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A bar with no beer is giving visitors a taste of times gone by in the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire.
Dandelion and Burdock and Blood Tonic are slightly unusual sounding drinks but then Mr Fitzpatrick¹s is no ordinary hostelry.
The black and white Victorian building situated in the old industrial town of Rawtenstall is Britain¹s last original temperance bar and non-alcoholic cordials rather than beers, wines and spirits have been on the menu here ever since it first opened 120 years ago.
Drinks are still made from the same recipes that the Fitzpatrick family used back in 1890 and owner Chris Law says that walking through the doors “feels like stepping back in time.”
There’s an impressive dark wood marble-topped bar with pottery casks and the walls are lined with shelves displaying not only cordials but an array of traditional confectionary as well as culinary and medicinal herbs.
“It’s only a tiny place”, Law points out, “but it’s still quite an experience and everyone who comes here loves it.”
Law was so taken with the bar that when it came up for sale in 2000 he jumped at the chance to run it. “My grandfather lived just around the corner and used to bring me to Mr Fitzpatrick’s on a Saturday morning when I was a child”, he reminisces. “We’d sit down and he’d have a Black Beer and Raisin and I’d have a Sarsaparilla. I used to be an engineer so I thought it would be a nice change to be in out of the cold!” he adds.
The Temperance movement began in the 1830’s at a time when alcoholism was rife and untaxed cheap ale and gin were blamed for driving the working classes into drunkenness. Joseph Livesey, a cheese-maker from Preston decided to take matters into his own hands by establishing a society under which a pledge was taken never to drink alcohol.
Temperance bars became the social outlet of the society and the focal point of many communities where locals gathered to sing songs and enjoy a tankard of cordial. By the 1880’s the bars graced every high street in the North of England and Mr Fitzpatrick’s was one of the most prominent names with a chain of establishments run by a herbalist family who had migrated from Dublin.
Law’s grandfather was a good friend of Malachi Fitzpatrick who ran the Rawstenstall bar for over half a century. Malachi, who was gifted one of his father’s temperance bars as a wedding present, was a pillar of the local community who never took a day off sick and was said to have looked about 50 even in his 90s.
“We can only think that this could have been attributed to the medicinal concoctions that go into Mr Fitzpatrick’s cordials” comments Law who says that while they are not cures, his drinks do contain ingredients known for their health- giving properties such as rosehip, nettle and sarsaparilla root.
All of Mr Fitzpatrick’s eight traditional cordials are created and bottled in a small room above the shop using natural ingredients bought in from as far afield as Jamaica. It’s not very hi-tech but it’s much more modern production process than the one that Law inherited he explains.
“The previous owners used to make the cordials in a tiny space in the bar and put them in old wine bottles people brought in. It was quite a slapdash operation and would probably not meet with EU regulations now!”
Law opted for traditional style bottles and labels, emblazoned with the temperance pledge of ‘Purity, Truth, Love’, and expanded production to allow for online sales. Mr Fitzpatrick’s also supplies about 20 local delis and on Sunday when the bar is closed Law sells the cordials at nearby farmer’s markets.
“I thought it would be easier than my previous job,” he admits. “That hasn’t actually turned out to be the case but it’s a bit of a bug and you just give it your all as Mr Fitzpatrick’s is so much a part of this community.”
Not surprisingly, the bar is not only popular with locals but also day-trippers and visitors from even further afield. “We had 36 Japanese students in here yesterday which was a bit of a squash,” says Law.
Rossendale, Lancs BB4 6QS
Tel: 01706 231836
Open Mon-Sat from 9.30am 4.30pm