A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: II*53 Fossgate
The compact and intimate Blue Bell is a true national treasure and one of very few public houses to have the distinction of Grade II* listing status for the outstanding importance of its interior (the listing was upgraded in 1997). It is the result of a refurbishment in 1903 by local wine merchants, C.J.Melrose & Co - then owners of a small chain of five York pubs – and it consists of a public bar at the front, a smoke room to the rear and a side corridor modestly widened into an early version of a northern drinking lobby. Its authentic Edwardian fittings include engraved and frosted glass in the doors and windows, glazed screens with sashed service hatches to the back room and corridor, and varnished matchboarding to the walls and ceilings. The unusual little tip-up seat in the corridor lobby might be part of the 1903 works too. The Blue Bell's preservation in such an unaltered state has had much to do with its tenancy remaining in the same family throughout most of the 20th century. Since 1992, when the redoubtable Edith Pinder finally retired, it has weathered three major ownership changes but, thanks to enthusiastic and caring licensees, it continues to thrive.
The Blue Bell is a true national treasure. With its perfectly-surviving Edwardian interior, it is one of very few public houses in the whole UK to have the distinction of Grade II-star statutory listing status (upgraded in the 1990s in recognition of its outstanding internal interest). This mid 17th century building has a narrow external frontage with deep pink glazed bricks on the ground floor. The superb 100 year old etched "Blue Bell" front window was smashed by vandals in late 1998 and what you now see is a good replacement fitted in early 1999. Compact and intimate, it preserves its 1903 plan of front bar, back smoke room and side corridor with drinking lobby, as well as all the fittings that resulted from its refurbishment that year by a local firm of wine merchants, C J Melrose & Co (then owners of a small chain of five York pubs). Its authentic fittings include engraved and frosted glass in doors and windows, glazed screens with sashed service hatches to the back room and corridor, and varnished and polished matchboarding to the walls and ceilings.
The very small public bar at the front has a 'Bar' decoratively engraved and frosted glass panel on the door, a red diamond patterned quarry tiled floor, a 1903 panelled bar counter with a more modern top, various 1903 bar back shelves, some with a mirrored back, and a small bar back fitting on the north side wall. All the walls and the ceiling are covered in varnished and polished matchboarding painted deep red, there is a 1903 cast iron and dark green tiled fireplace, seating consists of a long bench on the front wall side and a small one on the hall side, and there are just two tables - a cast iron based oblong one with a red Formica top and a small round cast iron one with a copper top.
From the front door a passageway, also with its walls and the ceiling covered in varnished and polished matchboarding, runs from the front door to the rear. The inner door, which opens both ways, has a 'Smoke Room' decoratively engraved and frosted glass panel on the door and beyond it a drinking lobby with a hatch counter in a wider area at the front. Around the hatch with its intact two-part sliding screen/window are glass panels - frosted at the lower level and plain at the top. Note the tiny seat usually folded away which is something like the ‘walking' ones seen at a race meeting.
The passage continues to the smoke room at the rear and on the right is another door with a 'Smoke Room' decoratively engraved and frosted glass panel. A glazed screen forms the division between the servery and the rear smoke room and has a two part sliding sashed service hatch and an entrance to the servery for staff with curtains – very traditional. All the walls and the ceiling of this small room are also covered in varnished and polished matchboarding, there is fixed bench seating on two sides with bell pushes above and a baffle near the door, also an old bench on the north side wall. There is a 1903 cast iron and red tiled fireplace with Art Nouveau decoration and only three small decorative pub tables by A Reynolds & Co, Bar Fitters, Leeds with copper tops.
The Blue Bell's preservation in such an unaltered state has had much to do with its tenancy remaining in the in the Robinson family ownership throughout most of the twentieth century. George Robinson, one of the first directors of York City Football Club, took over in 1902 and held private meetings in the Blue Bell which led to the club's formation in 1922. The family succession carried on up to 1992 when the redoubtable Edith Pinder finally retired. Since then it has weathered three major ownership changes but, thanks to enthusiastic and caring licensees, it has managed to thrive. The only food on sale is toasted sandwiches.