Every old building needs to earn its keep.
It’s pointless to argue for the retention of a historic building, listed or not, without the means to maintain it into the future.
Seventeenth-century Carbrook Hall, for many years a pub in the heart of Sheffield’s industrial east end, closed in 2017, yet another casualty of the inexorable decline of the British public house, and a year later suffered an arson attack that was fortunately arrested before the entire building went up in smoke.
Local historians and CAMRA members hoped it would reopen as licensed premises, but its new owner, the property developer Sean Fogg, applied lateral thinking and leased it to the coffee chain, Starbucks.
Mr Fogg spent £700,000, assisted by Starbucks’ contribution of £400,000, to restore the remaining stone wing of what was a much larger house, enhancing its surroundings, replacing a nondescript twentieth-century service block with a tactful 21st-century drive-in facility, and bringing the three exceptional historic interiors to a high state of preservation.
Walking into the building is a time-warp, because the coffee-shop counter, located where the pub bar used to be, is an up-to-the-minute skinny-latte-and-panini experience.
Turn left and enter the Oak Room, though, and despite the bright lighting and modern furniture, you’re surrounded by high-quality panelled walls and a crisp plaster ceiling that witnessed the discussions about besieging Sheffield Castle during the Civil War nearly four centuries ago.
This was the home of the Puritan Bright family, in those days lost in the spacious meadowlands of the Lower Don Valley. It’s possible that their interior decorators were the craftsmen who worked on the Little Keep at Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire. It’s the oldest building in the valley and has seen no end of changes.
At the opposite end of the ground floor is an ancient kitchen with stone stoves and a bread oven.
A second panelled room upstairs is not yet completed, but will be dedicated to public use when fully restored.
The restoration is meticulous, though the conservationists were disturbed to find that the ancient oak had been peppered by stray darts around the site of the dart board.
The reopening of Carbrook Hall is a boost to public awareness of the area’s historic heritage.
I’m pleased that we can now take the heritage Bus Rides Round Attercliffe to the oldest building in the Lower Don Valley.
To find out about what’s happening at Carbrook Hall Starbucks, follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StarbucksCarbrookHallSheffield.
The 60-page, A4 handbook for the 2017 ‘Sheffield’s Heritage’ tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.