Pub & beer column

THE very word 'inn' lights up the mind as its actual windows light up a dark and rainy road.

I wish that sentence were mine, but it is not. It’s a snippet from an enchanting serenade to the traditional English inn, written by the author Thomas Burke in the 1920s.

Between his other works he edited The Book Of The Inn, an anthology of 200 extracts from literature over the centuries, all relating to inns. It contains some wonderful stories and writings, but it’s Burke’s own rallying introduction that is most compelling and gripping.

“No institution of English life has gathered about it so lustrous an accumulation of story,” he writes. “Our inns are forever young... their very names and signs are the poetry of travel,” he chirrups. “Here pilgrimages begin, journeys end, strange acquaintance is made, and lovers meet or part.”

He rails against the impact of the motor car, the snobbery of those landlords who treat motorists more nobly than ramblers, the effrontery of those patrons who take inns for granted and the disregard of those publicans who let standards fall.

Above all he waxes lyrically, splendidly, about inns’ unique role in the past and present. In inns, he notes, councils have met, kings have surrendered, causes have been fought and deals have been done, and the weary have found rest.

I first read Burke’s acclamation years ago, but I found myself rummaging through the book-case once more after a recent discovery in East Yorkshire.

The first recorded mention of the Carpenter’s Arms in Fangfoss was in 1823, when the landlord was also reportedly the village carpenter. It may well be even older. Either way, it is one of those vintage village inns that seems simply to have always been there.

Today, it is in the early days of a new chapter.

Sally and John Murray took over the lease with Enterprise Inns last September. They have experience in the north east, Glasgow and Aberdeen so this little village, ten miles east of York, is something of a change. Sally says they were enchanted when they saw the pub though, and they’re keen to make their mark.

York Press:

Two friends and I popped in last week and found a cosy, homely place with a fire blasting away and some cracking pub food. My pals Ian and Gill opted for fish and chips and curry respectively; I went for pork belly on black pudding mash, with red wine gravy and fresh veg, which was tremendous.

There’s a hardcore loyalty here to Theakston’s and John Smith’s, says Sally, but alongside those there’s a guest handpull, given over to Wainwright by Thwaites last week.

Inside and out, the signs here are promising. In November, East Riding of Yorkshire Council granted a request by the parish council to recognise the pub as an asset of community value, hopefully helping to safeguard this inn for the future.

Sally and John are also keen to secure Cask Marque accreditation, and the pub is currently receiving a new coat of paint outside and new signs, to brighten it up. Come the spring and summer, the vast garden will also come into its own.

That will be a cracking time to visit, lapping up the Wolds sunshine some Sunday. But don’t leave it that long.

The pub is open from 5pm to 11pm Tuesday to Friday, and from noon to 11pm on Saturday and Sunday, and there’s no need to wait until summer.

Don't just take my advice on that; listen too to Burke: “To get the full savour of an old inn you should come to it at night, and best of all a winter night, or twilight, when the mists are rising and the soul is low, and a log fire and a dinner seem to be the twin stars of human aspiration.”

I'll raise a glass to that.