The origins of Winsford pub names
PUBLISHED: 23:15 24 September 2012 | UPDATED: 12:35 19 January 2016
Legends, spooks and tragedies abound in Winsford's popular pubs WORDS BY HEIDI NAGAITIS PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
A quiet pint is a rarity in Winsford, where local landlords in this Mid-Cheshire town seem to take pride in offering regulars and visitors a tale with their ale.
From a thirsty nun to a devilish myth, Winsford plays host to a variety of local legends and some very unusual ‘regulars’ at many of its pubs.
One such popular haunt is the Boot and Slipper, located on the outskirts of Winsford, in the pretty hamlet of Wettenhall, which has been a favourite with locals for generations. Having started life as a thatched coaching inn, the pub has retained its character, charm and the ghosts of two former landlords, Ray Harding and his predecessor Tom Oakes.
The two men are said to be seen wandering the pub at night or sitting at tables near the bar and restaurant.
Trudie Egerton, a long serving member of staff with 14 years’ service at the Boot and Slipper, said: ‘This pub is a wonderful place to work, and it’s true we have our share of ghostly occupants, two of which are past landlords of the Boot and Slipper.
‘Ray and Tom are witnessed quite regularly at the pub; most of the staff have seen them, along with customers both young and old. However, one of our more mysterious ghosts is a white lady.’]
The white lady has kept staff guessing at the Boot and Slipper and her identity still remains unknown.
‘We’ve come to the conclusion that she owned the cottage next door to the pub when it was a coaching inn,’ said Trudie. ‘But she’s welcome to stay – the ghosts here are all quite friendly!’
Ghosts are also on the menu at the Knight’s Grange pub, one of the earliest brick buildings in Cheshire. The pub, previously a farm owned by Hugh Starkey, Gentleman usher to Henry VIII, is the source of local legend, the most famous and unusual being that of Ida the Nun.
Jan Mundy, the landlady at the Knight’s IdaGrange said: ‘The pub is nearly 600 years old, so it’s understandable that such an ancient building would have a few tales to tell.’
Ida, a nun based at Vale Royal Abbey, Whitegate, who is buried at the high altar, has been seen at the Knight’s Grange by a host of regulars, sitting on a chair near the front entrance to the pub. She was said to have visited the pub, formerly a farm, via a network of underground tunnels, leading from the Abbey to the Knight’s Grange.
Jan said: ‘A few of the locals have seen Ida. We’ve definitely got some ghostly activity here.’
Over at Darnhall in Winsford, where the last Norman Earl of Chester, Ranulf de Blundeville died hunting, the Old Star pub on Swanlow lane occupies a fantastic location to explore the countryside on the outskirts of the town.
The pub was built in the shadow of St Chad’s Church, a place for Christian worship for over 1000 years and allegedly dropped by the devil to its current location after he tried to steal it. However, not to be eclipsed by this legend, the pub has its own colourful past, documented by local historian Paul Hurley.
Paul said:‘Two members of the same family lost their lives at the Old Star, husband and wife, Joseph and Elizabeth Fletcher. Joseph was the owner of the pub in 1906 and after becoming increasingly dissatisfied with life as a publican, hung himself from a bedpost in the top bedroom. A little while later, a pregnant Elizabeth died after falling down the cellar steps.’
Although the pub’s past is certainly marred with tragedy, current landlord and twenty-first licensee Ernie Welch insists that the pub has a positive future ahead.
‘After extensive renovations to the pubs interior, the Old Star is back on track, but I’ve still got big plans.’ Ernie said: ‘I’m looking to buy a shire horse, so that I can give my customers a taste of the rolling Cheshire countryside, and of course I’m going to call it “the Old Star!”’
Another pub loved locally is The Red Lion in Wharton Road. Having undergone a complete restoration programme, the pub is now celebrating 250 years at the heart of the community.
Perched on the River Weaver, the Red Lion is a popular venue for live music acts. The pub is also a ‘must visit’ for art lovers, holding regular exhibitions by local artists.
Although the pub exudes an eclectic style, using sheet music as wallpaper, according to 26th landlord, Damon Horrill: ‘The pub wouldn’t be the same without its wood panelling, Chesterfields and chandeliers.
‘We’re not the type of pub that offers live football or has pool tables, but we’re welcoming and can be reached by river, road or tow path,’ said Damon. ‘We’re a country pub with a difference.’