Some history of the George and Dragon on St. George's Quay at Lancaster in the County of Lancashire


Our visit to the George and Dragon was in two parts. During a soggy walk around Lancaster we wandered along a footpath behind the Priory Church to reach St. George's Quay. The two photographs of the George and Dragon are slightly out of sync because it was not until we returned from a cycle ride around The Fylde two days later that we had the opportunity to enjoy a drink inside the pub. This historic tavern did not open its doors until 16.00hrs so we were disappointed not to be able to visit during our walking tour of St. George's Quay, one of the most interesting parts of Lancaster.

Lancaster : George and Dragon on St. George's Quay [2017]
© Photo taken by author on September 12th, 2017. DO NOT COPY

This photograph shows the George and Dragon in relation to the old warehouses on St. George's Quay, along with the magnificent Custom House. The huge monolithic columns of the Custom House were each hewn from massive stones sourced from Damasgill or Mainstones Quarry at nearby Ellel. The veins within this stone creates a wonderful effect.

Lancaster : The Custom House [2017]
© Photo taken by author on September 12th, 2017. DO NOT COPY

Home to Lancaster's Maritime Museum, the Custom House has been described as the finest example of Palladian architecture in the north-west of England. Built to replace an earlier Custom House and making a bold display of Lancaster's growth and prosperity during the slave trade period, the Custom House was designed by Richard Gillow and completed in 1764. With the decline of the port, the building's role was transferred to Barrow-in-Furness in 1882. At the height of Lancaster's colonial trade, only London, Liverpool and Bristol could lay claim to more shipping activity.¹

" The Slave Trade" by John Raphael Smith after George Morland, 1762-1812
Image reproduced under the Creative Commons licence.

The warehouses along St. George's Quay were erected for Lancaster's merchants who made their fortunes directly or less explicitly from the slave trade. More than 29,000 Africans, mainly from Gambia, Sierra Leone and the Windward Coast were transported by Lancaster vessels during the mid-late 18th century.² The warehouses were used to store traded goods such as timber, sugar, spices, rum and cotton. One of the leading family businesses involved in the colonial trade was Gillow's furniture and cabinet-making firm. It was Richard Gillow, son of the founder, who designed the new Custom House which operated between 1764-1882 when the port went into decline. The Custom House, which later served a variety of roles, was restored by Lancaster City Council in the early 1980s and opened as the Lancaster Maritime Museum in 1985.

Lancaster suffered severe economic decline in the early-mid 19th century, a situation exacerbated by the collapse of the town's two major banks, and this inhibited the redevelopment of the quayside in subsequent years. Once decaying buildings have since been restored to their former splendour and Lancaster boasts some of the best-preserved Georgian architecture in England. Walking around St. George's Quay, it is easy to envisage the thronging port in its halcyon days. This environment heightens the allure of the two surviving pubs.

Lancaster : Map extract showing the location of the George and Dragon on St. George's Quay [1892]
© Crown Copyright. Reproduced with kind permission of the National Library of Scotland under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

Before venturing into the George and Dragon, we took a look at the building to the left of the pub. It is one of the extreme examples of a building that settled during construction. Erecting tall heavy buildings on Lancaster's soft soggy soil has always been problematic. The adjacent crooked house has an incredible lean which lends great character to the façade.

Lancaster : Interior of the George and Dragon on St. George's Quay [2017]
© Photo taken by author on September 14th, 2017. DO NOT COPY

One of the problems for the George and Dragon in the present day is that it is out on a limb for those wandering around Lancaster's real ale taverns. It is a lovely little boozer but during our visit I feared that it is not doing enough trade. However, it is hard to see how the amiable gaffer could boost trade or at least attract more custom. Mind you, there was some new development further along the estuary and perhaps the pub would benefit from a new local community. The historic warehouses have largely been converted into apartments so it could only be hoped that the residents supported their local boozer.

The George and Dragon is an attractive late 18th century building. One sad loss is the old glass window installed by local brewers, Yates & Jackson Ltd., the pub's operators over a century ago. The pub claimed to have best beer garden in Lancaster and I couldn't argue with the assertion being as The Castle and Priory Church form a stunning backdrop. We are always keen however to soak up some of the pub's history by parking ourselves inside the building. Benefiting from some improvements, the interior of the pub remained very traditional and was a very nice drinking environment. The walls featured some fabulous photographs of old Lancaster including some of the quay area.

Pump Clips for Joseph Holt's "Two Hoots" and Elgood's "Beer Goggles"

I was slightly taken aback that the gaffer hailed from Bloxwich. He is perhaps the most congenial person to originate from the Mossley estate, a place where the shopping parade can look like a war zone. He keeps his cask ales in decent nick and we enjoyed Joseph Holt's Two Hoots and Elgood's Beer Goggles. We did not get to meet his dog which is apparently a darling - the George and Dragon being one of the few dog-friendly pubs in the locality.

Two Hoots is brewed with pale ale and lager malts with a generous helping of cascade whole hops, a favourite of the craft breweries in the US. The result sweeps you in to an invigorating, bright ale with a citrusy aroma and delicate fruit characteristics. Smooth on the palate, this ale won't be ruffling any feathers.

Pump Clip for Elgood's Beer Goggles

Upturned Pump Clip for Elgood's Beer Goggles

Elgood's landed in a hot liquior vat after issuing Beer Goggles with a spinning pump clip. Inevitably in the modern era, there would be complaints about the clip being sexist. And indeed there was something of a Twitter storm when the King's Arms at Horsham published a photograph on their social media page. It went viral and forced the brewery to issue a statment that "we are a very old family brewery, owned and run by three sisters and would not seek to intentionally offend people although it is always possible to do so inadvertently." ³

John Thomas Benbow was licensee of the George and Dragon in the 1920s. A descendant of the famous Admiral Benbow, the publican apparently possessed a record in keeping with the tradition of the Benbow family. The son of farming parents, he was born at Morton Hall at Market Drayton in 1881. However, rather than tilling soil he left to join the 2nd Battalion of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. During his 23½ years of service, he rose from the ranks, to be the P.M.S., and his record was such an excellent one, that he was offered a commission in the Egyptian Army at the close of World War One. He declined, preferring to move to Lancaster where he saw out his service as a recruiting sergeant. It was reported that, during his association with the army, he was stationed in nearly every part of the Eastern Countries. He took part in the West African Campaign, and from 1910 to the outbreak of the war, was in India. Returning to England in 1914, he was immediately drafted to France, and then to Salonika, where he was on the staff of General Sir George Francis Milne, who awarded him the Meritorious Medal for his services. He also gained the medals awarded for Great War Service, and also the Long Service Medal. While in India he became a Freemason, and was identified with the Lebong and Mount Everest Lodges at Dongelling. After leaving the army he entered the licensed trade whilst, through his interest in football, he was elected president of Lune Rovers F.C.⁴

Licensees of the George and Dragon

1828 - John Singleton
1888 - John Clayton
1891 - William Pym
1892 - John Thomas Archer Leack
1895 - Robert Miller
1897 - Alice Miller
1927 - John Thomas Benbow
1940 - Frederick William Beacham
1941 - Ethel May Beacham
1942 - Robert Eccles
1969 - Andrew Doey
1969 - Doreen S. Doey
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub. The dates of early licensees are sourced from trade directories, census data, electoral rolls, rate books and newspaper articles. Names taken from trade directories may be slightly inaccurate as there is some slippage from publication dates and the actual movement of people.

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Related Newspaper Articles

"James E. Lucas, [32], c/o The George and Dragon Hotel, St. George's Quay, Lancaster, was detained in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, yesterday afternoon with severe injuries to his hand. He was working on the dredger in the River Lune when his hand was caught and crushed in cog-wheels."
"Hand Crushed On Dredger"
Lancaster Guardian : September 24th 1937 Page 3

"Regulars at the George and Dragon on St. George's Quay, Lancaster, downed their pints with extra relish on Saturday night, after becoming amateur fire fighters when a paraffin heater was accidentally knocked over in the vaults. They rolled the heater outside and had extinguished it by the time the Fire Brigade arrived to douse the smouldering fittings and furniture. Licensee, Andrew Doey, told The Visitor that about £40 worth of damage had been caused to decorations, seats, two doors, a pin table and a coat. Out of ten other calls dealt with by firemen over the weekend, eight were to grass fires involving many thousands of square yards."
"Pub Customers Fight Fire In The Vaults"
Morecambe Visitor : March 6th 1968 Page 16

1. Dalziel, Nigel & April Whichip [1989] "A Maritime Trail In Lancaster" : Lancaster City Council; Page 8.
2. Lancaster Museums "The Transatlantic Slave Trade" <>, Accessed March 23rd, 2024.
3. Sutton, Nikkie [2018] "Beer Removed From Pub Over 'Outdated' And 'Nasty' Pump Clip Row" in Morning Advertiser <>, Accessed March 23rd, 2024.
4. "Licensee's Death : Descendant Of A Famous Admiral" : Morecambe Guardian; October 15th, 1927, Page 2.

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