W H Curtis, Sheffield

Like Wilson Pecks, and Cann’s, Curtis Records is another local Sheffield record and music chain which has largely disappeared without trace, despite being around for some fifty years in the city (and beyond).

F Curtis & Son Sheffield record shop

This early bag from the first shop holds one of their studio recordings.

They began as an electrical goods shop, F. Curtis & Sons. at 64 London Road (in the Sheffield & District Trades Directory for 1927-28) when they were sole local agents for Homochord Records (a name which might indicate a more niche market today than it was then! The name disappeared around 1930). Curtis moved to 82 London Road, advertising “10,000 Records always in stock – Repairs a speciality, all parts kept.” They were named Curtis & Co. for a time on their sleeves (which also curiously advertises them selling Cutlery & Electro Plate).

F Curtis & Son Sheffield record shop

This bag is from their shop at 68-72 London Road

The business then moved to larger premises, 68-72 London Road, two shops joined together, under the name W. H. Curtis, selling records, as well as players, radios and televisions, and probably similar electrical goods.

W H Curtis Sheffield record shop

7″ sleeve which shows the suburban branches but not the Moorhead shop

By the fifties the shop had expanded to at least four branches, and a 7″ paper bag from the time advertise W. H. Curtis Record Bars at 1 Porter Street, Moorhead (which may have opened in the 1930s); 68-72 London Road, 253 Crookes and 669 Chesterfield Road, as well as the fact that they made ‘private recordings’. The Curtis Recording Studio had been operating for some time and appears to have been able to record one-off 12″ 78 rpm discs (acetates?). These carried a Curtis Recording Studio label, with space for the customer to fill in the details (see photo). Exactly what other facilities they had isn’t known (Wilson Pecks also had some sort of recording facility). There was also a branch of Curtis at Darnall at the bottom of Handsworth Hill, managed by Keith Merill, a big music and disc fan.

W H Curtis Angel Street

W H Curtis Angel Street branch in the ABC Cinema complex, early 1960s

The chain either expanded or relocated during the sixties. There was a small branch opened on Angel Street in 1961 in the new cinema development there. One of the staff was singer Karen Young who fronted The Cadillacs before enjoying a short solo career (the shop became The Crystal Room amusement arcade. The cinema and indeed this whole block has since been redeveloped – again).

W H Curtis Moorhead Porter Street

W H Curtis first city centre shop at Moorhead on Porter Street

The new Moorhead branch (which we assume replaced the Porter Street shop when that area was flattened for redevelopment) was quite big but we don’t know when it opened. Chris Hobbs recalls his brother buying Apache by The Shadows there (his first record). Released in 1960 this suggest Curtis moved into this new development as soon as it was oepned. W.H. Curtis (Sound & Vision) Ltd. are still listed at 5 The Moor in the 1973 Kellys directory (and were main stockists of B&Q hi fi equipment). Curtis must have shut that year and the shop was taken over by Quadrant Stationers (the building is still there but currently awaiting another idiotic redevelopment).

W H Curtis record shop bag

W H Curtis record shop bag design, 1950s

Curtis also opened in other counties; a 1950s bag proclaims stores in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. In 1973 they also had a shop in Doncaster according to the directory.
The only branch which I have memory of was the one at the top of The Moor in the early seventies. It was quite a big store and always had a good selection of albums. I even remember seeing a rack of bootleg albums on one visit, the first I’d ever seen (indeed I didn’t even realise at first what they were). Amazingly for a while in late 1970 / early 1971 it wasn’t illegal to sell them, and someone had persuaded Curtis to take a wedge of titles (they weren’t alone, Virgin in London had also been selling them openly). I gave in to temptation for a live Deep Purple album at £4.00 (around double what a normal album cost). A few weeks later after hasty legal action by record companies, the courts ruled that bootlegs were illegal, and the albums vanished from Curtis.
If you have any memories of the shops, staff or family do drop me a line.

W H Curtis record shop bag

W H Curtis record shop bag from the Moor branch in the late 1960s

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8 Responses to W H Curtis, Sheffield

  1. Pingback: W H Curtis delivery van | ST33

  2. David Lane says:

    Hi worked for W H Curtis at Stavely in the 1960’s.

    • simon robinson says:

      Hello David, I didn’t know they had a branch out there, do you recall where it was exactly? And do you have any recollections of your time at the shop?

  3. jamesgreen34 says:

    I recall making a 78rpm record with King Edward’s school male voice choir in 1956-7. It was produced by WH Curtis. Negro spirituals arranged by Norman Barnes, Head of Music, recorded on a Grundig reel to reel tape recorder. The singing was not bad, but 78 record was very scratchy.
    Barnes encouraged me to sing and play instruments ever after, including recordings with Bournemouth Symphony and BBC videos.

    • simon robinson says:

      That’s fascinating James. And what’s more, nice to meet a fellow old Edwardensian on this site! I was there late 60s into the 70s, and was also taught by Norman. He recommended me for the Cathedral Choir too which I was part of for some years. Fabulous bloke, though I fear I was in one of the less respectful classes some of whom gave him a bit of grief at times. I’m afraid art took over for me career wise.
      Can you recall where the Curtis studio was and what it was like? Or did Norman just submit the tape? I have one 78 from there which I found, never played it as I don’t have the technology.

  4. Paul Hockney says:

    I remember the Darnall branch of Curtis’s very well. I had a Saturday job at Hutchinson’s corn chandlers shop round the corner [this would be around 1963/4 when I was 15 or 16] and I spent all my lunchtimes [and all my pay] listening to music in the record shop run by Keith Merill. It’s good to see a mention of him – a great bloke who steered my juvenile musical tastes towards American blues & soul. He also introduced me to buying records unreleased in the UK direct from the states. If anyone is still in touch with him give him my regards [The rather gauche, speccy kid who probably reeked of birdseed or bonemeal]. There was also a rather lovely young lady who worked with Keith…

    • simon robinson says:

      Thanks for this Paul. And if anyone knows Keith’s whereabouts do get in touch. Younger record buyers may well want to know what a corn chandlers’ shop was as these too have now disappeared from our streets!

      • Paul Hockney says:

        Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond [real life gets in the way]. We’re getting a bit off-topic but I too went to KES, from 59 to 65 and have fond memories of Norman Barnes who nearly managed to teach me to read music. Sadly I was streamed into science [Harold Wilson was very keen the country should compete with the US and Russia and if you showed any aptitude at all your future was decided] so I had to give up music after year 2. Norman taught me enough to enable me to sing flat deliberately when he auditioned for the school choir. Two double bus trips per weekday from Stradbroke was quite enough without another slog on Saturday morning for practice. Serves me right – I wish I could play piano!

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