Publicans past and present joined regulars at one of York’s most-loved pubs for a special celebration last night (Monday).
The Blue Bell on Fossgate has been trading as a pub since the 1790s – and its look and layout has hardly changed in the last 100 years.
Having survived wars, recessions and pandemics, it has many amazing tales to tell. But those stories had never been collected together. Until now.
Landlord of the Blue Bell, John Pybus, has mined the pub’s amazing past to write The History Of The Blue Bell Volume I: 1798-2022. When it came to a place to hold the book launch – well, there was only one possible venue!
And that is why the Blue Bell community gathered inside and outside the pub last night.
Over the last century, the Blue Bell has had just a handful of licensees. George Robinson took on the pub in 1903 and regaining its licence, lost due to the misbehaviour of the previous landlord.
He promptly renovated the interior, which has stayed almost untouched in the subsequent 120 years.
The licence passed to his wife Annie, and then to her daughter, the legendary, redoubtable Edith Pinder. She was born in the pub and ran it from 1963 to 1992. When she retired, aged close to 90, it brought the Robinson family’s association with the pub to an end.
John and Pauline West took it over, then Eileen and Tim Worrall followed two years later. They were succeeded in 2000 by Jim and Sue Hardie. And when they moved on in 2015, they chose John to take charge, supported all the way by his wife, Dr Katie Pybus.
Remarkably, Tim Worrall, Sue Hardie, and three direct descendants of George and Annie Robinson were all at the launch of The History Of The Blue Bell last night.
An enthralling read, it is filled with extraordinary characters and eye popping anecdotes. John has recounted its history year by year, and peppered the book with original documents, photographs and contemporary news reports.
Since taking the helm, John has survived his own share of dramas, not least a mad episode when a PubCo tried to evict him – he was saved thanks to a public uprising. Plus, of course, Covid.
“Those of you who were here during the eviction years, and obviously Covid, will remember that we went through all that stuff as a community,” he said at the book launch.
“And it made all the difference to me and Katie, that we had such good friends behind us all the way.
“But what I learned through researching this book was that it wasn’t just me and Katie that received this welcome. It was also Sue and Jim. It was Tim and Eileen. And it was John and Pauline.
“They were all supported by the Blue Bell’s community – as were the Robinsons in the 20th century.
“So it is my hope that this book is not remembered as my book, but our book. It’s our pub, it’s our community. These are our stories.
“And now for the first time, we can read them, as well as listen to them.”
With that, he led a toast and three cheers for the Blue Bell, the small but mighty survivor of the York pub scene.
- The History Of The Blue Bell Volume I: 1798-2022 costs £12.95 and is available to buy at the Blue Bell. You can order a copy by emailing [email protected]
Annie, and her daughter Edith Pinder ran it was one of the only pubs as a young person that you needed to know someone who was all ready a customer to get into
They ran a every tight ship pints cards and dominoes in the front room and no swearing or you where band from the pub
I spent many Sunday afternoons playing 5 and 3s in there