In search of the Sheffield carols

A festive tradition that’s right on our doorstep

I love a local tradition, and the Sheffield carols is one of our best. It’s still going strong since it started in the late eighteenth century, when singers and musicians would gather in north west Sheffield pubs during November and December to sing Christmas carols.

The carols aren’t just the obvious ones that you hear everywhere at this time of year. Many of them mix church and secular material and are composed by local musicians, with variations of words, melody and tempo depending on which pub you are in. What’s brilliant is that some are still referred to by their local names, such as Bradfield, Stannington and Malin Bridge.

Although the basic etiquette for these ‘sings’ in pubs may seem a little daunting, tracking down when and where they are happening is easy thanks to the listings on www.localcarols.org.uk.

The first pub we tried was The Sportsman in Crosspool, on a weeknight in the run up to Christmas. Here we found the Loxley Silver North Band playing a mixture of local carols and a few of the obvious ones – someone even requested Jingle Bells.

The band sounded great, although with just a small gathering of people singing in one area of the pub, it didn’t quite feel like the full local carols experience. So it was time to try one of the village pubs further north.

The Royal Hotel in Dungworth is famous for its local carols. We headed over on boxing day and weren’t disappointed. The pub was rammed, with people gathered round an organ, singing their hearts out. This was exactly how we hoped it might be.

We were made to feel welcome, despite not really knowing the carols. We soon discover that many of the words and tunes are quite familiar. This is the end of Sweet Chiming Bells, one of the many variations of While Shepherds Watched (excuse the shaky filming on my phone):

The enthusiasm of people singing is infectious. Looking around, it seems like generations of families are in the pub, with nearly everyone drinking the tasty Bradfield Brewery beer, which is brewed just up the road.

Singing like this in a pub may seem a bit strange to some people, but when you think that this local carol, called ‘Stannington’, has been sung for hundreds of years in Sheffield public houses, it is hard not to be drawn in:

In fact, spending time with people who are part of a tradition like this is quite special. It’s heartwarming to be part of something that has been taking place for so long but hasn’t really changed.

I bought a Loxley selection songbook from The Sportsman (just £1) and now I know that many of the carols are quite easy to pick up, I would feel much more confident about joining in. What’s more, it seems silly not to make more of such a cherished tradition that takes place right on our doorstep, so I’ll definitely be back next year.

There’s more about the history of carols in this BBC documentary by Howard Goodall. The Blue Ball pub in Worrall is featured from 52 minutes, 18 seconds:

About these ads
Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. Loxley Silver Band (“famous in these parts”) split the band in two during the festive season so that we can get round all the venues that want to hear us play – our friends at the Village Carols website keep track of us, but you can always check out where we’re going to be by looking at the Loxley Silver Band website at http://www.loxleysilverband.org.uk – we’re always booked up well in advance so if anybody wants the band to play at their venue please get in touch sooner rather than later (details on the website).

  1. Church services and carols this Christmas in Crosspool | Crosspool News – crosspool.info

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 126 other followers

%d bloggers like this: