Inns of distinction: The pubs that made history

The role of the local in the evolution of Britain has long been underestimated. Now a guide aims to put these epoch-making hostelries on the map. Ian Herbert and Danielle Dwyer toast their contribution
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The Globe Inn, DUMFRIES

There is no finer place to find literary inspiration than a public house and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) will demonstrate the fact next week when it names the Globe Inn at Dumfries as one of 14 pubs that will received plaques signifying their role in British history and life.

The CAMRA chief executive, Mike Benner, says the plaques will provide a "stamp of authenticity for the incredible stories surrounding pubs handed down through the years".

The Globe was a howff (pub) which poet Rabbie Burns loved to frequent when he was living at Ellisland Farm, and he inscribed a poem on one of the bedroom windows using his diamond ring. The Burns Howff club was founded here in 1889 and still meets every year on 25 January.

The love song that Burns regarded as his finest was penned to Anna Park, her of the "gowden locks", who was the niece of the landlord at the time.

"Hundreds of Pubs across the country have a story to tell, and these first 14 are only the beginning," said Mr Benner.

Eagle and Child, OXFORD

Every Tuesday morning between 1939 and 1962, J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis and other like-minded writers known as "the Inklings" congregated in the back room of the Eagle and Child in Oxford. The subject of their conversations: orcs, elves and various related Middle-Earth matters.

The course of the meetings did not always run smooth. At one of the regular readings of new work in the ale- and-pipe tobacco fug, the arrival of another of Tolkien's mythic sprites elicited the response "Oh no; another fucking elf". But without C S Lewis's enthusiasm as its first hearer and first critic at the pub, Tolkien's trilogy might never have been completed. A framed hand-written letter tacked to the pub wall is signed by all the Inklings in 1948, the year Lewis finished the first draft of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It reads: "We, the undersigned, having just partaken of your ham, have drunk your health."

Bell Inn, Stilton, PETERBOROUGH

Contrary to a popular perception, Stilton has never been made in the place which takes its name.

Proper stilton comes from Melton Mowbray and other areas of Leicestershire. But the cheese was first promoted by the publican and entrepreneur Cooper Thornhill, who bought some from a farmer's wife at Melton and introduced it to travellers at his pub, on the Great North Road coaching route, 20 miles north of London, in the 1720s. It became so popular that it took over the name of the village.

The Bell's bar menu offers a nod to history and always features stilton and celery soup. The pub has tended to prefer the Long Clawson variety in recent years, using it in such dishes as stilton pizza on ciabatta; mushrooms with stilton and colcannon potatoes.

The pub's courtyard has tables and an ancient well dating from Roman times.

Illustrious former overnight guests have included Dick Turpin, Lord Byron and Clark Gable.

The Derby Arms, RAMSGATE

The route by which the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) pubs were chosen is a curious one. The idea for the Pubs in Time project came from a London School Of Economics academic, Simon Davies. To prevent accusations of favouritism, a number of pubs selected by individual Camra regions were placed in a beer barrel and the first 14 drawn out will receive plaques. Hence the unexpected appearance of the Derby Arms - the birthplace of the raconteur, comedian and writer Frank Muir, whose grandmother's pub it was. Muir, who died in 1998, remembered telling his first joke there, aged six.


In March 1765, the pub played host to a first meeting between Josiah Wedgwood, the potter, his partner Thomas Bentley, Erasmus Darwin, father of Charles, and the engineer James Brindley Leopard "on the subject of a Navigation from Hull... to Burslem", as Wedgwood put it in a letter he wrote on 11 March. The encounter resulted in plans for the cutting of the Trent and Mersey canal. The pub is now a Grade-II listed building.

Jacaranda Club, LIVERPOOL

Its part in history has been all but obliterated by the Cavern club, but this is where the Beatles played some of their earliest gigs in their formative years, under the name The Silver Beetles. The man who booked the band was the then-owner of The Jacaranda Allan Williams, who later became known as "The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away".

The fully fledged Beatles appeared occasionally at "The Jac" between May and August 1960, when Williams began to secure regular work for the group. He and the band famously departed from outside the pub that summer in a van which took John, Paul, George, Stuart Sutcliff and Pete Best to Hamburg for the first time. Still visible in the basement of the club are murals reputedly painted by John Lennon and early band member"Stu".

Williams, described by Sir Paul McCartney in The Beatles Anthology as "a great guy, a really good motivator". Now aged 75, Williams, who also owned the Blue Angel in Liverpool, will unveil a silver plaque at the pub on February 23.


Few recipients of the CAMRA awards have a more unusual history than this establishment. The Swan was the place where the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers (Motto: 'Lubrication in Moderation') was founded in 1924. The guild was created "to foster the noble Art and gentle and healthy Pastime of froth blowing amongst Gentlemen of-leisure and ex-Soldiers". Prospective members were told that: "After payment of Subscription you will be permitted to Blow Froth off your own beers, other members' beers and occasionally off non-members' beers, provided they are not looking or are of a peaceful disposition." In its day this was a freemasons for the common man and it attracted an extraordinary half a million members in the 1920s and 1930s.

The club was nenowned for its humour, philanthropy and alcohol. Life membership was five shillings. Lager was frowned upon, though. "Lager beer is not considered to be eligible as an implement of work in the profession of a genuine Froth blower," stated the Swan Inn rule book. "It is unseemly and should be avoided always excepting by Naval Officers visiting German Colonies."


This is reputed to be Britain's oldest inn, dating back to 1203, and the main façade of the building was built about 600 years ago. There is certainly no lack of royal pedigree at the place.

Seven past Kings of England have stayed at the Angel and it was in the magnificent King's Dining Room in 1487 that Richard III signed the death warrant for the Duke of Buckingham.

The pub is also familiar to a certain local grocer's daughter, Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister, who was brought up in the market town

It has recently changed hands after a great deal of work to restore it former glories. The Angel & Royal recently won Grantham Civic Society's award for best restoration project after a £2m refurbishment.


An establishment frequented by famous names from history, including the Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles II, who used it as his headquarters after his retreat from Bath on 26 June 1685. The rebel army was defeated and 12 men were hanged at the crossroads by the infamous Judge Jeffries who is reputed to have held court at The George. On 12 June 1668, Samuel Pepys, his wife and servants dined here.


In recent years, the Anchor has been remembered as a place where George Best found himself on the receiving end of somebody else's fist in a booze-fuelled brawl.

Best claimed he was quietly sipping a white wine spritzer in his local when a resident took a swing at him, two years ago. The man who delivered the punch saw it differently.

But the pub - parts of which date back to the 16th century - on the main road between London and Portsmouth is also celebrated for its Royal connections. Edward II, Elizabeth I, Queen Anne, George III, William IV visited and so, too, did Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton.

In 1815, the Allied Sovereigns met with Blucher and Wellington at the pub.


"Mum would shout and scream when dad would come home drunk,

When she'd ask him where he'd been, he said: 'Up the Clissold Arms',

Chattin' up some hussy, but he didn't mean no harm."

'Fortis Green' by Dave Davies, The Kinks

The name of this pub is in the vocabulary of any self-respecting Kinks fan. Band members Ray and Dave Davies grew up in 6 Denmark Terrace, just opposite, it was their father's local and it is where they played their first public gig. A corner of the back bar is covered with Kinks memorabilia, including a signed copy of the Kinks first single, a guitar, a wall of photographs and a small brass plaque which reads: "Site of 1957 performing debut of Ray and Dave Davies. Founding members of the Kinks."

The Town of Ramsgate, WAPPING, LONDON

This long, narrow and curiously named pub was where time ran out for notorious Judge Jeffreys, Lord Chief Justice to James II and a man known for his ruthless punishments. When James was deposed in the Glorious Revolution, Jeffreys was sought out and caught at the pub - disguised as a seaman and awaiting passage to Hamburg. He was hung.


This pub can claim to have been the location for the discovery of DNA after the Cambridge University scientist Francis Crick walked in on 28 February 1953 and announced: "We have discovered the secret of life". Crick and James Watson had figured out the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid. The structure - a "double helix" that can "unzip" to make copies of itself - confirmed suspicions that DNA carries life's hereditary information.


This is the pub where veteran band The Stranglers made their 1974 debut. Then known as the Guildford Stranglers, the band courted controversy at a time when the first stirrings of punk were building. Having built a name for themselves on the pub rock scene, The Stranglers produced a hit single every year between 1977 and 1982. They have now spent over 25 years in the music industry - and it all started out in the pub.