One thing is certain. They won’t build banks like this anymore, if they build any new banks at all. We know this old building as the Head of Steam, on Norfolk Street, but like so many bars it wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for banking.
The story of this building goes back to 1819, when the Sheffield and Hallamshire Savings Bank was established by subscription, the business being carried on at the Cutlers’ Hall until 1832, and afterwards in Surrey Street.
It was founded largely due to the influence of James Montgomery (1771-1854), newspaper editor and poet, whose friend was the Rev. Henry Duncan, who had set up the world’s first commercial savings bank (eventually becoming TSB). The Savings Bank appealed to working people (largely steelworkers) whose savings were too small to be accepted by other banks.
When the Sheffield and Hallamshire Savings Bank outgrew the Surrey Street premises, it bought a plot of land on nearby Norfolk Street, hosting a competition in 1858, asking for someone to design brand new facilities.
The challenge was won by Thomas James Flockton, whose plan was for a two-storey cube of three bays, flanked by single-storey entrance wings with projecting porticoes. It was embellished with a rusticated stone front with round and square Corinthian columns on the ground floor. “One of the first buildings in the town centre with any pretension of elegance.”
The new bank was built out of surplus funds of the Bank at a cost of £5,500, opening in June 1860, its business hours being 10am until 2pm daily and on Saturday evenings from 5 to 7.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Bank engaged in small-scale expansion by opening several branch offices. It wasn’t until after the Second World War, however, that significant growth occurred with 15 new branches opening.
In 1974, a rear extension was built (now leading into Tudor Square) by Mansell Jenkinson & Partners, part of a massive refurbishment programme that retained the façade and the dentilled cross-beam ceiling interior.
The TSB Act of 1976 led to the restructuring of savings banks across the country, and the Bank was amalgamated into the Trustee Savings Bank (TSB) the following year.
By the 1990s the Bank had closed, a small branch in a massive network, but the building deemed suitable for conversion into a bar.
The Fraternity opened in the late 90s, changing into the Old Monk at the Fraternity House, before becoming the Old Monk. The bar was operated by the Old Monk Company, founded by Gerry Martin, younger brother of Tim Martin, boss of the high-profile, larger J.D. Wetherspoon, but which collapsed into administration in 2002.
Gerry Martin bought back the Old Monk in Norfolk Street, along with bars in Cardiff and Birmingham, setting up a new company called Springbok Bars. In December 2015, Hartlepool-based Cameron’s Brewery bought the Old Monk in Sheffield, opening it as their eighth branded Head of Steam bar in April 2016.