Pubs

Published on April 9th, 2021 | by All Things Warrington

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The White Hart

Where legends past and present come to life

The White Hart’s pub sign depicting the elusive creature after which it was named. This sign was removed in 2014 to make way for one more in keeping with the pub’s recent refurbishment which has gone a long way way to returning the pub to its former glory.

If the White Hart Hotel could morph into the legendary creature after which it was named a big crowd would gather at the pie shop opposite to witness one of the country’s rarest and most revered animals.

Indeed, so rare is the animal kingdom’s White Hart (a ‘hart’ is an archaic word meaning a mature stag or deer) legend has it that if King Arthur or one of his Knights of the Round Table spotted one they took it as a sign to embark on a quest. Already, by the fifth century, it seems the creature’s elusiveness had come to symbolise mankind’s endless pursuit of the unattainable. 

But if all King Arthur’s men had wanted to attain was a nice pint of Greenall’s bitter, they had no need to wait for the pub to transform itself into an albino Bambi to quench their thirst – they simply had to transport themselves by some magical medieval spell to the early 1980s and walk inside. 

Once inside the Sankey Street venue, the Knights would have been greeted by scores of like-minded people who’d made their way to the White Hart by alternative modes of transport such as green Crosville buses, white Wire Wheels taxis or, in my case, my mum’s brown and beige Mini Clubman.

The White Hart’s rear elevation showing the entrance to its famous tap room. Once described as ‘The Last Bastion of Men’ it hosted many impromptu performances by the mysterious White Hart pub singer.

Between 6.30 and 9.30pm the pub was packed to the rafters. But come last orders, a real live White Hart could have walked in, ordered a pint of mild and sat in the corner smoking a cigar and no one would have batted an eyelid. Why? Because by 10.30pm most of the crowd had moved on to more ‘happening’ nightspots such as the Evergreens, the Postern Gate or the Owl and all that remained was a gaggle of highly inebriated regulars. I know, because I was one of them.

Indeed, to witness a real live White Hart at last orders would have been no great shakes for most of the pub’s clientele as they’d most likely spent their evening in the presence of a much more legendary figure – the White Hart Pub Singer.

The legend of the White Hart pub singer

The following article was first published in the Winter 1988 edition of Whoo! Whoo! magazine and is reproduced with kind permission.

He came from out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly. No one ever saw him yet he was the curse of every would-be pool player in the White Hart tap room. He sang romantic Irish love songs to his hearts content. His name was the White Hart pub singer.

“I first heard the White Hart pub singer in 1984 during a game of pool with Tim Fsang,” remembers pub regular Peter McMutrie. “I was just cueing up for the Black when someone started singing ‘You Are My Heart’s Desire’. Who the hell is that I thought as I fluffed my shot. I found out later it was the White Hart pub singer.”

In the months that followed the White Hart pub singer’s voice could be heard all over the White Hart tap room, more often than not on a Friday night. 

“It was amazing,” remembers Andy Green. “Every Friday night at about 9.30 the White Hart pub singer performed.”

His repertoire included every Irish classic ever written from When You Were Sweet Sixteen and Danny Boy to Silver Threads Amongst The Gold and Whiskey In The Jar-O.

Sankey Street’s original White Hart, seen here in the early 1900s. On the opposite side of the street is Eustance’s clock – a once-famous Warrington landmark until it’s removal in 1993 following Eustance’s relocation to Golden Square.

“Indeed on one occasion I even heard him crooning the chorus of U2’s Pride (In The Name of Love),” added Green. “He had a very good singing voice considering he was usually drunk as a skunk. Indeed, his yuletide renditions of A Fairytale of New York were a joy to behold.”

Stranger still was the fact that no one ever saw him, although landlord Terry Brown claims he once caught a glimpse of his nose. 

“It was bright purple rather like Albert Tatlock’s,” he explained. “When I cleaned up at the end of the night I always found ten to twelve empty Bullseye Brown bottles at his table. He liked his ale did the White Hart pub singer.”

But then he stopped. Right out of the blue he and his dulcet tones disappeared. His table was vacated and his singing voice was never heard of again. 

“I think Stock Aitken and Waterman made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” added Terry. “I’ve always said Jason Donovan’s voice sounded very familiar. Perhaps he’s just the White Hart pub singer in disguise.”

White Hart licensees

Elizabeth Glover/John Miles (?-1794-?); John Burborough (?-1818-1825-?)’ Samuel Woods (?-1871-?); Annie Brierley (?-1895-?); Thomas Dumbell (?-1911-1924-?) * This entry may relate to the Lyme Street/Market Gate White Hart (see below).

Seeing double?

For most of the 19th century Warrington could claim to be the White Hart capital of the world with two White Harts located just 600 yards from each other. The current White Hart, built in 1929, is actually the offspring of an earlier White Hart situated further along Sankey Street (but close enough to be considered one and the same). The ‘other’ White Hart (unrelated to the two Sankey Street incarnations) was on the corner of the old Market Place and Lyme Street, roughly where the Co-op Travel Agency stands today.


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