This is the story of a narrow road with a magical name.
Mushroom Lane winds up Crookesmoor Valley, originally from St. Stephen’s Church at Netherthorpe (now called The Vine), but now assumes its name further up the hillside. It crosses over Winter Street, and winds between Weston and Crookes Valley Parks, before emerging at Western Bank, near to the museum.
These days, most people barely take notice of the name , and those that do often presume it relates to the growing of mushrooms on the hillside back in ancient times.
However, the tale behind Mushroom Lane is far more interesting than that and begins at a time when this area was simply fields, trees and rolling countryside.
In early days, great tracts of waste or common land lay between villages. This land belonged to no one and was sometimes referred to as “Folkland” – as we see in Fulwood, a corruption of “Folkwood.”
The villagers had free access to this land for grazing purposes, fetching and carrying wood and using it for the benefit of the community. There was no special right to any part because it belonged to all, in the true communal manner.
Under certain conditions, however, it was possible for an enterprising squatter, providing he was a free man and able to quit his Lord’s service, to obtain a tenure on that waste land.
This is how a house called Mushroom Hall came to be built.
In the year 1789, a man called Ben Pinder contrived to build and cover, between sunset and sunrise (that is in a single night), a house, and to boil a pot therein. Once completed, it gave him the right to hold the place under what was known as a Keyhole Tenure.
The house was built of sods, stones, brick-ends and other binding materials, and the springing up of the place in one night naturally led locals to call it Mushroom Hall. As time passed the house was gradually improved, and the track that ran up the hillside to it became known as Mushroom Lane.
It was later bought by Whittington Sowter, landlord of the delightfully named Warmhearthstone public house at Townhead Street in Sheffield Town.
The custom of Keyhole tenure and the boiling of a pot harks back to Pagan times when hearth fires were held sacred.
It wasn’t the boiling of the pot that made the tenancy complete, but rather the lighting of the fire that boiled it. The ever-burning village fire was held to be hallowed, and the kindling and the maintenance of the fire upon real estate was proof of lawful occupation and possession.
And so, Mushroom Hall and Mushroom Lane may sound ridiculous, but were named in quite serious circumstances.
What became of Mushroom Hall?
A far cry from its humble origins, it is now part of 362 Mushroom Lane, owned by the University of Sheffield, and where you will find the Department for Human Communication Sciences.