Here is some information about the Sheffield Club which is taken from a Ph.D thesis submitted by Alan P White to the University of Leeds, Department of Social Policy and Sociology in March 1990.
The first mention of the Club in the local press occurs in July 1843 when the following advertisement appeared:
"Wanted to Rent. For a term of years in a central part of the town, premises suitable for the SHEFFIELD CLUB - Rent and other particulars to be communicated by letter to Mr. Wake.
In December of the same year another advertisement appeared asking for a "middle aged married man" to act as steward.' The Club opened in January 1844 in a house in Norfolk Street which had been taken on a ten year lease at a rental of £60 p.a. At the 50th anniversary dinner, held on the 1 January 1894, the only surviving original member (Sir Henry Edmund Watson ) said:
"Before the present club was formed there had been a small club of professional men, merchants, and others, who meet from time to time for lunch, smoke and joke. A desire, however, arose among some of the younger generation for rather more extended accommodation. Seven daring spirits then agreed to form the present club and were delighted to find the elder gentlemen of the old club ready to join them."
Unfortunately Watson does not go on to say who the seven were, or what the old club was. However, an entry in the minutes for 25 October 1847 may cast some light on the former. It shows that £118.11s.7d had been repayed to William Wake, Benjamin Huntsman, William Watson and Richard Stuart in respect of £100 which they had lent the Club in 1843. A solicitor, coal owner, bank director and iron and brass founder, the mix was typical of Club membership throughout the period of this study. Of these four Richard Stuart is the odd man out, as his membership of the Club seems to have been tenuous. On the 22nd February 1844 the minutes of the general committee record that some discussion took place about "parties now wishing to back out" from paying their subscription money. On the 29 June the problem came up again, and this time the men were named; they were "Mr.Vickers" (possibly Edward Vickers, corn and flour dealer, and father of a later member T E Vickers), Thomas Branson (a solicitor and still a member in 1849), Alfred Sorby and Stuart himself. Vickers and Sorby seem to have resigned whilst Stuart stayed long enough to collect his repayment in October 1847 and left in the December of the following year.
In 1851 the club consisted of Two Billiards Rooms, a Reading Room, a Smoke Room, a Coffee Room, a Dining Room and sleeping accommodation for the steward (there was presumably a kitchen somewhere although this is not mentioned). Apart from the steward and his wife - the cook - there were also a billiard marker, two 'boys' and a Housekeeper. At this time the steward and his wife were being paid £60 p.a. "on condition that they be subject to leave at a minutes notice - and that their children be not allowed to be in the Club at all." By 1855 their wages had been increased to £71 p.a. and the staff had grown to two Waiters ( £11.10s. p.a.), two Markers ( £7.10.s p.a.), and two Maid Servants (£9 p.a.). The total wage bill for the year 1855-6 given in the accounts of the Sheffield Club is £127.
In keeping with the London Clubs on which it was modelled, the Club had a Committee of Management which handled its day to day affairs. This in turn was divided into a Wine Committee, a House Committee, a Billiard Committee and a number of scrutineers for the election of new members. The committee consisted of twelve members, three of whom were to retire - with the possibility of re-election - at the end of each year. The report which the committee delivered to the first annual general meeting on the 5th January 1845 illustrated the great advantage to be gained by having at least one member of the Club from the various trades from which it would need to buy supplies. Expressing their aim of exercising "the strictest Economy consistent with the comfort of the Members and respectability of the Establishment"' they went on to thank the members who had provided goods on "liberal terms"; as the 'members' included Rodgers & Sons (Cutlery Manufacturers) it seems reasonable to assume that the committee was buying cutlery and furniture as well as food and drink.
At first the Club provided only one meal a day - a 'Table d'Hote' of meat, vegetables and cheese - at 2.00pm each day (except Sunday) at a cost of 1/6d. It continued through to December 1851 when it was discontinued in favour of a more flexible arrangement with a meal of meat, soup and vegetables being available between 2.00pm and 5.00pm. This situation lasted until 1855 when the table d'hote was started again. The only surviving full price list shows that by 1862 the Club was providing a full food service throughout the day, and that it had a reasonably well stocked wine cellar.
As we saw above, the Club occupied rented premises in the centre of town. In 1848 the Committee decided that "in order to insure as much as possible the quietness and privacy" of the Club, they would rent the two cottages adjoining it." These seem to have been owned by the same landlady as the Club itself - Sara Woodhead - for it was she who in February 1853 sent the Club a letter informing them that the rent for the club house was to be increased by £20 pa to £80, whilst the rent of the two cottages would stay at £20pa. This seems to have stimulated the committee members into considering the possibility of the Club owning its own premises. At the same meeting a sub-committee was formed to look into the idea of either buying the land on which the club house stood, or buying what is referred to in the minutes as 'Mr. Colley's premises on the East'. In March of the same year the committee discussed buying 'Mr. Dixion's house in Norfolk Row for the erection of a new club house (this would seem to be John Dixion, a solicitor and member of the Club who died in 1854). M E Hadifeld was asked to consult with Dixion and was given the power to offer up to £1,200 for the site. Nothing seems to have come of these inquiries and in July 1853 the committee agreed to the rent increases under threat of a years notice to quit.
A further plan to raise capital in the form of £25 shares for the purchase of new premises was discussed at the committee meeting on the 27 April 1857. It would appear that some preliminary costing had been done for the projected house, as the minutes of the AGM held in February of the next year give a planned cost of £6,000. The minutes also reveal that due to the slump that occurred during 1857, the plan was abandoned. Once again the scheme rested for a few years until 1860 when, at the AGM, the plan to sell £25 shares was revived. This time the plan seems to have been successful because the Committee announced at the next AGM that it had purchased the site for the new club house and that Hadfield had been asked to draw up plans. The tenders having been placed, the committee recorded in its minutes for 1 April 1861 that the quotations received had exceeded the amount they were willing to spend and that the £25 shares should be increased to £30. A week later the committee gave the building sub-committee the power to place the contract for the exterior of the building with a Mr. Conran at a cost of £3,990. From this point forward the work on the new building seems to have gone at a smart pace, for at the AGM held on 10th February 1862 the committee recorded that the exterior of the house was completed and a year later the Club had moved in. This move was necessary if the Club was to accommodate the increasing number of members which it had.
As we have seen, the original plan to raise the capital for the new club house had been to sell shares at £25. This, however, proved to be too small a sum and in April 1861 the committee agreed to increase each share by £5. In the meantime, the land on which the building was to be erected had been bought in December 1860 by M.E. Hadfield and Bernard Wake for £2,020 10s. The site - which stood on the corner of Norfolk Street and Mulberry Street - consisted of 447 square yards and was already built on. The total cost of buying the land and erecting the new club house was £7,200 and the draft Deed of Association of the Sheffield Club shows that this was raised by the sale of 240 shares. Hadfield and Wake, as the nominal owners of the land and building, passed their ownership to 12 trustees - of which they were two - who in turn leased the property to six lessees for 21 years at £360 per annum. The trustees and the committee of management for the year 1863-4 were identical: viz., John Dixion , W F Dixion jun. (silver-plater), Hadfield, F T Mappin (steel smelter and tool manufacturer), Richard Martin (silver-plater), C E Smith (accountant), Thomas Smith(solicitor), R B Streatfield (steel smelter and tool manufacturer), Bernard Wake (solicitor), Frederick Ward (cutlery manufacturer; son of T A Ward), H E Watson (solicitor) and Benjamin Wightman (solicitor).
The opening of the new building was reported in three of the local papers. The copy for the reports was virtually identical in all of them. The Independent, taking up the theme of 'improvement' began by stating that "The inconvenience of the old Club House has long been felt, and this new building is the result of a spirited effort on the part of the members, who determined to have a building worthy of themselves and the town."
In the layout of its rooms, and the floors on which they were placed the Sheffield Club seems to have followed the pattern of at least two London Clubs: The Athenaeum and The Reform. On the ground floor were the Coffee Room, "45 feet long and 25 feet wide, and 14 high - a noble apartment"; the steward's office; a "breakfast or morning room, 18 feet by 14 feet" and "very complete lavatories and retiring rooms". On the first floor, the reading-room or library "45 feet by 27 feet, and 14 feet high.": "This apartment is furnished in walnut and green Utrecht velvet, richly carpeted: but the chief attractions are the mantelpieces at each end of the room. A glass panelling of noble dimensions, in a walnut frame inlaid with tulip-wood and richly gilten tablature, surmounts an arch of green Belgian marble, in the keystone of which is inserted a timepiece, and on beautifully inlaid pedestals are tripod lamps, six feet high."' The committee room and the 'private dining room' were on the same floor. Above them was the billiard room, plus "a small smoke room".On the top floor were five bedrooms for the use of members staying overnight. Each of these floors was connected at the front of the house by a five feet wide staircase of "Elland-edge stone with electro-bronze balustrade", and at the back by a stone staircase which also went down to the cellar. Here the servants’ quarters were located consisting of a kitchen, scullery, larder, wine cellars, servants’ hall etc. The Sheffield Times concludes its article: "Of the exterior it is scarcely necessary to speak. It has a solid English and thoroughly genteel look, expressing with boldness and truth its purpose, being a town residence, such as abound in the older parts of London, of palladium architecture, of the school of Inigo Jones."' The move to the new building was occasioned by other drains on the resources of the Club.
At the Annual Meeting held on the 8 February 1864 the committee reported on the fact that they had been instructed by the last meeting to "purchase entirely new Furniture for the Dining and Reading Room; this step was absolutely necessary to make the furnishing of the Club consistent with the building itself". This had involved the committee in £1,000 worth of expenditure. In order to cover this amount they suggested that the members should make a loan to the Club - with interest - in sums of £120 each. However, as has been seen the membership of the Club does not seem to have been very willing to part with its money, and at the next General Meeting the committee had to report that the response had been so bad that they had been obliged to give their personal guarantee to the Bank
Almost half of the 1868 Sheffield Magistrates Bench were members of the Club:
H Wilkinson - Silver-plater - Unitarian - Liberal
J W Hawksworth - Steel and tools - Congregational - Liberal
S Butcher - Steel and cutlery - Anglican - Tory
J Brown - Steel and tools - Anglican - Tory
R Jackson - Steel and tools - Unitarian - Liberal
W Fisher - Ivory, bone etc. dealer - Unitarian - Liberal
H Harrison - Cutlery manufacturer
T Jessop - Steel smelter - Unitarian - Liberal
W F Dixion - Silver-plater - Methodist - Tory
Not Club Members
J Webster - Solicitor
T R Barker - White lead manufacturer - Liberal
J J Smith - Stove grade manufacturer - Methodist - Tory
E Vickers - Steel and tools - Methodist - Liberal
T Dunn - Coal owner - Congregationalist - Liberal
J Haywood - "Gentleman"
T Blake - Retired partner from Wm. Greaves and Son, steel and cutlery
H E Hoole - Stove grate manufacturer - Congregationalist - Liberal
Rev. John Hand - Rector of Handsworth - Anglican
Wm. Jeffcock - Coal Owner - Congregationalist - Liberal
R Bayley - "Gentleman"
J B Brown - Land agent - Liberal