THEY are the pubs which stepping into is like stepping back in time.
The Victorian snugs, carved mahogany bars, serving hatches, brass foot rails and stained glass windows all hark back to another era.
Standing amid their ornate fire places, wood-panelled furniture and standing-only lobbies, one can almost smell the cigarette smoke and hear the chatter and laughter echoing down through the decades.
They are the 18 South Yorkshire pubs - just 18 out of more than 6,000 - which have retained their original insides since before World War Two.
Now a new book, Yorkshire’s Real Heritage Pubs published by the Campaign For Real Ale, is demanding they are preserved for future generations.
Among them are Doncaster’s Horse & Jockey, in St Sepulchre Gate, and Olde Castle, in Market Place, Rotherham’s Cutlers Arms in Westgate and Sheffield’s Bath Hotel, in Victoria Street, and Grapes, in Trippett Lane.
“These pubs are a hugely important part of England’s social and architectural heritage,” says Mick Moss, regional director with CAMRA’s Yorkshire branch, Rotherham lad and one of the team behind the guide.
“Thousands of classic pubs have already been destroyed or had the insides gutted to make way for more modern bars over the last 40 years - and if we don’t act to save them, at some point we will turn round and we won’t have any of these treasures left.
“These places show how people lived and socialised, and it is important we ensure they survive for future generations. Among them, there is incredible architecture, some fascinating art work and plenty of history.”
Plenty of history is something Brian Johnson knows all about.
When he took over at The Bath Hotel in November 2000, it had already been given Grade II listed status by English Heritage.
“That means essentially, I can’t change anything on the inside,” says the 51-year-old, of Heeley. “But look at the place - why would I want to?”
Look at the place, indeed.
To anyone who likes an old-fashioned pub, the Bath is a magical place. Bought by the Burton brewers Ind Coope in 1914, it was remodelled in 1931 and has stayed largely the same way ever since.
The snug, central bar, standing lobby, stained windows and even the original seating fitted into the walls have all remained.
“Occasionally I’ll still get old guys coming in who once lived in the tenements which were next door,” he says. “They’ll be looking round on this complete memory trip telling me their dad use to sit in that corner, and play darts where the dart board still is.
“I came in here for the first time when I was 18 and I remember saying to my mate ‘This is a right pub,’ and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s proper, it’s got soul, it’s how a boozer should be - and that’s because of the way it was built and decorated back then.
“It’s an honour to be the owner, to be honest.
“There’s a foot rail by the bar - you can’t have those these days because of health and safety.”
There’s no foot rail at the Sheffield Tap, down at Sheffield Railway Station - but this one-time first class lounge also features in the book and is also already Grade II listed by English Heritage.
“People come in here because they like to have a beer rather than for the decor,” says manager Pete Dakin, who brought the building back to life in 2009 after a major renovation. “But I think once they get inside they’re sucked in by the building itself. We’ll regularly get people asking its history.”
That history, briefly, is it was designed by famous architect Charles Trubshaw and built in 1904 by Midland Railway. It was a refreshments lounge for a while, a first class lounge for a bit, and then in the 1970s was shut after a partial roof collapse. It remained that way until Pete stepped in two years ago. Now fully refurbished, its original bar, original tiling and original skylight are all on show.
“It’s not always been easy bringing it up to date while keeping those features,” says Pete, who now has plans to open a third room after a second was opened last year to much acclaim. “Installing things like electricity, heating and Wi-Fi has been a bit of a test but I suppose it’s the price you pay for having such a grand building.
“People keep coming back so we must be doing something right.”
People also keep coming back to the Coach & Horses, in High Street, Barnburgh.
The multi-roomed village boozer was built in 1937 and has survived without ‘improvements’ ever since.
“I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t needed more than the odd lick of paint from time to time,” says Andy Wright. “But it’s worthy of any list like this. People do come in and say it’s a bit like stepping back in time. We keep it fresh but I know exactly what they mean.”
Noted in the book is the bar’s 1970’s Andy Capp mural in which the character proclaims himself only here for the beer - although even he would probably appreciate the decor.
Mick Moss, who certainly does appreciate it, says: “The main aim of the book is at least to draw attention to these pubs, to show what history we have in these places. If it begins some momentum to get them all officially listed like The Tap that would be great.”