We are seeing more and more public houses closing or having to come up with innovative ideas to stay open. Here are a few ideas from the past and also some of the notorious crimes that took place around them, for those who like some blood and gore.
The Angel Hotel on Angel Street had a few good ideas. On Saturday, July 11th 1908 a travelling optician set up stall selling glass eyes and glasses. You could even get a tint or a wave in your hair or your eyebrows shaped while your husband had a pint, that was on a Wednesday from 7:30 onwards in 1933 by Pauline D Argues.
It was always a good idea to get people like the Sheffield Football Association to attend their meetings. This was how the Athol Hotel on Pinstone Street rose to fame in 1884 holding all the committee meetings and doing all the fixtures. Quite amusingly the meeting was not held the same night as the Ward Conservative Party meetings as they also used the venue. The landlord of the said hostelry did however get charged with serving a child with gin. The charges were later dropped on further investigation by the police. The child turned out to be a little person from a show at the Albert Hall, he had called in on the way to his lodgings, the gin being for his sick wife.
Away from the city centre, public houses took on entirely different roles. The Bagshaw Inn at Norton was used as a court, a child support agency and a domestic abuse hub. On one night alone in 1839, a certain Francis Dalton was charged by his mother with being an unnatural son, having stolen from her to support his six fatherless children, his alcohol addiction and to top it all his constant beating of the children. On the same night, Charles Hawsley was charged with stabbing his brother and John Bagshaw was ordered to pay his employees their wages amounting to
£30 owed. Four women came forward before the judge demanding maintenance money for illegitimate children. All this in the place you go for a quiet pint.
If you fancied a bit of blood and guts with your pint then the Banner Cross Hotel on Ecclesall Road was the place to go. It was used for autopsies, and that was quite convenient as it was close to the hotel where the famous Charlie Peace committed his murder. If you don’t like human blood then it may still have been your place as it acted as the headquarters of the Sheffield Pigeon Shooting Club in around 1878
As you drink your favourite tipple in the Beehive Hotel on West Street just think of Emma Bayliss aged 22 who attempted to drown herself in a bath in one of the rooms in 1918. She was found unconscious and charged with attempting to commit suicide having had a spell of depression. She was released after apologising for what she had done. The Dove and Rainbow stands out as one of the public houses that secretly held meetings of the Sheffield Trade Unions in around 1874. This led to the formation of the Trade Union Congress after the Sheffield outrages.
There are many reports of deaths in pubs but I love the way the George Hotel on High Street dealt with a Mr Barret when he dropped like a rock between the snug and the smoke room in 1891. In the words of the landlord “he heard a thud and found him perfectly unconscious”, so they dragged him out by his boots out of the main pub. Luckily, they found a pocket notebook with the address of where he lived.
If you fancy a bank loan then the George and Dragon on Bank Street is your best bet wherein 1859 you could buy £2 shares. This was then given out in loans of between 5 to 50 pounds to borrowers. Interest was charged and given to the investors and presumably used to buy a drink in the pub.
We hear stories of the Carbrook Hall being changed into a coffee shop, however, in 1888 the Blacksmith Arms at Fulwood became
the Fulwood Coffee House as the residents bought the empty property. The buyers and converters were all part of the temperance movement at the time.
Most amusing of all was the pubs being used as courthouses for the none payment of the Poor Tax. Many people seem to believe
that before the NHS the rich survived and the poor were thrown out of the windows of the hospital on Spital Hill into the River Don.
Sheffield was a caring city with lots of rich benefactors giving money for hospitals, schools, workhouses and mental institutions. However, all the rest was paid out of the Poor Tax paid by individuals or seized from dead people’s estates. None payment of this levy was serious and goods were seized from none payers and auctioned in the pub in front of the accused. The likes of the White Lion at Heeley had auctions regularly. After a death, locals watched people helping themselves to the deceased’s assets, (a bit like today really), only that these assets had Poor Tax levied on them. The gossip became evidence then the goods were seized and taken to the public house and sold.
These are just a few uses, I myself remember going in the Jordanthorpe on a Saturday night and being confronted by the meat man. He came armed with a basket; you could buy a Sunday joint from him at a reduced rate as it was what was left from his butcher’s shop on Saturday, it would not last till Monday. A bit like the yellow stickers in the supermarkets of today.