Britain’s oldest pub, which has been serving customers for more than 1,200 years, is ‘struggling to survive’ as the cost of living crisis threatens to cripple businesses across the country.
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans, Hertfordshire claims to have been in business since AD 793 – before England was united under one monarch.
Now, despite surviving the English Civil War, 17 recessions, two world wars and five pandemics including the Black Death and Covid, the historic drunkard faces bankruptcy due to rising energy costs.
The historic pub was forced into administration in February due to the financial impact of Covid and has been taken over by new owners.
Now the brasserie is once again struggling with the combined blows of the cost of living and energy price crises, which have only gotten worse since gas prices have soared around the world – which continued to rise following the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
Sam Walker, 39, is one of the co-owners of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub in St Albans, Hertfordshire
Pub staff said rising energy costs meant the pub’s bills would double as business neared the “quiet season” of winter
The pub has survived in various forms over the centuries and remains a popular destination for a pint
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks reportedly has a tunnel leading to nearby St Albans Abbey which was used by monks and Oliver Cromwell is said to have spent a night there
The Turmoil Pub had survived before Covid
Norman invasion (1066)
The Great Famine (1315-17)
English Civil War (1642 – 51)
Great Plague (1665-66)
Glorious Revolution (1688)
Two World Wars (1914-18 and 1939-45)
Spanish flu (1918-19)
Recent research warns that up to three-quarters of Britain’s pubs are at risk of closing this winter due to rising costs.
Ronan Gaffney, General Manager of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks said: “It’s outrageously expensive.
“It’s not like home where you can turn everything off except the fridge and freezer, we have certain things that need to stay on for health and safety reasons and general maintenance.
“And our light bill is 10 times higher than in a house because you can turn off all the lights at home except the one you are in. But you can’t do that in a pub.
“So we don’t have a choice, we can’t really reduce energy costs, but we’re being billed twice as much.”
Now that winter is on the way, Mr Gaffney warned pubs face extra costs and for many fewer customers.
He added: “Winter is the quiet season for many pubs, like my own.
“If pubs don’t have infrastructure or financial support, I can imagine that many of them will struggle.”
When the shop was originally established in the 8th century it was known as The Round House, but there is no record of it being licensed as a public house under that name.
Co-owner Sam Walker and general manager Ronan Gaffney are both concerned the pub could be forced to close its doors if costs continue to rise
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is one of 10 pubs laying claim to the title of oldest pub in Britain
The pub’s centuries-old history is commemorated in its unique building, where cockfights once took place in the 19th century
Secret Tunnels, Oliver Cromwell and a Saxon King: The Troubled Past of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is one of a number of pubs claiming to be the oldest in Britain, with rivals such as Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (1189?) Ye Olde Man & Scythe in Bolton mentioned in a charter from 1251.
Historic England describes the building as ’16th century’, although the owners say it dates from the 11th century. It owes its octagonal shape to its original use as a pigeon house – hence a document from 1756 that gives it the name “The Three Pigeons”.
The pub has had its current name since 1872 due to its history of cockfighting, a sport that was banned entirely in England and Wales in 1835. Elsewhere it was known as “The Round House” due to its shape.
Interesting features inside the building include an original bread oven, while there are said to be tunnels stretching from the beer cellar to St Albans Abbey. Other claims from the owners include that Oliver Cromwell slept there one night during the Civil War and that the foundations include parts of the palace of Offa, King of the Mercians.
The first known reference to it being an alehouse dates back to 1756 when it was apparently traded as The Three Pigeons.
Around 1800 the name was changed to Fighting Cocks, presumably as a reference to the popular cockfighting sport of the time, which may have taken place in the main pub area.
The historic pub is one of around 10 pubs that claim to be the oldest in Britain.
Mr Gaffney said it was going to be a challenging time for pubs across the UK and it was an issue that only those responsible could solve.
He urged the government to take action as the energy cap is set to be raised again, which would put even more pressure on households and businesses.
The host added: “Pubs have been doing all they can since the pandemic began.
“They have been arming themselves for the past three years and nothing has been done about it.
“The only thing to do now is to keep appealing to the government as it’s not just pubs that have been messed up, it’s everyone.”
An industry leader warned earlier this week that pubs and breweries are facing a disaster “more devastating than the pandemic”.
Business leaders from across the industry have signed an open letter to the government and conservative leadership candidates asking for urgent help before it’s too late.
British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin believes pubs that ‘weathered’ the Covid storm are now facing closures and job cuts.
She said: “Soaring energy bills are forcing restaurateurs to make difficult decisions and many are already reducing hours to stay profitable.
“It could have worse effects than the pandemic.
“Publicans are between a rock and a hard place. They try to cover their costs, but also have customers who are tightening their belts. It’s totally unsustainable.”
The pub’s manager has urged the government to take action as the energy cap is set to be raised again, which would put even more pressure on households and businesses. Pictured is an interior shot of the bar
The pub is said to date back to 793 AD, which would make it the oldest in England according to Guinness World Records. It was once known as “the round house” because of its shape
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11178675/Oldest-pub-Britain-opened-doors-793AD-fighting-survival-amid-huge-costs.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Britain’s oldest pub, which opened in 793 AD, is ‘struggling to survive at enormous cost’.