With many pubs under threat of closure, the Hairy Bikers, Si King and Dave Myers, are on a mission to shine a spotlight on the best of Britain’s watering holes, in their new 15-part series, The Pubs That Built Britain, which starts on BBC Two tonight.
Si says: “Pubs are closing because people are deciding to stay at home and drink cheap beer and wine from supermarkets - that's just how it is.
“But the reality is, it's a great point for social interaction within our communities.”
There’s good news for the historic pubs featuring in the series though, as Dave adds: “A lot of the old historical pubs, the ones that have stayed as pubs and kept the values of 800 to 900 years ago, are doing alright.
“The pubs that are generally good have their own values and certainly a part of history.”
Here are seven that make the Hairy Bikers’ list:
Britain’s oldest freehouse, The Royal Standard, has a rich history, rooted in Saxon times, when the old Romano-British well in the garden was used as a source of water to brew ale.
It survived the Viking raids of the Dark Ages because it was tucked out of sight of the Thames. It was first documented in 1213 as The Ship Inn and played host to kings who used it as lodgings while they hunted in the deer park in nearby Knotty Green and Penn.
It was a key location in the Civil War, used as a mustering place for the Royalists, and King Charles I is said to have hidden in the priest hole. By way of thanks, the restored King Charles II allowed it to change its name to The Royal Standard of England, the only pub in the land honoured with using the full title.
Said to be the sole surviving riverside pub from Shakespearean times, which would have been frequented by actors from near neighbour, the original Globe Theatre, The Anchor Bankside is also where diarist Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London in 1666.
He wrote of taking refuge in “a little alehouse on bankside... and there watched the fire grow”. Despite its oak interiors, it survived the fire that gutted the capital, but ironically, fell victim to another fire and was rebuilt between 1770 and 1775.
Cornwall’s most famous haunted smuggling inn was built in 1750 to provide rest to weary travellers crossing the bleak Bodmin Moor. However, certain dishonest customers used it to hide rum, tea and other contraband they’d smuggled into the UK.
It’s named for two members of the local landowning Trelawney family who served as Governors of Jamaica in the 18th century.
Daphne du Maurier stayed at Jamaica Inn and was inspired to use it as the setting for her 1936 novel of the same name, about a group of nefarious ‘wreckers’ who run ships aground, kill the sailors and steal their cargo.
A mysterious man in a tricorne hat and cloak is just one of the many ghosts that have been spotted.
Another pub with a connection to the Civil War - during renovations to Otley’s oldest pub, The Black Bull, in 1981, the landlord found a cavity in the wall of an upstairs room and discovered two sack-loads of armour, which was thought to have been left as payment for beer.
The story goes that the pub was drunk dry by Cromwell’s troops on the eve of the Battle of Marston Moor, on July 2, 1644. Other discoveries at the pub include an 18th century pump and well, and a 16th century stone fireplace.
Built in 1257, this pub was a refuge for Royalists, but was most famously a watering hole for RAF heroes in the Second World War, including the 617 (Dam Busters) Squadron.
The squadron was formed in 1943 under great secrecy at RAF Scampton with the mission of dropping the bouncing bomb on Germany’s dams in Operation Chastise.
The pub’s ceilings are adorned with signatures and messages from aircrew and ground crew over the years.
At the foot of England’s tallest mountain, Scafell Pike, and next to its deepest lake, Wastwater, the inn was originally a farm and was converted to a pub in the 1850s to cater for pioneering climbers.
Known as ‘the home of British rock climbing’, the pub was packed from the 1880s with climbers.
To practice before scaling the needles of rock on the nearby mountain, they used to climb up the pub’s outside walls.
The oldest pub in the Cornish fishing village of Polperro, The Three Pilchards was built in the early 16th century and supposedly got its name from the three pilchard factories which brought prosperity to the village.
Its history is also steeped in smuggling – the legend goes that if 19th century landlord Charles Jolliff’s horse was saddled outside, he had a new shipment of smuggled goods including tea, gin, brandy and tobacco for sale.
Have you had a pint at any of these pubs? Let us know in the Comments section below.