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Pub Visit - England

Sunday 31st March 2013

Bob Thompson

Brigantes 1This pub takes its name from the Celtic tribe that controlled Northern England before the Romans arrived. Brigantes is less than 100 yards (metres) from Micklegate Bar, the gate in the medieval city walls on the road from the south that lead from Lincoln and London. This is most likely very close to the route the Romans used to enter what was to become the city of Eboricum.

The street that is home to Brigantes is Micklegate and until the arrival of the railway, this was the most important thoroughfare in the city. The walls and gate are 12th century constructions; the Bar (gate) was reported to have been inhabited in 1196. The towers on top of the gate were built in the 14th Century. Many English monarchs have entered the city through the Bar and it is interesting to know that even the most powerful person in the realm always had to wait for the Lord Mayor to permit them access.

There is a more gruesome aspect of its history, although commonplace at the time, and this was when the severed heads of traitors, the treasonous, and rebels were displayed on the gate as a warning to others.

Brigantes 2
The first of the more famous exponents was Sir Henry (Harry) Percy, who was known as Hotspur. When he died in the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, fighting against the forces of Henry IV, he was buried in a churchyard in Whitchurch, Shropshire. However this didn't work as people thought he was still alive and so the King exhumed his body and displayed it in Shrewsbury Marketplace propped up between two millstones.

Brigantes 3It gets worse, as the body was then beheaded and quartered. The head went to be displayed on Micklegate Bar, the four quarters sent to London, Bristol, Newcastle and Chester. All this just to prove he was dead! The various pieces were eventually reunited, delivered to his widow, and finally laid to rest in York Minster. Following the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 during the War of the Roses, Richard of York, his son the Earl of Rutland and the Earl of Salisbury were all killed by the Lancastrian forces. Very soon afterwards their heads were displayed on the Bar. The practise eventually ceased in 1754.

Please indulge me one more little bit of history and this refers directly to the pub itself, but a long way back when it was a private residence. Joseph Hansom was born here in 1803. He was an architect, specialising in churches yet in 1834 he registered a patent for the "Patent Safety Cab", the Hansom Cab as it was known. With its large wheels, enclosed bodywork (cab) and the driver perched high on the back of the vehicle, it soon became a common sight on our streets and all over the world. The expression "cab", an abbreviation of "hansom cab", is with us today.

Brigantes 4On entering the pub the bar is directly in front and continues along the right side of the building. There are plenty of tables and even more at the rear down a few steps. The pub is part of a small chain of fifteen pubs scattered throughout North and West Yorkshire, owned by Market Town Taverns. Whilst discussing the company with the knowledgeable bar staff I was informed that they had been taken over by Heron & Brearley, the Isle of Man-based company that owns Okells brewery and many other pubs.

The pub opened in 2006 and by 2007 it was CAMRA York City Pub of the Year, some achievement in such a short time! It went on to be the branch's Pub of the Year in 2008 and repeated the feat in 2011. If you know York pubs you'll understand how good Brigantes is to win this award. It was also York Press Real Ale Pub of the Year 2011.

Brigantes 5They have a few regular beers, one each from York Brewery, Black Sheep, Timothy Taylor and Leeds Brewery. The remaining six pumps are a free-for-all. When I popped in the selection was thus: York Brewery (York) Guzzler (3.6%) and Decade (4.1%); Timothy Taylor's (Keighley) Boltmaker (4.0%); Thwaite's (Blackburn, Lancs) Daniel's Hammer (5.0%) and Crow Black (4.6%); Leeds Brewery (Leeds) Pale (3.8%) and Cascade (4.6%); Okells (Douglas, Isle of Man) MPA (Manx Pale Ale) (3.6%) and Black Sheep (Masham, North Yorks) Riggwelter (5.9%). There was also Broad Oak (Clutton, Somerset) Vintage Cider (4.5%).

As can be seen, a great selection of beer and, although I have never eaten here, many friends have and they tell me the food is extremely good. There are some theme nights such as Pie and Mash on Mondays, also Steak night on Tuesdays. They also do a two for one offer on weekday lunchtimes. Dining hours are: Monday to Saturday 12.00-14.30; 18.00-21.00; Sunday 12.00-16.00.

I was having a general conversation with the bar staff when they informed that the pub was about to close for around ten days to enable them to extend in to the former shop next door. It seemed a short time to me, looking at the adjacent building. They explained that it would enable them to make a more specific separation between drinkers and diners.

This is a superb pub and should be even better when the alterations are complete, thus necessitating that I make a return visit!

Important Information:

Brigantes, 114 Micklegate, York YO1 6JX. Tel: 01904 675355

Open: Daily 12.00-23.00

Brigantes is just over five minutes from York Station, which is well connected to the rest of the country. Main operator is East Coast trains and they link the station with London, Peterborough, Newcastle and Edinburgh. They also have through trains to Aberdeen and, once a day, Inverness. Transpennine Express connects York with Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Scarborough, Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester and Liverpool. Cross Country trains run through York from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Sheffield, Derby, Birmingham, Bristol and South West England, right down to Penzance. Local services are in the hands of Northern Rail and go to Hull and Harrogate amongst other destinations. There is the occasional train operated by East Midlands Trains.

Several bus routes stop outside the station including the Coastliner route from Scarborough via Malton, continuing to Tadcaster and Leeds. It is also about ten minutes from the city centre with many other buses.