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Pubs with Tales

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Nearly every pub has a story to it. For some it is 'Charles the First's dog slept here' or a ghost tale or legendary patron; others claim to be the largest, smallest, or oldest. Courtesy of the h2g2 Community, here are just some of the more interesting pub tales. Some might even be true...


The French House in Dean Street, Soho was run by Victor Berlemont. He took over in 1910 and was the only foreign landlord at the time in Britain. He used to eject customers with the line 'I'm afraid one of us will have to leave and it's not going to be me'. During the second world war, it became a centre for the French resistance and De Gaulle allegedly had his Free French call-to-arms meeting there.

There is a pub in Bishopsgate in Olde London Towne called Dirty Dick's. The story goes that, at the end of the 18th Century, an ironmonger called Nathaniel Bentley had a shop in Leadenhall Street. On the eve of his wedding, his bride-to-be died. Nathaniel locked the room where the wedding feast was to be held and forbade anyone to enter it. Then Nathaniel began drinking heavily, stopped washing - both himself and his clothes and when his cats died, he just left them to rot. In short, his house was a mess. Mr Bentley's fame spread and when he died in 1804, the landlord of a wine shop in Bishopsgate bought the entire contents of his home - cats and all - and displayed them around his establishment and renamed the place Dirty Dick's (although where he got the name from, no-one knows!). Anyway, up until the late 1980s, there used to be sawdust on the floor and it was all a bit dark and dingy, but today they have cleaned it all up so it rather belies its name.

The City Barge, a riverside pub at Strand-on-the-Green near Chiswick Bridge, is the one which was used in the Fab Four's film Help. Remember the bit where they're being chased by a bunch of coppers? The Beatles all run into a pub by the river, and Ringo falls through a trapdoor when one of the baddies (posing as a bartender) pulls on a particular beer pump handle, into the cellar where there's a tiger. A little later, they all get thrown out through the windows onto the towpath.

Thing is, this pub doesn't actually have a cellar because of the Thames tides. Twice a month (when the Moon is new, and when it's full), the footpath outside the pub is flooded for a day or two, sometimes as deep as three or four feet - enough to come over the tops of the tables which are outside, and the staff have to close a huge steel door similar to a bulkhead door on a submarine, which has a rubber seal around the inside to keep out the river and is tightened shut with steel bolts which have to be done up and undone with a huge ratchet. The 'cellar' of this pub is housed in a shed alongside the building and is kept air-conditioned during the warm weather to normal pub cellar temperature.

Some Other London Pubs of Note

  • The Drum and Monkey was originally called the Gloucester Arms; business got so bad that the landlord put a drum and a stuffed monkey outside, illuminating them with two lamps, to drum up custom.

  • The Sandrock Hotel was named after a large rock on which a preacher stood to conduct services for workers, probably from the nearby sandpits, in the 19th Century

  • The Dome in Kings Road, Chelsea was where John Lydon met the rest of the Sex Pistols.

South of England

The New Inn, Send, Surrey; A pleasant canalside inn which, many years ago, used to double as a temporary mortuary for nearby Brookwood Cemetery. Occasionally funerals would be held there, with drinks being quaffed over the body, lying in the middle of the pub. These came to be known as, somewhat cruelly, 'stiff drinks'. Today, the inn serves nice food and can be very sociable on a summer afternoon.

Bat and Ball at Hambledon, Hampshire; one of many that claims to be where cricket was born. Early games were certainly played on Broadhalfpenny down alongside the pub and the village team of the late 18th Century is generally held to be one of the best there was. If it is not the birthplace of modern cricket it likes to think of itself as the 'cradle' instead.

Just down the road in Clanfield, there's the Rising Sun, the only pub in England to be open and serving beer less than 24 hours after having received planning permission for construction to start... Ever seen a pub in a Portacabin? For this reason the pub does not come recommended - no cellar means no decent beer apparently.

The White Horse, Priorsdean, Hampshire. Also known as 'The Pub with No Name' this has existed as a coaching inn since the 18th Century. At some point the pub sign hanging at the end of the lane went missing. Various attempts have been made by breweries to replace it, but it always disappeared very quickly. Eventually the current owners, Gales, simply erected a smaller version of the post with missing sign in front of the pub and left it at that. Some say this is why it became 'The Pub with No Name'. However, another story is that the name is due to the fact that it was the only pub to carry Gales No Name beer (the beer having a different name elsewhere), hence it was 'The Pub with No Name Beer'. Whatever the truth, it is also said to be haunted, has a very old barn with eclectic furniture and does a nice spot of beer.

The Haunch of Venison in Salisbury has the smoke-mummified hand of an 18th Century gambler on show behind a sheet of glass in one of the rooms. Seriously creepy but strangely mesmeric at the same time, it (the pub that is, not the hand) has one of the only surviving pewter bars in the country - and it serves top nosh and has a fine selection of single malt whiskies... which is of course infinitely more important than the mummified hand!

The Cock and The Bull. They are two inns side by side in the main street of Stony Stratford which was, in coaching days, a main route (A5) out of London. Coaches would break their journey there and passengers would swap the latest gossip as they headed for, or came out of London. No doubt the stories became more inflated and unbelievable with the consumption of ale and that gave rise to the expression 'A cock and bull story'.

The Woolpack. In the Cotswolds village of Slad, near Stroud, Gloucestershire. The Woolpack was the local of author Laurie Lee and was mentioned in his book Cider with Rosie. Lee died in 1997 and is buried in the churchyard immediately over the road. The pub contains some memorabilia on Lee's life and works.

Jamaica Inn. At Bolventnor on Bodmin Moor half way between Bodmin and Launcteston, Cornwall. The author Daphne du Maurier stayed there and got herself lost in the fog on the moor, an event that inspired her to write the tale1 which immortalised this place as a centre of 18th Century smuggling, wrecking and murder. On the floor of the bar is a memorial which states: 'On this spot, Joss Merlyn was murdered'. In fact this is an event that occurred only in the book, not in real life. A real and much sadder tale is associated with the inn when, in the earlier part of the 20th Century, a child went missing from a children's party that was taking place in the garden. During a game of 'hide and seek', the young son of the owner went missing and was never seen again despite long and sustained searches. He was supposed lost on the moor.

The Bear Hotel at Stock, Essex. One Charles 'Spider' Marshall who was an ostler at the hotel was known to make extra beer money by performing his party trick of climbing up the inside of one of the bar's chimneys and coming down the interconnected chimney of another. His liking for the inside of the chimney was such that sometimes he would stay up until a fire would have to be lit to smoke him out. However, one Christmas day he went up the chimney and never returned. He is reputed to be up there still.

There's a pub smack in the middle of Dartmoor on the B3212 between Mortonhampstead and Postbridge called the Warren House Inn. It was originally called the 'New House' and stood across the road from the current pub until it burned down in 1845. It is said that the embers from that fire was used to light a fire in the adjacent building which has been constantly burning since - over 150 years! The ruins of the old pub can still be seen. It is also reported to be the third highest pub in England - and the beer and food is fantastic

North and Midlands of England

One Researcher's dad owns the Thatched Tavern in Northwich, Cheshire. Yet it's not thatched, and as it's three terraced houses knocked together, they can't see that it could ever have been. It's definitely been tiled since the late 19th/early 20th Century

The Spiders Web in Carr Lane, Grimsby was so named because the game of darts was invented in the town. Darts began as a modern game in the 1800s in a pub called the Docker Arms on Freeman street when the landlord invented the dart board and the web design. Boards with circular markings (the doubles sections) were known as Grimsby Boards for many years. Sadly the Docker Arms no longer exists.

Another great pub story it that of The Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub in Nottingham - a meeting post for crusaders before they went off to war. This pub claims to be the oldest in England and has the year 1189 painted on the wall. However, as photographs have been shown to show this number differently at different times, all we can say is that it is very old, but not exactly how old. It is also said that anyone who touches the small model ship handing from the ceiling will die (though, strangely enough, no-one's around to verify this). One Researcher notes:

The Trip is a great pub; it's a real TARDIS2 - much bigger on the inside, as you move through the building the older parts of the pub are actually carved into caves in the cliff face. It's got it's share of bikers sure, but it's student-friendly (as are the bikers) and it's usually a better atmosphere there than you'd find anywhere else.

The highest pub in Britain, at a height of 1732 feet is the Tan Hill Inn in Yorkshire, which is very popular with Pennine Way walkers, provided it is not snowed in. It used to boast that the fire in its hearth had never gone out in living memory. It was also used as the setting for a series of national television adverts in the 1960's because of its location which was reckoned to be one of the windiest places in Britain. In the late 1970s/early 1980s, a TV personality of the time by the name of Ted Moult used to advertise the benefits of a double glazing company's wares by dropping a large feather on the inside of one of the windows (during a gale) which would fall to the floor without being disturbed by any draughts.

The Frog and Parrot on Division Street in Sheffield has a Guinness Book of Records certificate to say that it brews the strongest beer in the world. Its called 'Rodger and Out' and it tastes like treacle. They'll only serve you it in 1/3rd of a pint glasses, and you get a certificate after you've drunk three! Dare you try?

Though there's a chain of pubs across Britain called The Moon Under Water, the one in Deansgate, Manchester, is surely a candidate for the largest pub in Britain. The name was chosen by its owners, JD Weatherspoon, after George Orwell's vision of the perfect pub. The Deansgate pub can hold up to 1,800 customers in its three bars and has no piped music or games tables to ruin the atmosphere.

The Ram Jam Inn, at Stretton, Leicestershire. An 18th Century guest at the inn couldn't pay his bill, so in recompense he offered to show the landlady how she could get two different ales from the one cask. He drilled a hole in a full barrel in the cellar and got her to ram her thumb into the hole to stem the flow. He drilled another in the other side of the barrel and again got her to plug the hole with her other thumb. While she was thus 'jammed' keeping the ale in the barrel, the guest fled, leaving the landlady with an unsettled bill and sore thumbs.

The Glynne Arms, Gornal, West Midlands (also known as the Crooked House) is a Banks's pub selling real ale (at the time of writing). It was built on top of a mine shaft, and subsidence caused one part of the pub to sink and it's now fifteen degrees off level. It has since been buttressed to make it safe, but the floors, doors, walls and windows sit at odd angles. It only really takes about a pint to make you feel really drunk. If you look at the ceiling fittings, the lamps hang sideways, paintings hang askew. If you put a marble on the windowsill, it appears to travel upwards. Bringing back a round of drinks from the bar is an achievement... and going to the toilet is another experience entirely!

    Other Pubs of Note
  • There's a pub in Appletreewick, Yorkshire, which was the first non-smoking pub in the UK.

  • The George in Eskdale Green, Cumbria claims to have every single type of whisky on sale.

  • The Philharmonic in Liverpool is famous for its ornate toilets.

  • The Duke of Wellington (Hewitts Tavern) on Pasture Street, Grimsby used to have a pipeline from the Hewitts Brewery over the road which went from roof to roof leading to the pub, until the brewery closed down and was demolished a few years ago. It is also thought that the pub opposite Wards brewery in Sheffield has some kind of pipeline under the road providing booze. Unfortunately the Researcher who reported this can't quite remember the name. It may be The Nursery or The Devonshire... who can say?


The New Arlington Pub, Woodlands Road, Glasgow. Allegedly, when the Stone of Destiny was 'liberated' from Westminster Abbey in the fifties it was moved all round Scotland, its final resting place, before being left in Arbroath Abbey, was in the cellar of this pub. A definite 'locals' pub, not popular with students, even though it is very close to the University.

The Horseshoe in Glasgow claims to have the longest bar in the world and at 104 feet no one's going to argue the point. Apparently the food is very nice too. Fancy A pubcrawl round the one bar?

The Smallest Pub?

There appears to be a bit of debate as to which is actually the smallest pub in England. One Researcher remembers a bar on Seaview Street in Cleethorpes which has a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records to say that it's the smallest pub in Britain (or possibly the world). Ironically it's opposite a pub called the TARDIS! Unfortunately, another option exists which says the smallest pub is the Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds. A third Researcher, following a memory (and indeed a T-Shirt she had in her loft) then found the Smith's Arms at Godmanston (near the naked bloke carved in the hillside in the South West).

Apparently the confusion comes in because the Nutshell has a smaller ground floor space, but three floors, while the Smith's Arms has a larger room, but only one floor and hence a smaller overall volume. Legend has it that the Smith's Arms was previously a blacksmiths and King Charles II stopped by to have his horse re-shod. He asked for a drink and was told by the smithy that he could not serve ale because he did not have a license. The King promptly granted him a license on the spot and that was how it became a public house.

Pubs with Excuses with Every Pint

There is a Nowhere Inn in Croydon, Also, there is a Nowhere Inn Particular in Yorkshire and a Nobody Inn in Islington. Theres a few pubs called the Nowhere Inn or the Nowhere Inn Particular, so that when the wife rings up (why is it never the husband?) he can say he is nowhere!

There is also a pub in Derby called Working Late, and another in Burton-Upon-Trent called The Office for the same reasons.

A Number of Pubs Related to Hanging

The phrase 'one for the road', rumour has it, comes from the fact that condemned men were often given their final meal in a pub (undoubtedly called the Final Drop or Hangman's Rest) that was on the road to the gallows, and they'd have a flagon of something warming for their final journey.

  • The Dancing Man in Lincoln was the pub next to the gallows and on Haymarket in Edinburgh, where the gallows used to be, is the Last Drop.

  • The Sessions, in Kirkdale, Liverpool, is built on the site of the old spot where prisoners would be hanged. Some visitors to the pub have suggested that the pub is haunted.

Mine's a Pint

Well there you have some of the thousands, if not millions of tales that hang around pubs. So why not pop into your local and find out what their story is?

1Du Maurier's Jamaica Inn was later adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock - his last British film before he moved to the USA.2The dimensionally baffling time machine from the BBC science fiction TV series Doctor Who.

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