child Killed : Verdict of Manslaughter"
Sheffield Daily Telegraph : April 8th 1858 Page 3

"Mr. Wightman held an inquest yesterday at the Alma Hotel, Alma Street, on the body of Francis Rodgers, five years of age, the son John Wm. Rodgers, labourer, of 4 house, Court 5, Russell Street, who was killed on Wednesday morning by being ran over by a cart heavily laden with coals. Henry Vigrass, carter, said he was coming down Russell Street on Wednesday morning, about nine o'clock, and when he got to the corner of Bowling Green Street he saw two or three children standing on the pavement edge. Deceased was walking backwards, and he stepped on to the road, getting one leg behind the wheel of the coal cart. The wheel knocked him over and passed over him, crushing his head in a shocking manner. The driver was leading the horse at the time. He was on the same side the child, but it got on to the road between him and the wheel, so that he could not see it. He was quite sure the driver was not to blame, for the child was on the footpath when he passed and stepped backwards into the road between the driver and the cart. Frederick Wm. Bingham, who was passing at the time, gave similar evidence. Mr. Wightman said that if the evidence had shown that the driver [who was present] had been to blame he should have given him an opportunity of defending himself, but not the slightest blame was imputed to him by either of the witnesses, and he knew nothing as to how it was done. The jury thought the man was perfectly free from blame, and returned a verdict of "Accidentally killed by being run over by a laden coal cart."
"The Fatal Accident in Russell Street"
Sheffield Daily Telegraph : September 19th 1879 Page 3

Anchor India Pale Ale by Tomlinson's of Sheffield

Sheffield Free Brewery Co. Ltd.

Cannon Ale by William Stones Ltd. of Sheffield

Nut Brown Ale by Old Albion Brewery of Sheffield [c.1930's]

Bar Parlour Stained Glass

Beer is Best Poster

Click Here for the Pub Jukebox