Lower Royal George: The Yorkshire pub popular with Emmerdale and Last of the Summer Wine actors

Forty years ago saw the start of the popular TV show Cheers, set in a bar in Boston, and that same year a West Yorkshire couple took on a rural public house set “in the middle of nowhere”. The two couldn’t have been more different.

Stephen and Margaret Lowe’s special offal lunches, Margaret’s famed gammon and eggs, and the ever-popular Steel Cow tipple from Bradfield Brewery are just three of the hallmarks of the Lower Royal George that looks down on the favourite walkers’ haunt of Scammonden Reservoir.

Stephen said that when he and Margaret were told about the country pub with the late 60s ambience they have retained to this day, their first job was finding it.

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“We wondered where we were going and hadn’t a clue where it was. We soon found that there was relatively little about. We’d both lived around Penistone and Holmfirth all our lives and had taken on The Victoria, in Holmfirth, a few years before.

Steve and Margaret Lowe outside the Lower Royal George in Scammonden

“When this came up we liked the idea of a country place and we were taken with its olde-worlde character. That’s what our customers like.”

Stephen adds: “We have always had a lot of trade from over in Lancashire. People say they have nowt like this over there. Our way has always been to put on proper food at a proper price and people are happy with it.

“Margaret does a fantastic job in the kitchen and all of our meat is sourced from local farms through Broster’s Farm Shop, of Lindley Moor, and Leonard Wood & Sons nearby.

Stephen said they changed one bizarre agricultural feature that the previous landlord of the Lower Royal George had taken time explaining about its upkeep.

Customers inside the Lower Royal George in Scammonden

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“It used to have carpet tiles made of pig hair. He told us that we should water it with a watering can every night, brush it with a yard brush and then it would stand up again. In the end we just bought a new carpet.”

Margaret said she always wanted to have a pub of her own, which they have run as a freehouse since Bass Charrington sold it to them 30-odd years ago.

She said: “I went to catering college in Huddersfield for three years and have always done all the cooking. This was everything I always wanted.

“Things have changed over the years. We never used to get asked for vegetarian meals 40 years ago, but I’m always happy to cook what people want and my potato, mushroom and leek crumble and cauliflower and broccoli cream cheese bakes are well received.

“Nothing leaves my kitchen without it being something home cooked by me. Crispy battered black pudding is popular and chicken tikka, but it is the old favourites that still whet the appetite of most of our regulars and new people who find us.”

Margaret said that part of the attraction of coming to the Lower Royal George is its location and that she and Stephen have played host to a few TV and radio personalities during their tenure.

She said: “People still like real home cooking, real ales and when it’s cold up here our real fires.

“The actor Richard Thorp who used to play Alan Turner in Emmerdale used to come in regularly. He lived in Barkisland. He was a lovely man who just wanted to sit and read his newspaper, he’d often hide behind it.

“We also regularly saw the BBC Radio 1 DJ ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton as his agent used to live in Huddersfield; and Tom Owen who played Compo’s son in Last of the Summer Wine and was Bill Owen’s (Compo’s) son in real life. Compo used to come into our previous pub in Holmfirth.”

Stephen said that one of the busiest times they had experienced in the area had been when the Tour de Yorkshire flew past the pub. It was also a first for them by way of local services.

“Flippin’ ‘eck, we were busy! The crowds were five or six deep on both sides of our little road and our car park was full.

“It was here and gone in the blink of an eye, but in the week before the race came by, we had a pavement sweeper here three times. We’ve not seen it since mind.”

Stephen and Margaret have regular trade from farmers such as Antony Garside who has beef cattle and locals in the nearby villages of Golcar, Scapegoat Hill, Outlane and Slaithwaite plus their Lancastrian visitors and those who love walking Pole Moor and down to Scammonden Reservoir.

Margaret said that since their reopening from Covid restrictions it has been tricky to tell what every day will be like. I think people are still a bit wary of spending at the moment, particularly with the recent news of increased utility bills.

“For our business you just can’t tell what it is going to be like from one day to the next, but we are still attracting enough trade.”

One of the Lower Royal George’s special days has always been their Offal Lunch. Margaret said they usually put it on in the back end of the year.

“We get a lot of farming and general customers over for it. The most we’ve had was 77 and the place was packed to the rafters. We’re not a big place. It’s really well loved and we do it like a buffet with anything from humble pie, made from lungs, livers and kidneys, to turbigo and onions.”

Stephen and Margaret said they won’t be having a special celebration evening to mark their 40th anniversary of taking on the Lower Royal George.

They add: If somebody doesn’t get invited you’ve upset a customer and you don’t want to do that otherwise you might lose them. We appreciate all our customers.”