The interior of this fine pub retains its Victorian layout and fittings which probably date from a refurbishment of 1887. It was run by the same family from 1929 to 1996. The front bar is full of character, with the walls and ceiling being entirely wood-panelled. It has four large spirit casks set vertically in the bar-back; and the panelled counter has a rare white marble top. High up on the right-hand wall a box shows where service was required. The first of these is a tiny snug by the entrance which no doubt doubled as an off-sales and a place for a quiet drink without attracting general attention to the fact. At the far end of the servery is another snug with a venerable cast-iron fireplace. Further back still and up a flight of steps is the publican’s office, complete with the desk from which he could keep an eye on proceedings. Behind this is another snug and then a further larger (now games) room. At the rear, a massive 21st-century extension with a Gothic theme has been built on several levels and includes bars and a dining room.
Described by Irish writer Colm Toibin as a ‘cathedral of a pub’, this is a great classic among Ireland’s historic pubs. It is known as ‘Blakes of the Hollow’ as it is situated in a dip in the centre of Enniskillen and to distinguish it from another Blakes Bar in the town. It was last refurbished in 1887 by Richard Herbert and retains its Victorian layout and fine collection of fittings. It was run by the Blake family that gave the pub its name from 1929 to 1996 and then it was purchased by another Blake – Pat Blake from Derrylin. It has a distinctive deep red painted exterior and fascia of ‘William Blake’ that has featured hundreds of picture postcards and guides. Legend says the red and black colour stripes were designed in olden times to help people who couldn’t read to identify it as a pub in the same way as red and white used to be the colour for a barber’s shop.
Beyond the central front door is an inner porch with a tiled floor where the left hand door leads into a tiny snug which was no doubt used by ladies and other passers-by who wanted a drink without attracting general attention to the fact by customers in the public bar. Note the little holes above the hatch that held the cord for a green baize curtain, which was slid across the hatch. This tiny room has a bare wood floor, a door in the partition around the end of the servery and its own piece of counter with a white marble top, also an old pew. Double doors on the right of the inner porch lead into the high ceilinged public bar with a colourful Victorian tiled floor.
The front bar, stretching back from the street, is full of character with the walls and ceiling being entirely wood-panelled. The over 100 year old panelled counter has a white marble top and two tall brass gas lamps that have been converted to electric – probably the only concession to modernity here! The late Victorian bar back fitting features four large casks which originally dispensed spirits. Look for the box high up on the right-hand wall which showed where service was required by seated drinkers in the more private parts of the pub – the bells were disconnected in the 1980s.
At the far end of the servery is another snug with a door, a venerable cast-iron fireplace, bare wood floor and a collection of waiters trays including old whisky ones on the full height panelling. Further back still (and up a flight of seven steps) is a passage with a series of three partitioned snugs, also some tables, a pew and the odd bell push. The first snug is the publican's office, still complete with the sloping desk from which he could keep an eye on proceedings. It retains its door and has pew seating. Behind this is another larger snug with a bare wood floor, a bell push above the dado panelling, pew seating and a few small ‘Bass’ mirrors on the wall. At the rear is a rather larger room with door, bare wood floor, a Victorian cast iron fireplace, a bell push, pews and here modern items such as a pool table and fruit machine.
The other best remaining examples of snugs in Northern Ireland are at the Crown, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Rock, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Ronnie Drew's, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Mandeville Arms, Portadown; Fort Bar, West Belfast; and the rare survivor Carraghers, Camlough, Co. Armagh being a small village pub.
Beyond the right hand door lies a passage with a terrazzo floor that leads to a massive 6 floor extension added at the rear in 2001/2 in the area which originally housed stores etc. where they bottled Guinness as well as their own gin and sherry and Powers and Jameson whiskies in the past. Also in this area there was a most unusual item for a pub - a bath! It had a huge copper shower head on it and a big furnace provided the hot water. The rear modern additions include a dining room called Café Merlot, a restaurant called Number 6 (both now run as a separate business) with their own bars, also other bars with a Gothic theme and a night club called Level 7.
Some details from the Belfast Telegraph