There is much debate over which is the oldest inn in Britain with the Guinness Book of World Records listing 'Ye Olde Fighting Cocks' in St. Albans as the oldest, however there are numerous inns which also claim the record. The Fat Badgers can't claim to know the answer to this one but we do know that the criteria differs dependent on your viewpoint.So, is it the oldest building or the longest serving which should be classed as the oldest ? Well who knows if the longest serving had a period when it ceased trading and should the site of a former mud hut in a Saxon settlement which reopens as a pub in 1957 be included in the list ? Certainly, if age of the building structure is the sole qualifying fact then the oldest is without doubt, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem as the rock face which forms part of the inn is 143 million years old !Well our favourite is the Old Ferryboat at St. Ives but you may think differently. There are about 20 inns which claim to be the oldest and we believe the Clachan Inn is the oldest in Scotland (although the Ship Inn in Perth claims to date back to 1665 - Thanks to John Symon for letting us know) with the Skirrid being the oldest in Wales. Those with probably the best claims are listed below.
From The St. Albans ObserverTHE Fighting Cocks is still officially Britain's oldest pub despite a challenge from a Bolton landlord who says his pub is older by at least two centuries.Mr John Jewitt, who runs The Man and Scythe in Lancashire, made his claim in a televised interview last month featuring the pub's role in a medieval festival celebrating Bolton's 750th anniversary.He said his pub dates back to 1251, which he believes makes it 234 years older than the Fighting Cocks.He said: "The Fighting Cocks is recognised as the oldest by the Guinness Book of Records but it only moved to its present location, a pigeon coop, in 1485."The Man and Scythe was here in 1251 and we know this because the cellar was built using a technique they stopped using in 1200 so it must be the oldest."But Fighting Cocks landlady Samantha Janney said: "Until I can see it in black and white in the Guinness book, then I'm not too bothered. We are officially the oldest pub in the country and that's it as far as I'm concerned. If they want to take their claim to Guinness then good luck to them, may the best man win."A spokesman for Guinness World Records said it had not received an official claim from The Man and Scythe. It also disputed Mr Jewitt's claim that the Fighting Cocks, in Abbey Mill Lane, moved to its present location in the late 15th Century."Our records show it to be an 11th Century structure on an 8th Century site," she added.Wednesday 5th February 2003
•THE SKIRRID MOUNTAIN INNoAbergavenny, MonmouthshireFirst listed as a pub in legal chronicles in 1110, the Skirrids leaded windows look out over the Black Mountains. Once apparently used by the warrior prince Owen Glendower to saddle up before leading his men into battle against the English in the 1400s. Wall to wall flagstones, beams and a log fire all help to give a feeling of age which is complimented with good ales & food. The Skirrid was a courthouse many years ago where sheep rustlers were hanged for their crimes. •THE CLACHAN INNoDrymen, Loch LomondThe Clachan sits on a corner of the pleasant village green and claims to have had Rob Roys sister as a former landlady. Fraoch, a heather-based brew made from a 4,000-year-old Pictish recipe is served. A plaque by the door states Licensed in 1734 but details of its time before remain a mystery.•THE BINGLEY ARMSoBardsey, LeedsTypical Yorkshire stone inn dating back to 1780 but previously known as The Priest's Inn where like many UK inns, the pub was used as the local court. Set in a pretty village, the local church records first mention the pub in 905 and indeed the inn itself has records dating the central part of the building back to 953. Now, the Bingley Arms is popular for its excellent quality meals.•YE OLDE TRIP TO JERUSALEMoNottinghamVery well known inn built into the rock face under Nottingham Castle in the city centre. Documents exist that prove a castle brewhouse occupied the site before 1189, but further proof is not available. Trip originally meant resting place, and the pub purports to be a travel lodge where crusaders drew breath before heading off to slay Saracens. The year 1189 is mentioned the date Richard I became king.•THE OLD FERRYBOAT INNoHolywell, CambridgeshireLocated on the bank of the River Ouse, the Ferryboat boasts a thatched roof and a well-kept garden. Archeological digs have suggested that the Ferryboats foundations may date back to 460 and records show that liquor was served as early as 560. The upper storeys were however rebuilt after a fire. In the lounge lies the grave of Juliet Tewsley, a young woman who took her own life after being rejected by a local woodcutter, Thomas Roul. She apparently reappears every March 17. •YE OLDE FIGHTING COCKSoSt Albans, HertfordshireLocated alongside the River Ver, in the shadow of the wonderful St. Albans abbey, the Fighting Cocks has one of the strongest claims to be the oldest. Cockfighting was banned long ago, but the original pit is now one of the bars. Originally a medieval dovecote, but with documents that seem to prove that a pub stood here in 795. Some believe its the oldest true pub, as opposed to a tavern or inn with accommodation. It's also believed that Oliver Cromwell kept his horse in the bar when he stayed here.•THE EAGLE AND CHILDoStow-on-the-Wold, GloucestershirePart of The Royalist Hotel, which claims to be the oldest hotel in the country. However, some believe that the pubs 16 years of closure invalidate the claim. The Eagle and Child Inn's name derives from Sir John Stanley in the 14th century. The inn has a tunnel that leads from the bar to the church across the street - there is also evidence of a bear pit. Still visible in the rooms are the witches' marks, an ancient frieze and the thousand-year-old timbers. Some Evidence even suggests that The Royalist began as part of a Saxon community as long ago as 514.•YE OLDE MAN & SCYTHEoBolton, LancashireThis public house dates back to 1251, the date of the charter permitting a market, which was held in the area very close to this building. Only the vaulted cellar dates back as far, a datestone inside the building shows 1636 as a rebuilding date, and some of the internal beams and features are original from this time. There is a chair hanging in one room with the inscription "15th October 1651 In this chair James 7th Earl of Derby sat at the Man and Scythe Inn, Churchgate, Bolton immediately prior to his execution." He was apparently taken outside and executed for his part in the Civil War.
Many thanks to Matthew Torrens who emailed us with the following article:
With no concrete evidence of the oldest pub in the UK due to the age and lack of records, here’s the Fat Badgers take on the claims.