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Comment, General pubbing, Pub news

This is what we’re losing

We’re past the worst, right? Fewer pubs are closing now than a couple of years ago. And Osborne knocked a penny off beer tax. So we’re all feeling a bit more relaxed about the future of the British boozer. Right?

In the early days of this blog, I visited the Old Heavygate Inn. It wasn’t long after I moved over to the Walkley area of Sheffield, and it was a minute’s walk from my new house. I naively and sentimentally speculated about it becoming my new local. A place where I could put down roots. A pub I could call home.

What I’d actually found was a pub on its last legs.

Like many a moribund beer house, the Heavygate seemed to close and reopen several times with some rapidity as a series of hopeful new managers tried and failed to revive its fortunes. Eventually it was put up for sale. Here and there Sheffield’s seemingly doomed suburban pubs have been reprieved by a takeover and makeover from the Thornbridge brewery: the Greystones; the Cross Scythes. Not the Heavygate. A few months back the builders moved in. Whatever the future of the building would be, it was clearly not as a public house.

I knew there’d been a pub on this site for a long time. But something I saw the other day, while passing by, really brought it home to me. So I snuck in and took a quick snap. Look at this.

Foundation stone at the Heavygate dated 1696

It’s a foundation stone, brought to light by the builders as they’ve dismantled the front of the pub. Look at that date. It’s 1696. Sixteen hundred and ninety-six. William III and Peter the Great. The Inquisition.

It’s more than 300 years old.

Whichever way you look at beer tax, or minimum alcohol pricing, or any of those other things people have started to talk about very recently, there’s a pub just up from my house which has called time on three centuries of human history. Three centuries of human contact, of sociability, of chance meetings. Of chat-up lines, of secret deals and  anglers’ boasts, of anecdote, gossip, and pool table heroics. Of consolation and celebration. Of tears, belly laughs, flirting and fights. Of raucous nights and slow, silent afternoons. Of excited talk, of idle chat, of forlorn daydreaming, of staring blankly into space.

Of much, in fact, that makes civilisation worthwhile.

This is what we’re losing and we’ll never have it back.

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About Pete Green

Poet and musician. Sheffield. Maps, coastlines, walking, whisky, and potentially dangerous levels of wist. Grimbarian. Pedestrian. King of the impossible. Big girl's blouse.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “This is what we’re losing

  1. There’s an old pic of the pub here showing what looks to be that stone on the front:
    http://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/index.php/topic/10461-old-heavygate-inn-matlock-road-sheffield-6/

    Posted by TheWagonMaster | 22 April 2013, 9:42 pm
  2. Thanks for the link! That’s an amazing photo, and it really starts to add context to this post, I think.

    As an aside, it’s quite interesting that the stone is halfway up the wall in that photo, because when I took the photo above the stone was at ground level. I guess it’s been moved around over the years as the front of the pub has been rebuilt again and again.

    Posted by Pete Green | 23 April 2013, 10:01 am
  3. Ay up, I have a pic somewhere which I’ll upload to Flickr and post a link of, showing the stone in the porch. So its definitely moved around a bit.

    Posted by Wee Beefy | 23 April 2013, 10:01 pm
  4. You’re loosing your livers too, don’t forget that… and your chances of doing anything productive with your lives.
    Pubs are dying FAST. Get used to it.

    Posted by Dave | 2 July 2013, 12:32 am
  5. True. My liver loosens up nicely when I head down the pub.

    My local is thriving though, Dave. A nice community pub where locals go for a chinwag over a nice pint. Doesn’t seem in danger of closing. Well run, y’see.

    I’d invite you over for a pint but you don’t really sound like someone who enjoys the pub. Or people. Or life generally.

    Posted by Mark E Mark | 2 July 2013, 9:08 pm
  6. ‘Human contact, of sociability, of chance meetings. Of chat-up lines, of secret deals and anglers’ boasts, of anecdote, gossip, and pool table heroics. Of consolation and celebration. Of tears, belly laughs, flirting and fights. Of raucous nights and slow, silent afternoons. Of excited talk, of idle chat, of forlorn daydreaming, of staring blankly into space’.

    All this will still exist when the pubs are gone.

    Posted by Daria | 5 July 2013, 8:37 pm
  7. I think it’s really sad that so many pubs are closing! I believe you are right, that they are a place of “excited talk, of idle chat, of forlorn daydreaming, of staring blankly into space”! They are social places. I think these people that disagree would rather sit at home on Facebook talking to people online and looking at pictures of other people having fun.

    Posted by Alistar | 21 August 2014, 12:56 pm
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