Brewery Samuel Smith's eerily quiet on future of 'haunted' Preston pub the Ye Olde Blue Belle

One of Preston's oldest pubs could be closed and boarded up this week, leaving its resident ghost with no-one to haunt.

By Brian Ellis
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 9:23 am

Regulars of Ye Olde Blue Belle in Church Street - known to date back more than 300 years - fear the departure of the current manager on Wednesday could be the death knell of the only Samuel Smith's alehouse for miles around.

Real ale campaigners at CAMRA say its future could be in doubt if the brewery can't find a new licensee to take over this "tech-free" boozer which bans mobile phones, laptops and tablets as well as music, slot machines and bad language.

"It would be a huge loss," said local CAMRA committee member Paul Riley. "We've only heard rumours. But people are saying it will be shut down and boarded up."

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The Blue Belle has been serving ale in Church Street since at least 1716.

Manager Jacqueline Potter, who has looked after the Blue Belle for the past eight years, is moving on. Her last day of trading is Wednesday before she rings the final bell and hands back the keys.

She declined to comment on what the future holds for the traditional pub, saying only it would be a "sad day" and she had no idea if anyone would be taking over.

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Locals say the Blue Belle has suffered a significant loss in trade since the pandemic, not helped by a hike in beer prices by the Tadcaster-based brewery.

The Blue Belle is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a 16-year-ol murder victim.

But the closure has still come as a shock to regulars who enjoy the pub's old fashioned "conversation only" policy.

One said: "I've been drinking here for years and I like the fact you can have a natter without music blasting out and people talking on phones.

"So if it is closing it will be a big shame. We seem to have lost a lot of the old style pubs in Preston."

Paul Riley said the word on the CAMRA grapevine was Sam Smith's had so far failed to find a new manager to take over.

The landlady will ring the bell for the final time on Wednesday - after that who knows?

"This is the brewery's only pub in our area and therefore the only one to serve Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter.

"That is a cracking beer and the Blue Belle is a cracking pub. I think what has affected them has been putting a pint up in price by £1 in one go. They lost a lot of customers over that."

The pub, which is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a 16-year old landlord’s daughter who was murdered by her fiance in 1881, is a Grade II Listed building.

The killing of the young girl, Ann Ratcliffe, by her lover John Simpson, came on the day the couple stopped for a drink at the Sir Walter Scott pub in North Road on the way to a local church to get married. Simpson cut her throat and was subsequently hanged.

Some believe that Ann's ghost still walks the corridors of the Blue Belle, although the unsettled spirit could also be that of an American soldier who was stabbed to death in the Blue Belle in 1944 by a British soldier during a row about the Battle for Arnhem.

Amongst the pub's many landlords over the years was former Preston North End and Wales player Peter Sayer who was licensee between 1991 and 1999.

Samuel Smith's Brewery has been approached for a comment.