13 December 2015

Cheshire: pubs and their signs 8

‘Keep your libraries, your penal institutions, your insane-asylums ... give me beer. You think man needs rule, he needs beer. The world does not need morals, it needs beer ... The souls of men have been fed with indigestibles, but the soul could make use of beer.’ ~ Henry Miller

Here are some more of the pubs in Cheshire that would make Henry Miller a happy man!

The Bricklayers Arms, Altrincham
Now sitting on the outskirts of Manchester city, Altrincham has long been a thriving market town, though it really took off in the 18th century when canal and railway links greatly improved transportation. The Butchers Arms isn’t quite that old but does date to the beginning of the 19th century, so perhaps was built to take advantage of Altrincham’s growth.

The sign is interesting. It shows a variation of the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayersone of the ancient Livery Companies of the City of London. Members of the Company would once have held a monopoly over all roof and floor tile- and brick-laying in London but, like all the Livery Companies, now exists only as a charitable body to promote excellence in its associated industries. The mottos read: ‘In God is all our trust’ and, the one I particularly like, ‘Let us never be confounded’.

The Axe and Cleaver, Dunham Massey
This is one of the few pubs I’ve blogged about that I’ve actually had a drink at. 

Sitting in the garden on a hot summer’s day, sipping on a rather delicious thirst-quenching pint of cider, was perfect after a long walk along the Bridgewater Canal.

The Axe and Cleaver dates from around 1880 and was originally a private house whose owners held a beer licence. It has since been modified and added to, though the coaching-inn-style outbuildings are original and are listed buildings. 

The setting is delightful and I’m told the food is hearty so it’s a great way to end a day out at the National Trust property at Dunham Massey, which is close by.  

This public house is around 300 years old and is one of the meeting places for the Cheshire Hunt, so is aptly named. And, though I don’t approve of hunting hares with hounds, I have included it here for its interesting signs. The one showing the frantic hare being pursued by eager hounds is the usual image associated with this type of hunting but I much prefer the image on the other sign, where the hare sits calmly in a clump of grass on one side of a stream while the two hounds stand thwarted from their blood-thirsty work on the other side. One up for the hare!

The Tunnel Top, Dutton
According to its own website, the Tunnel Top

has stood above the Preston Brook Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal since 1903. The pub has seen many changes over time yet has remained at the heart of a local community for many years and is still inviting for passing travellers and canal users throughout the year. Many local walks can be commenced from the pub, for those interested in rural history.

This public house was formerly named the Talbot Arms, after its landlord Mr Talbot, who retired not too many years ago at the grand old age of 93. And, as the website says, it is perfectly situated for a beer at the end of a countryside stroll.

This is another public house where I’ve enjoyed a drop of the local cider, as it is alos perfectly situated, on a quiet side road off the A9 and just along from a charming old country church that is also worth a look. 

The Arms is said to be 400 years old and is a charming maze of tiny rooms and alleyways. 

The coat of arms on the sign comes from the Chetwode family, the most famous of whom was Sir John Chetwode (1764-1845), who was born in Cheshire, in Stockport, and served as Cheshire’s High Sheriff in the late 1780s before commencing a parliamentary career. 

I’m not sure of the family’s connection with this particular pub – perhaps they owned the land hereabouts at some point.

I grabbed photos of these last two pubs during a very brief visit to Sandbach to see the town’s famous 9th-century Anglo-Saxon crosses, and I was so charmed by the bear on the roof of the Old Black Bear that I forgot to take a close up photo of the pub’s sign.

As you can see from the photo, this is a very old building, dating from 1634, and a wonderful example of the half-timbered properties to be found in many of Cheshire’s market towns. Not surprisingly, this is a Grade II listed building, with plenty of heritage features: the moulded wood mullions, the gables and (restored) bargeboards, exposed ceiling beams and framing timbers. And what a superb job the thatcher has done of the new roof!

This public house is much more recent than the Old Black Bear, built in 1890 at the request of Lord Crewe to provide a shuttle service for travellers to Sandbach Station, according to Joan Alcock in her book Cheshire Inn Signs (The History Press, Stroud, 2008). Apparently, it also served as the headquarters for the American GIs who were billeted in this area during World War Two.

I haven’t discovered the origin of the pub’s name but a wheatsheaf would’ve been a common sight in the fields surrounding the town in the days before modern harvesting equipment, and the sign is a lovely example of the art of signwriting.

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