The Lancaster Crew Do (Part 2: Places)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 11:19 | Filed in Life, Travel

So, after all the trials and tribulations of finding a B & B that would let me in, and spending three-quarters of my adult life waiting for trains home from Lancaster, you’ll be keen to hear who I met, and what I got up to, right?

Well, that’s a shame, as I am instead going to tell you about the places I visited. For those of you unfamiliar with my student days, it may be helpful to mentally equate the word “places” with the word “pubs”.

Well, maybe not in all cases, such as this one.

84 (flickr)

Here we have house number 84. I wasn’t just taking random pictures of peoples houses here, I was taking a picture of this house for a very specific purpose — I could see a naked woman in the bathroom. Naah, only joking, this is the house that I lived in for two years as a student.

I would have mentioned the name of the road, but as it turns out some else I know who works at the University (and has been there seemingly since time immemorial) lives there now, I decided not to mention it so that he didn’t have people turning up and knocking on his door at all times. Although now we know he lives there, we might pop by to say hello next time we’re down…

Brown Cow, Lancaster (flickr)

The first place I visited, before even getting to the B & B on the friday night, was The Brown Cow. This was a Thwaites pub when I worked there twelve to fifteen years ago, and indeed still is. Sadly, if perhaps not too surprisingly, given the intervening time, I didn’t recognise any of the customers of staff from “the old days”.

The old bar manager Derrick has apparently long since retired (it seems December 2002), as I recall being told about his retirement party, but the bar isn’t the same as it used to be. It used to be dark, cramped, incredibly narrow, with a good atmosphere and with outside toilets which could get pretty darn cold in the winter. Now however it’s wider, lighter and more welcoming-looking, with inside toilets. Unfortunately, the atmosphere has gone, which is kind of the key part…

Penny Bank, Lancaster (flickr)

Just opposite the Brown Cow is a pub called the Penny Bank. This is called the Penny Bank because it’s on Penny Street and it used to be a bank. Did you see how they did that? Clever, isn’t it?

Anyway, this opened during the time I was a student and was a favourite haunt of students back then. It was difficult to tell whether or not this was still the case, because all of the pubs in Lancaster seemed to be quite quiet until later on, and this was quiet when I went in. The place hadn’t changed much — oh, I’m sure it’s been “done out” once or twice, but the bar was the same basic layout, with the same basic decor. They had put a quiz machine in, but I couldn’t spot anything else which had changed.

I seem to recall that they still do various guest ales, but I can’t remember what they actually were

John O Gaunt, Lancaster (flickr)

My next port of call was the John O’ Gaunt (named after the chap who was Henry IV’s dad). This used to provoke mixed feelings from me.

On the one hand, it was a quality pub, with a lovely atmosphere, a ‘malt whisky of the week’ (usually something very nice, which was at a special reduced price), a ridiculously impressive selection of malt whiskies and a selection of some fine real ales. And on the other hand they had jazz music on regularly.

Now I see jazz music as the equivalent of nuns. It feels like that it should be part of the world, it would feel wrong if no-one was doing it, but I just don’t really have any personal connection with it whatsoever. I see a jazz band as four supremely talented musicians who have probably never played together before.

Well, they’ve stopped having jazz music. They’ve also drastically curtailed their whisky selection (still quite good, but it has declined from a choice of around 60 bottles to 10). The staff were friendly and it still seemed to be a nice bar. I have heard tell that it’s just “not as good as it used to be” and that a lot of the people who used to drink there have moved on elsewhere, but I didn’t have a problem with it; it was still a fine pub.

Robert Gillow, Lancaster (flickr)

The Robert Gillow is apparently the pub to which a lot of the ex-John O’ Gaunt clientele visit, and I could see why when I got there. Firstly, it’s not actually very far from the John O’ Gaunt; and secondly it has that slightly-more-polished-than-thou intellectually superior vibe going on. I don’t really mean that in a bad way… I’ll try and think of another way to put it.

Okay: I was in the pub on the saturday afternoon, waiting for another reunionist, and I was reading a book (and yes, drinking diet coke). There is nothing unusual in that for me, but out of about ten other people in the bar at that time, two further people were reading, which is not generally a common sight in bars, even in the afternoon lull. Oh, and there wasn’t a telly blaring out sky sports.

The only complaint I would have about this bar is that I seem to recall it being very busy and crowded on the Friday night. But that tends to suggest it’s popular and well-liked, so as complaints go, it’s not too bad!

I also visited The Sun (nice pub) where some of our party were staying, but didn’t take a photo of that; one called “The Pub”, which is very much a “biker’s pub” — and frequently has motorbikes parked outside. It’s full of people with piercings, and tattoos, and loud, heavy music, and decent beer. In other words, it’s like they’ve taken the pub “The Fat Scot” (which was the biker pub when I was a student and sadly has now become a wanky-looking wine bar called ‘Mood’) and moved it up the road to “The Pub”.

There was also — inevitably — a trip to The Bobbin (or “The Priory” as it used to be called during our student days). Despite a name change, and most of the inside of the pub being painted red, it hardly felt like the pub had changed at all. The same sorts of drinks were available; the same sort of music was being played; the atmosphere was the same, and indeed some of the clientele were the same (but more on that later). I didn’t get a photo of this one either.

I did however get a photo of the White Cross, along by the canal.

White Cross, Lancaster (flickr)

I didn’t actually go in the White Cross much when I was a student. I’m not really sure why: it was close to where we lived, there were some lovely big arched windows and you could sit out on wooden benches by the canal.

I think it’s probably more to do with the fact that when I was a student, I wasn’t looking for a nice relaxing sit beside the canal so I could take my time having a drink with my mates and enjoy some convivial conversation. Nope. At the time, the emphasis was more on sitting somewhere dark, listening to loud rock music and getting shitfaced as rapidly as possible.

Oh well…

Three Mariners, Lancaster (flickr)

The Three Mariners was another nice pub; maybe a little out of the way, so not one you’d go to too often, but it was nice to call in there for another one. The Three Mariners was (and indeed still is) down by the bus station — in fact, just on the other side of the bus station from The Bobbin.

Up near where I used to live as a student, there were a couple of pubs that we didn’t really drink in much, for simple financial reasons. If we had enough money, we’d go into town properly. If we didn’t, we’d get something from the off-licence and watch the telly. So normally we didn’t bother with these local pubs.

Moorlands, Lancaster (flickr)

The Park on Prospect Street was one such: I think we only visited it three times in two years, despite it being about 200 yards away from us and clearly the closest pub. A little further away was The Moorlands, which felt a little more welcoming, had a nice pool table and generally didn’t seem to have a “students fuck off and die” vibe going on.

It also looks very nice in the autumn, doesn’t it?

Back into the centre of town there was “Fibber McGees”; the inevitable Oirish-theme pub. This was previously a much rougher establishment called “The Slip Inn”, and it was there that I first worked as a barman, before it closed for considerable refurbishment (opening after about a year as the somewhat less violent aforementioned Fibbers).

Golden Lion, Lancaster (flickr)

The other bar I worked in was The Golden Lion. This had a reputation of being haunted, as it was the last pub the condemned men or women would visit before heading up to the gallows. One story goes that the pub is haunted by a teetotaler who was condemned to death, didn’t stop for a drink and then was hung — and then five minutes later a pardon turned up.

Other stories tell of a mysterious old, cold lady: prim and proper in her ways who would insist on having everything ‘just so’ and woe betide anyone who tried to do anything different in her pub. She was called Pat, and when I worked there, she was the landlady.

When I called in to visit — and commented that the bar billiards table had gone — the barmaid currently serving said “oh, I don’t think that’s been here since Pat’s day…”

I said “yes, that’s when I used to work here; about twelve years ago”. She said, “oh well, I’ve heard a lot about Pat”. So I told her the stories were probably all true.

Stonewell Tavern, Lancaster (flickr)

When we first got to Lancaster as students, there was a pub called the Stonewell Tavern. I think it was kind of an orangey-red. Then they closed it. Then it opened as another typically authentic Oirish theme bar, to be sure, called Paddy Mulligans.

While I wasn’t convinced about the Irishness of said bar (it takes more than green paint to convince me), I did like it, and watched quite an amount of football in there, including the Euro 96 semi-final where some Kuntz scored to eventually see England lose on penalties. Again.

But now the bar is back to being the Stonewell. And again, it still seems nice enough…

There used to be a Mexican theme bar called Hang The Bandit when we were students (basically just an excuse to get people to drink tequila) but it appears that the Bandit has long since been hung, as the door now indicates that it is (or was most recently, as it didn’t look particularly open) called ‘The Crypt’.

Apparently, this was once the best monthly night north of Liverpool’s Bugged Out at Nation. Although presumably that would only apply to the people who liked listening to “Minimal, Acid, Techno and Breaks until late into the night”.

But never mind, because across the road from that was The Merchants.

Merchants, Lancaster (flickr)

This bar is built into what was originally a wine cellar, and consists of one long underground room with three separate arched cellar rooms going off from it. It has nice beer, and a nice atmosphere, and a nice pool table. I’m also pleased to note that they didn’t seem to have run out of glassware, because as I recall when we were students, a lot of students seemed to erm … “source” their glasses from this establishment.

And that was about it for the pubs. There is still the story of the bookshop Interstellar Master Traders (yes, it is a sci-fi bookshop, how did you guess?), but I think that probably deserves a post of its own…

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3 Comments to The Lancaster Crew Do (Part 2: Places)

  1. pete says:

    January 12th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    yeah the fat scot… happy, speedy days there in the late eighties early nineties. fuck all about it on the net so cheers … christine used to run it with alien girl (her daughter lol).

  2. Adele says:

    May 20th, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Hi to the Lancaster crew. I read with interest your story above about the haunted Golden Lion. I am looking for other places [ yes even pubs!] that you may know are haunted.[I already know about this particular pub] I am a local author and have been commissioned to write a book on haunted Lancaster and am looking for real ghost stories. Please contact me on this email adele [at] mainshall [dot] co [dot] uk if you would like to have a chat about this. Cheers!

  3. garment business daily says:

    July 28th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Websites worth visiting…

    [...]here are some links to sites that we link to because we think they are worth visiting[...]……

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