Which is Britain’s Oldest Pub?

At least half a dozen pubs in Britain claim to be the oldest, but which one is right?

Which is Britain's Oldest Pub? © Getty Images

There are at least half a dozen pubs in Britain that claim to be the oldest. There’s an old philosophical dilemma that goes back to ancient Greece, but is currently best known as Trigger’s Broom, after the sitcom character: if you have a broom, and you replace the handle and then, later, you replace the head, is it still the same broom or not?

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Likewise, if a pub has existed on the same spot for 600 years but was burnt down and rebuilt, is it the same pub or not? If the foundations are over a thousand years old but more than half of the current building is relatively recent, does it count as an old pub or not?

It’s one of those debates that will never reach a satisfying conclusion, which makes it perfect fodder for pub chat. Here are five venerable pubs in which to have that conversation.

1

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, St Albans

 

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks © Wikimedia Commons
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks © Wikimedia Commons

The foundations have been there since 743, but the earliest record of there being a licensed premises here is from 1756.

2

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham

Claims to have been a pub since 1189 but there’s no documentation, and the earliest parts of the current building date to around 1650.

3

The Skirrid Inn, Abergavenny

The Skirrid Mountain Inn
The Skirrid Mountain Inn

This Abergavenny ale-house claims to go back to the year 1110, but the current building dates to the 17th century.

4

The George Inn, Norton St Philip, Bath

The George Inn, Bath © Wikimedia Commons
The George Inn, Bath © Wikimedia Commons

Remarkable in that you can see the 14th century original and the 15th century timber added above, like sedimentary layers.

5

Ye Olde Man and Scythe, Bolton

 

Ye Olde Man and Scythe, Bolton © Wikimedia Commons
Ye Olde Man and Scythe, Bolton © Wikimedia Commons
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Recorded on this site in 1251, the pub has been here almost 800 years, even if it has been completely rebuilt at least once (in 1636).

Read the full feature in the November issue of History Revealed, on sale now in print and digital, or subscribe and get the magazine delivered direct to your door!