Uniquely named historic British pubs for a unique beer experience
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
A report from this year's Good Beer Guide (GBG) reveals that the Red Lion has retained its title as the most popular pub name in Britain, followed by the Royal Oak and the Crown. All have interesting historical rationales behind their names. But, the other night I stood with a pint in Cheshire's Bhurtpore Inn and reflected on some of the uniquely named pubs we might visit on a Beer Tours UK outing.
Here are a few, selected not just for the names but for their well-preserved character, atmosphere and, of course, their devotion to cask ales:-
The Britons Protection, Manchester: This is a must for a Manchester pub tour.The Britons Protection is one of the oldest pubs in the city centre and Grade II listed. Dating back at least to 1806, it is said to have been ‘used as a refuge by men escaping the attentions of recruiters for the Napoleonic Wars’ - hence its moniker.
It also said to have played a part in the horrendous story of the Peterloo Massacre, which took place nearby, when the licensee reputedly took in survivors of the vicious sabre wielding cavalry attack on 60,000 peaceful protestors. The attack claimed 18 lives and several hundred injured. Both the hanging pub sign and a mural on a wall inside the pub commemorate this.Nowadays it embraces you with the warmth of a long lost friend on a cold winter night.There’s a selection of some 300 whiskies alongside traditional pub food, an excellent range of hand pulled ales and free first class ‘crack’ in the front bar.
The Bhurtpore Inn, Aston, Cheshire: This splendid village inn, hidden in the Cheshire countryside, has been in the Camra Good Beer Guide for 27 years. It dates back to 1778 at least, when it was then known, funnily enough, as the Red Lion – later to become the Queen’s Head. The present tricky-to-spell moniker harks back to what some might see as Britain’s darker colonial days (viewed in hindsight).
In 1825, the Iron Fort of Bhurtpore, in northern India, was causing the British some bother. Bhurtpore was considered by the Indians to be indestructible, following previous failed attempts by the all-conquering British. Lord Combermere – a cavalry officer and toff from the local Cheshire estate that owned the pub - became Commander-in-Chief in India. He mastermind the successful siege of Bhurtpore in January 1826 and the pub was renamed for his victory. Since 1991 Simon & Nicky George have made a great success of running the place, winning many plaudits, holding beer festivals and other events and serving 11 regularly changing outstanding cask-conditioned ales. And – in line with its heritage – several lovely curries! Walk through the door of this tardis like pub, maybe catch a whiff of a bubbling vindaloo, and you just feel like you have arrived home.
Peter Kavanagh’s, Liverpool: Formerly the Liver Inn - reputedly a “grog shop”- this pub was entirely rebuilt in 1862. It became the Grapes. Then in 1897, a young Irishman named Peter Kavanagh took it on. He commissioned ornate wooden carvings and murals based on Charles Dickens and William Hogarth from Scottish painter Eric Robertson, creating today’s wonderfully idiosyncratic pub interior. He ran it for an amazing 53 years. In the 1970s colourful licensees Guilda and John Meakin extended the premises to No 4 Egerton Street and renamed the pub in tribute to ‘PK’. Located in the Georgian area near the Anglican Cathedral it was voted Camra Liverpool Pub of the Year for 2019 – a lovely tribute to long serving landlady Rita Smith, 80, who has served there for 27 years.
Peveril of the Peak, Manchester: The Peveril is one of Manchester’s most beguiling pubs. Grade II listed and dating from the early 19th century it now stands alone amid modern city centre office blocks. The origin of the moniker has been the subject of debate. It is said by some to be named for the stagecoach that used to run from Manchester across the Pennines and on to London. Others that it was a tribute to Sir Walter Scott’s novel of that title. Yet it could be both, in that the stage coach may have been named after the novel, apparently!
Outside there are wonderfully striking period two tone green tiles. Inside you find original dark wooden benches, stained glass and etched mirrors - and what is believed to be the oldest working pub football table from the 1950s! The Peveril is a pub for socialising and has been nurtured by the same family for four generations. It is reputed to have its own, benign, ghost that likes to help out by moving glasses and things around a bit – but ‘she’ (we think probably an ex barmaid) doesn’t drink your beer.
The Carden Arms, Tilston, South Cheshire: This village inn takes its name from the historic township of Carden, part of the parish of Tilston, which dates back to Henry III. A Grade II listed former18th century coaching inn, after falling on hard times, it was renovated and relaunched just three years ago. Locally sourced food is now served alongside four or five cask ales and there’s accommodation in characterful rooms. This is not one of those ‘ghastly gastro’ makeovers. There’s a real pub feel, with locals chatting, arguing and joking over a pint or two. Much of the original character is preserved; there’s beams, open fires, wood and tiled floors. Outside there’s a flagged patio and a cobbled front forecourt with benches. Some say I’m lucky; I live just around the corner – much to the envy of Beer Tours’ guests from Australia and America.
Footnote: We would be interested to hear of other uniquely named good pubs around the country.