Written by Jonathan Rudd
Yorkshire is full of historic pubs with many a tale to tell down the centuries and some great pints of ale to be consumed as well. Many have seen monarchs come and go, World Wars, Civil Wars, through the Industrial Revolution and the development of the modern age. So join us on a historic pub crawl through time to find Yorkshire’s oldest public house.
Whitelocks (The Turks Head) – Leeds- 1715
The oldest pub in Leeds is called Whitelocks and was originally known as the Turks Head. This hostelry opened in the reign of George I, providing market traders and their customers with refreshment in the days when their stalls were on nearby Briggate. In the 1880s it was bought by the Whitelock family who refurbished it with the Victorian bar fittings and furniture which can still be seen to this day. They were ahead of their time too. In the mid-1890s, Whitelocks became the first pub in the city to serve food by becoming a Luncheon bar, of which the signage is still on display in the window. Today the pub is still a very popular drinking and eating establishment.
The White Horse Inn (Nellies) – Beverley – c1666
Our hunt moves to East Yorkshire and a local’s favourite, The White Horse Inn, otherwise known as “Nellies.” This old coaching inn pre-dates 1666 and like Whitelocks has kept some of its traditional features, including gas lighting, chandeliers and open fireplaces. The layout is like a rabbit warren, which has confused many a inebriated punter over the years because there are so many different rooms and corridors to discover. In the middle of the 20th Century the pub was once run by a group of sisters, one of which was called Nelly, which is where the pub gets its nickname; until it was sold to Sam Smith’s brewery in 1976. The pub today is still a great place for a cheap pint and a step back in time.
Ye Olde Starre Inne – York -1644
York’s oldest continually licensed pub had a baptism of fire when it first opened its doors during the English Civil War. The city was invaded by Parliamentarians during a siege and the pub’s 10th Century cellar was used as a hospital and mortuary by the soldiers. In 1733 the famous sign which hangs above Stonegate was put up and has remained there ever since. A few ghosts are said to haunt the place and the screams of dying soldiers can sometimes be heard from the depths of the cellar, amongst other spooky goings on.
Nailmakers Arms – Sheffield – 1638
In the south side of Sheffield lies one of the oldest pub in the steel city. Little is known of its origins, except that the pub started trading in 1638. Unusually the hostelry far outdates the surrounding area and would have sat isolated, 5 miles out of the city centre for much of its existence, until the urban sprawl of Sheffield developed around it. The pub has quenched the thirst of people from the Gleadless Valley for many years since.
Tan Hill Inn – c1586
The highest pub in England is also one of the oldest in Yorkshire. The current building dates back to 17th Century, but there is evidence of an earlier building, which was recorded in William Camden’s travel survey book of the country, “Britannia,” where he noted a “solitary inn.” The Tan Hill went on to serve the surrounding mining communities until the 1920s, and continues to serve tourists who flock to visit this great Yorkshire landmark.
Ye Olde White Hart- Hull – 1550s
The Ye Olde White Hart in Hull is said to have been the place where the English Civil War started. An upstairs backroom on the site of the ancient pub, known as, “the plotting room,” is believed to have been the place where the decision was taken to refuse King Charles I entry to the city, which sparked the conflict. A fire at the pub in the 19th Century uncovered a mysterious skull which had been locked away in a dark corner of the building for centuries. This is now on display for those who venture in there. The Olde White Hart is an important part of Hull’s historic old town pub run and also one of the spookiest.
The Chequers Inn- Ledsham, 1540
The West Yorkshire village of Ledsham not only boasts one of the oldest buildings in the riding, the nearby church, which dates back to the 8th Century, but also one of the oldest pubs in the county. The Chequers Inn began serving pints in 1540. It became famous for its six days licensing and refusal to open on a Sunday. This was because 200 years ago, the lady of the manor was passing the pub in her carriage, when a group of drunken farm workers verbally abused her. She ordered the pub to close and when it did re-open was forbidden to trade on a Sunday. It took until 2012 for this local byelaw to be overturned when the pub opened for seven days a week for the first time in 180 years.
The Sun Inn- Beverley 1530
Opposite Beverley Minster lies the oldest pub in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Unlike nearby ‘Nellies’, it has very little of its original features, but the building and inn are believed to date from 1530. According to Minster records the pub was originally known as “The Tabard.” Its function would have been to house and stable religious pilgrims who visited the town to see the tomb of John of Beverley in the Minster. Nowadays The Sun Inn is a popular live music venue and drinking establishment in the town.
The Golden Fleece – York 1503
The Golden Fleece opposite The Shambles is one of the oldest pubs in York. It used to serve members of the guild from the nearby Merchant Adventurers Hall, which traded in wool and fleeces. During the civil war the pub adopted a special token system to be traded during the siege. Given its age it is inevitably one of the most haunted pubs in Yorkshire. It is haunted by fifteen different ghosts, ranging from Roman soldiers in the cellars to a Canadian airman, Geoff Monroe who jumped out the window of an upstairs room in 1945. People staying in this room since have reported seeing a figure dressed in full uniform and sheets being pulled off the bed.
The Old Queen’s Head, Sheffield – c1475
Dating back to the Wars of the Roses, the Old Queen’s Head is the oldest pub and building in Sheffield. It is named after Mary Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned in Sheffield from 1570 to 1584. Around this time there were a series of ponds nearby which is where Pond Street, Ponds Forge and the pub’s original name, ‘The Hall of the Ponds’ are derived from.
The Old Bridge Inn – Ripponden -1307
Over in the West in the village of Ripponden stands Yorkshire’s third oldest pub. The nation was in mourning at the death of King Edward I when The Old Bridge served its first pint in 1307. The key to this inn was its location, on the ancient York to Chester trading route and would have been an important stopping point for weary travellers in Medieval Times. The pub’s first landlord was a yeoman who went by the name of Robert of Brigge of Soland. His descendants would go on to build many of the fine buildings in Halifax and surrounding area. Before the bridge was built the pub would have been near a ford, which would have made it very prone to flooding. The Old Bridge is still going strong and is a popular drinking and dining venue in this corner of West Yorkshire.
The Black Bull Inn – Boroughbridge- 1258
At the corner of the marketplace in Boroughbridge lies the Black Bull Inn, as it always has done since the reign of Henry III. Being so close to the Great North Road, the Black Bull would have been a welcome sight for travellers heading between London to Edinburgh throughout the centuries. Boroughbridge once boasted 22 coaching inns and the Black Bull is the last remaining original one, although other pubs are also present in the town to this day.
The Bingley Arms – Bardsey – AD 953
The title of not just Yorkshire’s oldest pub, but Britain’s oldest pub goes to the Bingley Arms in Bardsey, just north of Leeds. Dating back to Anglo Saxon times this small village has had a drinking hole recorded as far back as AD953, which was during the reign of King Edgar, but could date even further back to AD905, to when the village church was built and the area was controlled by The Vikings. In any case, the Bingley Arms has been serving alcohol for over 1000 years!
Inevitably with a pub this old it has strong religious connections. It was originally known as The Priests Inn. The pub became a well-known stop off point between Kirkstall Abbey and St Mary’s Abbey in York, where monks and members of the clergy would stop here for a meal and a good night’s rest.
Centuries later the inn would be used to escape the destruction of Henry VIII’s forces on these abbeys, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Two priest holes dating back to this time have been found in the pub’s chimney.
Further alterations to the pub in the 1700s uncovered a Dutch oven and an inglenook fireplace. By then the pub was over 700 years old! In 1780 the pub was renamed The Bingley Arms, after the landlord. The pub has had its fair share of haunting, including a cavalier dressed in bright clothes, known to be a practical joker and a mysterious dog which haunts the inside of this ancient pub. It is still going strong and has become a renowned dining pub in the north Leeds area.
The village of Bardsey in West Yorkshire is the first place you could buy a pint in Yorkshire, England and possibly the world!
Now you have come to the end of this historic pub crawl, you can buy the T-Shirt!