THEY have been serving beer and welcoming customers at the Ford Inn for nearly 200 years.
Any intrepid Saddleworth resident back then fancying a flagon of frothing ale from first landlord Nimrod Lilly more than likely used a well-worn packhorse trail to take them across to Holmfirth.
These days it’s more straightforward to reach the historic hostelry on Greenfield Road.
And visitors will find a little piece of England waiting for them: new landlord and landlady, Phil and Helen England.
The Ford Inn, originally a collection of farmsteads on a medieval road, has been on the map since the days of George III.
Now, less than two months after entering the pub trade for the first time, the couple hope they are already on the road to success.
“We have been overwhelmed by the welcome we have got,” said Phil. “It’s been outstanding.
“We have some regulars who have been coming in for nearly 50 years and they’ve told us it’s great we are putting life back into such a historic building.
“It’s been a baptism of fire with Christmas and New Year so soon after taking over – but in an enjoyable way!”
Phil, a former submariner and oil worker, and Helen, bringing her financial expertise, are determined to raise the Ford Inn’s profile, starting with promotion of an upstairs function suite of rooms complete with its own bar.
They’ve already catered for a large party of satisfied ramblers, got a first wedding booked in for February and are well and truly open for business.
“I am determined to ensure it’s used to its full potential,” added Phil.
“We can cater for about 70 covers, looking out on some amazing views.”
There’s plenty of dining space downstairs too, and a well-stocked bar, including 10 beers, lagers and ciders, means the Ford Inn is inviting for drinkers as well as diners.
“The bygone era was when this was a drinking pub,” said Phil. “But it hasn’t been known for that recently.
“We welcome all customers, even if they only want a drink. We have a guest beer that changes every week while Black Sheep is available all the time.”
The Masham favourite is also used as marinade for the home-made steak and ale pie, there’s a mixed grill containing a stomach groaning 24 ounces of meat and a new menu, featuring locally sourced produce, prepared in consultation with chefs Mike and Sammy.
Going forward, Phil and Helen have ambitious plans for the Ford Inn, only around a 15-minute drive from most parts of Saddleworth.
They previously ran an eclectic coffee shop/bistro near York with fate and Phil’s Sat Nav responsible for bringing them to Holmfirth.
“It was a complete accident,” explained Phil whose secondary business venture – Vintage Wishes, a VW Camper Van wedding hire service – brought him to the near-by Huntsman Inn last August.
With photographs done Phil set off home – but took a wrong turning. He came out on Green Gate Road, directly opposite the Ford.
“As I got to the junction I looked up, saw this place and thought ‘what an amazing building’.
“Not longer after we sold our business at Easingwold and started looking round for our next venture.
“We thought about running a food-led pub and saw a couple of places, including one in Rochdale.
“Helen was flicking through a brochure and I suddenly saw a photo of this place. I couldn’t remember the name and didn’t even know it was for sale.
“We came over for an initial look, made it known we were interested and then came back four or five times, including for my mum’s 70th birthday.
“A few months later we signed the lease and New Year’s Day marked six weeks since we took over.
“This place should be buzzing because it is such a great location. It’s our aim to make it THE place to come for food and drink.”