The Shibden Mill at Halifax is named this week as the people’s choice as Yorkshire’s Favourite Pub. Mark Casci reports.
For several bleak years now, two familiar words have sprung up on the front of numerous public houses across the county: ‘To Let’.
A combination of the smoking ban, rising prices and overheads, as well as tough lease agreements, have seen pubs shutting in droves.
However, a drive to put pride back into the historic industry has worked wonders in proving that the great British pub is far from dead.
A competition, named Yorkshire’s Favourite Pub, asked the public to respond with their choice.
The competition’s organisers, Welcome to Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Post, were overwhelmed as thousands of people nominated the pubs for which they felt a passion.
More than 200 watering holes were eventually reduced by the judges to a shortlist of 12 of the region’s best pubs which the public were once again asked to vote for.
The shortlist revealed just what a diverse range of pubs Yorkshire boasts.
On the list were city centre pubs catering to workers and shoppers, such as the Adelphi, in Leeds, and the Milestone, at Sheffield, as well as more isolated country inns, such as the Farmers Arms, in Upper Swaledale, and the Angel Inn, at Hetton.
What all those who run them share is a love of the traditional Yorkshire pub and the desire to make their customers feel welcome and happy.
The top 12 included some pubs whose traditions and history are still very much in evidence.
Parts of The Angel Inn at Hetton, near Skipton, date back more than 500 years. As well as the bar, it boasts an informal brasserie and a more formal restaurant.
Another pub on the shortlist that plays on its history is the Black Swan Inn at York.
With ghosts having been spotted in both the pub and its accommodation, the owners have responded by laying on “Ghost Suppers” for those brave people who take a York Horror tour. The beer including Copper Dragon, is good, too.
And a visit to the Anvil Inn at Sawdon may make you think you have stepped into a previous era, with the bar area being an old blacksmith’s workshop.
The traditional pitched timbered ceiling is still in place, along with the original stone furnace, tools, iron candle chandelier and wood-burning stove.
Some other pubs in the list prefer to make their focus the beer. Ripon’s One Eyed Rat sells itself as a traditional real-ale pub and has enjoyed a slot in the Good Beer Guide for the past decade.
As well as ales, it also offers continental beers, fine wine, fruit wines and mulled wine.
Another focusing on the drinks it serves is Leeds’s Adelphi, just a stone’s throw from the former Tetley Brewery.
The pub remains a fine example of Victorian sumptuousness.
While city pubs did prove popular with the public, some of the nominations were off the beaten track.
The Farmers Arms, at Muker, in Swaledale, is a traditional Dales pub. Its remoteness means the venue has a strong local following as well as a good reputation with passing walkers and hikers.
Another Black Swan in a picturesque setting is in the beautiful village of Brandesburton, near Driffield.
As well as an ever-changing selection of real ales, its owners also promise an excellent line in pub grub.
While the shortlist is designed to show off some undiscovered treasures and lesser-known gems in Yorkshire, one of the venues can claim to be a television star.
The Milestone, at Sheffield, labelled as the city’s first true gastro pub, came to the nation’s notice last year when it was named as one of Gordon Ramsey’s best restaurants of 2010.
Some of those on the shortlist also demonstrate just what a vital community resource the pub can provide.
After the votes had been cast and counted the winners were revealed at this week’s Great Yorkshire Show.
The Shibden Mill, at Halifax, was named as the people’s choice and the inn’s management team, Simon Heaton and Glen Pearson, punched the air and leapt to their feet in delight when the name was read out.
Their enthusiasm and pride for their profession was palpable as they spoke afterwards. Mr Heaton said that the secret to his pub’s success lay in no single area.
“The welcome, the food, the drink, the staff, the people who come in – it is all of them in equal proportion.”
Mr Pearson said that he was delighted with the competition but acknowledged that there were still tremendous difficulties in the area.
“You need to diversify,” he said. “Having just drinkers may not be enough for you nowadays; people are looking for something more.”
The drive to promote the strength of what Yorkshire’s pubs are offering to visitors does not end here.
A new Ale Trail guide was also launched at the Great Yorkshire Show, featuring 30 of the public’s favourite pubs.
A map also includes a range of festivals to see and breweries to visit.
It’s part of the Welcome to Yorkshire strategy to bring more people to the region, and their chief executive Gary Verity said: “The trail is promoting another strong draw for visitors to our great county, while supporting the pub industry during these challenging times for them.”
The Ale Trail guide received warm praise from Simon Theakston, the executive director of the brewers T&R Theakston, of Masham.
He said he thought the trail would “give people a real taste of the amazing friendly pubs” in Yorkshire.
For those who have predicted a steep decline of the pub trade, this initiative suggests that the gloom can be lifted
Ultimately the responsibility really lies with us. As with food and the countryside, our support is needed if we are to to maintain and strengthen our regional heritage.
Without our help, it may be last orders permanently.
Your top three pubs in the poll
Number one is the Shibden Mill at Halifax.
Runner-up is the George and Dragon at Hudswell, run by a residents’ co-operative who raised most of the funds from its 180 members to carry out renovations.
The Yorkshire Post had a hand in the recruitment of a new landlady here, Jackie Stubbs, who was one of the driving forces of change.
Third place goes to the Shoulder of Mutton, at Kirkby Overblow, Harrogate.
Built in the 1880s, it also has the Shoulder Shop offering a locally-sourced fresh meat counter, store cupboard essentials, chutneys and pickles and a range of wines.
The top 30 pubs on the trail
1. Shibden Mill Shibden, Halifax. HX3 7UL. Tel: 01422 365840
2. George and Dragon Hudswell, North Yorkshire. Tel: 01748 518373
3. Shoulder of Mutton, Main Street, Kirkby Overblow, Harrogate, HG3 1HD. Tel: 01423 871205
4. Black Swan Fearby, Masham, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 4NF. Tel: 01765 689477
5. Black Swan Inn 23 Peasholme Green, York, North Yorkshire, YO1 7PR. Tel: 01904 679131
6. Cross Scythes Baslow Road ,Totley , Sheffield, S17 4AE. Tel: 0114 236 0204
7. Cubley Hall Northstar Hotels Ltd, Mortimer Road, Penistone, Sheffield. Tel: 01226 766086
8. Durham Ox Westway, Crayke, York, YO61 4TE. Tel: 01347 821506
9. Farmers Arms Muker, Upper Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales. Tel: 01748 886297.
10. Fauconberg Arms Coxwold, North Yorkshire YO61 4AD. Tel: 01347 868214
11. Forresters Arms The Square, Kilburn, York, North Yorkshire, YO61 4AH. Tel: 01347 868386
12. Fox and Hounds Main Street, West Witton, Leyburn, North Yorkshire,DL8 4LP. Tel: 01969 623650
13. Grove Inn 2 Spring Grove Street, Huddersfield, HD1 4BP. Tel: 01484 430113
14. Midnight Bell 101 Water Lane, Leeds, LS11 5QN. Tel: 0113 244 5044
15. Old White Beare Village Street, Norwood Green, Halifax, HX3 8QG. Tel: 01274 676645
16. One Eyed Rat 51 Allhallowgate, Ripon, HG4 1LQ. Tel: 01765 607704
17. Ring O Bells Hill Top Road, Thornton, Bradford, West Yorkshire BD13 3QL. Tel: (01274) 832 296
18. Staff of Life 550 Burnley Road, Todmorden OL14 8JF. Tel: 01706 819 033
19. The Adelphi 1-3 Hunslet Road, Leeds, LS10 1JQ. Tel: 0113 245 6377
20. The Angel Inn Hetton, near Skipton, North Yorkshire. Tel: 01756 730263
21. The Anvil Inn Main Street, Sawdon, YO13 9DY. Tel: 01723 859896
22. The Black Swan 74 Main Street, Brandesburton, Driffield, North Humberside YO25 8RG. Tel: 01964 542 376 23. The Chequers Inn South Milford, West Yorkshire, LS25 5LP. Tel: 01977 683135
24. The Country Park Inn Cliff Road, Hessle, East Yorkshire HU13 0HB. Tel: 01482 640 526
25. The Cross Keys 107 Water Lane, leeds LS11 5WD. Tel: 0113 243 3711
26. The George Main Street, Wath, Ripon, North Yorkshire. Tel: 01765 641324
27. The Hales Bar 1-3 Crescent Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 2RS. Tel: 01423 725 5708
28. The Huntsman 136 Manchester Road, Thurlstone, Sheffield, S36 9QW. Tel: 01226 764892
29. The Milestone 84 Green Lane, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S3 8SE. Tel: 0114 272 8327
30. The Stables Weetwood Hall Conference Centre, Otley Road, Leeds. Tel: 0113 230 6000