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Pub/Bar of the Month August 2012: Sutton Hall, Macclesfield, UK
Sutton Hall, Macclesfield, UK
Well here's a find. Out in the lush countryside to the south of Macclesfield town I stumble upon a country manor house. Except it's a country manor house no more: it's a pub and a very successful one at that.
Sutton Hall is the ancestral home of the Earls of Lucan.
The most famous member of said clan was the cad with the pantomime villain moustache who disappeared sharply in the 1970s when the body of his nanny was discovered at his London abode.
That Lord Lucan has never been traced though rumours of his whereabouts continue to circulate.
His former family residence – five centuries old – is almost as hard to find, tucked in among the country lanes of Cheshire, but it's well worth the effort, if only to see how well the Brunning & Price pub company runs the establishment.
This much-praised small pubco makes quality its watchword and that's evident in the way in which the building has been restored and opened to the public.
I've paid good money to visit stately homes less impressive and the best thing about it is that it's not been turned into a swanky hotel or conference centre. It's a pub, pure and simple, albeit one with a strong food influence.
The approach to the pub comes along a tree-lined avenue bordered on each side by fields of grazing sheep and with a view down to the adjacent Macclesfield Canal and its narrowboats.
The gardens are spacious and well tended, the outside terrace – in the lee of the imposing black-and-white-timbered house – agreeably free of traffic-noise.
The main room you enter is appropriately baronial, dominated by a huge fireplace. Ancient wood is a feature – heavy, crooked beams above; warped, ancient floorboards, scattered with rugs, below.
Old prints, bills and posters – including for breweries lost and perhaps forgotten – are liberally scattered along the walls, not just here but in the adjoining, parquet-floored dining area and on throughout the pub.
At every turn there seems to be a new room to explore, from the old library, trustingly still endowed with old books, to the open-plan seating area behind the flagstoned central bar area that features royalty memorabilia in glass cabinets.
Tucked immediately behind the servery are two suitably cosy snugs, perfect little hiding places where you can skulk off and sink a few pints away from the world.
Five cask ales are delivered on the bar. These included on my visit a house beer called Lord Lucan from Wincle Brewery and a beer called Directionless, brewed by Redwillow Brewery, as the blackboard reveals, 'less than a mile away'.
Brunning & Price's own beer brand, Original from Phoenix Brewery, was also available.
The quality of the ales is recognized by an entry in the Good Beer Guide and various local CAMRA awards, but really it is worth visiting Sutton Hall just for the architecture and the history.
There are very few pubs as impressive as this.
Sutton Hall, Bullocks Lane, Sutton, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 0HE
Tel. (01260) 253211
Opening Hours: 11.30–11; 12–10.30 Sunday