16 September 2015

Cheshire: pubs and their signs 7

Considering this is my seventh blog on pubs and their signs in Cheshire, you could be forgiven for thinking I drink rather a lot, maybe even attend regular meetings of AA. But, no! My fascination is with the pubs’ signs and their histories, not with the alcohol served within, though I do admit to having downed a half of cider at one of these taverns and enjoyed a rather scrumptious meal at another. So, let’s begin …

The Badger, Church Minshull
I just happened to be driving through Church Minshull one day with a friend when I screeched ‘Pub sign’ and she slammed on the brakes – I have her well trained! After a complete renovation in 2011, The Badger Inn is looking very sleek and proud of its long history. Their website explains:  

The Badger Inn was built of brick at the end of the 18th century, probably 1770 and was first called The Brook Arms, after the Lords of the Manor, who had just purchased the estate. There was almost certainly an Inn on the site previously, which makes The Badger one of the first buildings in the village to be rebuilt by the Brooke dynasty. The Brooke family crest was of a brock, better known as a badger, hence the change of name to that of the present day. It was an old coaching Inn and the two storey part of the building was a coach house before it became a garage with a single petrol pump. This was later converted into a restaurant. Bare knuckle fighting was a regular sport here. In 1916, Mr Tite, the landlord, who hopefully did not take his name too seriously, died and moved next door to St. Bartholomew's Church, which he had always actively supported. The Inn was pebble dashed in 1934 and is listed as 'of architectural merit'.

Cock o’ Budworth, Great Budworth
Though the pub’s website says it’s a former 18th century coaching inn, the Cock o’ Budworth is, in fact, a century older. The Historic England website says it was originally a farmhouse and barn, dating from mid 17th and early 18th centuries, and this earlier construction date is confirmed by the pub’s inclusion in a work of rhymed Latin and doggerel English verse called Drunken Barnaby’s Four Journeys to the North of England, written by poet Richard Braithwaite and published in 1638. 

Here’s what ‘Drunken Barnaby’ has to say about the Cock:

Thence to th’ Cock at Budworth, where I
Drank strong ale as brown as a berry:
Till at last with deep healths felled,
To my bed I was compelled:
I for state was bravely sorted,
By two porters well supported.

Hopefully patrons in the 21st century don’t end up quite so inebriated!

The George and the Dragon, Great Budworth
Just along the road and up the hill from the Cock is this perfect example of the English village pub. The George and the Dragon sits at the heart of Great Budworth, directly opposite the beautiful Church of St Mary’s and All Saints and nestled amongst the traditional heritage-listed cottages of this picture-postcard village.

Parts of the pub date back to 1722, as witnessed by the original stone bar and its inscription 'NIL NIMIUM CUPITO', ‘I desire nothing to excess’. In 1875, local lord Egerton-Warburton commissioned architect John Douglas to restore and update the simple three-bay Georgian inn – the architect’s drawing is shown above left. Douglas is responsible for the addition of the mullioned windows, the tall chimneys and the steep pyramidal turret. The pub sign is a beauty! According to Historic England, the cut-out pictorial sign was made in Nuremberg and the long wrought-iron bracket from which it hangs was made by the Arley estate blacksmith in the 1880s.

The Leigh Arms is the white building behind the bridge

The Leigh Arms, Acton Bridge 
I had been for a lovely long walk alongside the river Weaver the day I visited the Leigh Arms, and was feeling rather peckish. Unfortunately, the restaurant was fully booked – it’s obviously a popular place with the locals. The Leigh Arms sits conveniently between the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal so, in the summer months, it’s also popular with boaties and with walkers who enjoy the trails beside both waterways.

Dating from the 16th century and formerly called The Bridge Inn because it sat adjacent to the old stone bridge that crossed the river at this point, the Leigh Arms was also a steam packet inn, serving patrons who sailed the route from Northwich to Liverpool in the early 1800s. Though many of the original features have now disappeared, the pub does still have some wonderful stained glass, including this panel protraying Fat Thomas Forshaw promoting Threlfalls’ and another jovial character advertising Silver Buckle Ale.

The Riverside Inn, Acton Bridge
On the day of my Weaver walk, when we couldn’t get a meal at the Leigh Arms, my friend and I drove a short distance across the river to this place, The Riverside Inn, a Marston’s public house. It sits in a picturesque position right next to the river so is another popular place for canal boaters during the summer months, and the food was certainly very tasty.

I’ve since discovered that The Weaver Refining Company, which used to make glue and gelatine by rendering down the carcasses of cattle, had its factory not far from this place and the factory’s office block was on the site of the Riverside Inn. Thank goodness that factory’s long gone – the smell would be enough to put you off your dinner, let alone a nice pint of ale.

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