20th Century Pub pubs

The Alpine Gasthof: let’s crack this

The Alpine Gasthof in Rochdale is something of a mystery. Why is there a replica of a German building in Lancashire? When was it built? And who designed it?

We wrote the first version of this post in 2017 when we were researching an article about German Bierkellers in English towns – a major trend in the 1970s.

The Gasthof, without doubt one of the UK’s weirdest pubs, became a side quest.

We’ve still never been, and might have missed our window, as it seems to have been closed for several years.

Instead, we had to rely on sources such as Tandleman’s post after a visit in 2017:

Perhaps the oddest of Sam Smith’s pubs is its take-off of a German local pub, uprooted it seems, in looks if nothing else, from Garmisch or some other Alpine resort. Only it is in Rochdale. Not only is it in Rochdale, but it is on a busy main road, which if you follow it for not too long, will take you to Bacup. This is the Land that Time Forgot. Don’t do that… Not only is it incongruously in Rochdale, but it is in a less than salubrious part of town… The pub has the usual German style high sloping roof and inside is, well, a sort of pastiche of a German pub, but done, unusually for Sam’s, sort of on the cheap.

Although there were lots of photos, and though everyone seemed quite fascinated by the place, there didn’t seem to be many concrete facts.

We didn’t hold out great hopes for any information from the brewery which is notoriously tight-lipped but did get this, which is a start:

The Alpine Gasthof was built in the 1970s (don’t have the exact date to hand) because the previous pub we had on that site had to be demolished for road widening. To have a bit of fun we decided to build a pub modelled on the Brauerei Gasthof Hotel in Aying, Germany because at that time we were brewing Ayinger beer under licence.

(OK, this is embarrassing, though – we can’t find our source for that information. The way we worded this in 2017 make sit sound as if we did get some kind of communication from the brewery, which doesn’t seem likely.)

We can well imagine Sam Smith’s execs going to Aying during licence negotiations and being charmed by the original, pictured here in a shot taken from the gallery on the hotel website.

Brauereigasthof-Hotel-Aying exterior: a typical German-style building with green shutters and a high sloping roof.

Although, oddly, the pastiche doesn’t look that much like it. Here it is photographed in 2013, via Ian S on under a Creative Commons Licence:

The Alpine Gasthof, Rochdale, another typical German style buiulding with shutters, balconies and a high sloping roof.

With a bit more to go on we reckon we can guess that the date of its construction was around 1972, at the tail-end of the theme pub craze (Further reading: Chapter 5 in 20th Century Pub) and just as the German Bierkeller trend was kicking in.

That’s also when Sam Smith’s started brewing Ayinger-branded beers.

But we were awful short on actual evidence. We thought this might be something…

A Google Books snippet view extract from International  Brewing & Distilling from 1972 which mentions an Ayingerbrau Gasthof opening at Wetherby in Yorkshire.

…but there are two problems.

First, though Google Books has the date of publication as 1972 the particular issue referencing the Alpine Gasthof might be from, say, 1978.

We’ve come across this problem in the past. It’s hard to know until you have the journal in front of you, fully readable. Secondly… It says Wetherby, Yorkshire.

Surely some mistake? But, no, apparently not — there is at least one other (slightly odd) reference to an Alpine Gasthaus in Wetherby, giving the address as Boroughbridge Road, LS22 5HH.

That led us to this local news story about the burning down in 2005 of the Alpine Lodge, a two-storey chalet-style building in Kirk Deighton (Wetherby).

There are various other bits out there including this interview with the couple who ran it for several decades and a teasingly indistinct photo taken from a moving car in bright sunlight on this Facebook nostalgia website.

We’ve taken the liberty of reproducing it here, with some tweaks — hopefully no-one will mind.

The Alpine Inn AKA the Alpine Lodge, at the side of a main road, in a grainy old photograph.

What a bizarre building to find there on the side of the A1.

And that leaves us with two Alpine-style Sam Smith’s pubs to be puzzled about.

So, do drop us a line if you know anything concrete about the origins of either pub (that is, not reckonings or guesses); have friends or family members who might have drunk in them; or live near either Rochdale or Wetherby and fancy popping to your local library to look at newspapers for 1972.

An update for 2023

Six years later, we’ve come back to this post with a little fresh information.

Neil Whittaker got in touch earlier this year with this nugget of information on the Alpine Gasthof, with some minor edits for clarity:

My dad was the architect. He was Donald Whittaker of Whittaker Design in Oldham.

He passed sadly in 1999 but the business is alive and has just celebrated 50 years.

He visited Garmisch in Bavaria to do his research.

He was away for weeks, obviously needing to accurately sample the beer Kellers unique atmosphere.

I missed him as I was only 10 but he brought me some lovely model cars back so it was worth it.

He did a lot of work for Sam Smith’s, including the unique Pullman carriage attached to the Yew Tree in Thornham, Rochdale, which was the restaraunt in the 1970s and 80s. It is sadly long gone, although the pub remains.

He was also responsible for a J.W. Lees pub in the ski resort of Flaine in France, bringing their terrible tulip lager to the alps in around 1978!

Thanks to new additions to the British Newspaper Archive we’ve also been able to get closer to pinning down the date of Gasthof’s opening.

A promotional article in The Rochdale Observer for 7 March 1979 refers to the pub as having been open for “a little over four years”, allowing us to pin it down to late 1974 or early 1975.

The article also gives us a glimpse of its operation at the time:

Since last September it has been under the management of Stephen and Lesley Fagan, who have put it on the map for more than just its excellent food… When the Gasthof was opened the owners, Samuel Smith’s Brewery, went to great pains to bring an authentic atmosphere. They imported antique furnishings and modern pineware from Bavaria… It has a strong flavour of Bavaria in its menu, with Austrian dishes alongside English favourites… For example, among the appetisers is Kartoffelpuffer, which are potato pancakes… Fish with sauerkraut is another delicacy… Among the sweets, the Bavarian style hot cherries are delicious.

One observation we’ve often made about theme pubs, however, is that they usually strayed from the original concept after only a few years.

The Gasthof was built with food as its primary offer, and lager as the focus. By 1979, the Fagans were downplaying food, eager to get more drinkers in. The menu had gained more traditional English dishes. And, in keeping with the trends of the time, had started serving real ale “from the wood”.

19 replies on “The Alpine Gasthof: let’s crack this”

I remember the Kirk Deighton one as a building very clearly; my dad always said it was a dump and nicer before they Alpineised it. There’s a bit about it’s pre-Alpine history in this story:, which I found from this thread:
Kirk Deighton is only a few miles from Tad, but still a rather odd location for an Alpine-themed pub; Rochdale, though, seems even stranger.
Here’s the death of it:

Here’s a link that doesn’t show a photo, but says one exists from the early 1900s of the pub:

Pic and a bit more here, but at least some of the info is wrong (date of fire):

Nick — a couple of those are already linked in the post!

Most of the recollections of the Yorkshire one we can find online seem to say either that (a) it was great fun or (b) a dump. Lots of people mention the lights with which it was covered — not very Bavarian, but presumably helpful if you’re trying to lure in passing drivers.

Sorry, so they are… sorry, got rather carried away.

Yes, it had lots of lights and that certainly made it stand out. I only ever remember it in Alpine form, so would love to know more about when it was converted – it seems to have been pretty successful in its previous guise.

A Man Who Remembers The Seventies writes: my immediate reaction to the picture of the Gasthaus – and its lack of resemblance to the original – was an automatic “well, chalet style, innit“. Dredging my memories, it seems to me that “chalet style” or “Swiss look” was A Thing in the early to mid-seventies. Pizzaland (established 1970) had a Swiss decor theme in its early years, presumably on the grounds that this would seem less scarily foreign than an Italian look. (This is the period when the standard Pizzaland lunch consisted of two slices of pizza, cole slaw and a jacket potato. No, you didn’t get to choose the pizza.)

Sounds great!

Researching the Bierkeller article we were amused to find how many were marketed as Swiss, Austrian or even Scandinavian. There was clearly some popular idea of a generic European German-ish, Alpine-ish culture that sort of smooshed all those countries/regions together.

I think it’s all tied up with the second generation of ski culture, after the “aristocrats at St Moritz” phase and before the French industrialised the process, when it was still perceived as relatively exclusive and sophisticated to take a (delayed) Dan Air from Manchester airport to go skiing in Austria or Switzerland. Certainly it looks like the architect of the Gasthof had done more skiing in Austria than study of the finer points of German architecture.

It’s not just those two – there’s a definite Alpine feel to the Sportsman in Strines, which I guess was extended around this time. It’s not explicit, but it’s just a general vibe – big fireplace at one end, high beamed roof, helped by it overlooking the bottom of the Goyt valley. It wouldn’t surprise me if it had shared an architect with the Gasthof.

And you can’t leave this subject without mention of the Snow Goose, which is a rare example of an extant theme pub. “Shabby chalet” in this case, despite being just down the road from Macclesfield station. I guess one difference is that it works as a pub, it’s a decent free house that serves as the unofficial tap of Storm Brewing round the corner.

I remember the “Alpine House” as a derelict. It was beside the old A1 and could be seen from the road as you drove past, as I frequently did on business heading to Newcastle or Washington. It was marked as such on road maps.

I’m making some equiries locally about the Gasthof. It can’t just have suddenly appeared!

If you can bung any intel our way we’d be happy to write something up for your mag, if that’d be of interest.

I went to the Alpine House as a young 15 year old along with my Parents & some friends of theirs who lived in Knaresborough. I recall it had an accordion player and I had too much to drink. (2.5 Pints).

I’d date that as late 1973 when I went but can’t be totally sure.

I wonder whether the alpine hut decor in the Everest Room at the Pen y Gwryd was done at about the same time – a different manifestation of the same cultural moment? Or whether it’s completely unrelated.

Swiss Cottage – odd place, good OBB, reasonable price.

Others – anyone tried checking local authority planning applications online ?

I remember the Alpine Inn at Wetherby very well. It was only a couple of miles up the A1 from where I live. I reckon it was still open into the early nineties, certainly 1991 when we moved to the areas. A friend of ours lived there when her parents ran it at one time, she is the landlady of a local pub now, her mother passed away and her father ‘did one’ back to Ireland. It’s not really at Kirk Deighton, although that may be the correct postal address and it’s some distance away from the village. It stood at the side of the A1 southbound, in the days when it was a two carriageway road, with roundabouts and lay-bys and gaps in the central reservation to cross over. There was a bit of a small service station -petrol and shop on the same site. The current A1M runs on a separate course to the East of the old road, but if you exit the A1M at Wetherby services and drive towards Wetherby and then do a right at the first roundabout up the old A1 (A168) towards The Bridge at Walshford then you will go past where it was. Dr Shipmans wife lived in a cottage nearby for a while after his arrest! Prior to the fire it was being used as a ‘Cannabis Grow’, a substantial one, as it was a big pub. There is a suspicion the fire was linked to the criminal activity. Most people in the Wetherby area will be able to tell you plenty of tales about The Alpine Inn, it was a notorious drinking establishment, back in the day when drink driving was the norm – well you couldn’t really walk to it could you!

Here’s another one for you. The Swiss Cottage at Wentbridge, Pontefract, W.Yorks. More a restaurant than a pub. We used to go there for tea on a Sunday afternoon when the old man closed the pub at 3pm and we didn’t open up again until 7pm. If you had trout you pointed at the one in the tank you fancied and they fished it out alive and cooked it for you! I always had Wiener Schnitzel and it was good.

Here’s a picture;

It suffered the same fate as the Alpine Inn at Wetherby;

We came across that one and got a bit excited for a moment but it’s not quite the same thing. The other two are fairly over the top pastiches of German architecture; this one looks like a standard pub with a few nods to chalet-style but not much else. Still, more evidence of the trend.

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