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There are 11 Grade 1 listed pubs in the UK and Chester boasts no fewer than three of them.  These include the Elizabethan timber-framed Bear and Billet on Lower Bridge Street (which was also the birthplace of John Lennon’s grandmother); The Falcon, also on Lower Bridge Street, which was originally built in 1200 and has been an inn since 1778; and the Blue Bell on Northgate. The Blue Bell has been serving alcohol since 1494, making it the oldest surviving watering-hole in Chester (although I’m not sure what the early Tudor inhabitants of the city would have made of the tapas menu). According to local historians Paul Hurley and Len Morgan* Northgate once housed 36 inns, which would have made a challenging pub-crawl for even the most hardened student society.

Other ancient pubs in the city include the Boot Inn, on Eastgate Row. The Boot Inn originally opened as an inn in 1643 and was built from the timbers of ships that had run aground in Chester harbour (which had silted). During the English Civil War, the Boot Inn served as a meeting place for Royalists and, when Cromwell’s troops entered the city, they made straight for the Boot and executed everyone inside.

Chester has lost more pubs than it retains, although some ancient alehouse buildings still survive. A few doors up from the Bear and Billet is another sixteenth-century building which was formerly known as Ye Olde Edgar, and later The Edgar Tavern (for the king of England who demanded fealty from the kings of Britain in Chester). Today it is the oldest housing association property in the country. I’ll drink to that.

The University of Chester is situated in one of the UK's most storied historic cities. A Roman/medieval town with a key role in the Civil War, the Department of History and Archaeology has close links with the city's Grosvenor Museum, Cheshire Record Office and the Chester Military Museum archives. So the next time you are sharing a sensible half-pint of shandy with a friend, stop and think: 'wouldn't this taste better in Chester?'


*Paul Hurley and Len Morgan, Chester Pubs (Stroud: Amberley Publishing, 2015), p. 36.

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