Wednesday, 03 April 2019 13:41

Remember Fletchers vans? Memories of Sheffield

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A Fletchers van in Sheffield A Fletchers van in Sheffield

Competitive supermarkets and online shopping have all but killed off the humble local shop nowadays, but in the days of personal service and localised retail there was another set of unique outlets fondly remembered in Sheffield — The Fletchers Van!

A huge fleet of the burgundy and tan (rumours say the colours were inspired by founder George Fletcher’s communist ideology) Bedford vans could be seen on streets up and down Sheffield, originally carrying stock from the city’s Fletchers bakery.

They were such a feature in the city that kids made up a rhyme and used to sing it when the vans appeared on their road: "Fletchers bread, tastes like lead! When you eat it you drop dead!"

An early fleet of Fletchers Bakery vans in Sheffield

In later years the stock of these portable shops expanded somewhat and as well as the bread and buns you cold buy plenty of basics legitimately off the back of the lorry. Milk, eggs, potatoes, sweets, even pet food and more were available.

But all that pales into insignificance at what will for most be the best memory of Fletchers Vans: Elephant’s Feet.

Forget your apple turnovers, custards and vanilla slices, the elephant’s foot was THE bun of kings. Vague memories of giant pastries the size of your head and filled with cream still frequent Sheffield-based history forum threads. If you never had this treat, you haven’t lived.

Fletchers disbanded the fleet in the early 90s, but drivers were given the option of buying out the vans and continuing to trade for themselves. Not many (if any?) remain today.

The bakery itself was a landmark in Sheffield at its Claywheels Lane base, with a huge digital display showing the time and temperature to passers-by on nearby Halifax Road/Penistone Road North. Unfortunately most of the site was destroyed by fire on Sunday 16 July 2006. In a twist of irony, Sainsburys now occupies the site with a giant supermarket.

Honourable mention: Remember also the Alpine pop man, or Barrs delivery vans? You could get your bottles of pop delivered to your door in a plethora of flavours (American Cream Soda, anyone?). Even better, keep the glass bottles and next time out you got 5p back for each one! I wonder how many Sheffield kids’ pocket money was based on saving the bottles for the pop man?

A version of this article was originally written for and published at Social Sheffield / We Love Sheffield magazine.

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