The Blue Bell

The Blue Bell

Fossgate York

Tel: 01904 654904


AWARD after award has been showered on this little boozer over the last few years, both nationally and locally. And deservedly so. It had been trading as a pub for a little under a century when it was refurbished back in 1903. That major project obviously came as such a shock to the residents of Fossgate that nobody has seriously bothered refurbishing it since!

So, for the benefit of the architecturally-minded, here comes the technical stuff: the Blue Bell boasts the last perfectly-surviving Edwardian pub interior in the city and has been duly recognised as being of national importance by virtue of its Grade II listing. It is the best justification for decorators going home early on a Friday and not bothering to come back ever invented.

Because of this laid-back attitude to modernisation the panelling and many of the fittings from 100 years ago are still largely there. In fact, all Tippler can remember being added over the last 15 years is a roof on the gents' toilets. Along the way we've gained a new beer pump while a bar & cellar refit was recently brought about by the timely discovery of a colony of hungry woodworm! All were necessary alterations and all were done in keeping with the original surroundings.

As if the joys of its interior were not enough to raise an eyebrow the pub is also the smallest currently trading in the city. The whole drinking and serving area consists of just two small, fire-heated rooms divided by a tiny bar area and linked only by a corridor. The corridor has its own serving hatch and drinkers in the comfy rear room are forced to pop their heads through another low serving hatch or through a curtain to place an order.

And the beer? Well, it's truly excellent - witness the numerous certificates awarded by the Campaign for Real Ale. Latterly, despite the pub's former owners Vaux Brewery being bought out, licensee Eileen Worrall and husband Tim have somehow managed to retain a quite splendid range of ales. This has brought huge sighs of relief all round as there were genuine fears that the demise of the brewery would create a knock-on effect within the Blue Bell itself. Happily that has not been the case and the little gem is a thriving establishment.

It wasn't always so busy, though. When the couple first took over the pub in the mid-nineties it had lost a great many of its regular customers. Most had drifted off after the death of the elderly Edith Pinder - the doyenne of York publicans who had lived and breathed her mini-empire since childhood and built up a huge loyalty among her clientelle. Edith, though frail, was a formidable woman and never one to be crossed. Not only did she not suffer fools gladly - she didn't bother suffering them at all. Edith's memory and spirit is certainly being upheld by the present landlady!

If the ideal pub is the one that lies at the heart of, and tirelessly serves, its community then the Blue Bell is that pub. Eileen has raised thousands of pounds for charity by charming cash donations, raffle prizes and pledges out of her many customers. Not only that but she recently became only the second woman president in the history of the York & District Licensed Victuallers Association. Add to that Eileen's small but perfectly formed bar sandwiches and the pub's legendary pickled eggs and you have a place and a landlady that simply must be visited. And that's an order!

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