An ode to the humble pub

The Broadfield

Hattie Jacques

I'll explain this ⬆️later

The Great British Pub isn't facing extinction quite yet. But with 7,000 closures since 2014, it’s on the watchlist.


After 300 years at the heart of our communities, events have conspired to push the pub into a rapid decline. Changing tastes, the 2007 smoking ban, the boom in home entertainment, cheap supermarket booze, Brexit making it hard to find bar staff, the disastrous impact of the Covid pandemic and the squeeze on living standards have all played a part.


In the fight for survival, landlords have tried hard to adapt, introducing happy hours, better food, quiz nights, live music, karaoke, family friendliness and multi-screen Sky Sports, in a bid to tempt customers in.


But it seems to me that what’s been lost along the way is the honest-to-goodness, no-frills boozer, where all that mattered was the beer and the company, and where ‘pub grub’ was a bag of crisps or a pickled egg.


So, I thought I’d take a trip down Memory Lane to pay tribute to those old-school Sheffield pubs I've known and loved, some of them still trading, others long gone.


My first memory of a pub was at the age of seven, on a Whit Sunday trip to see my dad’s Uncle Horace and Aunt Lizzie, landlord and landlady of The New Inn, in Duke Street, Sheffield, near the landmark Park Hill flats.


In the early Sixties, the family outing to the New Inn was the high spot of our social calendar. With my sisters and I decked out in our new Whit Sunday clothes, we would catch a bus to Pond Street bus station and then walk the half mile or so to the pub. Not far, but in shoes you were wearing for the first time, it could be painful.


To get to the New Inn's living quarters, we had to pass through the tap room. It was a sea of dark suits and ties, white shirts, flat caps, the occasional trilby, a buzz of male voices, and plentiful pints of Tetley’s best bitter - all of it encased in a fog of cigarette smoke so thick you could cut it with a knife.


Dad would stop off at the bar for a drink and a chat with Uncle Horace, while mum ushered us kids into the living room, a cosy haven of chintz furniture and the aroma of roast dinners, where the generously upholstered and permanently jolly Aunt Lizzie was waiting for us.


After telling us how smart we looked and how much we’d grown since last year, Lizzie would pick her purse off the mantlepiece and hand the three of us a coin each. Most of our relatives gave us sixpence (equivalent to 30p or so in today’s money). If they were a bit short, it might be a threepenny bit (about 15p today) or, if they were feeling flush, a shilling (60p).


But Aunt Lizzie could be relied on to give each of us a shiny half-crown, worth around £1.50 today - an eye-popping amount for a seven-year-old boy and his little sisters. In those days, there was money to be made selling beer.


For the teenage partygoer of the 1970s, the Party Seven was the weapon of choice. It would be hard to argue that a seven-pint can of Watney’s Red Barrel was created with the connoisseur in mind. Members of the Campaign for Real Ale certainly didn’t cry into their lovingly-crafted, cask-conditioned beer when Red Barrel fell out of favour with the public. But for a sixteen-year-old wanting a good night on a limited budget, one big can containing almost a gallon of competitively-priced bitter was just the ticket.


To open the Party Seven, you had to punch two holes in the top – one to let the air in, the other to let the beer out. This required a sharp implement, ideally, a can opener. However, I’ve seen chisels, screwdrivers, bodkins and even knitting needles pressed into service. It’s amazing how inventive – and desperate - the average teenager can be when they’re gagging for a pint.


Red Barrel was a particularly gassy beer, which gave the Party Seven enormous explosive potential. Inevitably, the red-and-gold can would get thoroughly jiggled about en route from the off-licence to the party venue. When (if) you finally managed to pierce the top, a jet of ale would hit the kitchen ceiling, with the force of a water cannon. When this happened – which was every time – it never failed to take everyone by surprise.


While researching this article over a pint with my pal Barrie, he reminded me that the Party Seven had a little brother, the Party Four, which came in blue-and-gold livery. Obviously, no teen who was trying to build a reputation as a drinker would be seen dead with one.


Watney’s began brewing in 1837, in London (which is enough to set an alarm bell ringing straight away). Red Barrel was launched in 1971 and rapidly became Britain’s top-selling beer, in cans and on draught. Because it was filtered and pasteurised, it could be transported long distances at no detriment to the product, unlike ‘live’ cask-conditioned ales, which were notoriously travel-averse.


The Red Barrel advertising slogan was ‘What we want is Watney’s’, although I’m not sure Britain’s beer drinkers were ever consulted on that. If they had been, I suspect they might have replied: ‘Oh no, we don’t!’


It suited the brewers to market a beer that could be brewed in a single location and transported nationwide, tasted the same wherever you drank it, and could be advertised through a single campaign. Watney’s weren’t alone on the march towards a homogenous, pasteurised pint. Whitbread had Trophy bitter, Bass Charrington launched Brew Ten and Midlands brewer Mitchell & Butler went one better with Brew XI. M&B marketed Brew XI as the beer ‘for the men of the Midlands’. That was fine by me. The men of the Midlands could keep it, and I’d stick to Stones, Ward’s and John Smith’s.


My first illicit drink in a pub was at The Claymore, a Scottish-themed pub on Arundel Gate, just up from the Hole in the Road. They served Younger’s ales and didn’t pay too much attention to the age of their customers.


My mates and I, a group of nervous 16-year-olds, were trying desperately to pass for 18. Most of tried to take our voices down an octave or, in the case of one of the smaller lads, by inserting a rolled-up a pair of socks in the heels of his shoes, to make him look taller.


We gulped down a furtive half before heading to the Tuesday teen disco at the nearby Top Rank, which was where we’d told our parents we’d be. Over the following weeks, the quick half became a couple and soon evolved into a mini pub crawl, ending up at The Buccaneer, a cave-like basement bar on Leopold Street, later reborn as The Pig & Whistle. This was the coolest place in town among the under-age drinking set. Once we’d discovered The Buc, the Top Rank was dropped from our schedule, never to return.


A few months before my eighteenth birthday, my dad asked me if I fancied joining him and my two uncles, Jack and Lol, for their regular Sunday lunchtime visit to the John O’Gaunt, our local on the Gleadless Valley housing estate. This was a rite of passage. After several pints and numerous losing games of crib, I realised that before today I’d just been playing at drinking. Now I was being taught how to do it properly.


Built in the mid-Fifties to replace housing that had been either condemned as unfit or flattened by German bombs, Gleadless Valley was Sheffield’s biggest council estate. The planners had the good sense to realise that with 21,000 residents, a generous sprinkling of pubs would be required. Dotted over the sprawling estate were the Horse & Groom and The Blackstock (both still open), the John O’Gaunt, the Far Lees, the Byard’s Leap, the Wyvern and the Cutler’s Arms – all, sadly, no longer with us.


To that newly-built roll-call you could add the three pubs that existed before the estate; the Nailmaker’s Arms (named after a tiny nail-making shed on Blackstock Road); the New Inn, near the Norton water tower and now renamed, presumably after much deliberation, The Water Tower; and the Bagshaw Arms, named after the local landowners, who sold a large swathe of their rolling acres to the council, who built the Gleadless Valley estate on it. The Bagshaw was a Yates’ Wine Lodge, selling Mansfield Bitter and a selection of unusual fortified drinks, such as beef & malt wine, which sounds like something you should be able to get on prescription. I'm delighted to say all three originals are going still strong.


Ten years after the construction of Gleadless Valley, Sheffield Council built the Norfolk Park estate, which had 18 high-rise tower blocks at its core and rows of two-storey houses dotted in between. Like Gleadless Valley, Norfolk Park was designed to be a self-contained community, with shops, schools, community centres, places of worship and pubs.


Sheffield City Architect J Lewis Womersley’s vision for Norfolk Park was of a ring of high-rise developments on high points round the city centre, to build up ‘hill top compositions…producing something of the fascination of the Italian Hill Towns’. Yeah, right. Less than 30 years after they were built, the Norfolk Park flats had been demolished.


As an 18-year-old, I worked as a barman at the Jervis Lum, on Norfolk Park, alongside my pal Mike, whose parents Harry and Audrey Kingswood were the licensees. They had moved there from The Broadfield, a four-square Victorian pub, on Abbeydale Road. The Jervis, like the Fellbrigg higher up the estate and the Captive Queen lower down, were low-slung, flat-roofed and functional. The buildings have survived but their use has changed. The Fellbrigg is now a multi-denominational church, and the Captive Queen – the unusual name is a nod to the 14 years Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in nearby Manor Lodge – is now the Church of the Nazarene. 

While the estate pubs have come and gone, the Broadfield is still trading. She’s a fine, old lady. Not exactly elegant, but sturdy. No-nonsense. You wouldn’t mess with her. Like Hattie Jacques in Carry On Matron.

Inside, though, it’s a different story. The old girl’s been glammed up. Not just a bit of filler here and there but full-blown reconstructive surgery. She now boasts trendy mismatched furniture, stripped floors and a deserved reputation for good ale and excellent pies.

On a visit in 2023, I was thrilled to see The Broadfield was serving Stones’ bitter. Known by my dad’s generation as ‘fighting beer’ because it was light, dangerously quaffable and liable to send the even the mildest-mannered drinker doolally, Stones’ popularity caught the eye of Britain’s biggest brewer, Bass Charrington, who bought the brewery. In the late 70s, Bass began promoting a keg version of Stones, at the expense of the much-loved, cask-conditioned original.


Within a handful of years, Stones was Bass’s biggest-selling beer but, in my eyes at least, they had ruined a unique Sheffield product. True North Brewery, who now own The Broadfield, have made a passable job of recreating Stones in its classic form. Like so many companies in the hospitality industry, True North has had its financial difficulties of late. But hats off to them for keeping the Stones torch burning.


BACK in the glory days, what was the best pub crawl in Sheffield? I suspect most would say the West Street Shuffle. But for me London Road always had the edge, for three reasons. First, it was on my bus route. Second, a high proportion of the pubs were Ward’s and Stones’ houses. Third, it included the Tramway, run for many years by my cousin Val Carr, which guaranteed us a warm welcome and a better-than-average chance of an after-hours drink.


Years ago, I could reel off the London Road pubs in order. These days, I can recall The Hermitage (Ward’s, barn-like, not much atmosphere), The Albion (Stones, dark wood, characterful). I was in The Albion on a Christmas night out in 1988 when someone walked in and announced that an airliner had just come down on the town of Lockerbie. There was The Barrel (Ward’s, good atmosphere, excellent pint), the Old Crown (can’t really remember it but, unlike the Tramway, still trading), The Pheasant (Tetley’s) and the Cremorne (also Tetley's. It was often our starting point when heading towards town but we rarely made it that far when doing it in reverse).


For a few years, my weekends ran to a predictable pattern. Saturday was London Road, Sunday lunchtime was the John O'Gaunt or the Bagshaw, and on Sunday nights it was Manor Top / Mansfield Road. The exciting bit was on Friday night, which involved a dash across the border for an ‘extra’ pint.


In the Seventies, closing time in Sheffield was 10.30pm but in neighbouring North Derbyshire it was 11pm, so pubs that were just over the border - the Old Harrow, near Gleadless Town End, and the Chequers, at Coal Aston, for example - would see an influx of customers wanting to make the most of the bonus half hour. It may seem quaint now but it felt wild and reckless at the time.


On Sunday nights in the Elm Tree, at the top of Mansfield Road, my mates and I would often encounter a white-jacketed man, selling seafood snacks from pub-to-pub. With a tray in front of him, like a cinema ice cream vendor, he’d announce himself with a cry of: ‘Cockles! Whelks! Prawns!’. One of us would always mutter: ‘Excuse me, have you got crabs?’, and we’d all titter. None of us was brave enough to say it to his face, which is a shame because I’m sure he‘d never heard that joke before.

If the Friday night cross-border dash was our weekly sprint, the Ward’s Passport was an ale-fuelled, summer-long ultra-marathon.


In the early 80s, the marketing department at Tetley’s brewery had come up with the idea of the Tetley Pub Hunt, which involved getting a card stamped at 12 of their tenanted pubs. If you notched up the dozen, your reward was a few pints of free beer. It was a smart idea, aimed at encouraging trade during the quiet summer months.


Ward’s went one better. In fact, they went about eight times better. They split their estate of 99 tied houses into four clusters, on a roughly geographic basis. For each cluster, there was a ‘passport’. At every pub where you purchased at least a half, you got your passport stamped. And if you completed one passport – around 25 pubs - you qualified for a Ward’s T-shirt and some free beer.


However, if you were prepared to go the extra mile, the rewards rocketed. Complete all four passports by visiting all 99 premises, and you scooped a Ward’s-branded T-shirt, a polo shirt, and a sweatshirt plus a polypin (36 pints) of bitter.


For me and my pal Mike, this was catnip. For our partners, it meant a summer taking turns as our designated driver.

Many Ward’s houses were just off Sheffield city centre, from the Manchester Arms, near The Wicker, to the Red House, on Solly Street, near Sheffield University, and the Royal Standard, a stone’s throw from Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground.


These were all fine, old pubs but my particular favourite was the Victoria, in Heeley Green, known by everyone as the Round House, on account of the unusual shape of its main room. The pub is still alive and kicking, although tragically no longer dispensing S.H. Ward’s Fine Malt Ales.


The Ward’s Passport also took us to some far-flung outposts. The furthest north was in Halifax – I can’t remember the name of the pub but the pie, black pudding and mushy peas was immense. The southernmost was The Seven Stars, in Ripley, a few miles north of Derby, where, on a sun-drenched evening, we enjoyed possibly the best pint of a memorable summer.





The Great Britain, John Street – A pub in a row of terraced houses. The bar doubled as the landlord’s living room, with his kids sitting on a sofa watching TV, alongside the family dog, while dad dispensed hand-pulled pints of perfection. The Rock-Ola jukebox was stuffed with Sixties classics and the John Smith’s Magnet was magnificent.


The Old Grindstone, Crookes – Worth the two bus rides from Gleadless Valley to visit this landmark pub. And the Ward’s was always tip-top.


The Phoenix, Ridgeway – In the early Seventies, my mate and I did a day’s potato picking for a local farmer and spent our pathetic wages in this dark and sparsely-furnished country boozer. If you’ve seen The Banshees of Inisherin, you’ll get the vibe. Modernised many years ago and still in business.


The Victoria, Heeley Green – Better known as The Roundhouse, on account of its unusual shape, this cosy old place still survives. If only they still served Ward’s…


The Sheaf View, Lowfield – Glorious views of the city and the scene of many a happy pint with my dad. Very close to the headquarters of Taggy’s ice cream, which (despite what fans of Manfredi’s and Joe’s Ices say) was the best in Sheffield.


The Red House, Solly Street – An out-of-the-way gem, not far from the university but very much a locals’ pub. Always busy, thanks to an outstanding pint of Ward’s.


The Buccaneer, Leopold Street – For a 16-year-old with L-plates on, this was the coolest place to pretend you knew how to drink.


The Dog & Partridge, Trippet Lane – Wonderful Victorian pub, full of character, in the heart of the city's old cutlery manufacturing quarter. In more recent times, the go-to venue for reunions with my old schoolmates.


The Grapes, Trippet Lane – Cut from the same cloth as the Dog & Partridge and part of the same pub crawl, starting at The Stonehouse, with its inside / outside courtyard, taking in Trippet Lane and shuffling up West Street. Guaranteed to end messily.


The Norfolk Arms, Leadmill Road – Known as (and later renamed) Dodger’s, the nickname of a former landlord whose nose was so big that ‘when he turned to talk to you, you had you duck to dodge it’. Many happy memories of working here as a teenage barman, when weekend lock-ins were compulsory.


The North Pole, Sussex Street – A daily haunt in the summer of 1973, when I was working as a binman, based at Sheffield Cleansing Department’s Bernard Road depot. Lugging corrugated metal bins up and down the gennels of Arbourthorne and Heeley stoked a serious thirst, which was slaked with by far the best pint of Tetley’s I’ve ever tasted.


The Albert, Division Street – Popular with Sheffield’s musical glitterati, including Joe Cocker and Frank White, this was the place for me and my mates to sink a couple before attending a gig over the road at the City Hall. The beer was secondary, the vibe was everything.


The Cross Keys, Handsworth – Built in the 13th Century as a house for chaplains, which explains the cemetery in the pub grounds. Low ceilings, oak beams, vintage fittings and a beautiful drop of Stones’.


The Museum Hotel, Orchard Square – Still in business and tastefully updated. My blurry memories are of a narrow pub with bench seating and a good pint of Stones’. The gents’ toilet didn’t have a roof, so on rainy nights a pac-a-mac came in handy.


The Fat Cat, Alma Street – Built in Victorian times, the Fat Cat became Sheffield’s first real-ale free house when bought at auction in 1981. Since then, thousands of different ales – most of them from independent breweries - have been dispensed through their pumps. A historic pub and an absolute beauty.



It was around 1 o’clock in the morning when I stumbled downstairs to answer the phone, half asleep and half cut, after a few Friday night pints with my dad. News editor David Mastin apologised for getting me out of bed. It might be something or nothing, he said, but one of our photographers had called in to say he had been driving home from a night out when he spotted a big police presence outside The Highwayman pub, high on the moors between Chesterfield and Baslow. Could I nip out there and take a look? And, by the way, are you OK to drive? I answered yes to both questions.


Recently qualified as a senior reporter on my hometown paper, The Star, I was pleased that, from a pool of around 20 reporters, it was me that Mastin had called. Or maybe his first choices just decided to let the phone ring. No matter. On a bitterly cold January night, I pulled on my duffle coat and scarf, jumped into my VW Beetle and headed for the hills.


When I pulled into The Highwayman car park an hour later, a blizzard was raging. There were arc lights and a police mobile incident room in the pub car park - sure signs that something big was going on. Two journalists had got there before me: Martyn Sharpe, of The Sun, and the Daily Express’s legendary North of England reporter Peggy Robinson. I knew both of them by reputation. Neither of them knew me from Adam. We chatted guardedly for a few minutes, trying to glean snippets of information from each other. The two experienced national reporters were giving nothing away, and I had nothing to give.


Then Derbyshire’s assistant chief constable stepped out of the incident room. A man of his rank on top of the moors, in a blizzard, in the early hours, on a Saturday? Another sign that something big was happening. He walked over to us but, apart from a few pleasantries, he wasn’t saying much either.


After a minute or two of awkward small talk, Robinson asked how ‘Mrs Maron” was. The ACC corrected her – the name was Moran, and he spelled it out. The three of us scribbled it into our notebooks. A bit more sparring and then Robinson asked, casually: ‘How many bodies are there?’ Yes, this was definitely big.