15 : The Richard Oastler, Brighouse

The Richard Oastler Bethel Street, Brighouse HD6 1JN

What was originally a fine Victorian chapel and was later converted into the local market has now been converted into a spectacular pub. The Richard Oastler is situated in the heart of the small West Yorkshire town of Brighouse. It is an imposing building - designed to emphasise the glory of God. Now it proudly emphasises the glory of a good pint of real ale with equal enthusiasm.

The chapel was built in 1978 and remained as a place of worship for 105 years. In 1983 the glorious gallery and organ were boarded up and the main space was converted into an indoor market. In 1999 it was rescued from this rather sad fate when the building was acquired by J D Wetherspoons who converted it into a pub. The ground floor was opened up into a large seating area and the gallery and organ were once again opened up to view. 

Like many Wetherspoon conversions, it is hard to fault it : but you are still left with a feeling that there is something slightly fake about it. As I was drinking my pint I had the feeling that it reminded me of somewhere and it took quite a few minutes to realise what it was : some of the larger themed dining rooms you can find at a Disney Park. This is not in itself a criticism - Disney reconstructions are very well done : but they are still fakes. This building is not a fake - but it somehow feels a bit like one. You half expect Donald Duck to start playing the organ every half-hour.

The pub is named after local resident Richard Oastler who, in the early nineteenth century was partly responsible for the campaign to introduce the first laws that limited working time for children in factories. Oastler was a complex character - a high Tory who opposed trade unions and who was later imprisoned for debt and embezzlement.

If there is one thing that Wetherspoon's knows how to do it is to serve am excellent pint of beer. I tried a pint of the Hook Norton "Hooky Gold" which was on special offer at just £1.39p. It had been kept perfectly and was a pleasure to drink in such surroundings. It had a sharp, clean taste and a quite beautiful light golden colour. 

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