Old Queens Head

The Old Queen’s Head is the oldest non-religious building in Sheffield and one of only three medieval timber framed buildings in the city that still remain. The building is widely considered to have initially been a hunting or fishing lodge that was associated with Sheffield Castle, and tree ring dating indicates that it was constructed sometime between 1503 and 1510. The building is likely to have been constructed for the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, who took an active interest in local affairs and transformed Sheffield Manor Lodge into a vast Tudor country retreat in 1516. The building was originally located on the North West edge of the Sheffield Medieval Deer Park surrounded by ponds, and initially had a much larger L-shaped footprint.

There are tunnel openings within the cellars, and it is rumoured that these connected with Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor Lodge. The first written reference to the building is in a 1582 inventory for the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, where it was referred to as ‘the Hawle at the Poandes’. The Earl may have used the building to throw banquets for guests who came to hunt wild fowl, and the inventory recorded rich and plentiful contents. Many of the road and place names in the immediate vicinity refer to the aforementioned ponds, which now no longer remain. The Earl kept Mary Queen of Scots under house arrest in Sheffield between 1570 and 1584, and it is believed that she visited the hall and surrounding ponds.

The building is constructed using oak supporting beams. These were likely infilled by wattle and daub, and the building would originally have had a thatched roof. The building is jettied, where the upper floor projects beyond the lower floor, and has a fireplace believed to be original. Historic timberwork and carving is located internally and externally, and the building has 5 carved oak heads. These are believed to depict the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, Bess of Hardwick, a King, a person coming out of a fish’s mouth, along with a further unknown carving.

Sometime between 1582 and 1637, it appears that the building was let out to tenants and its status declined. There are later references to the building having been used for ducal washing and also as a wash-house to Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor Lodge. By the beginning of the 1800s the building was being used as a house, and the first known image of the building is a watercolour by BK Dale from 1815.

A three storey building was constructed to the rear of the hall in 1840 and this became a public house. James Pilley may have been the original landlord, and is listed in an 1849 directory as running a beerhouse at 2 River Street. The pub was initially called the Queen Hotel, likely in reference to Mary Queen of Scots, and the entrance door and signage can be seen in a photograph from the mid to late 1800s. The establishment reportedly expanded into the hall sometime after 1862, and was identified as the Queen’s Head Hotel from 1864. The Old Queens Head was subsequently restored by John Smith’s in 1950 and then refurbished and extended by the Tom Cobleigh pub chain in the early 1990s.

Today the building is grade II* listed, but is largely surrounded by modern high rise development and Sheffield Interchange. Despite this, the Old Queen’s Head remains of great importance to those with an interest in heritage pubs, historic buildings, local history and the paranormal. With regards to the latter, the building is said to be haunted by ghosts including a Civil War soldier, a medieval child, a hunting hound, a lady in white, and a pub local from the 1970s!

Joe Freegard.

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