On Sunday February 6th, the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which is considered the oldest pub in England, closed its doors for good. “After a sustained period of extremely challenging trading conditions,” wrote the pub’s manager, Christo Tofalli, on the pub’s Facebook page.
Its low ceilings, its large and rough wooden beams, its floor covered with carpets, a fireplace and paintings playing on red walls. Everything is stopped in time. According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, between 2008 and 2018, more than 11,000 pubs closed their doors.
A spokeswoman for Guinness World Records told CNN that Ye Olde Fighting Cocks used to be recognized as the oldest pub in England by Guinness World Records, but the record title is now inactive.
Along with my team, I have tried everything to keep the pub going. The past two years have been unprecedented for the hospitality industry, and have defeated all of us who have been trying our hardest.Christo Tofalli, Manager of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks
The first foundations of the pub were built on the remains of a monastery commissioned by Offa, King of Mercia, in 793. On the menu offering beet salad, smoked salmon or chicken flaps for £7.50, or Thai red curry or homemade sausages for £13.90, a proud message: Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, Circa 793.
Tofalli has run the pub for more than a decade. He is devastated. the business has gone bust and has been tapped for solvency. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is located in St. Albans (Hertfordshire), 30 kilometers north of London. It was 793 when Offa had a monastery built near the River Ver. On the remains of this building the pub was erected. the first pub. The current buildings were built on top of those that were built, definitively, in the 11th century.
All or almost all are legends around the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks. Three tunnels connect the pub with St. Albans Abbey. The monks transited from one side to the other: from reflection to the beer break. In one of the rooms there, who knows which one, Oliver Cronwell slept one night during the English Civil War (1642-1651).
An octagonal-shaped space that was once a dovecote, and a building converted into a chicken coop in the 17th and 19th centuries. Hence the name: Ye Olde Fighting Cocks. From cockfighting, banned in 1849. The problems started earlier. Before the pandemic turned the world upside down or allowed the world to live half-heartedly, rising costs had already put Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in a bind.
The pandemic ate up resources, revenues were not enough, jobs were at risk. There was no safety net to continue. “The bottom line is that we couldn’t meet our financial obligations, which has put great strain on everyone who has worked in and for the pub,” wrote Tofalli. The pub’s owners, Mitchell & Butler House (M&B), is trying to minimize the damage. M&B has confirmed to the BBC its intention to reopen. No word on when. Nor who will be its new friendly face from now on.