Sheffield’s past and the future. A new office block rises beside the city’s oldest house. The Old Queen’s Head in Pond Hill is known as a public house, but its origins are different.
Stand in its spot today and exercise the modern development and fill the space with farms, cottages and meadows, and the sweep of the Park hill in the background with its avenue of stately walnut trees leading up to the Manor House over the crest of the hill; the bastions of Sheffield Castle over to your left.
The ‘Hawle-in-the-Poandes’ may well have been the castle lodge, or a fishing lodge. There is some support (in an agreement of 1773) for the tradition that it was the laundry of the 1644-besieged, 1648-demolished castle.
And certainly, that tragic resident of the castle, Mary Stuart, would frequent these pond-strewn precincts where the streams purled from the nearby slopes.
The hall was built in 1450 at the latest, possibly considerably earlier, and is mentioned in the ‘wardroppe men’s’ inventory of the contents of the castle and the manor made for Mary’s custodian, the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, in 1582, while she was still in Sheffield.
The ponds, which formed in the area where the Porter Brook meets the River Sheaf, are now gone, but gave rise to the local names Pond Street, Pond Hill (formerly Pond Well Hill), and Ponds Forge.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century the building was being used as a house. In 1840, a pub called the Old Queen’s Head was opened in the building next door. Sometime after 1862 the pub expanded into the former Hall i’ th’ Ponds and late in the 19th century, alterations and additions were made to the rear of the building.
In 1950, the public house was restored by John Smith’s Taddington Brewery, which held it on a long lease from Sheffield Corporation, and the hand-made brickwork on the Pond Hill frontage, and interior dimensions, indicated that at one point the hall had been significantly reduced in size.
Removal of coats of whitewash and layers of lath and plaster on the yard frontage also uncovered oak stanchions of the original building.
Prior to this the building was virtually supported on props while new foundations were put in place.
An old two-roomed cottage inside the north corner was converted into a smoke-room panelled with oak from Thornbridge Hall in Derbyshire.
Two years later, the building was Grade II* listed and was further refurbished in 1993 when it was controlled by the Tom Cobleigh pub company. It is now controlled by Thwaites Brewery.
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