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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Big plans for award-winning Cumbrian pub

It may not sound much to boast about but the Gents toilets have helped an historic Carlisle pub scoop a national heritage award.

Magpie pub photo
The Magpie Inn’s landlord Anthony Evans

The Magpie Inn, in Victoria Road, Botcherby, has been awarded the English Heritage CAMRA conservation award thanks, in part, to the urinals which date back to 1933, when the pub was built.

Striking black and white floor tiles, old fireplaces and a distinctive building all helped the pub secure its award and landlord Anthony Evans, 31, is delighted.

He took over with partner Sharon Gibson, also 31, just seven months ago and loves the character of the pub. It was built by celebrated architect Harry Redfern, who designed the tiles which still adorn the entranceway. Redfern was employed by the government to make Carlisle’s pubs more attractive and family-orientated, less likely to encourage heavy drinking.

“The tiles are not just in the entrance – they are in the main floor of the pub as well but underneath the wood,” Anthony said. “The third room is what would have been the ladies room in 1933 – it was the only place women were allowed in the pub. When the refit was done, the ladies toilets went back in the ladies room. Anyone can use the room now though.”

A plaque in the second room contains information about Redfern and a drawing of the original plans.

The room also contains Anthony’s regulars, who, he says, help keep the pub afloat.

“There are about 10 to 15 of them and they come in at 1pm,” he said. “Between them, they’ll drink about 100 pints.”

Anthony is trying to make the pub a real community hub and has started darts and pool competitions. The pub has a bowling green, which is Grade II listed, and has bowling competitions in the summer.

“I’ve got a football team and I would like to have a pub bowls team,” he said.

The pub was extensively renovated around 18 months by owners Barnsley-based Oakwell Brewery, which has owned The Magpie since 1995. They “took it back to how it used to be,” said managing director Lynne Booth. The work included rebuilding its chimney stacks, installing oak panelling and getting its fireplaces opened up and restored.

Anthony said he and Sharon just needed to clean it up a bit when they moved in in April. “We used to run a taverna in Greece but we’ve got a four-year-old daughter Summer and we wanted her to go to school in England,” he said. “This was up for licence so I put myself up for it and told the brewery what I had in mind.”

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