HISTORY BEHIND '˜CHEAP AND CHEERFUL' PUBS
In the world of architectural conservation there is one unsung hero who no-one seems to mention, but singlehandedly he must have saved more historic buildings than anyone in history.
I refer to Tim Martin, founder of JD Wetherspoon, who from humble beginnings now have over 900Â buildings in their portfolio, a large number of which are historically important.
There are several branches in Sheffield including the Grade II listed 1867 Sheffield Waterworks Co.Â on Division Street, now known as Lloyds No.1. In Market Place there's the Banker's Draft which mostÂ people remember as the Midland Bank. Built in the Edwardian Baroque style in 1904, it was originallyÂ home to the York City and County Bank.Â
In the suburbs we've got the Rawson Spring (exÂ Hillsborough Baths) and at the other side of town the old Woodseats Picture Palace.
Although veryÂ little of the original cinema remains at least they've retained the name for those of us with longÂ memories.
Â Someone, somewhere, in the Wetherspoon empire goes to a lot of trouble to research aÂ building's history and often revives long lost names or links. Very admirable.
No matter where you go in Britain you can almost be guaranteed to find a Wetherspoon althoughÂ when yet another one opens the groans can be heard from landlords of existing pubs who know thatÂ they are going to have to sharpens their pencils.
Â Evidently much of the beer the company buys fromÂ the breweries has a short sell-by date and they buy thousands of gallons. Obviously it never goesÂ beyond the sell-by date owing to the fast turn-over but not many companies can handle the volumesÂ we are talking about.
Thus drinkers get a good deal, the breweries off-load their stock andÂ everybody's happy.
Wetherspoons also sell good quality and good value food and their breakfasts, now with limitlessÂ Lavazzo coffee, are legendary. Four of us recently had one of their full English breakfasts in theÂ middle of London for less than Â£20. Unbelievable!
Enough of food and back to old buildings. Banks, cinemas, chapels, theatres, police stations, lawÂ courts '“ the list is endless. You name it and they have been converted into drinking establishments.Â
More to the point they have been saved from demolition and given a new lease of life. Check out theÂ excellent Wetherspoon News (2m readers) which is lying around most of their pubs and always contains some very interesting both pro and anti Brexit articlesÂ .
Â It's such anÂ interesting magazine, I usually take it home to read. The investment figures on individual buildings are mind-boggling - Â£1m here, Â£2m there.
Their latest project is over in DublinÂ where they are currently converting a row of derelict period properties and creating aÂ pub and 92 bed hotel. As usual they have researched its history and from some 1673 maps haveÂ come up with the name of Keavans Port which will be the name of the new hotel.
This project isÂ costing 18.5m Euros, but more importantly is creating 300 jobs. This constant job creationÂ throughout the UK is inestimable if you take into account the supply chain including suppliers ofÂ food, furnishings, catering equipment and even china which is purchased from Churchill China inÂ Stoke. How many jobs has that created in Stoke alone?
Wetherspoons is also to be commended on its buying policy of meat whereby animal welfare is a bigÂ factor. Also all eggs used are free-range and withinÂ 12 months all its suppliers of food will likewise have to use free-range in their ingredients.
Â PlasticÂ straws have also been phased out, so all in all some very ethical policies. This also extends to staff asÂ wages start above the minimum wage.
I must apologise if this article sounds like I've got shares in Wetherspoons (I haven't) or that TimÂ Martin is my best mate (I've never met him) but I'll round off by bringing politics into the equation.
Mr Martin is a well known Brexiteer and together with Sir James Dyson they have alienated quite aÂ few Remoaners. However looking at their joint track record on creating jobs and wealth for theÂ nation I would trust their judgement against many career politicians who have never had a proper jobÂ in their entire life and are completely out of touch with the real world.
Time alone will tell who is right, but in the meantime keep on saving and restoring old buildings TimÂ as there many of us out here who appreciate what you are doing.
You deserve a knighthood.Â