Before & after: New-look Harrogate pub reopens

Now - the new-look Old Bell Tavern in Harrogate.
Now - the new-look Old Bell Tavern in Harrogate.

One of Harrogate’s most-loved and historic pubs has reopened after closing for a minor refurbishment.

The Old Bell Tavern on Royal Parade first opened in the 1990s, though the venue’s history goes back 230 years.
Offering seven cask beers and eight keg on tap, plus many other world and UK beers, The Old Bell reopened last Friday.
Customers appeared to like the changes.
Owners Market Town Taverns tweeted that the refurb had been “well received” by customers.
The popular bar, which led the way for a new wave of high quality bars in Harrogate in the Noughties, also serves food daily.
One famous visitor to the Old Bell Tavern was former US president Bill Clintom who popped in during a visit to Harrogate back in 2001.

Then - How the Old Bell Tavern in Harrogate looked before the refurbishment.

Then - How the Old Bell Tavern in Harrogate looked before the refurbishment.

While updating the interior, the Old Bell’s owners, owners Market Town Taverns have also been sensitive to the history of the pub.

MTT’s Managing Director, Louise Middlemass said “It’s been all about making sure we retain the essential character of the pub that everybody knows and loves. However, with changing tastes, there’s a fine balance between ensuring a pub remains historic, but does not become history! That’s meant moving with the times and broadening the Old Bell’s appeal”

The original Bell Tavern emerged from the early 17th century alehouses which served visitors resorting to Harrogate’s famous Old Sulphur Well, which lies beneath the dome of the Royal Pump Room museum opposite the premises. It was also a stage in the York to Harrogate coaching run.

In 1786, it was said of the tenants of the Bell tavern that they “provided a stock of the best wines and other liquors, and furnished the house in a manner commodious for the reception of the genteelest families…”

That original accolade has been the cornerstone of the 2017 refurbishment.

The Old Bell Tavern’s Manager, Craig Sheelan said “It’s incredible to think that today we’re still trying to keep that reputation going. Hopefully our regulars will like what we’ve done. It’s still the Old Bell and we’ve kept the heart of what makes it special; that’s a fantastic selection of craft and cask ales and boutique spirits and home cooked and locally-sourced food, but now with table service.

Regular customers will still find much that is familiar - the original bar fashioned from an antique dresser and the original Farrah toffee shop memorabilia.

“It’s all still there” says Louise Middlemass; “just restored, reframed and refreshed”.

While the downstairs bar has received a relatively light touch, it is the upstairs at the Old Bell where the major updates are to be found.

“We wanted to make the space lighter and much more accommodating for people to sit in comfortable surroundings, tap into our free wifi and relax or work” explains Louise Middlemass. “The space is also still available for private hire”.

And what about the legendary ghost of the Old Bell?

“As long as we remain Harrogate’s favourite haunt for our customers, the ghost remains welcome!” said Louise.