The Forgotten Ruins of ‘The Ancient Mariner’ Pub

ancient-mariner-pub-1 (Images: Alexandra Smith, all rights reserved)

The ruins pictured are those of The Ancient Mariner pub in Workington, Cumbria, which was extensively damaged in 2003 after a gas leak caused a massive explosion followed by a fierce blaze. Since the 1970s, the pub had been given the dubious nickname ‘Honky Tonk’ and was allegedly popular with sailors in the merchant navy who docked in the nearby port.


The Ancient Mariner was built over 150 years ago and was originally called the Albion, meaning the island of Great Britain. While this interesting pub once saw piano playing, live bands and dancing in its lifetime, it is unclear whether these scorched walls once hid networking prostitutes – which is also a feature commonly associated with honky tonk drinking houses.


The Ancient Mariner has witnessed the demise of many of its comrades in recent history as a large number of working-class residential dwellings and commercial buildings in the immediate area were sadly demolished in the 1970s and 80s. Furthermore, in 1994, St Michael’s Church, which sits behind the pub, was devastated by fire after a burglary and was left a windowless, roofless shell until it was finally restored in 2001.


To an imaginative mind, this unfortunate site may have fallen foul of the curse of the ‘albatross around one’s neck’ from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. As well as containing the infamous words ‘Water, water, every where / Nor any drop to drink,’ this tale warns of a mariner who dooms himself and his shipmates to a living death by angering dangerous spirits after he shoots an albatross.


Although the site sold to a Manchester-based developer for £25,000 in 2008, it has gone unsold at subsequent auctions and is now for sale for £15,000 with planning permission for three houses – but who will be brave enough to buy it?

Keep reading – explore 6 fishermen’s chapels, learn about Britain’s rapidly declining pub trade and, on a more positive note, the micropub revolution that might be saving it! 

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