Monday 27th January 2014
I was going to write this article around two years ago, the photographs had already been taken and I was about to start the work when I paid a further visit and the staff told me of the plans of the owners of the Pivovar company, Jamie Hawksworth and Jon Holdsworth, to extend the existing operation into the former dining room with the help of a grant from the Railway Heritage Trust.
Pivovar lease the pub from Network Rail and it is operated in conjunction with the Thornbridge Brewery. I got a sneaky look at the beginning of this work and was immediately impressed by the fact that there was a brewery incorporated in to the plans. I shelved my piece until I could visit again and that was in January 2014 when I and wife Linda were there at opening time, just so I could get the requisite photographs before the pub became busy.
Firstly please indulge me as I give a brief history of the station. It was opened by the Midland Railway in 1870. This was after a new direct route from the south was built replacing, for passenger trains, the lengthy line that was previously used. The station was extended in 1904 and this was when the main buildings were constructed along with a new platform one on which the refreshment rooms were located.
The buffet-bar and dining room closed during the mid nineteen-sixties yet partially reopened for a short time during the early 1970s as a waiting room. Serious vandalism occurred during this period and it was closed again. It remained boarded up for the next 30 odd years, seemingly unloved. During this period much of the plaster ceiling had collapsed in to the rooms. The turning point happened in 2008 when Jamie Hawksworth eventually gained access to the rooms he was going to lease.
What followed was two years of very hard work when what was possible to renovate was and that what wasn't, was replaced by like. This especially applied to the ceiling where moulds were created from what was left of the old to create a completely new application that I'm sure, looks as good as the original. Conversely it was possible to renovate the old bar to serve in the modern age. The pub opened in 2010.
A major innovation occurred in January 2013 when the old dining room was re-opened after renovation complete with an in-house brewery. This was achieved with £600,000 grant from the Railway Heritage Trust and the room looks magnificent. It can be hired for functions and parties from Sunday to Thursday.
It is possible to enter the pub from either platform 1B on the station or from the forecourt on Sheaf Street. I would like to give you a virtual tour of the pub but before that I would like to go on a massive digression. If you wish to skip the next few paragraphs please feel free to do so. As you enter from Sheaf Street you will notice a replica of a steam locomotive name plate. It is from "Thornbridge Hall" number 6964 of the "Modified Hall" class built in 1944 for the Great Western Railway. It is there because of the involvement of Thornbridge Brewery in the establishment of the pub.
I am a steam locomotive aficionado and there is a more personal aspect to this, so please let me take you back to the summer of 1965 when I had left school yet had still to start work.
On Monday 26th July on a lovely sunny day (they all were then) I caught the Pines Express which was en route from Bournemouth West to Manchester Piccadilly. I joined the train at Basingstoke and it was hauled by "Merchant Navy" class steam locomotive 35003 "Royal Mail". At the controls was Driver Varney of Bournemouth depot, whom I knew.
I alighted at Oxford and as I watched Driver Varney take his locomotive to the depot, I was about to turn away as the train was booked to be hauled by a diesel locomotive north from there to Crewe.
But what was this; another steam locomotive was backing down to take the train forward. It was an ex-Great Western engine; number 6849 "Walton Grange". The "Grange" locomotives were broadly similar to the "Halls" but with smaller diameter wheels. I just had to continue northwards.
Well, the Pines Express was a big train of thirteen coaches and "Walton Grange" struggled with it. The railway's Control Office were obviously aware of the problem so when we arrived at Banbury there was a second locomotive waiting to be added to the train, which was 6964 "Thornbridge Hall"! I couldn't get off; I just had to keep travelling on and eventually alighted at Leamington Spa. This was the only time I was ever pulled on a train by "Thornbridge Hall". It was withdrawn from Banbury depot two months later in September 1965 and cut up.
There's a additional case of serendipity here, as I have mentioned that Jamie Hawksworth was the instigator of the Sheffield Tap. The engineer who designed "Thornbridge Hall" and all of the "Modified Hall" locomotives was J.W. Hawksworth, weird or what? It's not the most common surname in England!
Sorry about that deviation but let's return to the Tap. After you have passed the aforementioned name plate and the small seating area around it, you enter the main bar room.
To the right is a magnificent wood-framed fireplace with its tile surround, above is a large mirror embossed with the name of the pub. Directly in front is the door that leads to Platform 1. To your left is the bar with its eleven hand pumps. Yet, there are also a number of keg beers which can be forgiven as this is where the greatest profit is made.
There is a large seating area in front of the bar and a smaller room behind it. Continuing to stroll further, parallel to the platform, I walked through another small room. This was the previous extent of the pub but I kept going and entered what was the once the First Class dining room. By any standards this is a magnificent room with its high ceiling that has glass panels in it.
At the end of the room there are two gigantic mirrors with a clock between them so that you don't miss your train, or do you?
The walls are lined with a pale shiny stone that has many decorations. The seating is of the customary highly stuffed red leather that suits the room admirably. Some of the tables have copper tops with the remainder being of highly-polished dark wood. Yet what has changed from the original is that the room now houses a shiny new brewery. This is located on the city side of the dining room. Another new feature is the small bar with its huge display of the various bottled beer the pub sells. This bar comes in to its own when the room is hired for private functions.
The brewery's products come under the title of the "Tapped Brew Co" and less than a week before they were celebrating their 100th brew. That is very good going indeed when it was almost exactly a year before that the first beer came off the plant. The beer is distributed to and sold in the other Taps around the country. The brewery is of 4 brewer's barrel capacity which enables them to produced 16 nine-gallon firkins per brew. There are also six maturation tanks in the room.
Naturally the pub has a massive selection of good draught beers and this was what was available when we visited. There were two regular beers from Thornbridge Brewery (Bakewell, Derbys): Jaipur (5.9%), an American IPA and Sequoia (4.5%), an American Pale Ale. From the in-house Tapped Brew Co there were: Bullet (5.9%), an IPA, Pegler, a Pale Ale and Ale, a Best Bitter.
Then there were the guest beers: Weird Beard (Hanwell, London) Something Dark Side (9.0%), a Black IPA. Alchemy Brewery (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) were represented with three beers: Five Sisters (4.5%), a Red Pale Ale; 10 Storey Malt Bomb (4.5%) which was a take on the classic Scottish 80/- style using 10 different malts and the last was Bad Day at the Office (4.5%), a Pale Ale.
Brewed a bit closer to home was Kirskstall Brewery (Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorks) Generous George, an IPA made with Polish hops. We tried all three of the Tapped beers and liked them all, especially the Bullet IPA. The eleventh hand pump was used for Thistly Cross (Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland) Gold Cider (4.0%).
Despite once being a dining and refreshment room food is limited to Pork Pies and the usual bar snacks. Whether you make a specific visit or if you are just changing trains the Sheffield Tap should not be missed.
The Sheffield Tap, Platform 1b, Sheffield Midland Station, Sheaf Street, Sheffield S1 2BP
Tel: 0114 273 7558
Open: Sunday-Thursday 11.00-23.00; Friday-Saturday 10.00-24.00
Sheffield station is very well connected by rail to most towns and cities in the country.