We pick up the story of our Proper Day Out in Liverpool having just left the Lion Tavern and heading down the narrow street of Hackins Hey in the direction of Dale Street. This brought us to Ye Hole In Ye Wall, which is certainly a pub that I remember from forty years ago, and seems little changed since then. It is a low, mock half-timbered building that appears obviously older than its neighbours. It claims to be the oldest pub in the city, with the facade bearing the date 1726.
Entering through a door on the left, the bar counter runs along the front of the pub, with a couple of comfortable snugs with bench seating opposite. There’s plenty of dark wood and leaded glass, including the door to the gents’ pictured. It was the last pub in the city to be men-only, and this was not joined by ladies’ facilities until 1975.
The pub also has the unusual feature of a first-floor cellar. I vaguely recall the beer being served through free-flow gravity-fed taps, although it now has conventional handpumps. Beers on the bar included Lister’s IPA, Hafod Moel Famau, which was very good, and Lancaster Noble Pilsner, which was in good condition but, like many British cask lagers, didn’t really seem to hit the spot in terms of flavour. Although it was now well past lunchtime, it was busy, with mixed-sex groups of a variety of ages.
Ye Hole in Ye Wall is one of four pubs immediately adjacent to each other, the others being the Saddle on the corner of Hackins Hey and Dale Street, the Lady of Mann tucked away in a courtyard, and Thomas Rigby’s on Dale Street itself. Now owned by Manx brewers Okell’s, it occupies the ground floor of a substantial five-storey white-painted Victorian building in the Italianate style.
There’s a busy public bar running the length of the pub on the left, and a parlour on the right that was reserved for diners, and thus empty in mid-afternoon. Beers on the bar included Okell’s Bitter and IPA, Red Star Formby IPA and Sharp’s Atlantic, the Bitter being particularly good.
There now followed the longest walk of the day, first heading down Dale Street and Water Street past Liverpool’s historic Town Hall to the Pier Head, with a memorable view of the Mersey estuary framed by the tall buildings. We then followed the waterfront past the monumental warehouses of Albert Dock to cross a river of rush-hour traffic along Wapping to reach the Baltic Fleet, a distinctive “flat-iron” style pub in the angle of two roads. We debated the origin of the name, but according to the Liverpool Historic Pub Guide it comes from a Scandinavian merchant fleet of the 1850s trading in timber, and is nothing to do with either the Russian navy or Admiral Napier’s Royal Navy squadron in the Crimean War. By this time, as you can see from the picture, the sun was shining brightly after the earlier rain.
Oddly, while there are numerous external doors, you have to go right round the back of the pub to gain entrance. Inside, there is a central bar with long rooms on either side, the walls covered with nautical memorabilia, mostly relating to Liverpool’s involvement in Transatlantic liner services. There’s an overall pastel colour scheme reflecting the exterior, and it gave the impression of being unsure whether it wanted to be a modern craft bar or a traditional pub. It also seemed in places to be straddling the dividing line between shabby chic and tatty.
For a while, the pub had its own brewery, but this had not been in operation for a few years now. There were maybe eight beers on the bar, including Beartown Polar Eclipse, Neptune Wooden Ships, Ad Hop Endeavour and Tatton Best Bitter, all of which were pretty decent.
We then returned towards the city centre through the Liverpool One shopping precinct, which is entirely new since I had last been there, and can be a touch disorientating, although we managed to find our way without mishap. The White Star on Rainford Gardens is situated in an area of narrow streets between the shopping and commercial districts, close to Matthew Street, the location of the famous Cavern Club.
Named after the shipping line, it’s a small pub with a front seating area facing the bar and a larger rear room where a band were enthusiastically playing Beatles and Oasis covers. The live music meant it was packed, and we were only able to find a seat by unstacking some plastic stools in the corridor. It was historically a Bass tied house, and still has that classic beer alongside others including, on this occasion, rugby-themed beers from Hook Norton and Wadworth’s. The Bass, we were pleased to find, was in excellent condition, but because of the crowding we didn’t stay as long as we had planned.
The route to our final call, the Globe on Cases Street close to Central Station, took us along Church Street, which was historically the main shopping zone, although I’m not sure to what extent this has been affected by Liverpool One. It was now after six and the crowds were much reduced. The small street on which it stands had been partially taken over by a new covered shopping arcade causing a moment’s confusion, but we got there in the end.
It’s a small cosy pub with a front bar area noted for its gently sloping floor, which we were pleased to see was still carpeted, plus a rear snug. It was pretty busy, again with a wide mix of customers, but we were able to find some seats opposite the bar. The soundtrack included the Beatles (again) and Roy Orbison. There were four beers on the bar – Landlord, Doom Bar, Wainwright and Griffin Rock Red., from which we all went for the Landlord, which was pretty good.
As we had not spent as long in the White Star as we had planned, two of us had time to make a quick return visit to the Crown before catching our trains home. The route involved passing the corner of Ranelagh Street and Lime Street which was once dominated by three Liverpool landmarks – the now-closed Lewis’s department store, the Adelphi Hotel, which is still in business but has lost much of its original lustre, and the impressive Vines pub, another with a National Inventory interior, which had been reported closed but seemed to be showing some signs of life tonight, although it had not sold real ale for some years.
The Crown was extremely busy, with large standing groups in the main bar, but we found some seats in the rear room. Trooper was again good, as was Gritchie Lore English Pale Ale, which we eventually worked out came from a brewery owned by film director Guy Ritchie. The general busyness of the pubs in Liverpool was very noticeable, as werr the mixed sexes and ages of the customers. We know that pubs are struggling in many areas, but in the city centre on a Friday afternoon and early evening they certainly weren’t.
I managed to get a direct train back to Stockport, with no shortage of seats, and was back home not long after nine. Another excellent day out with, as ever, good company and conversation to go with the beer. All of these trips have their different virtues, but Liverpool stood out both for the heritage quality of the pubs we visited and their lively atmosphere. The best beers of the day were three of the more familiar ones – Trooper in the Crown, Okell’s Bitter in Thomas Rigby’s, and Bass in the White Star.
Thanks to Peter Allen of Pubs Then And Now for the photos of Ye Hole in Ye Wall, Rigby’s, the White Star and the Globe, the other two being mine.