1,229-Year-Old Pub, Britain’s Oldest, Announces Its Closure – But It May Be Saved After All

The heartbreaking announcement has led to calls ringing with interest to buy the business.

February 10, 2022
Kitty Brunell's Standard 16 outside Ye Olde Fighting Cocks inn, St Albans, Hertfordshire, 1930s. Artist: Bill Brunell. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

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Kitty Brunell's Standard 16 outside Ye Olde Fighting Cocks inn, St Albans, Hertfordshire, 1930s. Artist: Bill Brunell. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Photo by: Heritage Images/Getty

Heritage Images/Getty

Probably many of us have a beloved neighborhood bar in our town that feels as if it has been there for at least 1,000 years and will likely remain for 1,000 more, reliably serving up the beer and other pub staples to regulars and newcomers alike.

A town in England, St. Albans, about an hour’s drive from London, has a pub that actually has been around for more than 1,000 years — 1,229 years, to be precise. But alas, while the pub has survived wars, plagues and other challenges, its future is now in question.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which dates back to the year 793 and is reputed to be the oldest pub in Britain (a tad controversially, though for a time it officially held the Guinness World Record), has announced it is closing its doors.

In a statement about the historic pub’s decision to shutter posted on Ye Olde Fighting Cocks’ Facebook page on Friday, February 4, manager Cristo Tofalli blamed “extremely challenging trading conditions” driven by “escalating business rates and taxations,” as well as the “devastating” effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the hospitality industry, for the closure.

“It goes without saying I am heartbroken: this pub has been so much more than just a business to me, and I feel honoured to have played even a small part in its history,” Tofalli wrote. “I am even more heartbroken for my incredible team and the wider Fighting Cocks family.”

He went on to thank the staff, regulars, visitors from near and far, suppliers, musicians and the St. Albans community, among others, “for all their love and support” during the decade he had been involved with the pub. He also thanked the pub’s current owner, brewery Mitchells and Butlers.

The response to Tofalli’s announcement was swift and apparently deeply heartfelt, with commenters calling it “heartbreaking,” “devastating” and “the sadness news ever” and Tofalli and his staff “amazing” and “legendary.”

News coverage raced around the world.

One British former MEP tweeted that the pub was a “national treasure.

“I’ve spent countless nights here with friends, family and even met my fiancé here. It's an irreplaceable piece of history that must be saved,” wrote organizer James Reeves. “If we can all pitch in, perhaps we can keep this wonderful place open.”

The page raised £3,017 from 133 donations, but Tofalli soon responded that, while he was “humbled by the messages of joy and pain, including this amazing idea to try and do the best for the pub,” he could “not take the money,” and so the organizer said the donations would be refunded.

Tofalli said he was instead hoping for a “fairy godmother with a few quid doing nothing who simply wants the pub,” which once hosted Oliver Cromwell, “to survive for future generations.” He mentioned a price – £3 million.

And? Well, the latest is that that fairy godmother may actually materialize.

On Wednesday, February 9, Tofalli again took to his Facebook page — this time with a message of hope.

“Since our last statement we have been luckily enough to have had the phone ringing with interest,” he wrote, linking to a business-for-sale page inviting those interested in purchasing the business to make their “best and final offers” by Monday, February 14, at 4:00 pm (presumably St. Albans time). “I’m sure the pub will be back open soon.”

And once it is, we’ll all hoist a pint in its honor.

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