Excuse for a sneck-lifter

The Blue Bell, 53 Fossgate, York

The Blue Bell, 53 Fossgate, York

When my mate Richard and I have a day out together there’s always a problem period around late afternoon, when we struggle to find something to do.  The shops and tourist places start to close down, and it’s too early to dine in style.

In York recently we sandwiched the National Railway Museum between coffee, lunch and afternoon tea, and then spent an hour in the small but enriching York Art Gallery [http://www.yorkartgallery.org.uk/Page/Index.aspx].

Thanks to the Good Beer Guide [http://www.camra.org.uk/gbg] we came upon the Blue Bell, 53 Fossgate – easily missed, and unmissable.

It’s an utterly unremarkable-looking place until you step inside.  It has a bar and a smoke-room, neither big enough to swing a cat in, board-panelled from floor to ceiling.  There’s a real fire and a splendid choice of beers.  The old cliché about stepping into someone’s front room is entirely apt at the Blue Bell.

It seems odd that the Blue Bell is listed II*, until you read the English Heritage list description:  http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1257825.

Like many buildings in the streets of central York, the Blue Bell and no 54 next door have a timbered core, here dating back to the middle of the seventeenth century.  The jettied timber fronts were cut back and refaced sometime in the late eighteenth century.

At the end of the nineteenth century, when no 53 became the Blue Bell, an embossed front window was installed.  Since then, very little is changed:  the list description, without specifying a date, describes it as “the last C19 pub interior in York to survive intact”.

This is probably because it was continuously owned by the same family for almost a century until 1993.

Like the more famous “Nellie’s”, the White Horse Inn in Beverley, East Yorkshire, the Blue Bell has survived all the vicissitudes of the licensed trade through the twentieth century, so that it’s now a tiny treasure, an unlikely jewel in the crown of the historic heart of York.

And it’s a particularly good place for what in Yorkshire we call a “sneck-lifter”.  “Sneck” is the latch of a door or gate.  When you lift the sneck, literally, it lets you into warmth and hospitality.  When you sip your first pint (and your second), you’re ready to enjoy the next few hours.

Update:  Evidence that a quiet night is virtually guaranteed in the Blue Bell is to be found in this article in the Daily Mail (March 22nd 2013):  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2297549/The-Blue-Bell-York-axed-national-beer-guide-discriminates-non-regulars.html.

The 44-page, A4 handbook for the 2009 Historic York tour, with text, photographs, and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £7.50 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

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