Brighouse And The End Of The American Civil War

Bethel Street, Brighouse c. 1966

The last of the four photographs from Brighouse back in the 1960s shows the busy pavements of Bethel Street with the unmistakable facade of the Prince of Wales Pub (now The Old Ship) in the background. The renaming of pubs is normally a retrograde process, but in the case of the Prince of Wales / Old Ship, there is an element of justification. The present building, which dates from 1926/27, occupies the site of a former public house called the Tap and Spile (as logical name for a pub as you could ever hope to find), but when it was rebuilt in 1927, it was re-named “The Prince of Wales”. Whether it was named in honour of the then Prince of Wales (who was later to become – albeit briefly – King Edward VIII) I am not sure. It didn’t become the Old Ship until early in the present century, although the rationale for the name dates back to the rebuilding in the 1920s. There has always been quite a fad for incorporating the timbers of old warships into public houses (the White Beare in Norwood Green provides a perfect 16th century example of this), and in the 1920s, the brewery were lucky enough to buy up some of the timbers of HMS Donegal, which had just been broken up in Portsmouth. The Donegal (built in 1858) had a pretty routine life as a ship of the line, transporting troops here and there and serving time as part of the Royal Navy’s Torpedo School, but she did have one moment of glory back in 1865 when she was undertaking coastguard duties off the Lancashire coast. Whilst there she was the scene of the last surrender of the American Civil War, when she took the surrender of the Confederate ship CSS Shenandoah. Quite why the last surrender of the American Civil War took place within what are now the timbers of a Brighouse pub is a tale worth telling only in the confines of a Brighouse pub with a good supply of beer to hand.


I have so many memories of the Plummet Line Hotel, you could probably fill the old Tap Room with them. Back in the 1960s the family of one of my first girlfriends ran the pub. I remember going to the folk club that used to meet in one of the upstairs rooms. Memories, memories, memories.

Picture The Scene If You Will

Picture the scene if you will. It is the summer of 1588 and Britain faces the threat of naval defeat and invasion as an armada of Spanish ships sails up the English Channel and an army of 30,000 soldiers wait in the Netherlands to capitalise on the expected defeat of the British Navy. The British fleet is a rag-tag collection of old warships, privateers’ galleons and rough trading vessels : not unlike the collection of little boats that would evacuate the troops from the Dunkirk beaches some 352 years later.

At the heart of the British fleet are the 34 ships of the royal fleet, and the largest and most imposing of them all is the White Bear. Built in 1564, the 40 gun White Bear was seen as one of the grand old ships of the British Fleet at a time when the average life of a galleon was just 10 years. But under the command of Lord Edmund Sheffield, the White Bear played a central part in the routing of the Spanish Fleet and, in triumph, returned to port in Harwich on the 18th August. During the height of the great battle, one can almost imagine her captain gripping onto those sturdy timbers searching for the resolve to carry the battle through to a successful conclusion.

Picture the scene if you will. It is 1593 and we are in the port of Hull on the east coast of England. The country is now safe from invasion and Queen Elizabeth is secure on the throne of a country that is beginning to build a worldwide empire. The lessons of naval defense have been long learnt and the Royal Navy is renewing, re-equippping and re-building.

The life of the White Bear comes to an end in the breakers’ yards of Hull, where the timbers that once provided the very skeleton of the countries’ salvation or now ripped from the heart of the ancient hulk. But wood was too precious to rot and to waste : there are always buyers for ships’ timbers for the quality is good and the cuts are the best. One can imagine the salvage merchants appraising those timbers and thinking where they might be sold and how they might be used.

Picture the scene if you will. It is early June 2010 : a warm evening in West Yorkshire. An old blogger, his Good Lady Wife and his faithful dog decide that it is a perfect evening for a pint of foaming beer and they head to one of their favourite pubs, in the West Yorkshire village of Norwood Green. Our hero enters the bar – wife and dog having settled at one of the outside tables – to appraise the range of excellent traditional hand-pulled beers on offer. With a sense of anticipation, he runs his fingers along the ancient wooden bar top and makes his choice.

NOTE : The White Beare was originally built as a farmhouse and alehouse in 1533 on the Old Packhorse track running between Halifax and Leeds. It was rebuilt some 60 years later following a fire using timbers from the Elizabethan Galleon called ‘The White Bear’ and was renamed in honour of the ship.

First published on “News From Nowhere” in 2010 – revived in celebration of a grand night out at the Old White Beare, August 2019.

A Pint At The Shibden Mill Inn

POSTCARDS FROM HOME : Shibden Mill Inn & Lake

There are few pleasanter spots to enjoy a pint of beer on a summers’ evening than the Shibden Mill Inn, and that has been the case for the best part of two hundred years. This particular postcard dates from the early part of the twentieth century (the postmark is, I think, 1910) and shows the Inn complete with a boating lake. This lake was the old mill dam which had been used to power the mill wheel of the centuries-old corn mill. The old mill had closed during the nineteenth century and a beer house established in the millers’ house. The dam-cum-boating lake was eventually drained in the early twentieth century, not too long after this photograph was taken.

The card was sent by Clara to her friend Lizzie Smith in Blackpool. It was posted in Queensbury in what looks like 1910. The message reads as follows:-

Dear Lizzie, Many thanks for the P.C. Glad you have thought of me. Weather here is beastly. Just had a card from Vi. I almost wish I had gone with you as there seems to be scarcely anyone left in Queensbury. Love to your Annie. Hoping to see you soon. With love from Clara.

Even though it was written over 100 years ago, the feelings expressed are familiar to us all. It is the middle of summer and all your friends have gone to the seaside on holiday. You are left back in Queensbury and the weather has turned beastly. There is no alternative Clara – get yourself down to the Shibden Mill Inn and enjoy a good pint.

Getting Lyrical About The Old Bridge

We had a meal out at the Old Bridge Inn, Ripponden last night. Lovely pub, glorious food and drink, and special friends. I could have got lyrical about it, but then I realised I did 9 years ago. Here’s what I wrote then:-

Imagine the scene. You are walking through a West Yorkshire village. The nearby Pennine hills scrape puddles of moisture from clouds en-route from the Atlantic to Siberia. But there is a freshness in the air that reminds you that you are alive, and why it is good to be alive. The sun breaks through the clouds and starts to warm the rich brown stone and buildings suddenly seem to come alive like stone reptiles reinvigorated by the sun’s warming rays. The sounds of the modern world – the cars, the screeches, the bangs, and the buzzes – are buried beneath the sound of the Ryburn River racing down to the far off sea. You walk over an old stone packhorse bridge and there in front of you is a sight that is vaguely familiar. It is a sight that you have dreamt about ever since you became too old to dream of pretty young women. It is a perfect pub : warm, welcoming, and exquisitely beautiful. You have arrived at the Old Bridge Inn, Ripponden.

It is easy to was lyrical about the Old Bridge, it is that kind of place. A plaque above the door tells you that it’s “probably Yorkshire’s oldest hostelry”, but dozens of similar plaques grace the walls of dozens of similar pubs within the county. If you insist on reviewing the evidence – records dating back to the fourteenth century and talk of Roman roads from Chester to York – at least step inside and do so over a pint of ale. That’s real ale of course, it would be a sin to drink anything else at such an establishment. But if you simply can’t take the taste of beer then go ahead and sin : until just over a hundred years ago the pub was owned by the adjacent church and therefore forgiveness is in as plentiful supply as Timothy Taylor’s Prize Winning Beers. And whilst you sup your blessed beer or your sinful chardonnay, have a look around and marvel at the place : the crooked floors, the low-slung doors, the wooden tables, the uninterrupted, undiluted sheer history of the place. And marvel at the fact that it has not been over-prettied, nor turned into a Sunday Supplement bistro. 

There has been a spate of books recently with titles like “1001 places to see before you die”and  “500 Books You Must Read Before You Expire”. Well I have just come up with another one in the same series : “101 Pubs To Drink In Before You Collapse”. And the first in the book is the Old Bridge Inn, Ripponden. Catch a bus, hire a train, hitch a lift. Do whatever you need to do. Just see it.

That’s History For You


It started as the Wheatsheaf, way back when. The current building is part of Halifax Borough Market and dates from the 1890s, but it seems that a Wheatsheaf pub was on Market Street before that. In the 1970s, the pub name was changed to The William Deighton, in memory of the excise officer murdered by the Cragg Vale Coiners back in the middle of the eighteenth century. Twenty years later it was renamed again: becoming the Portman and Pickles in celebration of two famous Halifax born actors. Having developed a fine line in names that evoked local history, all that was abandoned in 2012 when the name was changed again to The Jubilee, to commemorate some royal jubilee or another. It seems a bit of a shame – there are countless jubilees, but there was only one William Deighton.

Two of the men convicted of murdering William Deighton were executed at Tyburn in York in 1775 and later their bodies were brought to Beacon Hill in Halifax and hung there in chains. It is said that their bodies were so arranged that their lifeless fingers were pointing towards Bull Close Lane, the site of the murder. If the Wheatsheaf / William Deighton / Portman & Pickles / Jubilee had been standing then, you could have seen the lifeless bodies hanging on Beacon Hill from the upstairs window. Now that’s history for you!

Ten From The Pub 10 : A Pint Of My Mam


Beer Pump Display – Bobbin Ligger, Milltown Brewing Co.


A few years ago I suggested a name for a new beer which was being brewed by Huddersfield’s Milltown Brewing Company. The theme for their beers was the old Yorkshire textile industry and the name was based on my father’s first job in the mill – a bobbin ligger (someone who would fetch and carry empty yarn bobbins). I designed the beer pump display and incorporated a picture of my mother when she worked in the mill. This provided the unmissable experience of being able to walk into my local pub and ask for “a pint of my mam, please“.

Ten From The Pub 9 : Saloon Bar Friars

Saloon Bar

Saloon Bar Sign, Black Friar, London


The Black Friar in Queen Victoria Street, London is one of my favourite pubs. Back in days long gone by, I used to take groups of overseas visitors there as part of a tour of old London pubs. It is not only a fine pub, it is a work of art – tiled throughout in the style of the arts and crafts movement. Outside, there are delightful signs pointing you to the various bars. If you ever find yourself in London, visit it – you will not be disappointed.

Ten From The Pub 8 : Say Cheese


The Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street, London (1987)
I have just realised that I have got to number eight in this ten part series on pubs and all I have shown is buildings. Buildings in themselves – whatever their architectural merit, however much their timbers have absorbed centuries of malt and hops – are not pubs. Pubs need people – drinking, talking, laughing, enjoying life. I took this photograph in the 1980s whilst on a trip to London with a group of trade union students from Doncaster. I can still feel the glow of their friendship thirty years later.