The Golden Ball: How unique York pub visited by Charles Dickens was saved by a co-operative who bought it

For more than 200 years, The Golden Ball has remained tucked away on York’s back streets, nestled just within the city’s famous medieval walls.

A mention of the pub first appeared in newspapers in 1773, and there is speculation that the author, Charles Dickens, was a patron during his frequent visits to York to visit a relative who worked on nearby Micklegate.

The pub has been given a Grade II listing by English Heritage, and is recognised as having the only known example of a bar-side seating alcove or snug.

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But the future of The Golden Ball was thrown into question a decade ago, when the licencees, Linda and Dave Foster, had decided to retire. The pub, though, was seen as an intrinsic element of the community in the district of Bishophill, and its regulars stepped forward with a plan to secure its future.

Hannah Hutchinson was appointed by the co-operative to manage The Golden Ball

A co-operative was launched on November 12, 2012, making The Golden Ball the first city centre pub in the country to be owned by the community.

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A total of 200 members paid £400 to sign up to the co-operative, and the pub’s community links have blossomed over the past decade.

Hannah Hutchinson has been working at the pub since 2013, and became the manager in October 2019.

Miss Hutchinson, 32, said: “There was uncertainty about the future of The Golden Ball, but thankfully the community rallied around. It is a pub that has such a fantastic mix of people - you can come in for a quiet pint and never quite know who you will end up speaking to. That is what makes the place so special, and we are lucky to be a part of a really strong community.”

However, while The Golden Ball attracts a loyal group of regular customers from the city, the co-operative has attracted interest from as far afield as Norway and America, with tourists who have visited the pub wanting to help financially.

It has embarked on a host of community events, and stages a summer fete and beer festivals, and also sells work by local artists in the pub’s garden room.

Latin nights have also been introduced, and live music is regularly staged.

The challenges faced by the Covid-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the hospitality sector, but the Golden Ball weathered the coronavirus crisis, offering table service in the pub’s beer garden when given the opportunity to initially re-open.

Miss Hutchinson said: “I usually speak to a couple of hundred people a day when I am working, so it was so tough not to be open during the lockdowns.

“But it was so nice to hear that people had missed coming here when we were able to re-open, and it made you realise just what a special place The Golden Ball is.”