Silver-smith shares personal photo archive of Leah’s YardPosted by: Ashley Birch
Leah's Yard, in Cambridge Street
Phillip Drury, 73, is one of the last surviving people to work in the historic city-centre building
Last year, Sheffield City Council announced plans to transform Leah’s Yard, a former Little Mesters buildings which has stood empty for over 20 years, as part of its Heart Of The City II programme.
The mid-Victorian era building on Cambridge Street, which was purchased by the Council in 2015, was constructed in the early part of the 19th century as a works for the manufacture of shears and other hand tools.
Over the years the building has had many different occupants, including Henry Leah, a producer of die stamps for silverware, as well as a multitude of little mesters whose trades included dram flask manufacturer, hollow ware and silver buffers, palette knife makers, steel fork manufacturer, silver ferrule maker, brass and nickel silver turners, electroplate producer and a cutlers.
One of those traders was Phillip Drury, 73, who joined his father Jack’s silver-smithing and jewellery business in 1962 and worked there until the building was sold to property developers in 2000. Before work begins on the old building he has now shared his personal photo archive showing life inside the building when his father employed 33 people – including long-gone trades such as burnishers, silver-platers and hammer-men.
Mr Drury, of Dore, said: “We made silverware for royals and Prime Ministers. We worked right next to each other and I followed my father and grandfather into the family business – you can see us all in these pictures over the years.
Philip Drury, left, in the 1970s, with other colleagues inside Leah’s Yard
“We had eight silversmiths and it was a hive of industry. We had to work 18 months in front because of the amount of orders for cutlery and silver – it was manic.
“The space wasn’t that big – and with the compressors going it was very rowdy. We had belt-driven laithes and orders from all over the place.
Councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment at Sheffield City Council, said: “I would like to thank Mr Drury for sharing his memories and talking so eloquently about his many years working in Sheffield’s world-renowned silversmithing industry.
The Drury family at work in Leah’s Yard in the 1950s
“Leah’s Yard has a proud place in Sheffield’s history as one of the last surviving little Mesters and has a huge part to play in the transformative Heart Of The City scheme.
“There is no doubt that Leah’s Yard offers a fascinating snapshot of what city centre work was like for many up until the 1970s. But its memories stretch back way further – to the 1860s. We would love to hear from more people like Phillip with a story to tell as we plan the next steps for this fascinating building.”