Cabaret, Chinese food and national anthems in Yorkshire’s most eccentric pub

Showers John StanhopeAn entry in the 1961- 62 edition of The Good Food Guide describes the exuberant John Showers and his’ inn’, the Stanhope in Calverley Lane, Rodley, south east of Leeds, thus:

‘He fills out the nightly menus with his own essays, and he has written two books about it. Foreign visitors, of which there are many, are liable to be welcomed in their own tongue (Mr Showers’circular green notepaper has Cheerio on it in thirty languages) and escorted to their tables to the sound of their own national anthem. There is a nightly cabaret, by no means undistinguished and not ‘blue’ for which he sometimes writes the script. The dining-room is very small, and serves some English dishes but ignore them ( except for no. 80 ’curried octopus’—so English, don’t you think?) and go for the Chinese food. Try, divided among a party, the Sea Salad (9/-), inkfish with bean sprouts (8/-), Stanhope Special ( based on chicken , pork and water-chestnuts, 8/ 6) or ask for some advice…

Reading the two books in question one will discover that before he opened The Stanhope, the Essex-born Showers was, among other things, a male manikin, bus conductor, and a banana planter. In 1937, inspired by the example of the new king and his consort playing darts publicly he installed a board in his saloon, hoping to attract the upper middle class. Alas, only the local proletariat came to play, and eventually the board was relocated to the tap-room. All of which recalls Basil Fawlty’s disastrous ‘gourmet night’ !

Happily, Showers’ own forays into international cuisine proved more popular. Before Chinese food had entered the menu at the Stanhope he converted the saloon into a Tyrolean inn, where German food was served by waitresses wearing traditional Alpine costume.

In the mid 1960s, after around thirty years at the Stanhope, Showers moved to the New Inn, Appletreewick, which, fifty years before the official ban was enacted in the UK, he established as the ‘first non- smoking pub in Britain’. Such a radical departure brought him valuable publicity and he ended up appearing in the papers and on TV. Yorkshire folk were then treated to a taste of Scandinavia, as the menu went all Danish in line with the introduction of Tuborg lager and a refurbishment of the saloon.

Showers died some time ago and the two pubs with which he was associated have lost some of their eccentric charm. Most of those customers who knew him recalled the liveliness he brought to his role as host. To the less impressed he was merely a ‘ nut job’. [R.M.Healey]

Thanks to the Pub History website. 

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2 thoughts on “Cabaret, Chinese food and national anthems in Yorkshire’s most eccentric pub

  1. Jot 101 Post author

    Thanks for the link Roger, a good tribute. A case of ‘morphic resonance’ or coincidence as it used to be known! I gave Robin an old Good Food Guide and that inspired him. Showers was very early on the non-smoking thing – posthumous awards may follow

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