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The Ermine (now the Flookersbrook) pub: photographs, reminisciences and some fascinating old advertisments...

ermine hotel c. 1910A genteel hotel in a genteel area: the Ermine Hotel photographed around 1910, complete with potted geraniums above the door. On the opposite corner of Ermine Road, Thomas Carter's chemist shop is today the Flookersbrook Veterinary Practice.

In December 1921, Fred Lowe wrote of the hotel its surroundings in the pages of the Cheshire Sheaf:

"On the left-hand side of Flookersbrook stands the Ermine Hotel, an old-established hostel, with its extensive stabling and auction mart. The earliest licensee I can remember was a Mr. Fern, who carried on the business for many years. The late Mr. George Barnes held the licence for some time, and retired a few years ago. During the annual training of the Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry a troop was always billeted at this hotel, where there was plenty of accommodation for them.
Close to the hotel, through a gateway, there was a pathway across a large field called the Ermine Field, which led to Brook-lane and opposite the entrance to Dickson's Nursery. At that time there were no houses near. Now we have the Ermine-road and Halkyn-road and a number of streets, forming a small town of itself".

A trades directory for the period immediately before Mr Lowe wrote the above, 1919-20, shows Mr Harold Wilcock as licencee of the Ermine.

The origins of The Ermine are doubtlessly very ancient, as it stands squarely upon the Roman Road (some say the road existed long before then) that commenced just outside the Leigonary Fortress of Deva, branching off from Watling Street (Foregate Street) along the line of modern Frodsham Street, Cow Lane Bridge, Brook Street, Flookersbrook, Kilmorey Park Road, the Newton Hollows (a true 'hollow way', worn down by untold centuries of feet, hooves and wheels), Hoole Bank and then onwards to Warrington, the River Mersey and beyond.

Commencing in the fourteenth century, this ancient way was superceded by a more convenient route that branched off from the old one at the Ermine's location, and that would eventually become today's busy Hoole Road. Once a turnpike road, it was for centuries a major coaching route and the Ermine would have been an important stopping place: a last chance to water the horses and for travellers to partake of a last "one for the road" before setting out upon their long and hazardous journey.

old ermine hotel

view of ermine and surroundings
Another rare old view of the Ermine and its surroundings


Still the old building but radically altered and looking very different: Bent's Ermine Hotel around 1955

ermine hotelRebuilt again in the 1960s, here is the Ermine (no longer calling itself a hotel) as it appeared in the summer of 2001. The pub, under this name, closed down in February 2004, only to re-open five months later sporting a startling new paint job, a much smarter image (for a while at least) and a new name, The Flookersbrook, which is the name of the immediate neighbourhood, after an ancient stream which once ran close by.

the Flookersbrook pub: July 2004After an encouraging start, however, the decent beer vanished and the place became a 'rock' venue bearing the alternative signage of 'Brooker's Bar'. In 2012, the popular Chester Beer Project rated the Flookersbrook as "one of the ten worst pubs in Chester":

"Hoole has become one of the more affluent parts of the city and this big pub should have been able to capitalise on that. The huge success of ‘the Lodge’ just along the road, proves that there was a demand for a smart modern boozer in the vicinity, serving quality beverages. However, this place is none of those things and I doubt it ever will be. The ale is vile and the interior is cavernous and characterless. Can’t think of a single reason why anyone would want to drink in here, unless of course they’d been barred from everywhere else".

The Flookersbrook closed down in early February 2013 and was promptly boarded up. The large car showroom next door- Saunders Honda- packed it in around the same time and the entire large plot is, at this time of writing (February 2013), unoccupied and dreadfully scruffy.

12th March 2014: But no! The former car showroom has become a (no less scruffy) budget furniture showroom and it seems that the Flookers is about to re-open, in the hands of the former licencee of the Railway Inn, just across Hoole Bridge at the top of Brook Street, now, uniquely, transformed into a funeral home, of all things.

At the end of 2014, a new (old?) name arrived: 'The Ermine Sports Bar'. It remains in business at the time of this most recent update, October 2015..

Your reminisciences of the old Ermine would be gratefully received!

the flookersbrook today
The Flookersbrook: Summer 2010

flookersbrook closed
Closed and boarded up in March 2013

An Advertisement from Adams’s Weekly Courant, 18th July 1780:

MARY ARTINGSTALL, of FLOOKERSBROOK, near this City,
Begs leave to inform the Friends of her late Husband, John Artingstall, deceased,
THAT she intends to continue the PUBLIC BUSINESS, as usual, at the Sign of the Ermine, in Flookersbrook aforesaid; and also to carry on the MAKING of MALT, under the Management of the Person employed by her late Husband, to whose Friends she returns her sincere Thanks; and assures them and the Public in general, that those who will please to favour her with their Commands, shall be served with the above Article upon the best and most reasonable Terms,
By their oblig’d and faithful Servant,
MARY ARTINGSTALL

Half a century later, an unfortunate landlord, one George Hogg, had his household furniture, bar fittings & brewing vessels– not to mention his pigs and potatoes– sold under a sheriff’s execution. The sale was advertised in the Chester Chronicle on the 13th April 1832:

"Sale at the Ermine Inn, Flookersbrook, Near Chester (Under an Execution from the Sheriff.)
TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, By MR. JOHN BROWN, on Monday next the 16th and Wednesday the 18th April,
THE whole of the Household Goods, and Furniture, Brewing Vessels, Stock in the Cellars, &c. &c. the property of Mr. George Hogg; comprising several sets of bedsteads, with moreen and chintz hangings, capital feather beds and bedding, (most of them new within the last twelve months), mahogany chests of drawers, and chamber furniture, parlour carpets, mahogany chairs, dining tables, with D ends, several painted dining tables, eight days clock, a quantity of casks and brewing utensils, also the barr fittings. Likewise, a few barrels of ale, a sow with eight young pigs, and two fat pigs. A number of wood hurdles, a quantity of Potatoes, some horses geers, sacks, tools, a quantity of timber, and a variety of articles.
The sale to begin each day at eleven o’clock.
Chester, April 10th, 1832".

Ten years later, Mr J. D. Jacques, landlord from about 1834, renamed the place The Ermine and Railway Inn- doublessly in honour of that revolutionary new method of transport that had so transformed the environment around his pub. He added a bowling green around the same time. Here is his advertisement in the Chester Chronicle, 22nd April 1842:

"ERMINE & RAILWAY INN, Flookersbrook, Chester.
J. D. JACQUES takes the present opportunity of returning his grateful acknowledgments to his friends and the public, for their kind patronage and support which he has been favoured with since his commencement; and begs to inform them, that in addition to his old Establishment, he has added a splendid BOWLING GREEN, close adjoining the Chester & Birkenhead, and Chester & Crewe or Grand Junction Railway Stations. He invites his friends to an inspection, where they will meet with every accommodation; choice and good Wines, Spirits, home-brewed Ale, and London Porter of first-rate quality.
Saddle Horses, neat Gigs, Cars, Phætons, and Chaises, on the shortest notice, and on reasonable terms".

In February 2010, reader Andy Bruce wrote to tell us, "During the war my dad spent a short time at the old Ermine. He wrote a book of his reminicences and I am sending a bit that is in connection with the Ermine pub. Hope it may be of interest"...

"After two weeks it was holidays and we moved to Saltney. Before we moved, other eventfull incidents at the Ermine helped to shape my life. The Aunts had a pantry in one of the outhouses in the pub yard and old great grandma went inside to get something and left the key in the door, so I closed the door, locked it, took the key and went off and hid. It wasn't long before she was missed and me too! Poor old Grandma she was stone deaf and was banging on the inside of the door to be let out, and the Aunts were banging on the outside telling here that they were trying to find the little B. that had locked her in.

The pub yard gave me plenty of space to ride my bike. I usually had one of the barmen or firemen (?) standing on the back axle. It overbalanced one time and the person on the back ended up on his back with me and the bike on top of him.

On a Sunday afternoon after the pub closed, Auntie Nettie would do her 'cellar work'. The cellar was a little way from the living quarters. Her cellar work consisted of watering down the beer! A bucketfull out of each enormous barrel and then a bucketfull of water put back in. As the war was on the breweries didn't have the men to come around and check the spcific gravity of each barrel. Anyway, I decided to do some cellar work of my own. I waited till the pub closed and the aunts were having a doze after dinner and I set about my cellar work! I went down into the cellar. What a maze of pipes. I turned on these big taps on the barrels and then went back and told them I'd done 'my' cellar work. When they realised what I'd done they went screaming down to the cellar to turn the taps off.

They used to say that if I was cheeky or swore a big knife would come out of a crack in the ceiling above and cut out my tongue. Above this room was the Fire Service rest room so there was always creaking noices when we ate a meal and they used to say that the knife was getting ready to come to come down and they could see its glint of steel. One day I got fed up with all this and said a lot of bloodies and buggers in their prescence and the knife never came down!

Before I leave off the tales of the Ermine, I will record for posterity a final tale. I would be put to bed early. This would consist of me being paraded through the pub in my pyjamas to my bedroom above the bar. We got to my room up an enormous staircase from the bar. I couldn't sleep this night and the bar was noisy so I made a paper ball and tied it to a piece string which I gently lowered out the dark and anoy people below.
One night I got out of bed, opened a door and went down an old disused staircase, full of cobwebs and got to a sealed up door. I could hear everyone behind it drinking and having fun in the bar but couldn't get through.

Dad went back in the 1970s but the old place had gone. He said that a car showroom is where the yard and outhouses had been. The barman who served them a pint said that when they knocked the old place down they found rooms that hadn't been opened for years, some had even been blocked up.

The great great Aunts of mine who ran the pub were spinsters and their surname was Wesson. I don't know wether they held the licence or not. Nettie was married to Sid (who was away soldiering) so perhaps the licence was in his name".

In 1818-20 the Ermine's licencee was John Lightfoot (there is a Lightfoot Street just across the road from the pub today), in 1822-3 W Monk, in 1828 Isaac Spedding, in 1840 Isaac David Jacques (who enlarged the place and added the bowling green), later in the 1840s (when it was called The Ermine and Railway Inn: see below) Thomas Chalton, in 1857 C Fern, in 1880 Alexander Kelly and from 1902 to at least 1914 Mr George Barnes and in 1934 Mrs Alice L Wedgwood.


ermine & railway billIn August 2102, an interesting item appeared on eBay. Its seller, Carol Franzosa in the USA wrote to us, "Hi there. I found your info on the above inn on the web. This is a circa 1840s receipt for The Ermine & Railway Inn with Thomas Chalton as proprietor. Thought you might be interested".

Indeed we are Carol. Many thanks! The letterhead reads,

"Thomas Chalton, Ermine & Railway Inn, Near the Railway Station, Flookersbrook, Chester"

Within the flourishes, one can read,

"Excellent Beds, Choice Wines, Post Horses, Gigs, Cars, etc." and, of course, "Home Brew'd Ale".

The handwritten items are:

Bread & Butter
2 Ale 6 (sixpence)
Beds 4 - 6 (four shillings and six pence)
Breakfast 6 - 0 (six shillings)
Totalling 11 shillings"

Our sincere thanks go to Peter Dyer- a fellow scholar of Chester's lost pubs- for some of the old advertisments.

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