Bardsey is a typical, sleepy Yorkshire village situated between Leeds and Wetherby with nothing particularly noteworthy about it and yet it has the oldest confirmed public house in the U.K., something that it’s residents are particularly proud of.
There are several pretenders to this title, but claims have been examined many times and the Bingley Arms has appeared as the title-holder in the Guinness Book of Records for many years.
There is some evidence to suggest that a brew-house existed here as far back as 905AD, but the first known brewer has been established as Samson Ellis in 953AD. It thus pre-dates the first English King and was created at a time when the Vikings were conquering parts of England. Imagine that!
It certainly pre-dates the adjacent All Hallows church which was built in 950AD.
Originally called the Priests Inn, around the turn of the first Millennium, it served as a safe house for Catholic priests and for monks travelling between Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds and St. Mary’s in York. The premises were also used as a courthouse and convicted felons were taken to the pillory across the road from the church.
It is purportedly mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, but this is disputed. What is not disputed is that there is an ancient yew tree in the beer garden, which is said to be older than the pub itself.
During work on the central part of the building, a Dutch oven and two priest holes, dating back to 1539 were discovered and are now featured as part of a large fireplace. You can lean inside and gaze upwards into the hiding places.
In the 1700’s, an inglenook fireplace was discovered which is now a feature of the tap room.
The pub was used as a resting place for stagecoach passengers and adjacent buildings were used as stables. In 1780, the pub was renamed the Bingley Arms after Lord Bingley.
With a building of this age, there are inevitable stories of ghostly goings on. Items are said to be moved when no-one is around, there is apparently a ghostly dog and at times, a Cavalier with a large hat appears.
Moving to more contemporary times, the pub has always had a reputation for good food and I have been here on and off since the 1960’s. The large room upstairs used to serve as the main dining area. It underwent a failed experiment in the 1990’s as an Indian restaurant but it proved too big for practical use and this area is now only used for functions.
Diners are now catered for in several smaller and more intimate rooms off the main bar.
Dark wood panels are everywhere as is aged wooden furniture. It has a lovely, timeless feel and is cosy in that typically old English pub way that we do so well. Fresh flowers on the tables are usually in evidence.
The all important ales are of the hand-pulled variety and local in provenance.
The food is pretty good still, and has to be, as there is little if any passing traffic through the village.
Starters range from around £4-50 to £6.50 and Mains from around £9 to £20. Local produce is utilised, as may be expected these days. The rack of lamb or the rump steak being favourites of mine. Yorkshire portions allied to good presentation are the hallmarks here. Friendly, personal service is a given in Yorkshire.
The recent trend for afternoon teas is also catered for to bring in the punters and at £8 a head, great value. Sandwiches of Smoked Salmon and cream cheese, chicken, ham and egg are accompanied by a mini-pork pie, gingerbread cake, a cream bun and a mini-trifle. The home made warm scone with raspberry jam and cream almost proved too much, but in the interests of research I ploughed onward. The things I do for you! Tea (or coffee) provided the much needed lubrication.
Meals are served Tuesday to Saturday, though the Sunday lunch is worth making the trip for alone and once again, great value for money.
“The Bingley Arms”:http://www.bingleyarms.co.uk can be found at LS17 9DR and further details gleaned from
It is one of life’s experiences to drink or eat in a pub which has existed for more than 1100 years when you think about the hundreds of thousands of assorted people who have done exactly the same as you over the centuries. Farm hands, labourers, priests, soldiers, travellers, tinkers, market traders, and even the odd Cavalier. Rub shoulders with history and make a visit.