In the ancient Roman city of St Albans, there is a pub that claims to be the oldest in Britain.
Tucked away at the corner entrance to Verulamium Park is Ye Olde Fighting Cocks – the UK’s oldest pub according to Guinness World Records.
The pub shared this title with another in Nottingham and was reportedly founded in AD 793, although the original pub dates from the fourth century.
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However, the building that exists today was built in the 11th century, so it’s still an incredibly old place.
I went with them on Saturday (July 10th) to see what all the fuss was about.
From the outside it is crooked and a little inconspicuous, but like something out of a children’s fairy tale.
It was misshapen and not immediately apparent that it was a pub open for business (mainly because I was standing outside waiting for it to open) but it was and I went inside to learn about the local history and culture of Drinking Ye Olde Fighting Cocks.
The main thing that drew me to the pub was the story. It’s not every day that you approach something that is literally the oldest in the country.
(Image: Herts Live)
On my first visit to St Albans, having just moved to Watford, I was blown away by the architecture, shops and pubs.
I went around reading the boards with information about the former site and the people who stayed there, including Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War.
Call me a nerd, but it’s pretty amazing to have a pint in the same building that housed medieval serfs, knights, and townspeople hundreds of years ago.
There was a real hum over the place. I usually don’t feel any connection to a building, but the sights, sounds, and general atmosphere took me back in time.
I ordered a pint of ale and sat down after narrowly avoiding banging my head on the low ceiling. As with many old buildings, the ceilings are quite low.
There is an original bread oven next to one of the chimneys. It has a large beer garden with different seating arrangements, as well as front seating
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It was originally called The Round House and Three Pigeons before it was renamed “Fighting Cocks” in 1800.
The building is actually octagonal as it was originally used as a dovecote. The main bar area had tables and chairs and to the left was the “cockpit” where guests used to hold cockfights, which was a huge pastime in England before it was banned.
When I walked in there was first a medieval harpsichord tune, which was followed by The Killers.
(Image: Herts Live)
It was a really interesting experience. I’m not sure if pubs are a bit more exciting now after the temporary closings over the past 16 months, but I could definitely see the booze flowing in a place like this and imagine people breaking into the songs.
The menu is impressive and prides itself on being “quality quick food, not fast food”. There was a lot on the menu, all very traditional pub food, from steaks to fish and chips to desserts like sticky toffee pudding.
History and memories were locked into the building, woven together by the beams on the walls and ceiling.
I’ll be back when I’m not on the clock and maybe order one of their vintage wines to really relax.
It’s dog friendly too, which made it a bit better right away.
I think everyone in the area should stop by, it wasn’t busy at all and that was the Saturday before the biggest football game in the last 50 odd years.
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