The UK’s oldest pub is in West Yorkshire – and it’s got a fascinating history

With secret underground passages running to the neighbouring church and “priest holes” in its chimney, this is not your average pub

Just ten miles outside of Leeds in the village of Bardsey sits an extraordinary pub dating back to a time when Vikings were conquering the country and England was yet to see its first monarch.

Called The Bingley Arms, today it’s home to a popular family pub and award-winning restaurant – but it’s also got quite the fascinating history.

Said to be home to not one but three ghosts (including the ghost of a dog) guests here have told multiple stories of spooky sightings.

One, known to locals as ‘The Cavalier’, is considered a bit of a practical joker. Appearing in the form of a young girl who was apparently murdered here and now haunts the taproom, she allegedly causes a lot of strange activity to happen at the pub.

It’s said that ‘The Cavalier’ was murdered at the pub and now haunts its taproom / Image: The Bingley Arms

Objects are frequently seen to be moving around and there have been reports of both candles lighting themselves and pans of water boiling on hobs that aren’t switched on.

There are various claims as to how old the pub actually is, ranging between 905 and 953AD.

What we do know is that the hostelry is mentioned in the Domesday Book, which gives it a recorded history up to 953AD, although it’s thought it could be even older.

It’s named as the UK’s oldest pub in the Guinness book of world records and it’s also said that there was a man called Samson Ellis first brewing beer on the site in the 900’s. Its first record as a public house can be traced back to him.

Although today the pub is known as The Bingley Arms, in its early days it was originally known as the Priest’s inn in tribute to the patronage of traveling monks that often frequented the pub.

An old tapestry that can be found inside the pub / Image: The Bingley Arms

It sat on a popular route of pilgrimage from Kirkstall Abbey to York for years, and later played an important roles in hiding Catholics during the 16th century.

The pub served as a place of refuge for those fleeing Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, and today it still has two “priest holes” remaining in its chimneys. Both still accessible today, the larger one is reportedly used by Santa Claus during the pub’s Christmas parties to give him an authentic entrance.

Later, the building also served as a courthouse – holding offenders before they were taken to the pillory across the road.

Inside The Bingley Arms, which claims to be the oldest pub in the UK / Image: The Bingley Arms

More fascinating still, underneath the pub lie the remains of an underground passageway that once ran between the inn and the village’s church All Hallows, itself dating back to roughly 950AD.

Today, it still retains many of its original features – with the entrance to the secret passageway still visible in the walls of a storeroom, once used as a snug for drinkers but currently out of bounds to the public.

The old inglenook fireplace was only discovered in the 17th century when new owner Lord Bingley was doing some work on the building / Image: The Bingley Arms

Some historice artefacts – like a portcullis and some medieval timepieces – were removed by the previous owner, but many other pieces remain including original stained glass windows, a real dutch oven and an inglenook fireplace.

Guests come from all over the world to visit, and the pub even has some famous fans – once acting as a favourite drinking haunt of star players during Leeds United’s Champions League era.

On the bar, you’ll find three regular cask ales including Black Sheep bitter, and two rotating guests as well as a good mix of spirits and wines.

Whilst in the pub’s dining room and restaurant, dishes range from pub grill classics like gammon and chips to pan-seared sea bass, minted lamb kofta and sweet chilli noodles.

The beer garden at The Bingley Arms / Image: The Bingley Arms

Out the back is a charming beer garden that’s home to a Yew tree that even predates the pub.

The perfect place for sitting and enjoying a few cold ones in the sunshine with the family and soaking up some weird and wonderful West Yorkshire history.

To see the pub’s menus and book a table for yourself, visit their website here.

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