Friday 29th March 2013
Although this pub was established as recently as 2009 its location has its fair share of history. It's to be found at Sowerby Bridge station on the Calder Valley line. The tracks, in the form of the Manchester and Leeds Railway arrived in 1840. This company later became part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and this was their main East to West line.
When the station opened on 5th October 1840, staff were appointed and the Assistant Chief Clerk was Patrick Branwell Brontë, known as Branwell, the sole brother of the Brontë sisters. He was paid £75 per annum. On 1st April 1841 he was promoted to Chief Clerk at Luddenfoot, one of the two intermediate stations between Sowerby Bridge and Hebden Bridge. It and the other, Mytholmroyd, closed in the middle sixties during the post-Beeching cuts. His new salary was £130.
However all was not well and he was sacked during 1842 because of a discrepancy of £11. It was thought that this was theft by the Porter, as Branwell Brontë was down the pub a lot. This is both tragic yet apposite as we are talking about a pub in this piece. He went to Oxford and the drinking got worse. He eventually arrived back in Yorkshire and died at the Howarth Parsonage in September 1848 of Tuberculosis. A few months later, in December, Emily Brontë died, followed by Anne in May 1849, also of Tuberculosis.
Back in nearby Sowerby Bridge the original station, which Branwell Brontë worked in, was replaced by a much grander structure that opened in 1872. This is the station I remember well, often changing there in the very early morning. Most of it was destroyed by fire in the late 1970s. Yet, a bit remained, a wing on the north side and part of this was used as a ticket / parcel office but that closed in 1983. The remainder was used by track maintenance staff until 1997.
Around this time, two brothers, Chris and Andrew Wright became interested in the property. It took 12 years of negotiation with British Railways Board, Railtrack and Network Rail and no less than four train operating companies until they were granted a 20 year lease. Who said the privatised railway would be more efficient? After a very large amount of work on the building, the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms opened in July 2009. The colourful orange signage is an attempt to replicate the British Railways North Eastern Region station signs.
What is different about this enterprise is that it is true to its name. It really lives up to it; as there is the Whistle-Stop Window that serves commuters take-away breakfast fare with tea and coffee from 07.00 to 09.30 on Mondays to Fridays. From 09.30 this is replaced by the main room opening and serving as a café serving breakfasts. From 12.00 to 14.00 a lunch menu is offered. At 12.00 it also becomes a pub and this lasts through to 22.00. A recent development is that there is a trolley dispensing tea, coffee and breakfast sandwiches on working days along the platform that is used by trains going to Leeds and Bradford.
So, it can be seen that this is a very enterprising business indeed and is at full tilt on working weekdays. However, the weekend is not neglected. They open Saturdays at 09.00 serving breakfasts with lunches offered from 12.00 to 14.00. Alcoholic drinks are available from 12 to 22.00.
On Sundays it is just a pub and open from to 12.00 to 21.00. Even when there is not a full menu it is possible to purchase hot and cold snacks such as toasted panninis or pie and peas.
There is a full licence, so spirits are offered. Their beers are resourced from local breweries and there were three available when I visited: Owenshaw Mill (Sowerby Bridge, West Yorks.) Better than the Best (3.9%); Old Mill (Snaith, East Yorks.) Yorkshire Porter (4.4%) and Elland (Elland, West Yorks.) Whistle Blower (3.9%). I had the local boy from Owenshaw Mill, just down the road and thought it was magnificent.
Andrew Wright was the man behind the bar that day and we chatted about beer and railways. He explained that I had just missed two steam locomotives passing through en route from the East Lancs Railway at Bury to York where they were picking up coaches to take to Newcastle where they were operating a special train the following day.
The pub gets its name from the Jubilee class of locomotive which worked through the station. I remember these well as I often caught the 08.05 from Castleford to Blackpool Saturday holiday train with a "Jubilee"; nearly always 45694 "Bellerophon". An exception was when I came the other way once, on 13th August 1966, with 45565 "Victoria" and actually alighted at Sowerby Bridge so I guess this was a Bradford or Leeds train. I changed onto a train for Wakefield Kirkgate, which was also steam hauled.
Well those days have gone and the place is hardly recognisable but I am so grateful to Andrew and Chris for providing us with such a wonderful bar in which to recall those days.
Jubilee Refreshment Rooms, Sowerby Bridge Railway Station, Station Road, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire HX6 3AB. Tel: 01422 648285
Open: (for alcohol sales): Monday to Saturday 12.00-22.00; Sunday 12.00-21.00
Sowerby Bridge is served by a Northern Rail service from Leeds to Manchester Victoria via Rochdale twice an hour. There is a Blackpool to York service that calls at nearby Hebden Bridge but not Sowerby Bridge. It is worth mentioning as it connects Preston, Blackburn, Bradford and Leeds.