Britain’s roughest and toughest pubs including fighting, drug busts and murder
The pub is a staple of daily British life and has been for generations.
But some boozers have better reputations than others.
From places where you need a bit of Dutch courage just to step inside to others that have found themselves on the wrong side of the law, the Daily Star has compiled a list of some of the roughest and toughest pubs in the country.
Although sadly some of them are no longer in business.
It comes after the Daily Star launched our Great British Booze Off series.
Fill in the form below and vote for your favourite pub. Entries close on May 31 with shortlists following a week later.
Voting opens on June 7, closing June 30 with winners being announced the week beginning July 12.
The Swordfish Inn, Newlyn, Penzance, Cornwall
Predictably enough given its location, the Swordfish is a popular haunt with the fisherman who bring their haul of fish to shore.
It was known for its drink of choice for the sailors – not a group of people usually averse to a heavy drinking session.
The concoction was called the Newlyn knockout and was a mixture of vodka, Drambuie and absinthe. Clearly not for the faint hearted.
The only people who were not welcome in the Swordfish were the French, who the locals fondly remember scrapping with on many occasions.
It was apparently once named the fourth roughest pub in the country but it appears to have cleaned up its act with a host of positive reviews on TripAdvisor.
One said: "Very welcoming staff and locals. Lively, busy pub, great atmosphere for a night cap."
The Flying Shuttle, Bolton
The Flying Shuttle is another pub which in its day was handed the moniker of Britain's roughest boozer – and it is not hard to see why.
Violence in the watering hole was so bad that it once took 13 police officers to close it down in a raid in 2012, who said afterwards: "We still didn't feel safe in the pub."
It was shut down due to evidence of drug taking and staff too scared to call last orders due to fear of reprisals.
Sergeant Rob Knight led the raid and said: "We took 13 officers with us and we still did not feel safe in that pub. Customers were very drunk and aggressive. Their attitude was 'we own this pub, not you.'"
Police found a bag of cannabis worth £100, evidence of cocaine use in the toilets, a broken pool cue they believed was likely to be used as a weapon, as well as cans and plastic bottles that had been filled with booze, proving many customers were not even buying drinks there.
In a Bolton Council licensing hearing, licensing officer PC Garry Lee told councillors: "Not even John Wayne could sort out the problems there at the moment."
Some protesting regulars turned to arson to save the pub, starting fires around the boozer. They also changed signs, renaming The Flying Shuttle: The Lying Slut, by strategically deleting letters.
The pub is now a supermarket.
The Blind Beggar, Whitechapel, east London
The Blind Beggar was a notorious hangout spot for the Kray brothers in their reign of terror in the 1960s.
It was the place where Ronnie Kray famously shot gangster rival George Cornell on March 9, 1966.
Kray reportedly heard that Cornell was drinking in the Blind Beggar and went to settle a score after his rival supposedly called him a “fat poof”.
The murder took place in what was then the saloon bar.
Ronnie was later imprisoned for the brutal murder.
The bar was frequented by Harry Redknapp and was once owned by England’s World Cup winning captain Sir Bobby Moore.
Nowadays the boozer is still a popular haunt with locals and has a family atmosphere without the sinister undertones of its past.
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The Wilsons Arms, Mirfield, West Yorkshire
The Wilsons Arms was once dubbed Britain’s Toughest Pub and was notorious for violence punch-ups.
It avoided compulsory closure after a string of violent incidents, including a customer slashing another man across the face with a knife in September 2018.
In February of that year a brawl saw a man headbutted, another had his head stamped on while the landlady was hit wth a pool cue.
Despite avoiding being shut down by Kirklees Council, the pub did close down towards the end of 2018 and was boarded up early the following year.
It was later reported that the venue was unlikely to be a pub again with a local putting a planning application with the council to turn it into a beauty parlour and spa.
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Mother Shipton, Portsmouth
The Mother Shipton, a boozer popular with dockers who worked in the port city, used to have a reputation for trouble.
Portsmouth apparently has more pubs per population than anywhere else in the country, and in Toughest Pubs in Britain, locals revelled in its reputation as a ‘hard’ place.
The Mother Shipton is situated in one of Portsmouth’s toughest areas and is described as a “proper local pub” and “daunting”.
It is another pub which seems intent on improving its reputation, with some punters saying they were surprised it was included in the list of the Toughest Pubs in Britain and others praising the friendly bar staff and locals.
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The Waggon & Horses, St Albans
The Waggon and Horses took on a novel approach to try and drum up business – by turning itself into a ‘strip pub’.
The strippers working at the pub complained they had no pole or stage to dance on and were forced to change in the disabled toilet.
Girls were also forced to pay 50p on the jukebox if they wanted any music played while they danced.
The Waggon and Horses has given up any pretended about being a pub and is now just a strip club called Junction 9.
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The Wyndham Arms, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
The Wyndham Arms in Merthyr Tydfil had a reputation for having an older clientele who were not afraid of having a scrap.
Locals said that strangers from other parts of Wales who would turn up at the pub “would not stop long”.
One said: “They’re either carried out of they’re knocked out.”
Reviews online describe it as a popular haunt for ex-miners and boxers and “not for the faint hearted”.
Unfortunately the boozers appears to be temporarily closed. At the end of 2020 it was forced to shut for two weeks for not enforcing coronavirus restrictions.
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Peep Peeps, Aberdeen
Peep Peeps bar was traditionally frequented by dockers and seamen,
The boozer, which is believed to have called last orders in 2013, was very close to Aberdeen’s red light district, which one local councillor said was “not the kind of area you would usually walk down”.
Landlord, Chris Cummings, was described as a “no-nonsense publican” who made sure pimps and prostitutes stayed off the premises due to its location.
Mr Cummings, who ran the pub for 35 years but has since sadly passed away, said they would try to come in and use the toilet, and he was having none of it – normally using some agricultural language.
The decor and ambiance of the pub changed little in the three decades Chris was mine host.
He said: "If you changed it you'd lose all the boys – it's just a character bar. It's not a posh, upmarket place."
Tavern on the Hill, Walthamstow, east London
The Tavern on the Hill was once included in a TV show about the Toughest Pubs in Britain.
It was described as being a “rough pub” where “everyone needs to respect each other”. One local said it has a “reputation for being a bloodbath,” adding: “I don’t know how many times the carpet has been changed.”
After the TV show was released the then-landlord of the boozer, Rob Richie, was critical of how the boozer was portrayed.
One of the Kray twins is rumoured to have stayed the night at the pub during their infamous reign of terror but Mr Richie said he was keen to create a “family atmosphere”.
Nowadays the pub serves a varied menu of Japanese and traditional pub grub.
It is described as being on the edge of “rapidly gentrifying Walthamstow”.
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