14 January 2015

Cheshire: pubs and their signs 3

I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again. Here I go on another dry pub crawl around the towns of Cheshire, this time in and around the township of Frodsham

The Bear’s Paw, Frodsham   
Originally built as a coaching inn in 1632 – the door lintel is inscribed ‘W:L:ANNO:DOMINI:1632’, this red coursed sandstone building has had a number of different names during its 380-year lifetime. It was built on land owned by the Savages of Rocksavage, the lords of the manor of Frodsham in the 1600s, and initially named the ‘Lyon’s Paw’, perhaps because their coat of arms includes six lions rampant. The reason the name changed to the ‘Bear’s Paw’ is disputed – one source I found said that ‘In 1697 Earl Rivers of the Savage family reverted to Roman Catholicism and, following the outcry that resulted from this, the name was changed to ‘Bear’s Paw’’ [Arthur R. Smith, ‘The Bears Paw - a brief history’, Journal of the Frodsham & District History Society, no.39, 2009, pp.20–22). Another source noted that the crest of the Savage family is, in fact, a bear’s paw, so perhaps this accounts for the change of animal in the inn’s name. To my eye, the erect animal paw depicted at the top of the coat of arms could easily be interpreted as either a lion’s or a bear’s paw.

In the 18th century the addition of a post office room led to the name being extended to ‘Bear’s Paw Hotel and Posting House’. Then, with the coming of the railway in 1850, the pub’s name changed once more, this time to the ‘Bear’s Paw and Railway Hotel’. Around 1905 the name was shortened to the name it still bears (pun intended!). As you can see from the two images displayed above, the pub’s sign has changed in recent months, some time between my visit last summer and my visit in November 2014.

The Cholmondeley Arms, Frodsham
According to a sign in Frodsham, this public house was previously owned by the Atlas Brewery and operated as a beer house called ‘The Albert Inn’. The building isn’t as old as it might seem – the front gable bears the date 1891 and the external façade has changed little since the photograph (above right) was taken c.1900. One interesting fact: the pub’s cellar was apparently used as an air raid shelter in the Second World War.

Lord Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley), later the Marquis of Cholmondeley, became Lord of the Manor of Frodsham and owner of most of the land thereabouts on his marriage to the daughter of the 4th Earl Rivers in the early 1700s – hence the name of the pub.

The Golden Lion, Frodsham
This inn, formerly a hotel, is built on an original burgage plot (i.e. the land was owned by the local Lord of the Manor who received a yearly rent or some form of service for its use) which means records exist for the site from as early as 1361 when it was granted to Henry Torfote, an up-and-coming local man at the time. The present building dates from the early 19th century although the cellars are believed to be much older. According to the Frodsham Pictures website ‘The Golden Lion’ was known as ‘The White Hart’ from 1822 to 1845, during which time it was owned by Mather’s Brewery in Penketh. Ownership passed to Gasgarth’s of Altringham in 1879 and then to Samuel Smith in 1967. Not surprisingly, it is a grade II listed building.

The Queens Head, Frodsham
According to their own website, ‘The Queen’s Head’ was:

built in the early 16th century, this grade two listed pub is the oldest coaching inn in Frodsham, originally having stabling for 23 horses, of which [some] are still visible today. Known at the time as The King's Head the name was changed when Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837. The pub is part of the Sandstone trail, which is one of the most popular walks in Cheshire. The trail runs straight through the property making the Queen’s Head a popular gathering point for walkers and tourists during the warmer months.

The detail about the Sandstone Trail running straight through the property appears to be an exaggeration according to the trail website but you get the general idea that the pub is a good starting point for the walk. I admit I don’t particularly like the new-fangled sign (below, left) – I’m sure a portrait of Queen Victoria would look much better.

The Hanging Gate, Weaverham
What an intriguing name this is! Sadly, the pub’s website offers no information about the pub’s history or the origin of the name. This gastro-pub is owned by the New Moon Company which operates 6 similar ‘fine wine and dining’ establishments in England’s North West.

Fortunately, the local historical society has the story on its website

An early 18th century farm pub, originally called Gate Inn (gate meaning highway). It was the last farm pub in the village. Formerly two small rooms, which became two bars. The pub was part of the Marbury Estate, which accounts for its other name, The Barrymore Arms. Indeed, Lord Barrymore's agent used to collect his rents here. In 1932 it was sold to Greenall Whitley and became the Hanging Gate....

The Farmers Arms, Kelsall 
Once again the pub’s website gives no clues as to this pub’s history, though some research produced the fact that it used to be called ‘T’ House at Top’, a reference to its situation at the top of the hill on the former Kelsall to Winsford Road. 

Kelsall is a medium-sized Cheshire town, equidistant between Chester and Northwich, and about 7 miles from Frodsham. In Victorian times, the town was an agricultural centre with a population that never topped 700, and presumably included a lot of farmers. I love the rural view on the sign. These days its relative proximity to Chester and Northwich means it’s also a commuter town and its population has risen to around 2500.

The Boot Inn, Willington
‘The Boot Inn’ is made up of a picturesque row of sandstone and red brick cottages that were built in 1815 and is tucked away up a country lane, hugging the side of a hill, in an area known locally as ‘Little Switzerland’. The setting is quite charming, with orchards of fruit trees and single large oaks dotting the landscape.

‘The Boot’ was originally called ‘The Cat’ and I found a charming story about how it got that previous name. According to Thecatwillington’s one and only blog post, ‘From around 1912 for about 20 years this tiny tap house (part of a row of 3 houses), was owned by an old widow who had a large cat that used to lie on the bar. The local men would say to their wives, "I’m just going up to see the cat, love." According to Old Harry who was 86 and still drinking there in 1980 he said they would inevitably return home pissed.'

The Boot Inn’s current name may well be a derivation of Boothdale, the name of the nearby steep-sided valley. It seems the three cottages were knocked together in the mid 1850s and, though I haven’t sampled any of the local ales, I have it on good authority that the Weetwood ales – Cheshire Cat, Eastgate and the Weetwood Best bitter – are particularly good local specialities.

The Horseshoe Inn, Kingsley 
The little village of Kingsley is about 3 miles from Frodsham – its name comes from the phrase ‘meadow of the king’, hence ‘king’s lea’, hence Kingsley.

The Horseshoe Inn used to be the Horseshoe Hotel and, according to its website, it was owned by the Smith-Barrys until 1872 when it became a Greenall’s house. The website also includes a list of the licensees going back as far as 1797 and a photo from 1921, showing a horse-drawn landau outside the hotel. Judging by the sign, I’m guessing there used to be a smithy on this site.

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