The Wortley Folk Club was born in 1968 in a spare room at the ‘top’ Red Lion pub in Grenoside, north Sheffield. Originally called the Cupola Folk Club, an acknowledgement of the historical Sheffield steel industry, the organisers had to quickly learn how to run an increasingly popular club twice a month during (possibly) the heyday of folk clubs. The club quickly grew and attracted many singers just starting out who are now famous as television or stage personalities. For example, Christy Moore was at the dawn of immortality when he appeared for 12 pounds ! In 1970 the club moved home to The Old Horns pub in High Bradfield, Derbyshire where it continued to grow and for many years attracted the top performers of the time. For several years the club enjoyed a reputation as a purveyor of high quality folk music in a traditional atmosphere. However, different landlords took over took over the pub, which resulted in a short rest period until the club reopened in September 1988 and continued until March 1992 when again a change of pub ownership resulted in the club finally saying farewell to the Old Horns.
Being pre warned, a group of stalwarts of the club decided to transfer the club to an upstairs room at the Wortley Arms pub in Wortley, a small village just north of Sheffield. Changing the name to the Wortley Folk Club, from April 1992 the club again gained in popularity becoming one of the leading clubs in the area showcasing the best performers ably supported by resident and visiting floor singers. Alas, fate reared its head again when ownership of the pub changed and the new owners deciding to convert the concert room into a restaurant! So in December 2005 the club moved again, this time to The Castle pub in Bolsterstone (well known for the Male Voice Choir). Unfortunately, this venue was not really suitable, so in January 2007 the club moved to the Black Bull pub in Ecclesfield, again north of Sheffield, retaining the Wortley Folk Club name which has become synonymous with a relaxed, friendly, traditional type folk club with excellent performers and music.
Unfortunately, due to changes in management of the Black Bull, the club found itself in conflict with Karaoke nights, a mixture which does not work!!! Consequently, in September 2010, the club moved to a new home at ‘the Venue’ in Stocksbridge which has proved very popular. It is a very comfortable, ground floor venue with great facilities and a lower cost bar. The Wortley Folk Club uses the ‘Samuel Fox Suite’ which has good acoustics, plenty of comfortable seating and is, literally, next door to the bar. The Venue also has a theatre facility which gives the club the opportunity to use the same location for guests who attract even larger audiences. Hopefully we will be based at the Venue for long into the future, we have certainly been made very welcome by the trustees and have enjoyed very good club nights with some new faces in the audience.
Background information – Ecclesfield
Since early times, Ecclesfield has been an important transit point for traffic heading north from Sheffield and further south. Even today, Ecclesfield is ideally positioned on, or near, the main roads out of Sheffield and is close to junction 35 of the M1 motorway. Opposite the Black Bull is St Mary’s Church, in the old days known as the Cathedral of the north, so important that there is mention in the Doomsday Book of Egglesfield (meaning church in a field) the original spelling of Ecclesfield – wow !!
Background information – the Venue & Samuel Fox
The new home of the Wortley Folk Club since September 2010 is the Samuel Fox Suite of ‘the Venue’ in Stocksbridge. Stocksbridge is a small town, north of Sheffield, in a valley between the Pennine hills, with the Wharncliffe Crags on its Northern side. Locally, remains have been dated back to Roman times and a Mesolithic camp site has been discovered overlooking the ancient crossing place of the river. One claim to fame of Wharncliffe is that it is mentioned in the opening paragraph of Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe”! Naturally, a river runs down the valley, originally known as Hunshelf Water, it was later given the name Little Don. The bridge from which the town takes its name was originally a wooden footbridge over the river which was destroyed by flood several times and was eventually replaced by a stone bridge in 1812.
In 1842, Samuel Fox moved from his home town of Bradwell in Derbyshire to Stocksbridge and bought a disused corn mill which he modified to produce wire for the manufacture of textile pins. Within 6 years the business began to manufacture wire for umbrella frames and he developed his own, superior, variant called the ‘Paragon’ in 1851. The ‘Fox’s Paragon umbrella’ became famous worldwide and the Samuel Fox company expanded rapidly, building furnaces and rolling mills which used the locally mined coal, firestone and ganister and diversifying into the production of railway lines and springs. Samuel Fox strongly believed in the welfare of his workforce, building houses and schools for his workers and donated large sums of money to community organisations and local Churches.
‘Samuel Fox & Company’ joined with ‘Steel, Peech and Tozer’ and ‘Appleby-Frodingham’ to form ‘United Steel’ which specialised in producing special steels, particularly the various grades of stainless steel. Then, in 1967, the company was nationalised into ‘British Steel’, later became part of ‘Corus’ and is now part of ‘Tata’ but, whatever the name at the gate, it is still known locally as ‘Sammy Foxs’
Believed to have been built around 1912 as a staff canteen, the building was later renamed ‘The Victory Club’ and became a Working Mens Club which was the heart of the social life of the people of Stocksbridge. The Victory Club membership peaking at over 6,000 but membership dwindled as the workforce of the adjacent steelworks diminished. A few years ago the building was totally redeveloped into the new facility called ‘the Venue’. With a comfortable bar area, several large multi-purpose rooms and a large theatre, the Venue is an ideal base for the Wortley Folk Club. Club nights are held in the Samuel Fox Suite, with the option of using the big theatre room when the greater capacity is required.