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'77-year drought' ends on Shambles
GAVIN AITCHISON visits the first pub in Shambles in nearly 80 years
THE year is 1936. The location: Shambles in York. In The Globe, staff from the butchers’ shops up and down the street are drinking away their pay and discussing the day’s trading.
Most are drinking Magnet. A few with local loyalties are enjoying Hunt’s Nut Brown, brewed just a few hundred yards away in Aldwark. The evening is slipping away and with each beer sold, the conversation gathers pace.
Sports fans are discussing Sunderland’s relentless march towards the Football League title. By the bar, a few are swapping jokes about the new king, Edward VIII – blissfully unaware of the abdication crisis about to unfold.
The barmaid is enjoying one of those new Aero bars that her friends have been talking about, a gift from a regular after her heart. And then the bombshell drops. Landlady Mrs Powell, grim-faced, breaks the news. After more than a century, The Globe – aptly named, as it means the world to these devotees – is to close.
History has not recorded quite how the last few nights really panned out. But it appears The Globe closed for the final time in early 1936, and with its loss York’s most famous street became dry.
Who would have guessed then that it would be 77 years before beer flowed freely on Shambles again?
Drinkers of the 1930s would be amazed by the street’s transformation from a meat market into a tourist hot-spot. But were they to return, they would find solace towards the top end. Three years ago, the opening of a sausage shop brought butchery of a sort back to the street. And now, the shop next door, Number 44, has become Ye Old Shambles Tavern – a little goldmine for beer lovers; an oasis after a 77-year drought.
Those inter-war drinkers would be bewildered by the choice here too. Magnet and Hunt’s are long gone but there are two cask ales and 60 bottled beers to choose from.
Adrian and Vicky Pettitt, from the Yorkshire Ales shop in Snaith, have teamed up with Tavern owner Sue Woodward, who has developed the gift-shop and café that had stood here for the previous five years. They have supplied beers from 16 regional breweries, including Hop Studio, Wold Top, Acorn, Rudgate, Wharefebank and Brown Cow, all lined up proudly in the ground-floor front room.
The small bar is there too, and there are rooms to the back and upstairs for customers, who can also choose from a range of hot drinks, soft drinks, light meals, snacks and cakes.
The Tavern may well appeal more to tourists, keen on a piece of “ye old” York and on the pleasant views over Shambles. There are touches that feel a little out of place, not least the suit of armour standing guard by the upstairs door. But locals should give it a try, particularly those who want somewhere family-friendly that still offers consistently good beer.
At £4 a bottle, it is not cheap but the range is vast and some of the options exceptional. The bottles from Mallinson’s and Yorkshire Dales are always excellent, but Santa’s Tipple by Great Yorkshire Brewery in Cropton stood out for me.
It was described on the label as a “warm, spicy winter beer, infused with vanilla, chocolate, orange and anise”, a concoction that would no doubt have received short thrift had it been offered in The Globe eight decades ago.
Even by the standards of today’s experimental brewers and curious drinkers, it sounded bizarre. But it worked a treat. The orange was only scarcely detectable but the chocolate, vanilla and above all the anise were prominent.
The end result was a silky smooth, black beer that oozed rich, bitter-sweet flavours.
Even when the glass had been drained, the aroma hung in the air and I was still tasting aniseed as I walked home half an hour later, pausing only to glance at what was once The Globe, and to ponder again its long-lost regulars.
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