It’s 50 years since this double change heralded a new era for York pubs

The Ebor Vaults on Aldwark. Photograph: A Directory of York Pubs 1455 - 2003 by Hugh Murray
2 Apr 2018 @ 3.49 pm
| History

York had never seen anything like it. Out went the very old and in came the new and radical.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of a double-edged moment in York pub history, and also a false start in the redevelopment of York city centre – and we’d love to hear your memories and views.

On April 3, 1968, The Tavern In The Town opened beside Ouse Bridge, in the building that has since becomes Yates.

The venue was hailed as “the biggest pub in the north” but licensing rules meant that, to open the new premises, Cameron’s Brewery had also to relinquish another of its licences in York – and that meant the death knell for a beloved and famous old pub, The Ebor Vaults.

That pub had stood in Aldwark for more than 125 years, just yards from Joseph Hunt’s Ebor Brewery. For years, it offered the freshest beer in York, with the barrels merely rolled across the yard from the brewery to the pub cellar.

In a letter to The Press in 2010, one former Aldwark resident claimed the money saved in deliveries was passed on to drinkers, with the beer in the Vaults threepence a pint cheaper than anywhere else in the city.

That perk came to an end though, exactly half a century ago. On April 2, 1968, the Yorkshire Evening Press reported that last orders had been called for the final time.

Pub regular, Albert Tutill, told the paper: “It’s a shame places like this have to close,” and the pub’s final landlady, Hilda Ward, said:

I’ve never had to put anybody out for any reason. It’s been like one big happy family here… I’m going to miss this place terribly.

Birth of the super-pub

‘Although this place looks pretty classy, it is still a pub’ – The Tavern In The Town became Yates. Photographs: Richard McDougall

Across the city, Aldwark’s loss was Low Ousegate’s gain. Cameron’s had stripped out its old riverside warehouse and worked with Chef and Brewer to create The Tavern In The Town, a new super-pub boasting seven bars, two restaurants and a coffee house, across three floors.

The whole site had capacity for 1,500 people and the Evening Press said the venue was the first of its kind in the north. Manager Roy Oliver told the paper: “It is about time the north had a place like this. Although this place looks pretty classy, it is still a pub.”

The advert in the same day’s paper was more bullish. “The Tavern In The Town is here and it’s York’s greatest fun spot,” it proclaimed.

There’s something for everyone – two restaurants, a coffee house and seven bars, all delightfully different and offering wonderful value for any mood, any appetite, any people.

For eating out in style, The Tavern In The Town gives the greatest value and quality ever. Food is always fresh and lovingly prepared, all spirits are your favourite proprietary brands and the beer comes to you from Cameron’s.

Nothing but the best at The Tavern In The Town and prices are painless – you can eat a complete meal including vegetables, garnishings, sweet, roll and butter for as little as 8/6. Choose your own atmosphere too – just look at this for variety.

‘The air is pure Dickens’

It was home to no fewer than seven bars

There followed detailed descriptions of the options:

  • Copperfield Grill – “The air is pure Dickens, the food pure delight and it has a lovely view overlooking the river”
  • 4 Poster – “Revel in the opulent air of this beautifully decorated bar”
  • Riverside Grill – “This is the restaurant for special occasions – gay and luxurious surroundings lend that extra certain something to parties or that intimate dinner for two.”
  • Fagin’s – “A warm, intimate spot to relax”
  • Cellar Bar and Rum, Ole – “Swing to the sounds of pop music and live entertainment or relax in fisherman-style surroundings. Both bars serve tasty hot snacks like Shepherd’s Pie from 3/6.”
  • The Pickwick – “perfect for a drink before dinner or enjoying coffee afterwards” and low prices for “serious drinkers”.
  • Coffeehouse – open from 10am to 3pm then 5.30pm to midnight
  • Micawber Bar – “Dickens gone wild” and a promise that “bright, cheerful décor makes your favourite drinks taste even better”

Walkway going nowhere

The riverside walkway that has still not been extended

Believe it or not, however, it wasn’t just what was inside The Tavern In The Town that had people excited in April 1968. The development also saw the opening of a 30-yard riverside walkway between Ouse Bridge and the entrance.

That was supposed to the beginning of a long-awaited and much-discussed walkway linking Ouse Bridge and Lendal Bridge – but anyone who knows York will know that, 50 years on, that ambition remains unfulfilled.

At the opening, Lord Mayor WE Hargrave said it had once seemed Riverside Walk would never happen, but a start had now been made, and York Civic Trust chairman John Shannon said that, when completed, it would be the first step towards making central York car-free.

He may yet be right, albeit half a century later than expected.

Do you remember The Ebor Vaults or The Tavern In The Town? And should the idea of a walkway on that side of the Ouse be revived? Share your memories or thoughts below…