Andy and I – along with Andy's workmate and guest blogger Katherine - stood outside the Gardener's Rest; the final Kelham Island pub on our never-ending tour of Sheffield's ale houses. More than five years after Pubquest began, an important chapter was about to close.
In many respects, Kelham Island was the jewel in the crown of Sheffield's pub culture: the birthplace of the city's real ale movement, home to some of its greatest venues, and a shining example of post-industrial urban regeneration. Without it, Pubquest would have surely failed to grow into the earth-shattering success that it's become today.
Compared to the other Kelham Island boozers, the Gardener's Rest is a bit out of the way. Fortunately, the walk isn't too arduous and offers a good opportunity to catch sight of old industrial Sheffield, without the obscuring layers of gentrification you'd find in the busier parts of the quarter.
Like its nearby cousins, the Gardener's Rest is a handsome looking pub from the outside. Once indoors, it continues to impress with an old-fashioned, shabby chic feel (although some of the upholstery is perhaps a touch more shabby than chic). The pub is bigger than it appears from the street, with a nice extended seating area at the back, leading out into a quirky little beer garden. Not only this, but we discovered a bar billiards table inside, which was a rare treat!
The ale selection was excellent, and we each ordered a pint of Crucible Best, a perfectly pleasant traditional bitter from the Sheffield Brewing Company.
The Gardener's Rest has been a community-run pub ever since it was saved from closure by the Gardener’s Rest Community Society, who raised more than £237,000 to purchase the business after the former landlords retired. Concerned that property developers would swoop in and repurpose the pub into yet more fancy Kelham Island apartments, over 400 investors pitched in, each donating between £100 and £5,000.
The pub has a strong community focus at its core, which is fantastic (just when you thought pubs couldn't get any better). The Gardener’s Rest provides amenities and opportunities for various groups throughout the city. These include an exhibition space for local artists, as well as facilities for people with mental health issues.
As the Gardener’s Rest continues to thrive, we can only hope that this neat business model catches on elsewhere, saving other great spots from being closed down and converted into less interesting spaces.
I’ll take a pint of Magnet and a packet of pork scratchings over a prestige living space any day of the week.
Pub: The Gardener’s Rest (105 Neepsend Lane, S3 8AT)
Pint: Crucible Best
Brewery: Sheffield Brewery (Burton Road, S3 8BT)