Written by Jonathan Rudd
Yorkshire is full of historic pubs with many a tale to tell down the centuries. Here at Yorkshire towers we decided to try and find the region’s oldest pub and the place where it was first possible to buy a pint. Our journey starts in the heart of Leeds…
Whitelocks (The Turks Head) – Leeds- 1715
The oldest pub in Leeds, Whitelocks, originally known as the Turks Head, provided market traders and their customers with refreshment in the days when their stalls were on Briggate. In the 1880s it was bought by the Whitelock family who refurbished it with the bar fittings and furniture that remain to this day. They were ahead of their time too. In the mid-1890s, Whitelocks became the Leeds First City Luncheon bar, of which the signage is still on display from that time. The pub is still a very popular drinking and eating establishment to this day. Despite its history, Whitelocks is still moving with the times, the function room has been made into a craft ale and cocktail bar, called The Turks Head; with the original pub remaining untouched next door.
The White Horse Inn (Nellies) – Beverley – c1666
Our hunt moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire and local’s favourite, The White Horse Inn, otherwise known as “Nellies.”These old coaching Inn pre-dates 1666 and like Whitelocks has kept some of its older features, including gas lighting, chandeliers and open fireplaces. Its layout has confused many a punter over the years as there are many different rooms and corridors to discover. The pub was once run by a group of sisters, one of which was called Nelly, 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
This is York’s oldest continually licensed pub and had a baptism of fire when it was licensed during the 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 these soldiers. In 1733 the famous sign above Stonegate was put up and has remained there ever since. A fair 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 the oldest pub in the steel city. Little is known of its origins, except that the pub started trading in 1638. It has quenched the thirst of people from the Gleadless Valley for many centuries since.
Tan Hill Inn – c1586
The highest pub in England is also one of the oldest in Yorkshire. The current pub building dates back to 17th Century, but there is evidence of an earlier building. This 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 then tourists who flock to see this great Yorkshire landmark.
Ye Olde White Hart- Hull – 1550s
The Ye Olde White Hart is said to have been the place where the English the Civil War started. An upstairs backroom on the site of the ancient pub, known as, “the plotting room,” is said to have been the place where the decision was taken to refuse King Charles I entry to the city which sparked the English Civil War. A fire at the pub in the 19th Century uncovered a mysterious skull which had been locked away in a dark corner of the pub 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.
The Chequers Inn- Ledsham, 1540
The West Yorkshire village of Ledsham not only boasts the oldest building in the riding, its 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 Nellies, it has very little of its original features, but the building and inn are believed to date from 1530. According to Minster records it 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 gild 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 reportedly haunted by fifteen different ghosts, ranging from Roman soldiers in the cellars to a Canadian airman, Geoff Monroe who met his death by jumping 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 Bridge Inn – Ripponden -1307
Over in the West at the village of Ripponden stands Yorkshire’s second 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 position 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 descendents 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 – AD953
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 even before the Norman Conquest, this small village has had a drinking hole recorded as far back as AD953, but could date even further back to AD905, to when the village church was built.
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 they 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 inglenook fireplace. By now 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!
Are there any more historic pubs in Yorkshire which could join our list?