4th March 2022

10 of the Oldest Pubs in Britain and the UK

Many pubs take great pride in their rich history, with some dating back decades – the British pub is certainly not known for modernity, the older it is, the better. Pub landlords, staff and regulars are often heard raving about how old their pub is, the historical figures known to frequent there in the past and some fascinating stories behind the pub – such as how the pub got its name and any legendary pub ghosts.

There’s an array of pubs within the country fighting for that spot as the oldest pub in Britain. However, unless you’ve got a time-travelling machine lying around, we’ll never be able to confirm if any of their claims are actually true.

We’re going to go through 10 of the self-proclaimed oldest pubs in Britain and the UK.

Let’s get started…

  1. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, St Albans, Hertfordshire

I won’t give you any guesses as to what this pub was known for back in the day. Whilst no cockfighting goes on in this pub nowadays, it’s safe to say that its claims of being the oldest pub in the UK have some credibility. Unlike the other pubs on this list, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks actually has set its title in stone with the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest pub in the UK. The pub claimed this record by stating that the pub’s foundations were once part of the palace of Offa, king of the Mercians (of Offa’s Dyke fame), and reportedly built in 793!

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks was once a pigeon house! The owners of this pub claim that the building switched from feeding birds to serving beer in 973 but the earliest license can be found in historical records in the 18th century.

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  1. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham

Britain’s oldest pubs certainly aren’t making themselves hard to recognise with their names! Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem has ‘the oldest inn in England’ boldly plastered over their pub for all passers-by to see, much to the delight of other pubs fighting for this title!

However, if you write something on a building, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true! There’s no evidence to back up this pub owners claims of the oldest inn in England, its website states it was established in 1189 but the first documented record of the pub can be found in 1751.

The pub certainly does have a rich history, it was built into the same rocks that were used to build Nottingham Castle and features a network of caves beneath the pub which were originally used as a brewery, they seem to date from around the late 11th century which matches up with the building of the castle.

As per the name, many people suggest it was a stop upon the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but that fact hasn’t been confirmed.

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  1. The Royal Standard of England, Beaconsfield

Another pub in the running for the oldest pub in Britain is the Royal Standard of England located in Beaconsfield.

This pub is committed to its cause of becoming known as the oldest pub in Britain. In fact, its website is not theroyalstandardofengland.com as it probably should be – it’s actually theoldestpub.com! On their website, they talk very in-depth about their history going back to the Roman and Saxon times.

The first record of this pub was in the Domesday book dating back to 1086! However, this pub isn’t just known for its age – it’s also known for a few famous faces. The pub appears in the TV shows Midsomer Murders and The Theory of Everything as well as receiving celebrity visitors Mary Berry and The Hairy Bikers.

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  1. The Old Ferryboat Inn, Holywell, Cambridgeshire

Yet another pub boasting the claim of being the oldest in the UK, The Old Ferryboat Inn owners state the pub started serving alcohol in 560AD – the earliest claim on our list. However, there is no proof or record of the pub existing before 1400AD, which is a foundation date on the site.

The pub is well-known for its ghost stories as well as its age. The resident ghost is a teenage girl called Juliet. Whilst there’s no Romeo in sight, Juliet’s death is said to have been caused by a tragic ending to a love story – she apparently committed suicide in 1050 after being suddenly abandoned by her lover and the Old Ferryboat Inn was constructed on top of her grave.

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  1. The Grapes, London

We’ve mentioned this pub in our blog post surrounding the top 5 famous pub landlords. Now owned by acting legend Sir Ian McKellen, this pub has an extravagant background, but, unlike the others on our list, doesn’t claim to be the oldest pub in the UK.

Its current building dates back to 1720, but its been in the Limehouse district since 1583. The pub was extremely popular with local dockworkers and sailors and even claims to have served well-known historical explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh. This isn’t the only well-known person of the past that the pub claims to have served though.

Limehouse was extremely popular with writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle, he used the neighbourhood as a setting for his Sherlock Holmes books. Charles Dickens mentions the pub in his novel ‘Our Mutual Friend’, although the pub is disguised by a different name in the novel. Dickens is also said to have danced on the tables in The Grapes back in the day.

It doesn’t get much better than Gandalf owning a pub that Charles Dickens has danced in, does it? Never thought I’d write such a sentence…

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  1. The Porch House, Cheltenham

Onto the next pub that claims it’s the oldest in England!

Similar to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, The Porch House advertises that they’re England’s oldest inn – this statement can be seen on their pub sign. They date their pub back to 947AD, with their evidence consisting of a tavern with rooms existing here during that time.

The Porch House is now a 5-star hotel, bar and restaurant but it still showcases its history proudly.

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  1. Ye Olde Man & Scythe, Bolton

Known as the oldest pub in Bolton, their Facebook bio also introduces the Man & Scythe as the 4th oldest pub in Britain and the 5th oldest pub in the world. Again, we’re not too sure if these facts are confirmed but the pub’s name was first recorded in 1251.

This pub is extremely well-known for its YouTube clips of ghost sightings paired with scared paranormal professionals. However, what’s more interesting than its history is when their ghost got ‘stolen’ in 2016 by Chinese artist Lu Pingyuan! Yes, you read that right, a stolen ghost!

I’m not exactly sure how you steal a ghost but Lu claims he didn’t steal the ghost of James Stanley and that it actually agreed to be captured! The pub owner sent a letter begging Lu to return the ghost to its home and Lu said the ghost may return, but only if it wanted to, quoting:

“My original thought is that after the world tour of exhibitions, I will discuss with him and ask him whether he would prefer to stay like this, as a piece of art, or go back to the Ye Olde Man and Scythe,”

A very odd story indeed. Lu is free to swing by my house to get rid of any ghosts though!

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  1. The Sheep Heid Inn, Edinburgh

Next up on our list is the oldest pub in Scotland, The Sheep Heid Inn, Edinburgh. The inn reportedly opened in 1360 and the oldest record of the name ‘Sheep Heid’ is in 1710.

The oldest pub in Scotland is also known for its royal visitors – Mary Queen of Scots and James I were known to frequent the inn whilst Elizabeth II also visited.

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  1. The Adam and Eve, Norwich

Whilst it would be impressive for this pub to be present during the ‘Adam and Eve’ story written in the Bible, unfortunately, it’s just a name and the couple didn’t stop by for a pint after trying to avoid the forbidden apple.

The pub’s owner claims that the pub was established in 1249 as records show a reference to a tavern in that exact location. Apparently, it was a brewhouse owned by Benedictine monks and frequented by the workers who were first constructing the nearby cathedral.

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  1. Ye Olde Salutation Inn, Nottingham

Last, but not least, we’re finishing on another pub claiming to be the oldest in England. The staff and owners say the pub dates all the way back to 1240. The pub was originally named ‘Angel Gabriel Saluting the Blessed Virgin Mary’ – it’s more of a sentence than a name really, isn’t it? Most likely why they changed it to what it is now.

An investigation carried out by the Thoroton Excavation Society in 1927 found caves beneath the building which are speculated to be from a 9th century Saxon farm.

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That was our list of the top 10 oldest pubs in Britain!

If you want to be part of the rich history that comes with a British pub, or if you’ve ever dreamt of running your own pub, here at Trust Inns, we’ve got a wide range of pubs to let all over the country.

We provide you with the brick and mortar alongside guidance and advice and you can become the heart of your community. Contact us or browse our website for more info.

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