Also posted on my WakefieldVistas blog
It just so happened that my most recent meal at the New Inn fell on the night of the grand opening of the new restaurant – Lock Eleven.
The New Inn is my local pub and I have been there many times for both food and drink. It has a good range of beers, the food is excellent and the staff friendly. However, my main purpose here is not to give a pub or restaurant review but to discuss the newly refurbished pub itself and the history that it helps to evoke. To some extent I adopt the role of art an critic or local historian.
Throughout the New Inn there are framed photographs of a wide range of Walton views that, for me, were an inspired form of decoration in the first place. They capture the essence of contemporary Walton. These have remained in the newly refurbished setting and continue to provide a necessary sense of place.
In the main part of the pub, the ‘old part’, there is new carpeting, new wallpaper and new lighting. The use of new lanterns of various colours creates a warm atmosphere and the new wallpaper is of exquisite quality. The whole ensemble blends together well and continuity is created between the newly refurbished ‘old’ part and the previously non public component that has been newly incorporated.
Moving down the steps into the lower part of the restaurant, the part that opens onto the car park and has its own set of patio doors, is the entrance part for the restaurant. It has its own welcome desk for diners and the room is tastefully put together. Hopefully this arrangement will prevent diners monopolising the bar area and maintain the New Inn as a traditional pub as well as a restaurant.
The next part that I am going to discuss is where things get really interesting – the part of the building that was previously out of the public sphere. There is a passage way that links to some new dining areas. One of these areas is next to the kitchen and you can see the food being prepared via a large serving hatch. This linkage to the heart of the restaurant, the kitchen, works very well. It also gives you an opportunity to appreciate the work of the people who prepare the food.
Then we have another new previously unseen area, the upstairs part. This is the exclusive part of the the new restaurant, Lock Eleven. To get a seat in this part you need to book in advance. This part is airy and opens out onto a balcony where people are able to enjoy al fresco dining on fine days. There are views of the village from here and I could even see the House in which I was born, back in the 1970s.
Lock Eleven was an inspired choice for a name. I love it when people think about local history in such decisions, it is an important consideration when creating an authentic sense of place. Walton was once on the route of the Barnsley Canal that was started in 1793. The canal was a key transport link during the Industrial Revolution. Lock Eleven was the lock that stood next to the New Inn Pub. Walton still has places where the canal infrastructure can still be seen and many of these are set in beautiful countryside. The fact that then North of England was at the epicentre of the industrial revolution is of global historical significance.
As for the atmosphere on opening night, you could sense the excitement and enthusiasm about the place when you walked through the door, the pride of the staff was palpable. The pub has already received a significant transformation when Ria and Iain took over from Tommy. However, the new look is on a completely different level – it is spectacular! The feel is luxurious and there is great attention to detail. The ornaments are amazing too, note the grizzly bear and the rhino in particular.
I am sure people will come to the restaurant from miles around – the surroundings are as excellent as the food and the atmosphere is great.
Perhaps the diners might also choose to explore the surrounding countryside and its history. There are other things to see in addition to the remains of the canal. Walton is also the site of the world’s first nature reserve (1) that was built on the estate of the local squire – Charles Waterton. His seat, Walton Hall, which is now a hotel is well worth seeing. Much of the wall that surrounded the nature reserve is still standing, though it could do with some repair given its historical importance.
Walton is well worth a visit for people who like natural history, conservation, environmentalism or wildlife – Charles Darwin himself once visited (2) (3) Squire Waterton at Walton Hall. Pollution from the Soap House in Walton inspired what must have been one of the earliest instances of environmentalist litigation when Charles Waterton took on soap manufacturer Edward Thornhill Simpson and won (4) (5). Soap House Yard is, incidentally, located only a few meters away from the location of the New Inn.
After such a visit, environmental tourists to Walton could do a lot worse than checking out Lock Eleven and having a meal. Creating it was obviously a labour of love by people who are deeply attached to the Village of Walton and its heritage.
(1) Waterton’s Park
(4) Charles Waterton 1782 – 1865: Traveller and Conservationist, by Julia Blackburn (Chapter XV page 144-155)
Some other interesting articles about Charles Waterton: