A RECENT report that the Boy and Barrel in Westgate was for sale, having been closed for several months, prompted reflections on another pub whose history covers that of the modern city.

According to the 19th century local historians, James and Cudworth, there was an old public house called Bacchus, named after the God of wine. He was often represented on signs as a chubby infant on a barrel, hence the adoption of the name, as here in Bradford.

It was licensed by the 1770s at least. I looked at the deeds when it was a Tetley’s house, which indicated that it was owned at this time by the landlord, Richard Mortimer. His daughter, Nanny, married a William Scholefield, who then took over towards the end of the century.

It was Richard Mason Scholefield, by then a wool broker in Liverpool, who in 1874 sold the Boy and Barrel, together with a neighbouring beerhouse, to local brewers Wallers for £5,000. The building, photographed here in 1975, was probably rebuilt in the early part of the 19th century.

It has certainly had an interesting history, with a long succession of tenants. As the town industrialised, this part of Westgate was opposite one of the poorest and roughest districts and it could be pretty lively and sometimes violent.

In 1843, a petition was organised against the pub by the local vicar and others about the concerts held there, to which, it was alleged, ‘hundreds of young persons both male and female’ went. The following year the licence was refused because of disorderly company and prostitutes on the premises, but renewed the next year to a ‘new and respectable tenant', who had closed the concert room. In 1853, a man bit off part of another man’s nose in a fight and two years later four soldiers created a disturbance, breaking glasses and assaulting a policeman. On a quieter note, however, the town’s shoemakers had a club room there.

The Boy and Barrel was converted into a gin-palace style pub about this time, with large external window and lavish interior fittings. This, apparently, didn’t extend to the toilet facilities as in 1918 the magistrates only renewed the licence on condition they were improved.

I knew the pub on occasions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when on a quiet afternoon it was a peaceful retreat, just me and my paper and a few men at the bar nipping out from time to time to the nearby betting shop and then watching the races. The Karaoke came later. I am afraid I didn’t know it thereafter. It retained into a new millennium, according to one new landlady, a ‘reputation for disorder’. She also claimed it had ghosts, perhaps landlord Walter Waters, who cut his throat in October 1833 while his mind was disturbed when suffering from scarlet fever.

It was refurbished only in early 2020, but closed again and its owner then sold it to another pub company. It was then once again for sale by June 2022.

* Dr Paul Jennings is the author of The Local: A History of the English Pub (new revised third edition), Bradford Pubs and Working-Class Lives in Edwardian Harrogate. Available at Waterstones, WH Smith and online.