I’ve been reminded by Rick Ellison, the boss of Atlantik Inns, who run the Old Hall Hotel in Hope and a few others, that October saw the 35th anniversary of the late Geoff Fuller and his wife Pat taking over the licence of the Three Stags’ Heads at Wardlow Mires – they arrived there on 14 October 1988.
The Three Stags’ Heads has quite the legendary status being a very long established, unspoiled rural pub that is listed in CAMRA’s National Inventory of historic pub interiors and has won many awards, full of characters and dogs. It just opens for a long weekend, from Thursday evening onwards and has a selection of local ales on the bar. The pub has two rooms, both with open fires.
Geoff and Pat retired from running the pub in 2019 with Andy & Cath installed as managers.
Pat tells the story that when they bought the pub she just wanted a place where she could make pottery with Geoff, with room for a kiln. Geoff, who had already made a name for himself in ceramic circles, fancied the idea of tying it in with a traditional English pub. I’m sure that anyone who has visited the Three Stags will agree you can’t get any more traditional than this!
The Three Stags is somewhere you will enjoy a visit to as long as you do it with respect and on the terms of the landlord and regulars! You also need to appreciate the specific character and charm that some may consider eccentric or quirky. I recall back when I first visited the beer range was cask from Abbeydale (including their house special Black Lurcher Ale named after the dogs) and some bottled Belgian beers, with a notice above the bar stating “please do not ask for draught lager as a punch in the gob often offends”.
Rick Ellison recalls once being in there somewhat under the influence and almost tripping over something that moved. He asked on his next visit “Geoff, did I trip over a chicken last week?” with Geoff replying without hesitation “the biggest we’ve had in was a donkey!”.
“Andy Knives” the manager recalls a stormy afternoon when a group of soaking wet walkers came in and completely surrounded the fireplace. Geoff was heard to say “would you mind moving so that the rest of the pub can feel the fire?” to which the reply was “we will when we are warm and dry”. To Geoff this was a red rag to a bull! He went straight to the cellar and got a plastic Newcastle Brown crate that happened to fir perfectly into the open fire, much to the upset of Pat who was heard shouting “we get a deposit back off them Geoff!” The stern reply was “I don’t care”. Within 30 seconds the tap room floor parted like the Red Sea and the heat was like napalm, Once the pandemonium had started to subside, Geoff was heard to say “Are ya warm enough lads?”
Geoff’s funeral service took place on 1 June 2022, the pub remains open and unspoilt.
You can read Geoff’s obituary in the Guardian newspaper here.