Heritage Corner – The Fat Cat

The Fat Cat is a little-altered and typically detailed example of a mid-C19th. pub and former hotel in, what was, an industrial quarter close to central Sheffield. It has an excellent original layout: two downstairs rooms, a small central bar, mosaic in the doorway and a terrazzo floor passageway.

Opened in 1850 and originally known as ‘The Kelham Tavern,’ the pub was renamed ‘The Alma,’ in 1856, after the Battle of the Alma River (SW Crimea) in 1854. It was taken over by Sheffield brewer, William Stones in 1912. A small entrance lobby with mosaic floor bearing the legend “CANNON ALES” leads into a corridor with terrazzo floor leading to a rooms on the left and a doorway to the servery on right. The entrance lobby also leads to a room on the right.

The bar was up-graded in 1981 from a formica-topped surface. The three-sided servery has a canopy including coloured glass over, and a clock under, a rounded pediment. The latter is believed to be a payment settling kiosk obtained from a Co-op butchers in Rotherham.

The left hand-room has bench seating on most of the walls. The Victorian style fireplace with tiled base was installed in 1981. The right-hand room has a Victorian green tiled, cast iron and wood surround fireplace at the rear and has bench seating on the outside walls.

fat-cat-sheffield-1A 1914 plan (James R.Wigfull for Messr’s.Wm.Stones Ltd.) shows a pub layout which is similar to the current layout with three exceptions. 1914 has two entrances to the building: the current position and a second corner entrance. The current corner room is split into two rooms: a ‘public bar’ which is only accessible from the corner entrance and a ‘Smoke Room’ which is accessible from the central corridor. The bar has a rounded corner in the Public Bar. In addition, ‘Cottages’ are indicated at the rear of the pub. 1914 has these changing into ‘Scullery,’ ‘Pantry’ and ‘Coals.’ There is also an upstairs ‘Club Room’ in the same position as to-days upstairs room.

Plans approved in 1941 (Wigfull, Inott and Ridgeway, Sheffield) indicate that, with the removal of an internal wall, the corner ‘Public Bar’ has extended into the ‘Smoke Room’ and that the bar is squared off into the current layout. The corner entrance has also been removed.

The pub became the Fat Cat on 29th.July 1981 when the building was bought, at auction, for £33,750 by Solicitor, Bruce Bentley and his business partner, Sheffield Polytechnic Economics Lecturer, Dave Wickett (1947-2012), becoming one of the first ‘Real Ale Freehouses’ in the UK. In 1989, Dave bought out the share owned by Bruce. Opening day (21st.August) saw queues down the street and the debut behind the bar of Diane Johnston. Diane has worked at the pub since and is currently Assistant Manager.

fat-cat-plans-10-1982A 1982 plan shows that the ‘Scullery,’ ‘Pantry’ and ‘Coals’ have changed into an extended ‘Gents,’ and a new ‘Ladies W.C.’ and ‘Stores.’ The ‘Tap Room’ is now named ‘No-smoking room,’ the first such facility to be available in Sheffield – this fact was mentioned in the House of Commons by Bassetlaw MP Joe Ashton and therefore recorded in Hansard. In addition, the ‘Club Room’ is now ‘Function Room.’ In the 1980’s, an internal door in the right-hand room which led directly to the urinals was removed; customers were thus compelled to visit, via the corridor. This door had been installed at some point post-WW2.

The Fat Cat has recently achieved SRI (‘Some Regional Importance’)on the CAMRA registry of Pub Interiors. There is a possibility of RI (‘Regional Inventory’). Hence, we would be interested in internal photos from earlier than 1981. If you have any, please contact myself: dpickersgill1@googlemail.com

Dave Pickersgill

Heritage, Pubs
Andy Cullen

About Andy Cullen

Andy has been actively involved in CAMRA since the early 2000s after being recruited to sit on a National Younger Members Task Group. Since then he has held roles on the branch committee including Secretary, Membership Secretary, Magazine Editor, Chair and now Social Secretary. Andy has also been involved with the Steel City Beer & Cider Festival almost every year since becoming active in the branch.

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