Sunday 31st March 2013
Although the York Tap is a recent creation, the history of its location goes back a bit further. As briefly as is possible I will summarise it. The railway arrived at York in 1839 and the station was outside of the city walls. In 1841 its situation was surprisingly changed to a location within the walls. To this day it is possible to see where the ancient defences were cut through for the new railway line.
In fact I can remember when there were still tracks laid there as part of the old station had become carriage storage sidings.
The Headquarters building of the North Eastern Railway were built opposite the site of this old station at Toft Green, the main building of which is still standing. As trains had to reverse out if they were travelling north, it was surprising it lasted for so long in that location.
Eventually the station we see today was opened on 25th June 1877 after three years of construction. It was designed by Thomas Prosser along with William Peachey, both architects of the North Eastern Railway.
Despite the existence of this spanking new station, the provision of catering to passengers continued to be woefully poor throughout the remainder of the 19th Century.
This was one of the reasons that the private Pullman Car Company was able to flourish as they provided refreshments on the move. But, that was for first class passengers only. As can be predicted, this situation led to the building of a very superior facility on York station that opened in February 1907. It seems that it was available to passengers with any class of ticket, a radical departure. It certainly looks impressive in the photographs displayed in the same building today, showing plants in pots and carpets.
In the post war years there wasn't the call for such grandiose facilities and it closed and lay empty for a while.
It then become home for the York Model Railway, a commercial enterprise hoping to grab some of the massive tourist trade to the city. Its location didn't help as visitors to the National Railway Museum walked past it, as it was recessed from the road. Nowadays they walk straight off the station bridge into the Museum and that must have been the final nail in its coffin. Tourists heading for the city just look right to the pedestrian crossing that leads them in that direction and missed the attraction completely.
The Model Railway closed, moved on to Lincolnshire and Pivovar Ltd., who own the Pivo Czech beer bar in the city, leased the building.
They had previous experience in this field as they had already restored the magnificent Sheffield Tap on that city's station and employed the same contractor Andy Thornton Ltd. to do the job at York. The impressive bar and back you see now are completely new. As many of the original features as possible were retained, including some of the leaded lights and terrazzo flooring. The two glass cupolas in the roof are new yet are reproductions of the originals. There are entrances from the station and from the street.
In all, the restoration cost in the region of £250,000, with £75,000 being contributed by Railway Heritage Trust. They then made the York Tap the recipient of their Conservation Award for the Best Restored Listed Structure. Nothing like keeping it in house! Yet, seriously, it is merited as the pub looks fantastic. I arrived when the pub opened on a Sunday morning at 11.00 and for some time there was just I and one other customer giving me time to photograph the interior without the distraction of other patrons.
The bar almost completes a full circle in the middle of the room and there is a bank of ten hand pumps facing out to the station and another ten looking out towards the city walls. There are some keg "kraft" beers in between. As always the cask beer list was astronomical with the following on offer: Ilkley (Ilkley, North Yorks.) Mary Jane Pale Ale (3.5%), Stout Mary (4.5%), Norseman Spruce Pale Ale (5.0%) and The Chief American IPA (7.0%); Maxim (Houghton le Spring, Tyne & Wear) Samson (4.0%) and American Pride IPA (5.2%); Blue Monkey (Nottingham) Infinity Pale Ale (4.6%), Guerrilla Single Malt Stout (5.2%) and Ace Ale (5.4%); Cross Bay (Morecambe, Lancs) Halo Pale Ale (3.6%) and Sunset Blonde Pale Ale (4.2%); Tempest Brewing (Kelso, Scotland) Pale Ale (4.5%); Titanic (Burslem, Staffs) Longtitude Bitter (4.4%) and Stout (4.6%); Mordue (North Shields, Tyne & Wear) Five Bridges Pale Ale (3.6%); Hawkshead (Staveley, Cumbria) Bitter (3.7%) and Hybred Hoppy Red Ale (4.8%) and finally, Roosters (Knaresborough, North Yorks.) Fort Smith IPA 5.0%).
It's nice to see so many beers from all across the North. The ciders on offer were both from Thistly Cross of South Belton, near Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland. They were Gold Whisky Cask Cider (4.0%) and Original (7.2%). There is no kitchen on the premises so the only food offered is a variety of cold pork pies.
So, with a beer list like that above there is every excuse to miss a few trains if you are ever in York.
The York Tap, York Railway Station, York YO24 1AB. Tel: 01904 659009
Open: Monday and Tuesday 10.00-23.00; Wednesday to Saturday 10.00-24.00;
We believe these times to be correct yet they do differ to those on the pub's website.
York station is well connected to the rest of the country. Main operator is East Coast trains and they link the station with London, Peterborough, Newcastle and Edinburgh. They also have through trains to Aberdeen and, once a day, Inverness. Transpennine Express connects York with Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Scarborough, Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester and Liverpool. Cross Country trains run through York from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Sheffield, Derby, Birmingham, Bristol and South West England, right down to Penzance. Local services are in the hands of Northern Rail and go to Hull and Harrogate amongst other destinations. There is the occasional train operated by East Midlands Trains.
Several bus routes stop outside the station including the Coastliner route from Scarborough via Malton, continuing to Tadcaster and Leeds.