Paul Gibson’s Hull and East Yorkshire History

The East Yorkshire Village Pub (Part One)

We read many reports of village pubs losing trade and closing as laws tighten on drink driving and people increasingly choose to drink at home. However this has not always been the case. In the days before we all became so mobile few people strayed from their own village or town, creating a demand in their own immediate area for shops and pubs etc. Many of our surviving village pubs are of long-standing and continue to be the centre of the communities they serve. Historically they would have been used for all 'hatches, matches and dispatches', serving as places of worship, court rooms, meeting rooms and places of celebration as well as a host of other uses. Few people realise the importance the local pub has held historically, indeed most have been as important to villages as the church itself.

Fortunately many local and itinerant photographers have recorded these buildings as they plied their trade around the local businesses, leaving us a legacy of images that reveal the pubs as they were in their heyday. Many of these pubs were simply private houses whose owners sought to earn a crust by selling ale to their neighbours, often supplementing their own main trade and accounting for names such as the Blacksmith’s or the Sailmakers’ etc. This is the first in a series of selections from my collection of East Yorkshire postcards, and I hope that they give a good impression of the East Yorkshire village pub, as they cover a broad sweep east to west across the county. Please give the pubs that are still open your support whenever you can.

Spurn Head - Lifeboat Inn

Spurn Head has had at least two licensed inns since as early as 1736, and very probably earlier; the inns and the two original lighthouses (known locally as 'Low-light' and 'High-light') seem always to have been linked. By 1822 the two inns at spurn were known as The Tiger and the Masons Arms; the Masons Arms was better known as the Lifeboat Inn locally and trade directories noted the change of name from around 1842. It was re-built around 1858 as shown in this postcard view; a visitor in 1858 recorded that: - 'the inn is in a dangerous situation close to the water, there was once a garden between it and the sea but now the spray dashes into the rear of the house'.

This anonymous real photographic postcard was sent from Spurn Head in 1916 when the writer noted: - 'what the deuce is the matter with you all, I have not heard a word from you in weeks? Had a parcel of cakes from Polly – they are A1; I am in the pink and will be coming home next weekend'. Perhaps the shock of the First World War had given the family at home in Hull more to worry about than writing postcards. The inn had closed by 1920 and as the location is still as remote as ever the nearest pub is further inland.

Easington - Marquis of Granby

The Marquis of Granby, originally the Granby Head, was known from at least 1763. It was almost certainly named after the Marquis John Manners, famous for his exploits at the Battle of Minden (1759) during the Seven Years War. Following the battle he aided non-commissioned officers who had been disabled in the war by setting them up as innkeepers and alehouse keepers, thus many used his benevolent name. The historic inn was purchased by the Hull Brewery Company Ltd in 1901, and continues to trade in 2005.

Thomas Herbert Blackmore of Paragon Arcade Hull, who was also known for his studio portraits, made this real photographic card circa 1915. He was active between 1912 and the 1930s and his few known postcard views display a high standard of photography and are recognisable by his simple rubber stamp mark on the reverse.

Easington - Neptune Inn

This house, probably constructed as a private dwelling, was known as a beer-house from around 1840. By 1858 it was named in the trade directories as the Neptune Inn, no doubt due to the close proximity of the North Sea. Purchased by brewers William Younger in 1947 the pub enjoyed continual trade until finally closing in 1991. Happily it re-opened in 1999 and is still trading.

The real photographic card was obviously produced as an advertisement, possibly for the new proprietor. One of the 'Lister’s Series' of cards, it was made by photographer Richard Neal Lister of Hull. Lister had used pre-printed photographic paper with his address on the reverse; in this case 242 Spring Bank Hull', which dates the card quite accurately as he was only at this address for one year – 1907. His cards also featured serial numbers, usually featuring a letter of the alphabet followed by a three-digit number. Lister was active from 1900 until 1910.

Welwick - Coach & Horses

Just inland from Spurn and Easington is the small village of Welwick (pronounced Welik, meaning a well near a stream) and this RP card was another made by Richard Lister on his travel around East Yorkshire. His serial number L207 is clearly visible bottom right and it seems he may have wandered the villages getting orders from landlords, as many of his cards feature pubs. The card was posted in 1905 and shows the Coach & Horses, which had been known as a beer-house since around 1840 when Edward Wright was landlord as well as the local tailor and draper. The locals have been posed for the picture and stand rather grudgingly around the pub, and above the door is the inn sign; an oil painting showing a coach and horses outside the inn. Another Hull Brewery acquisition, purchased by them in 1901, the pub continues to thrive as a much-loved local in the village. 

Paull - Humber Tavern

Until the 20th Century the village of Paull, just east of Hull, consisted of a single street. Most of the older buildings that survive date from the 18th and 19th Centuries and in the middle of the 19th Century there were on average four licensed houses in the small village. Latterly only three survive and it seems trade was competitive from the very earliest date; the licensee of the Humber Tavern was trying hard to attract custom in 1808 when he advertised a 'bathing machine and good views of the local shipyard'.

Benjamin Race, shopkeeper and stationer in the village, published this RP card around 1910. This was no.1 in his 'Paull Street Scenes' series and shows the Humber Tavern with a hanging sign featuring the ancient symbol for a tavern that also sold wine - a bunch of grapes. The pub continues to serve the community and visitors can enjoying evening walks along the banks of the river Humber.

Sproatley - Blue Bell Inn

Inland, to the north of Paull, is the village of Sproatley which had several licensed houses in the 1750s and just two by the 1780s. One of these long-standing houses is the Blue Bell Inn shown here around 1910. The Bell was used as a meeting house for many local societies including the Sproatley Floral and Horticultural Society (formed in 1837) and the Burton Constable Lodge of the United Order of Druids; a friendly society formed in 1861.

The anonymous photographer who made this RP card may have been a member of the sports team shown outside the old hostelry. The comments on the reverse reveal all: - 'the view is of a Sproatley pub before we went in, the occasion was a cricket match which was a draw – we were not photo’d after the match for reasons best known to yours truly'. But why was there a gentleman in oriental dress in the team?

Great Hatfield - Wry Garth Inn

Northeast of Sproatley is Great Hatfield and just outside the village was the Holderness Hunt Inn, named in the trade directories from at least 1879. The inn was renamed as the Wry Garth Inn around 1900 and finally closed as a pub around 1970 (it was still open in 1967), although the building still exists as a private residence - you can see it from the road as you drive through to Hornsea. The unusual name is hard to fathom, but historically Wry meant unusually twisted or turned to one side, and a Garth can be a yard, garden or a small, enclosed space amongst other things. Perhaps the adjoining land was unusually shaped? Although the photograph does suggest that the pub had an enclosed yard. Photographer H Simpson of New Road Hornsea, who made many high quality views of the area, made this RP card circa 1912. 

Atwick - Black Horse

The village of Atwick (pronounced Attic locally) had three licensed houses in the late 18th Century, one of which was the Black Horse. The Black Horse was named in trade directories from c.1822 and is still trading almost 200 years later. The postcard shows the village centre with the post office to the left, a chapel in the distance and the pub to the right. Shown as a John Smith’s Tadcaster Ales house, it also displays a wonderfully simple inn sign showing a silhouette of a Black Horse. In the days when the population was markedly less literate than the present this would have been a simple indication of the pubs local name.

George Edward Thompson, a Hull photographer and postcard producer, made the photograph circa 1910. He was based in Hull at No.220 Holderness Road and was active from 1880 until 1914.

Driffield - Bell Hotel

This printed postcard shows the Bell Hotel in Driffield c.1929. It was posted from the village in August of that year. Obviously produced for distribution by the hotel as a promotional item, it shows the building in its improved state. Originally the entrance that can be seen was a carriage entry and all entrance doors were contained within the yard for safety. The Bell is still a popular place and noted for its excellent lunches, more of a hotel and restaurant than a pub now, it has served the market town for over 200 years.

Langtoft - George & Dragon

Langtoft is a small village six miles north of Driffield, where an inn was mentioned in licensing records as early as 1729; its name was not recorded but it is likely that it was this one – the George & Dragon. By 1823 there were two public houses in the village; the Nelson, later known as the Ship, and the George & Dragon. The George & Dragon closed c.1960 but is shown here in happier times c.1905 when George Cleminshaw was the licensee. Sadly the pub is no longer open and only the Ship Inn now serves the village.

Dunswell - Coach & Horses

Dunswell is a tiny but ancient hamlet, between Hull and Beverley, which is recorded as early as 1349. Historically it has been of great importance for its links with the local ferry over the River Hull and its location as a point of transference for goods coming over land and then on to river transport. From the 17th Century it was also known as Beerhouses due to its large number of pubs per head of population. At least three pubs are known, two of which faced each other on the man road through the village; the Waggon and Horses and the Coach & Horses, which is shown here following rebuilding c.1905. It was at that time that its main competitor the Waggon & Horses closed. 

The Coach & Horses had also been known as the Plough, as the original building (a typical single-storey Yorkshire low house) was a farmhouse. The Coach & Horses has now been converted to a highly successful Chinese restaurant and the only pub in the village is the relatively new Ship Inn, which is only a hundred years old or so.

The high quality RP card (above right) was made c.1905 by Wellsted & Son of Paragon Street, Hull following the opening of the new building. William Wellsted & Son were almost certainly the first to produce real photographic postcards of Hull and the local area and were active from 1860 until at least 1910. The second image (right) shows the original low-house before the demolition and rebuilding took place.

Little Weighton - Black Horse

To the west of Hull is the village of Little Weighton, which had one or two long established pubs in the late 18th Century. Licensing records show that one of these was the Black Swan, named in the trade directories from 1823, and the other was the Black Horse shown here in an anonymous RP card of c.1915. It was obviously an early 18th Century building and possibly even older, most likely having been a farm building adapted for use as a beer or ale house. Sadly this and many more of Little Weighton’s historic old buildings have been demolished in recent years. The village is still served by the modern replacement of the Black Horse and is popular locally as the only pub in the village. Sadly it has little of the character of its predecessor that was demolished in the 1950s.

© Paul L Gibson 2005

(edited for the web August 2009)


Brief Biblography

In Search of the George & Dragon and The Lost Inns of Patrington. Jeffrey Robinson, self-published. Patrington, 1999.

The Victoria County History of the Counties of England, Volume II. Edited by K J Allison, Oxford University Press, 1974.

The Victoria County History of the Counties of England, Volume V. Edited by K J Allison, Oxford University Press, 1984.

The Victoria County History of the Counties of England, Volume IV. Edited by K J Allison, Oxford University Press, 1979.

Trade Directories, various

Meadley Index to the Hull Times c/o


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