Apart from the Beer Guide (of course), What Pub is the best CAMRA achievement since they invented real ale in 1973.  The real challenge of the Revitalisation project is maintaining the interest of a dwindling band of volunteers in monitoring and measuring pubs and beer quality.

Nearly all the real ale pubs are on WhatPub now, along with the keg classics of Skelmersdale and many other top towns. The devotion to duty of Wakefield CAMRA in documenting the ASDA and Whitwood Truck Stop is to be commended.

Occasionally a gem (or dud) drops through the net.

Name the LPs

I’m not sure what drew us into Cornucopia’s tat market (or even Harleston to be honest).  Probably their loos, which turned out to be tucked behind the Double Diamond signs and ’70s LPs in the Lillie Langtry.


Is it a pub ?

Well, it’s got a well-stocked bar, proper seating, beer mats, and people no doubt berate their husbands as regularly as they do in the Thatcher’s Needle. And a large bell.

The onslaught of memorabilia count against it a bit, so that it feels a bit like the recreated pubs at Beamish and the Black Country Museum.


It would be a cosy place for a pint of Adnams, or local bottled beers, though I suspect most visitors stick to coffee and cake. It’s only open till 5pm, but 9-5 is longer than many pubs in this year’s Beer Guide.

So my question is, is this a pub ?  And if not what would make it one ?

Curiously, I was approached by a charming gentleman while taking the photo below.


The sign for the Magpie remains, but Harleston’s premier pub is now the JD Young Hotel, with name and opening hours reading like a well-known pub chain. Our local pub expert was not impressed by the transformation, pointing me instead toward the hardened drinkers of the Swan.  I may be professional, but I’m not hardened.  We opted for the comfort of the bakery.


20 thoughts on “HARLESTON’S SECRET PUB

  1. Is it indeed a pub ? Looks more like a stall in an Antiques & Collectibles market to me ! It may sell very decent real ale, but if I happened to be in Harleston and other options were open to me, ie “real” pubs, then I wouldn`t squander my hard-earned cash in there. Google Image search these two other random examples of “pubs” if you want a chuckle : `Bob Inn (Chorley)` and `Great Ale at the Market (Bolton)`. I personally despair for the future of the Great British Pub..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting question. How different is this place than a lot of the micropubs? Other than the number of ales on offer aren’t both creating a unique environment in which to have a pint? (I think a lot of people prefer the lesser number of beers on sale so quantity should not count against the place.) For me, this is a pub if people choose to use it. I’m not sure it appeals to me any less than The Curfew in Berwick upon Tweed appeals to me.


      1. I’m glad I asked that rhetorical questions now, as micropubs from Wigan to Ramsgate are constructed on similar non-pub base.

        This is a pub if people choose to use it as such works for me Dave.


    2. Aha ! That’s the question. It’d a very defined area within a market, whatever its history. I didn’t spend my money there either, mainly because it was empty and a pub/café visit on your own is dull.

      I’ve been to those two “pubs”, and Manchester’s Arndale Micro Bar, and share your view. Plenty of great British pubs still around I hope though.


  2. Martin, please can Michael be awarded bonus points for his standard of answer. He is correct, as the word pub is common parlance for a public house, thus surely requiring to have its own segregated part of the building (sorry for the bad wording – I didn’t want to say be its own building as that would wrongly disqualify pubs that are attached to other premises, for example at the end of a terraced street). A market stall is open to the rest of the market, there is no door, no windows, no walls, all essential ingredients for a house.

    That is not to say that market stalls serving beer are a bad thing, I’d sooner them than some of the modern abominations that have sprung up elsewhere with their lobster themidors, posing tables and excessive glass and steelwork. However, I suspect the market lets this stall down, with others stalls selling tat rather than fruit, veg, meat, cheese, fish, eggs, bread and cake. The beer stall has merely taken on the character of the rest of the market. I do wonder though if the bar has been recovered from a closed pub, it looks to have some age and certainly looks more pub like than some other facilities of its nature.

    I should also point out that I quite like the Beamish pub, although they should have points deducted and transferred to me for only having pretend old fashioned till frontages with some tablet computer contraption behind.


    1. Our posts went up at the same time. I have to think about your basic premise: no door, no windows, no walls, all essential ingredients for a house. I’m willing to define it in larger terms I think. Take a railway platform where there is a stand and outside seating. Fixed location. I would call that a pub yet it has no doors, windows or walls. Are you drawing a distinction based on the word “house” or is your definition of pub restricted to doors, windows or walls? I think a fixed location where I can have a pint meets my basic definition of a pub. Your argument is compelling though.


      1. I think I’m with you on that, though I can see the appeal of a distinct building in terms of pubbiness. The famous Stalybridge Buffet has its own door from the station.


      2. Thinking about it, windows aren’t essential.

        The railway pubs I think all class as pubs. They are publicly accessible and have their own space, normally their own section of the station buildings. The only possible exception I can think to this is the now closed ‘pub’ on a London Underground station, possibly Sloane Square, which may have only been accessible to ticket holding passengers, hence not a public house. Similarly, the pub at Beamish is not a pub as you have to pay an admission charge to reach it. That doesn’t preclude it from being wonderful.


    2. Your answer is as excellent in its way as Michael’s answer. The point about distinct entrance is a good one. The bar in Harleston was certainly authentic (although I’m nott sure about the keg Whitbread Bitter font).

      I agree entirely on Beamish, which is otherwise a wonderful place.


  3. For all my dislike of Micropubs and bars I do however love places like Wigan Central and The Trackside in Bury. I have yet to visit the Station Buffet in Stalybridge but it is definitely on my “must visit” list of Pubs. The Steamhouse in Urmston was another I particularly enjoyed, come to think of it ! So to round up – I only seem to like Micropubs/bars that are railway themed – strange !?…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Probably not strange at all Michael. I guess the atmosphere in those railway places (add in Bridgnorth and various West Yorks places) is quite characterful. Micros can have quite a limited range of customers too !


  4. I’m curious if any of you can think of a “pub” that does not fit the door and walls definition? By that I mean an establishment that people literally perceive to be a pub, but doesn’t meet these requirements.


    1. I doubt any exist Dave, but one quirky operation that springs to mind is a horse box/trailer that AllGates Brewery of Wigan has on permanent duty at Haigh Hall Country Park. It sometimes guests at Haydock Park racecourse too. It dispenses real ale from handpumps – does it qualify as a pub ? 😉


      1. Well it certainly has walls and a door. Is there a drinking area either within or attached to the horsebox, or do people have to walk around the park with a pint? I presume the public are free to come and go as they please.


    2. If you go back a year to my post on Buffet Hamzik (Oct 21) you’ll see an outside drinking area that Bratislava locals definitely treated as a pub, though probably only when it’s sunny !


      1. I can`t find a direct link to the AllGates horse trailer, but if you search Google Images for “horsebox bar” you`ll get the idea. I suppose it is an example of what is known in trendy circles as a “pop-up bar”. Give me a classic boozer with a bar, snug, vault and lounge any day….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In the US we really don’t have places that match up to the English pub. We do have many bars that don’t have walls or doors. These typically exist in outdoor venues. Places like a racecourse and other event based venues. Beach communities would have a lot of them. The place that kicked off this string seems to sit somewhere in between these type of venues and walls and door type places. For me it’s a pub if there are three bearded middle aged men sitting hunched over a pint having a quiet conversation:)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s