The Smallest Pub in Britain

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【For Chinese version please click here. 中文版请点击这里。】

… is The Nutshell in Bury st Edmund, as confirmed by Guinness World Records. 

On a Saturday afternoon, I stood outside of the pub and poked my head gingerly through the doorway. A rather stout barman was wiping beer glasses and looked at me suspiciously. The small 15ft-by-7ft confined space made me feel like a timid intruder. “Can I take some pictures here?” The room felt even more quiet and serious. 

“Of course!” He broke into a smile and the dour, stern air about him vanished without trace.

Like any other traditional pubs in England, the Nutshell is elaborately decorated and smell of musty wood. There were a few work of taxidermy, military badges, glassware in different sizes and historical photos in black and white around the room. But no amount of ornaments could shadow the mummified black cat hung on top of the bar.

Yes, a carcass.  A dead cat.

Do you know that back then, builders used to brick cats up behind chimney hearths to bring good luck into the building? These domesticated felines would then die a slow painful death either because of starvation or heat. During building work at the Nutshell, the carcass of this black cat was discovered. Perhaps it was the best way to commemorate the poor creature, it was hung on top of the bar, giving it a somewhat omnipotent position to observe the floor.  

The pub can accommodate around 10 people, or 15 if they are happy not to move and quaff a pint with elbows clipped on to their body. Though it might be slightly difficult for them to crane forward to admire the military memorabilia on the walls or the ceiling full of currency notes. But it’s doable given enough motivation.

Oh, and it’s a tradition that none of these ornaments are ever dusted.

During the Second World War, there were many air bases around the Nutshell occupied by the Americans. That is why you can see the tiny star-spangled flag in the corner or pick up some transatlantic writing style in the  pub’s testimonial book – left behind by one too many nostalgic guests.

On a regular evening, people who come for a pint pour out from the pub and flow onto the street. And maybe, it’s a way to keep the pub space-efficient, the landlord decided to ban a 6ft7 drinker (about 200cm) from entering the premises during peak hours. “A real gentle giant, but…takes up such a lot of space that I have to turn away at least four normal-sized drinkers.”

However, on 10 March 1984, 102 people and a dog named Bob actually squeezed in. It was record breaking and scored a mention on the pub’s Wikipedia page.

Again, like any other traditional pubs in England, the Nutshell has its resident ghosts – as many as four. A little cramped or awkward, even, for a place so small.

One is said to be a young, blonde-haired boy who was murdered in his bath; the second is a long-haired Victorian gentleman who roams the second floor; the last are a monk and a nun who had an illicit love affair, as seen by many regulars in the pub cellar.

I quickly took a few pictures and left, feeling quite very regretful the next day. I should have stayed for a beer, in a pub so full of stories to tell and character to capture. And you?

How do you like this pint-sized star of Bury St Edmund?

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With love x

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