Carraghers Bar

Northern Ireland - Camlough

A historic pub interior of national importance

Listed Status: B1

12 Main Street
Camlough
BT35 7JG

Tel: (028) 3083 0515

View on: Whatpub

Behind the plain red frontage is a most important and intact historic interior. The pub was originally built in 1862 and has been in the Carragher family’s hands since 1888. It appears to have been refitted around 1890. Much of the main bar is taken up with three snugs. Each has its own number, and panels of stained glass in the doors. The bar-back is a seven-bay affair with mirrored strips and four spirit casks (two were for rum, two whiskey). The bar counter has a row of coloured tiles near the top. There is a fine mirror advertising whisky (no ‘e’) from Kirker Greer & Co. of Belfast. Note the copper heater, still in use occasionally, for warming whiskey. The only real change since Victorian times has been the laying of attractive terrazzo flooring with a spittoon trough in the 1920s. A door at the rear leads into a small room, also terrazzo-floored and beyond that is a room with a full-size snooker table (the fixed bench seating here was replaced in the 1980s. At the front right is a small room numbered 1 (hence the snugs are numbered 2 to 4), refurbished in the 1980s. The front windows are modern replacements for ones destroyed in the Troubles. Listed in 2008 following a successful application by CAMRA.

A plain red frontage conceals one of the most important and complete pub interiors anywhere in the British Isles and almost entirely unchanged for over a century. Don’t be put off by the restrictive hours and the need to knock on the door to enter the pub as this is a ‘must-visit’ for lovers of historic pubs interiors. It was built in 1862 and is situated at the end of mixed terracing. The fittings date from the late Victorian or possibly even the Edwardian era so the pub will have been refitted a few years after the present family took ownership in 1888. The only real change in a century has been the laying of attractive new terrazzo flooring, probably, in the 1920s which extends along the passage to the side door.

Much of the main bar is taken up with three intact snugs, which are such a speciality of Northern Irish bars. The snug on the front left has the figure ‘2’ on the door, a red and black quarry tiled floor, fixed seating (re-upholstered in the 1980s) attached to the front and partition wall. Along the top of the snug is a row of Art Nouveau stained and leaded panels and there are more panels of stained glass in the door. The second snug with the figure ‘3’ on the door is as the first one but with U-shaped fixed seating. A similarly fitted third snug with the figure ‘4’ on the door is situated in the rear left corner of the room. Between the second and third snugs is the passage from the side entrance door.

Whilst we are aware snugs were originally installed in a number of small Northern Irish bars most have been removed in modern times with the aim of increasing the floor area for drinkers. Rows of snugs do survive in larger pubs such as the Crown, Belfast, Northern Ireland;Rock, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Ronnie Drew's, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Mandeville Arms, Portadown; Fort Bar, West Belfast; and Blakes of the Hollow, Enniskillen. This makes the survival of the interior of Carraghers more remarkable and this was recognised by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency when they agreed to statutory list Carragher’s Bar at the instigation of CAMRA’s Pub Heritage Group.

The bar-back fitting is a seven-bay affair with mirrored pilasters dividing up the sections and four spirit casks (two for rum and two for whiskey). On the return is a fine mirror advertising Kirker, Greer’s ‘Cream of Old Irish Whisky’. Note how the top section of the bar back continues across the rear wall and over the snug and like the rest of the fitting it is filled with spirit bottles. In the bar back is a simple drawer for a till – look for the copper heater for making hot whisky, which is still in use today. The original bar-counter has a row of coloured tiles set in near the top in typical Northern Irish style and a spittoon trough in front of the counter now used for collecting cigarette ends and sundry detritus. Unusually situated on a lower level and not on the bar top is a set of handpumps with porcelain handles from the days when Guinness and Irish beer was sold in casks which continued until the early 1960s.

On the front right is a door with the figure ‘1’ on it which leads to a small room which can still be used by customers and has a real fire but it doubles as the licensees office. The brick fireplace and upholstered fixed seating are modern. A door at the rear of the public bar leads into a small room also with a terrazzo floor and beyond this is the Snooker Room with a lino floor. It contains a full sized snooker table bought in the 1980s for £2,500 and available for customers' use; the fixed seating in this room was added at the same time.

Like other pubs in Ireland, Guinness was bottled here and they still have the bottle washer, crown corker and old bottle labels. This unspoilt gem of a pub has none of the modern items seen in pubs nowadays – there is no TV, no piped music, no fruit machines, no pool table and no food – not even crisps or nuts!

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