A few weeks before Christmas it was announced that Trevor Wraith, landlord of the Kelham Island Tavern, was to retire after 17 years in charge of the multi award-winning pub.
Mexborough-born Trevor’s pub career began as a barman before he and friend Philip McKenna took over the Rutland Arms on Brown Street in the early 1990s. After building up a positive reputation over his ten years in charge there, he left when an opportunity to renovate and reopen the somewhat dilapidated Kelham Island Tavern on Russell Street arose in 2001.
Trevor and business partner Lewis Gonda fully refurbished the pub and once reopened it soon became well-known around Sheffield and beyond for the variety and quality of its cask ale offering and its friendly, welcoming ambience.
It wasn’t long before the awards began to roll in and the Tavern was named Sheffield & District CAMRA’s Pub of the Year in 2004. It has gone on to win the accolade almost every year since, with the exception of 2013 when it was narrowly beaten by Shakespeares. The local awards led to more widespread recognition, and since 2004 the pub has also been named Yorkshire CAMRA Pub of the Year seven times, most recently in 2015.
But the reputation of the Kelham Island Tavern is not only confined to Yorkshire. In 2008 and 2009, the pub won CAMRA’s highest honour, the national Pub of the Year award. To this day it remains the only place ever to have won the award two consecutive years, and it continues to attract real ale enthusiasts from around the country.
Speaking to the Sheffield Star just after his retirement, Trevor explained: “We put a lot of work into it. We doubled in size with the extension at the back which made it more viable as a business because we could get more staff and had more space.”
“It was very intense for a few years, in 2009 it got very busy. I would spend time behind the bar a lot, and always made sure to be prominent. Up until last week I was still doing 60 to 80 hours a week, and was always involved.”
The news had been circulating for quite some time that Trevor was considering calling time on his career behind the bar, with various rumours abounding regarding who might be taking over the mantle. Once the confirmation was finally received and the identity of the new owners emerged, the changeover happened very quickly.
Those new licencees are Josh Jepson and Louise Singleton. Josh and Louise are both well-known in the Sheffield real ale scene; they own the nearby Blue Bee Brewery, where Josh is head brewer, and in recent years have been involved with the Steel City Beer & Cider Festival, Louise as festival organiser and Josh as beer orderer.
Speaking to the new management couple on their opening night, Josh explained that there are no plans at present to make major changes at the Kelham Island Tavern. There will still be 13 real ales on offer, always including a mild and either a porter or a stout, but we might perhaps expect to see one or two more Blue Bee brews appearing on the guest pumps! Many of the staff will be remaining too, including Lewis, who will still be providing a familiar face behind the bar.
Since Christmas, the pub has re-launched its lunchtime food menu with homemade hot specials, sandwiches and chips being joined by locally produced pies and breads. Food is served from noon to 3pm, Monday to Saturday.
Sheffield & District CAMRA would like to congratulate Trevor on his well-deserved retirement and we hope to make a presentation to him in the near future to recognise his outstanding contributions to real ale in Sheffield. All the details will be in Beer Matters and on our website once arranged.