‘Corporate Vandalism!’ Local protest over proposed renovations to historic Yorkshire pub

‘Corporate Vandalism!’ Local protest over proposed renovations to historic Yorkshire pub

Local protest has erupted over the proposed renovations to two Grade II listed historic pubs in the Yorkshire village of Otley. The Black Bull dates to the early 16th Century and is the oldest pub in the village.

Allegedly, the pub was drunk dry by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers on the eve of the Battle of Marston Moor, one of the most important battles during the English Civil War and the largest ever fought on English soil. Oliver Cromwell was a cavalry commander under Lord Fairfax in the Parliamentarian New Model Army. His routing of the Royalist cavalry from the field helped to win the battle and boosted his own reputation. After the execution of Charles I, Cromwell became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland until his death.

The Battle of Marston Moor was fought between the Parliamentarians and the Scottish Covenanters against the Royalists on 2 July 1644. When news came that Prince Rupert of the Rhine was bringing a Royalist army north to help relieve the siege of York, the Parliamentarians and Scots abandoned the siege and marched to meet them. They launched a surprise evening attack on the outnumbered Royalist army.

The battle only lasted for two hours, but it resulted in the effective destruction of Charles I’s Royalist Army. The Royalist cause lost their stronghold of Northern England, including its manpower and North Sea ports, their only remaining access to Europe. Over 4,000 Royalist men were killed and 1,500 taken prisoner compared to the estimated 300 Parliamentarians killed.

The Black Bull has been the centre of several historic finds over the years. A 16th Century stone fireplace was discovered hidden behind plaster and a modern tiled fireplace during renovation work in the 1970s. It is believed to be part of the original structure of the building, and still sports smoke-blackened stones from centuries of use. In 1988, a 17th Century fireplace was uncovered when a curious landlord pulled back some wooden panels on the wall. A doorway was also found which pre-dates the building being used as a pub and an inn and is believed to be the original door to the building from the Market Place. Finally, renovations in 2003 led to the discovery of a pump and well. According to the Otley Museum, the pump is thought to be the last surviving pump in the village and is still capable of working. The well was topped with two slabs of stone that were then covered in concrete.

The pub has maintained its traditional atmosphere, with stone floors, open beams and a roaring fireplace, but Star Pubs and Bars, who recently acquired the pub, want to transform the building into a ‘modern, stylish’ pub. Current plans involve removing the historic sign from the front of the building and replacing it with a stencilled design on the white façade, and introducing industrial style furnishings and open plan seating.

The company has similar plans for another historic pub in the village, The White Swan.

There has been local uproar over the proposed plans, mostly from the Otley Pub Club.

“Both the Black Bull and the White Swan are listed and in a conservation area, so it’s just disgraceful that Star Pubs and Bars have come up with such inappropriate plans” said club chair Matt Hardin, “They are both historic pubs, both centuries old and this character should be preserved and celebrated.”

A spokesperson for Star Pubs and Bars responded by saying:

“We thank the Otley Pub Club for their feedback on these investment plans.

We always take the views of the local community into account when investing in a pub and look forward to meeting the group to talk through the plans in more detail.”


Added: 29th March 2019

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