Friday 29th March 2013
One of the first things I noticed when looking at the exterior of this pub was that every window had an etched H in a circle on it. Obviously it was a trade mark of the former owning brewery. I thought of Hammonds, a name I'd come across in West Yorkshire previously. I've got one of their beer mats, but I couldn't link them to Huddersfield. So back home the research started.
Of course, they were a Bradford brewery, hardly a million miles away, but here I started to get bogged down. The Sportsman opened in 1930 and is recorded as being designed by a gentleman called Seth Senior of Huddersfield. The question that perplexes me is what brewery built the pub? Hammond's date from around 1840 when their Fountain Brewery in Manchester Road, Bradford was first established. They went on to absorb an exceptionally large amount of breweries and, in 1944, took over Lockwood Brewery of Bentley & Shaw, founded in 1891, which was in Huddersfield.
The question to me was the Sportsman's' Arms, as it was originally called, a genuine Hammond's pub or were the window logos applied later to a Lockwood Brewery pub? We may never know, but I would like to get the full history one time. Hammond's became Hammonds United Brewery in 1946. Their Bradford brewery closed in 1955 and the Lockwood Brewery closed in 1963. The company merged with Charrington of London in 1962. In 1967, this already huge conglomerate was joined by Mitchells & Butler and the best known brewers in the country, Bass, to form Bass-Charrington. The remainder of the history involves multi-national companies so is not very interesting.
Where the beer came from in the years on from the nineteen sixties is anyone's guess. Although after the Bass merger the former Tadcaster Tower brewery is a good bet.
Then it was known as Bass Tadcaster and it still exists. I'll not say that often when discussing a multinational company yet Coor's Tadcaster brewery is still producing beer, although I don't think any of it is cask.
The pub did close for a period before the present management took it on and in its previous guise displayed the full insignia of its former owners including a wooden Bass display barrel hanging over the side door, which is still with us today. I guess this meant that they sold true Draught Bass.
The new era began in 2009 when it was purchased by the owners of the West Riding Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury, and hasn't looked back. Now it boasts its own small brewery in the cellar.
Walking in the main door you are confronted with a large curved bar. Bearing in mind this was built in the 1930s, I thought it reminiscent of a cocktail bar of that period. There are seats and tables around the outside walls and interestingly, there are separate rooms on each side, one containing a coal fire.
I realise that there must have been some alterations here and there, but couldn't see any. Architecturally this is a remarkable survivor and that includes the superb hand-painted tiles in the Gent's toilet depicting sporting activities.
What about the beer? Well they do have a fantastic range and this was what I could have consumed: Golcar (Golcar, West Yorks) Dark Mild (3.6%); Slightly Foxed (Sowerby Bridge, West Yorks) Howling Fox (3.5%); Timothy Taylor (Keighley) Landlord (4.3%), Mallinson's (Huddersfield, West Yorks) Cascade (4.0%); Ilkley Brewing (Ilkley, North Yorks) Lotus IPA (5.6%); Brew Company (Sheffield, South Yorks) ABC (4.3%) and Muddy Waters Stout (4.5%). Finally, from the cellar, there was Sportsman Brewing Alpha #5 (4.5%). Ciders are from the Great North Cider Company of nearby Holmfirth, West Yorkshire.
Food is available and it is in the real pub style; there are boards of various varieties including cheese, meats, black pudding, etc. There are also pies with peas and daily specials. Food is available daily from 12.00 to 21.00.
This is a fantastic pub and we should be very grateful that it is still with us; unreservedly recommended.
The Sportsman, 1, St John's Road, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire HD1 5AY
Tel: 01484 421929
Open: Sunday to Thursday 12.00-23.00; Friday and Saturday 11.00-24.00
The Sportsman is very close to Huddersfield railway station, less than five minutes away. Exit and walk down the approach, turn left around the hotel, continue under the railway bridge and there you are.
Huddersfield station is served by express trains operated by First Trans Pennine Express which connect the town with Manchester, Leeds, York and many other places. Local services are run by Northern Trains and connect Huddersfield with Sheffield, Bradford, Wakefield and other towns in the area.
Many buses call at the railway station and the bus station is not too far way. The two are connected by a free bus.