The Grand Hotel, Sheffield: The historic Yorkshire hotel which hosted Winston Churchill, The Beatles and Laurel and Hardy

Some new buildings are completed amidst a fanfare of publicity in the press. They become a familiar sight in everyday life.

A number can even generate more newsworthy items. Then, they make way for new developments. This was the case with Sheffield’s Grand Hotel.

The company, Grand Hotel, Sheffield (1909), Ltd was registered in June 1909 with a capital of £1,000 in 1s shares.

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Architects Chorley & Connon of Leeds, designed the hotel building and J.D. Armstrong, architect in Sheffield, acted as inspector and building surveyor. The general contractors were Jas Fiddler, Ltd, Sheffield, who sublet various parts to local firms. A large contract for the internal work was carried through by Eyre & Sons, Ltd, Chesterfield.

Sir Winston Churchill outside the Grand Hotel in SheffieldSir Winston Churchill outside the Grand Hotel in Sheffield
Sir Winston Churchill outside the Grand Hotel in Sheffield

The Grand Hotel came under the direction of the Fredericks Hotels Limited. Louis Enselmoz was the first manager. It was said he had a ‘large Continental, London, and Provincial experience, including the Midland Hotel Manchester.’

The new building was inspected by the public during the afternoon of April 12, 1910 and hundreds of Sheffield and district people took advantage of the opportunity.

In the evening about a thousand guests accepted the directors' invitation to a reception. They were received in the lounge by C. Embleton, of Leeds, the company chairman.

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Bonifacio's band supplied a programme of music that ranged from fragments of Wagner's ‘Tannhauser’ to 'Yip-I-Addy-I-Ay' and ended with the conductor's gallop inviting people to 'Rush to the Grand.'

Sheffield Grand Hotel Leopold Street entranceSheffield Grand Hotel Leopold Street entrance
Sheffield Grand Hotel Leopold Street entrance

With 300 rooms, the Grand Hotel was erected to meet the city's need for a large central hotel and associated facilities. The colours of the dining hall were white and gold, with crimson and gold draperies. Special mention was made that ‘every room in the hotel will be fitted with a telephone.’

Opening for business on April 13, 1910, the hotel’s main entrance was in Leopold Street until it was moved to opposite the City Hall in Balm Green.

Immediately, events and meetings were a regular feature at the hotel.

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During April 1914, Steinway & Sons (London) announced that they would hold a week’s exhibition of their Famous Welte Mignon Reproduction Pianos. The company’s sole agent William Moxon would be in attendance to give demonstrations.

Sheffield Grand Hotel reception March 1970Sheffield Grand Hotel reception March 1970
Sheffield Grand Hotel reception March 1970

A year later, Lord Hawke presided at a meeting of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club. In July 1920, Cecil H. Taylor, Dancing Master, announced that he would hold classes at the Grand Hotel during the coming winter. It was added: ‘Accuracy of steps and style assured. Thoroughly sound and simple system of tuition.’

An Armistice Dinner-Dance was staged on Saturday November 9, 1929 with ‘Augmented Orchestra…9s inclusive.’

In June 1936 the hotel came under a new board of management with Cyril A Nicholson, noted Sheffield stockbroker, and his brother, Hubert Nicholson, as principals.

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By October 1938 the Grand Hotel had undergone an extensive transformation. One account said the whole focal centre of the hotel had been changed.

Sheffield Grand Hotel Balm Green entrance 14 Jan 1971Sheffield Grand Hotel Balm Green entrance 14 Jan 1971
Sheffield Grand Hotel Balm Green entrance 14 Jan 1971

It added: ‘An imposing main entrance has been constructed facing the Sheffield City Hall, putting into secondary importance the old entrance in Leopold Street.’

The design for the hotel’s reconstruction was carried out by Robert Cawkwell. George Longden & Son Ltd carried out much of the construction work.

During October 1940, the Grand Hotel’s ordinary shareholders had the satisfaction of receiving a dividend.

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It was the first dividend to be paid on the ordinary capital since the hotel was built. The year had been a successful one for the hotel. This was attributed to the increased comfort and elegance of the premises following the 1938 bold renovation.

Cheques to the value of nearly £1,000 were presented in September 1942 to the Sheffield Newspapers War Fund and the RAF Benevolent Fund at the Grand Hotel. This took place at an informal dinner held under the auspices of the Sheffield and District Cricket Association.

Twenty-two mothers of colliery boys, made a trip to Sheffield in December 1945 as guests of the Ministry of Fuel and Power. They were to inspect the Government’s mines’ mechanisation training centre where young British colliery workers were given a six-month course in the latest methods of coal mining.

Hotel accommodation was provided at the Grand Hotel during the two nights the party spent as the guests of the Ministry.

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Winston Churchill arrived for a two-day visit to Sheffield on April 16 1951 and stayed at the Grand Hotel. He was to receive the Honorary Freedom of the City at the City Hall. He was photographed outside the building where many Sheffielders had waited to catch a glimpse of him.

The Grand Hotel boasted many famous guests: Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Gracie Fields, George Formby, The Beatles, Wilfred Pickles, Stan Laurel, and Oliver Hardy amongst many others.

Two chambermaids – 21-year-old twins Sandra and Molly Wilson – received multiple injuries when they leapt from the bedroom window at the building on December 1, 1967 when fire broke out.

Among the guests at this time were singers Ronnie Carroll and Julie Felix. After jumping from their smoke-filled room, the girls were rescued from a roof, 50 feet down, by police and firemen.

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On March 5, 1968, the new £60,000 Buccaneer Bar, designed by Eric Blakemore, of Gernett, Cloughley & Blakemore Associates, opened at the Grand Hotel. A two-year-old parrot, named Jim Lad, added to the nautical atmosphere of the bar as he swung in an enormous cage.

Footballer, George Best attended a Disciplinary Meeting of the FA on the premises in September 1971. A big crowd had gathered outside, the hotel doors being closed an hour before the hearing.

In March 1969, the Grand underwent a £20,000 spring clean – the exterior brickwork was repainted and the entrance foyer facing the City Hall reshaped. During the same month detectives began full scale investigations into a £10,000 jewellery robbery on the premises. The thief got away with two diamond brooches belonging to a Buckinghamshire business woman.

In another fire – started in the hotel's dustbins by a cigarette end – pop singers Gene Pitney and Clodagh Rogers were among nearly 250 people evacuated in the early hours of April 5, 1970.

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During January, 1971 the building’s owners Trust Houses Forte Ltd announced the hotel would close.

M.R. Mathews, managing director of Trust House Hotels, said the reason for the closure was the prohibitive cost in bringing a building as old as the Grand up to the latest modern standards, comparable with the group's other Sheffield hotels – the Hallam Tower and the Grosvenor House.

On February 26, 1971 Star reporter Susan Dewar said she was the last person to officially check in to the hotel on the previous night and was the last to leave on the following morning: 'We said our goodbyes together and I felt like a solitary mourner at the edge of a lonely grave...there was no one but me to pay their last respects when the Grand Hotel finally gave up the ghost,' she said.

At that time the hotel boasted some 180 rooms, 10 public rooms that included bars, a ballroom and a restaurant.

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The Telegraph of Friday 24 August 1973 said that the five Buccaneer Bars in the former Grand Hotel had closed for the last time during that week – without any advance warning. Timing of the closure was kept secret in an attempt to stop souvenir hunters – but in spite of this police were looking for four missing tables.

Later in the month, it was revealed that the Trust Houses Forte Group had sold the Grand to the Slough-based Gauntlet Developments for a 'seven figure' sum.

One of the conditions of the sale was that a new hotel was not built on the site. A start on demolishing the hotel was commenced in late January 1974 by Kelsall (Demolitions) Ltd, Horsforth, Leeds. Work on a new building commenced in October 1974.

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