Mandeville Arms

County Armagh - Portadown

A historic pub interior of national importance

Listed Status: B1

1-3 Mandeville Street
Portadown
BT62 3PB

Tel: (028) 3833 2070

Public Transport: Near Railway Station (Portadown)

View on: Whatpub

This pub was owned by the McConville family from 1865 to 2005. In the rebuild of the 1890s, they provided Ireland with one of its great pub interiors. The decorated, mirrored bar-back incorporates four spirit casks; the counter has a typically Northern Irish fringe of tiles at the top also another at the base. The most distinctive and, again, almost exclusively Northern Irish feature, is the survival of no less than ten snugs which are provided with bell-pushes used for ordering drinks in former days and tiny fixed tables on which to place them: there is the associated annunciator box at the end of the room. A screen with double doors divides the main bar into two. A colourful tiled floor, a fine plaster ceiling and lots of original stained glass complete the impressive picture. Don’t miss the wonderful brass cigar-lighter (sadly disconnected from its gas supply in recent years), representing the Tichborne Claimant, an impostor whose attempts to prove he was the vanished Sir Roger Tichborne – the ninth wealthiest man in Britain – captivated public attention during two high-profile court cases in the 1870s. The other part of the pub, taken in from a neighbouring shop, is in extreme contrast, having been being fitted out as a young persons’ night-life bar in 2008.

Built as the Mandeville Arms Hotel and named after the Duke of Mandeville it is known locally as ‘McConvilles’ after the family that owned the pub from 1865 up to 2005 and has a ‘McConville Bros Wine Merchants’ fascia. It was rebuilt in the late 1890s and is one of the great pub interiors of Northern Ireland or, indeed, anywhere featuring ten intact snugs. The front door (not currently in use) has a fine vestibule entrance with a balustrade, carved urns on the corners and lots of stained glass windows. Off this is what is often called ‘a ladies snug’ in which they could drink without being seen in the rest of the pub. It has a colourful Victorian tiled floor, dado panelling with a bell push, a leatherette bench and a door to the side of the servery.

The long public bar has a colourful Victorian tiled floor and is split in two by a low partition with double doors. The decorated and mirrored seven-bay carved mahogany bar-back incorporates four casks that would have sold spirits in the past. McConvilles bottled several drinks in the early 20th century including a popular ‘McConville’s Navy Rum’, Kopke’s Invalid Port, a strong Australian wine and their own McConville’s whiskey, which is was still possible to drink here up to 2005. The splendid original bar counter has a typically Northern Irish fringe of colourful hand painted tiles at the top, also a row of small brown tiles along the base and just above it a row of different colourful tiles. Halfway along Mandeville Street is another disused entrance with a fine vestibule entrance with a balustrade, carved urns on the corners and lots of stained glass windows.

The most distinctive, and, again, almost uniquely Northern Irish feature, is the seven snugs ranged parallel to the counter split three from the front door to the side door and another four between the middle door and the main entrance. Also, there are two more affixed to the counter at the far end of the servery making a total of ten snugs altogether. These two snugs have small windows in the part glazed partition on the end of the counter. Each snug has colourful Victorian tiled floor, dado panelling on the street side and bench seating is attached to two sides of each snug. The original and still working central heating pipes run through the snugs. Note the bell-pushes to order drinks and the tiny fixed tables on which to place them. All the snugs retain their doors with glazed panels on the front end. The bell-box where staff could see where service was needed is situated high up at the south end of the room and some of the bells still work.

The other best remaining examples of snugs in Northern Ireland being at the Crown, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Rock, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Ronnie Drew's, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Fort Bar, West Belfast; Blakes of the Hollow, Enniskillen and the rare survivor Carragher's, Camlough, Co. Armagh being a small village pub.

The main entrance is further down Mandeville Street and has an iron canopy from which hangs an old mighty rococo lantern - one of the best anywhere. Inside is a porch formed by partition walls reaching up to the high heavily moulded ceiling. The colourful Victorian tiled floor at this end of the room is particularly well worn and cracked from having barrels of stout rolled across it over many years. It even retains original gas light fittings which can run on bottled gas. The amazingly old fashioned gents’ remain with its black and white marble floor, dado of white tiles and probably the best traditional WC in Northern Ireland with its wooden seat! Don't miss the cigar lighter representing the Tichborne Claimant, an imposer whose attempts to prove he was the vanished Sir Roger Tichborne, the ninth wealthiest man in Britain, captivated public attention during two high-profile court cases in the 1870s. Sadly it has recently been disconnected from its gas supply.

In 2008 a second bar was added without any impact on the original pub. Bar 2 is accessed via its own front door on the left of the building or via a door from the rear of the original bar. The only change was the removal of the original ladies' toilet, which was situated in the left-hand part of the building, presumably as a late add-on to the pub.

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