A historic pub interior of national importance
June 2021: Landlady died April 2021 but statement from family that 'the Anchor Inn will certainly be opening up for business in the near future'
Listed Status: Not listedPeggs Lane, Old Lea
OS ref: SJ775256
Tel: (01785) 284569
Real Ale: Yes
Real Cider: Yes
View on: Whatpub
Probably the most unspoilt example of a canal-side pub, with the front door facing the water rather than the road. It was built around 1830 to serve the Shropshire Union Canal, England’s last trunk narrow canal, completed in 1835 and the last major project of the great engineer Thomas Telford. The pub has been in the same family since 1903. The right-hand room is the one that really counts, with its quarry-tiled floor, two high-backed settles, window bench and scrubbed tables; the ensemble creating a timeless atmosphere. The bar counter was installed in the 1960s and is decorated to resemble a narrow boat. The left-hand bar was also refitted in the 1960s in the taste of the time. Beer is normally served on hand-pump but, on request, can be fetched from the cellar in a jug. In winter only opens Fri evenings and Sat lunchtimes and evening plus Sun lunchtime but best to ring before a visit.
Users of the canal system in the early 19th century were well supplied with pubs - this is one of them with the Shropshire Union Canal passing right by the front lawn (and for those travelling by boat it is near Bridge 42). It is probably the most unspoilt remaining example we have left of a genuine canalside pub i.e. built c.1830 (and formed part of a smallholding) for canal traffic so it has a front door that faces the canal, not a road. It has been in the same family since 1903. The history of the family, and the pub, appears in a framed article from the Shropshire Star (March 2009) on the wall.
There are two rooms and it is the right-hand one that is the reason for inclusion in this list. The very small room has a red quarry-tiled floor which is partly 19th-century and partly modern. There are a couple of fine old high-backed settles, one creates a passageway from the front door to the servery; the other is curved with cupboards and drawers. The fireplace is a mid-20th-century replacement; the basic seating around the bay window and scrubbed top tables add to the unspoilt atmosphere.
There are only a handful of similar rooms or snugs formed of two or more high backed settles left in the whole of the UK. They can be found at the following Heritage Pubs – the Holly Bush, Mackeney, Derbyshire; Malt Shovel, Spondon, Derbyshire; Green Dragon, Flaunden, Hertfordshire; Red Lion, Kenninghall, Norfolk; North Star, Steventon, Oxfordshire; Kings Head, Laxfield, Suffolk; Bell & Cross, Holy Cross, Clent, Worcestershire; Old White Beare, Norwood Green, West Yorkshire; Red Lion, Llansannan, North West Wales; Crown, Snape, Suffolk; Wheatsheaf, Raby, Merseyside; and Galway Arms, East Retford, Nottinghamshire;
Until the 1960s one stood at the top of the steps to the cellar to be served. In about the early 1960s the family built and installed a bar counter, which is decorated to look like a narrow boat. This still is one of few pubs left in the country where the draught beer is fetched from the downstairs cellar and served by a plastic jug, but nowadays only by request to Elaine, daughter of licensee Olive Cliff, who now serves the Wadworth's 6X by the handpump but does top it up using a plastic jug! Other Heritage Pubs still using a jug to serve at least one real ale are the Barley Mow, Kirk Ireton, Derbyshire; Holly Bush, Makeney, Derbyshire; Star, Bath, Somerset; Dyffryn Arms, Pontfaen, Pembrokeshire, West Wales Falcon, Arncliffe, North Yorkshire; and Cresselly Arms, Cresswell Quay, Pembrokeshire, West Wales.
The left-hand bar was refitted in 1960s when a large picture window was cut into the wall and a small mock Tudor bar counter added. The basic bench seating around the bay window is old, but the fireplace is a 1960s replacement. The guest book has testimonials from Ozzy Osbourne, actress Penelope Keith and actor Tony Briton. The only food served is sandwiches and toasties. The pub has won awards for the large floral displays created by Elaine. In the outbuildings there is a canal craft shop which is open whenever the pub is. Outside gents' and ladies'. The Caravan Club-approved field attached to the pub welcomes both caravans and campers - the Anchor was awarded 'Best Public House CC' in 2008. Please note that from the end of September to Easter the pub is only open on Fri evening, Sat lunch and evening plus Sun lunch but best to ring before a visit.