Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Old White Beare


Picture the scene if you will. It is the summer of 1588 and Britain faces the threat of naval defeat and invasion as an armada of Spanish ships sails up the English Channel and an army of 30,000 soldiers wait in the Netherlands to capitalise on the expected defeat of the British Navy. The British fleet is a rag-tag collection of old warships, privateers' galleons and rough trading vessels : not unlike the collection of little boats that would evacuate the troops from the Dunkirk beaches some 352 years later. At the heart of the British fleet are the 34 ships of the royal fleet, and the largest and most imposing of them all is the White Bear. Built in 1564, the 40 gun White Bear was seen as one of the grand old ships of the British Fleet at a time when the average life of a galleon was just 10 years. But under the command of Lord Edmund Sheffield, the White Bear played a central part in the routing of the Spanish Fleet and, in triumph, returned to port in Harwich on the 18th August. During the height of the great battle, one can almost imagine her captain gripping onto those sturdy timbers searching for the resolve to carry the battle through to a successful conclusion.


Picture the scene if you will. It is 1593 and we are in the port of Hull on the east coast of England. The country is now safe from invasion and Queen Elizabeth is secure on the throne of a country that is beginning to build a worldwide empire. The lessons of naval defense have been long learnt and the Royal Navy is renewing, re-equippping and re-building. The life of the White Bear comes to an end in the breakers' yards of Hull, where the timbers that once provided the very skeleton of the countries' salvation or now ripped from the heart of the ancient hulk. But wood was too precious to rot and to waste : there are always buyers for ships' timbers for the quality is good and the cuts are the best. One can imagine the salvage merchants appraising those timbers and thinking where they might be sold and how they might be used.

Picture the scene if you will. It is early June 2010 : a warm evening in West Yorkshire. An old blogger, his Good Lady Wife and his faithful dog decide that it is a perfect evening for a pint of foaming beer and they head to one of their favourite pubs, in the West Yorkshire village of Norwood Green. Our hero enters the bar - wife and dog having settled at one of the outside tables - to appraise the range of excellent traditional hand-pulled beers on offer. With a sense of anticipation, her runs his fingers along the ancient wooden bar top and makes his choice.


NOTE : The White Beare was originally built as a farmhouse and alehouse in 1533 on the Old Packhorse track running between Halifax and Leeds. It was rebuilt some 60 years later following a fire using timbers from the Elizabethan Galleon called ‘The White Bear’ and was renamed in honour of the ship.

This is a Theme Thursday Post. For other great Theme Thursday posts go to the Theme Thursday Blog.

29 comments:

  1. Enjoyable post, and nicely tied together. Love the old ships element; I wrote my BA dissertation a couple of years ago on the Victualing Board and their support of the Navy in the 18th century. Funny what you do in retirement.

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  2. John : I have to question your use of the term "retirement". You must be one of the most active people I have come across.

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  3. To add to the madness, I finished an MA in History last year and have recently started a PhD; British Army in Italy in WW1. Keeps me off the streets, except when my camera is out.

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  4. Hi Alan,

    I did not see the ending coming, that the wood from the ship was used to build a pub, but that somehow seems a very fitting place for it to be. A place where it can be enjoyed for generations by families that it once protected.

    Great story, I truly enjoy all of your stories.

    God bless.

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  5. The wonderful serendipity of it was that I couldn't decide what to post for this week's TT and then we called at the White Beare last night and everything seemed to fall into place.

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  6. Should write something on black pearl

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  7. I knew it would end with a pub. How I miss the lovely old things. And you're right about retirees. When I worked in financial planning you could never pin them down for a review they're so busy! Here's Cheers, nice to see that reusing and recycling is an ancient art!

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  8. I imagine that ancient wooden bar is patina-ed to perfection.

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  9. Nice! I hear tell there are more than a few buildings in the UK made from the timbers of decommissioned wooden ships.

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  10. your wonderful account of history past and present make it all easy to picture!

    like the look of that alehouse!

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  11. Very nice, Alan. Loved the war story and the pictures of the naval ship. Had to smile at your trip out...isn't every evening the perfect evening for a foamy pint? What a nice evening to sit outside for it...with wonderful company, too! :)

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  12. Great post, Alan. It would have been much less dramatic to start with the pub and work backwards! I like the theme (like my own this week) of, well, fate, I guess.

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  13. I just love that it's older than anything in this country. In my town, something from the early 1900s is considered old...

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  14. This is so fascinatng! I am learning so much through blogging; all manner of people, places and things. I could almost feel my own fingers running across the old galleon.

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  15. Let's go! A great informative post, Alan. Thanks for sharing about The White Bear...mate!
    :) The Bach

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  16. I liked this VERY much. And I want to visit that pub!

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  17. Ah, AB... one can only strive to be such a preserver of history. And to tie it in with beer, no less!

    I really need to come tour Europe. I'd die a happy death.

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  18. Oh, it's a lovely pub - I have had a meal there. But I didn't realise the story. How wonderful.

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  19. imagine the scene, it is late thursday and a blogger tastes the salt of that sea and is suddenly very thirsty...but has 5 more hurs of work to go...arrrgghh! have a pint for me...happy tt!

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  20. Whom else to tie in history to today and do it with a pint! Happy TT. -J

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  21. Been in that Pub, never knew its history though. Great the tie in between pub and theme.

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  22. How delightful! That seems like the best kind of history--when you can actually reach down & touch it.

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  23. Great sense of history in those old timbers. Happy TT

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  24. This was really enjoyable. I'm not much of a history buff, but this drew me in and held me captive.

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  25. Ah, living it up in living history. It is nice when the dog can come along and enjoy the outing. We sit on the shore of Lake Superior with our little dog outside a cafe. It's history is only 130 years old and the establishment is a Mexican cafe. Not much comparison, pathetic, huh, well we do have our dog with us. It is a great post my friend.

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  26. Very, very interesting!

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  27. I love the history I learn by being a blogger/ writer/poet/person.

    Thanks will have to look up that ship when I'm back in UK - are the innards like a ship?

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  28. Do you know the White Bear in Bedale, Alan? (North Yorkshire, not West Yorkshire, I know.) Your post reminds me that some years ago, I was asked to paint a pictorial sign for this Pub and the Brewery asked me to paint a Polar Bear, instead of the Ship. They thought it would be more attractive! It took quite some time and effort to change their minds - their knowledge of the history of the Pub was zero. I believe the Pub has changed hands since that time and they are still depicting the Ship on the current sign. I didn't know there was another Pub with a similar history in Yorkshire until I saw your blog.

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  29. Volie2 : I wasn't aware of the White Bear in Bedale - but I am now, thanks. It is such a pity that brewers and publicans tend to want to go with the safe and recognisable rather than the actual and interesting. Even worse, is the trend these days to go for signs featuring just the pub name in some fake scroll rather than proper pub signs.

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