Leah’s Yard, one of the last surviving Little Mesters buildings in Sheffield, has revealed its secrets and offer a rare glimpse inside in one of the first-ever tours of the building.
The mid-Victorian era building on Cambridge Street, which was purchased by the Council in 2015 and is part of its transformative Heart Of The City II programme, has stood empty for many years.
Present on the tour was Phillip Drury, 73, one of the last surviving people to work in the building. He joined his father Jack’s silver-smithing and jewellery business in 1962 and worked there until the building was sold to property developers in 2000.
He has also shared his personal photo archive showing life inside the building when his father employed 33 people – including long-gone trades such as burnishers, silver-platers and hammer-men.
Mr Drury, of Dore, said: “We made silverware for royals and Prime Ministers. We worked right next to each other and I followed my father and grandfather into the family business – you can see us all in these pictures over the years.
“We had eight silversmiths and it was a hive of industry. We had to work 18 months in front because of the amount of orders for cutlery and silver – it was manic.
“The space wasn’t that big – and with the compressors going it was very rowdy. We had belt-driven laithes and orders from all over the place. We had most of the building, three silversmithing shops including one that just did repairs, and other parts of the building were let out.”
Councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment at Sheffield City Council, said: “I would like to thank Mr Drury for sharing his memories and talking so eloquently about his many years working in Sheffield’s world-renowned silversmithing industry.
“Leah’s Yard has a proud place in Sheffield’s history as one of the last surviving little Mesters and has a huge part to play in the transformative Heart Of The City scheme.
“The building has been empty for many years – and there are many challenges to ensure its ongoing vibrancy in the city centre
“There is no doubt that Leah’s Yard offers a fascinating snapshot of what city centre work was like for many up until the 1970s. But its memories stretch back way further – to the 1860s. We would love to hear from more people like Phillip with a story to tell as we plan the next steps for this fascinating building.”
FCBStudios, whose previous projects including Persistence Works, has been selected for a £1.8 million contract covering a £40million retail, food and beverage, and leisure complex, on a 12,825m2 site which will be made up of new build blocks alongside retained, historic buildings.