You just can’t get something more British than the traditional pub. Although many have closed in recent years there are still more than 54,000 scatted across Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Many of them date back hundreds of years and have fascinating histories full of human eccentricity. Here are the Top ten most curious.
The Crooked House. Dudley, West Midlands
MOST TILTED / DRUNKEN
The Crooked House (Sidden House / Glynne Arms)
The most tilted (lopsided) pub in Britain and full of optical illusions.
Originally a farmhouse it was later changed into a pub called the Sidden Arms but substantial local coal mining had caused one side to subside by about 1.2 meters.
Since around 1800 efforts had been made to stabilise he building with questionable success but it quickly became a tourist attraction and was even featured on postcards as early as 1830. Shortly after the end of WW II the house was condemned as unsafe. Fortunately the building was stabilised and although the floors of the building have been leveled, the walls, frames, and windows have been left at odd angles and there are still counter tops and tables were a marble will mysteriously roll upwards.
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks. St. Albans, Hertfordshire
OLDEST IN BRITAIN
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks was named in 1872
(Previously the Round House and The Fisherman)
Britain’s Oldest Pub with foundations dating back to 793AD
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks – or just ‘The Fighters’ as it’s known locally is believed to be the oldest pub in Britain and has a Guinness Book of Records award to substantiate their claim.
The pub dates back to the 8th Century although it was rebuilt during the 11th Century and this is the building still in use today.
It’s believed that tunnels in the beer cellar connect to the nearby cathedral which is dedicated to St. Alban, Britain’s first Christian Martyr. The pub was once known as the Round House and was originally a pigeon house. Local legend has it that Oliver Cromwell – leader of the Round Heads – stayed at the pub and it was certainly a centre for local cock fighting during the 1800’s.
The Bottle Inn. Marshwood, Dorset
STRANGEST PUB FOOD
The Bottle Inn – Marshwood, Dorset / World Nettle Eating Championships (May be temporarily closed so it’s essential to check with the official website before visiting.)
These days many pubs serve food and are a great place to sink a pint while enjoying reasonably priced fish and chips. The Bottle Inn of Marshwood, Dorset, has a reputation for serving up something a little more unusual. The pub is the home of the World Nettle Eating Competition. The event can be traced back to 1986 when two farmers argued over who had the longest nettles. It became a competition when Alex Williams threw down the gauntlet by claiming he’d eat any nettle that was longer than his.
Only nettles provided by the organiser can be used. In recent years the Bottle Inn has changed management and may no longer be open but it has definitely earned its reputation for strangest food.
The Red Lion. Avebury, Wiltshire
PUB IN A STONE CIRCLE
The Red Lion Pub – Avebury
The only pub in the world that is built inside a neolithic stone circle. (Viewed from the central standing stones)
The Red Lion pub in Avebury, Wiltshire, is the only one in the world to be fully located within an ancient stone circle that is believed to be even older than Stonehenge.
The village is located in the centre of England’s Neolithic landscape and surrounded by mysterious barrows, hills and prehistoric monuments. The stone circle is the largest in Europe and considered to be one of the first ever built. As such, human habitation of the site is said to be as early as 4000BC.
More than 400 years old itself, the pub was originally a farmhouse until it was converted and licensed in 1802. It also features a remarkable well inside the building which is 86ft deep and is well known as one of Britain’s most haunted buildings.
The Warren Inn. Dartmoor, Devon
LONGEST BURNING FIRE
The Warren Inn – Dartmoor / Longest Burning Fire since 1845
The Warren Inn, named after the extensive rabbit warrens that once existed nearby, is located high in the hills of Dartmoor where it can become notoriously cold. In fact, in 1963 the Inn was snowed in for 12 weeks and had to have supplies dropped by helicopter. As such, the Pub is said to have had a fire burning – or at least smoldering – since the it was built in 1845.
The story goes that some embers from the original pub across the road were carried over and used to start the new fire which has been burning continuously ever since. Originally the fire was kept going with peat but according to the current owners they now only use locally sourced wood.
The 13th Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn. Stalybridge, Manchester
LONGEST PUB NAME
The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn (48-50 Astley Street, Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, SK15 2EX )
In 1855, Stephen Cliffe opened a new beer house on the site called the New Inn.
Around 1880 a drill hall was constructed nearby for the 13th Cheshire Rifle Volunteer Corps and the Pub is believed to have been renamed: The Thirteenth Mounted Cheshire Rifleman Inn.
On the 6th March 1950 it was granted a wine license and on the 25th May 1956 The Rifleman became a full public house (pub) after acquiring a full licenses from the Floating Light pub on Bridge Street.
In order to retain the Guinness book record the name of the pub was extended during the 1980’s. (Accurate as of 2012).
The John Brunt VC. Paddock Wood, Kent.
THE VICTORIA CROSS
The John Brunt VC (24 Church Road, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, Kent, TN12 6HB)
The only pub named after a holder of the Victoria Cross medal.
This is the only pub in the world named after a person who has been awarded the Victoria Cross Medal. Considered the highest military honour that can be awarded to a soldier for gallantry, the medals are made from Russian cannons captured at the siege of Sevastopol.
John Henry Cound Brunt spent his teenage years in Paddock Wood and later served with the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment).
He was awarded the V.C. for his bravery on the 9th December 1944 during a German counter attack near to Ravenna in Italy. In a cruel twist of fate he was killed the following day when a stray mortar shell landed nearby. The pub was formally named The John Brunt V.C on the 3rd of September 1947.
The Marsden Grotto. South Shields, Tyne & Wear
ONLY PUB IN A SEA CAVE
The Marsden Grotto
(Coast Road South Shields, Tyne and Wear, NE34 7BS)
(Sea caves, smugglers, skeletons and ghosts – The Marsden Grotto)
Reputed to be the only pub in a sea cave, the Marsden Grotto has a long and fascinating past.
Located in the cliffs of South Shields it faces out towards the North Sea, Marsden Rock and eventually the eastern coast of Denmark.
Stories suggest that the original cave was used by smugglers for storing their illicit goods. It was further excavated and inhabited by “Jack the Blaster” and his wife who later sold food and drink to curious visitors.
The cave was later enlarged by Peter Alan and his family who were ultimately granted a license to sell beer. It was during this time that 18 skeletons were discovered and are believed by locals to have been smugglers. Since then it has been owned by various people and is still open today.
The Eagle and Child. Oxford, Oxfordshire
THE HOBBIT & JRR TOLKIEN
The Eagle & Child
(49 St. Giles, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 3LU)
The Favourite Pub of JRR Tolkien and the Inklings Writers Group which also include CS Lewis the author of the Narnia series of books.
A local legend claims that the building was once used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the English Civil War of 1642–49.
The name is believed to derive from a lesser heraldic crest of the Stanley family used by Edward Geoffrey Stanley the 14th Earl of Derby (1799-1869. This is based on the story of an illegitimate baby abandoned in an eagle’s nest but instead of being killed by the bird it is raised as its own. As such, it’s nickname is the Bird and Baby.
The pub, and the Rabbit Room in particular, was a favourite haunt of the Inklings and J R R Tolkien who tested out many ideas for The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy within its walls. It is currently owned by St John’s College, Oxford.
The Fawcett Inn / Force It In. Southsea, Hampshire.
BEST PUN NAME
The Fawcett inn
(176 Fawcett Road, Southsea, Hampshire, PO4 0DP)
The pun in the name “Force it In” is wholly unintentional. The pub and road were actually named in memory of Lieutenant Alexander Fawcett of the 95th Regiment who was killed in action at Bejapore in India during 1853.
Designated as a grade II listed building, the pub was originally designed by A H Bone and built for the Brickwood Brewery around 1886.
There is a memorial plaque to Alexander Fawcett located in Portsmouth Cathedral.
The Inn was refurbished and placed under new management in 2011 and has regained its reputation as a popular venue for students and live music.