Local historian Paul Hurley visits pubs of old This week we look at the Blue Cap in Sandiway...

THE ancient road from Chester to Manchester once carried the mail coaches that travelled between the two cities and onwards.

Wayside Inns were used as staging posts for this traffic and an important one was the Sandiway Head Inn.

This famous old Inn stood on the foundations of an even earlier one and was later to have its name changed to The Blue Cap.

Built in 1716 it welcomed local people and the regular stage coaches that used this important route.

The road then was narrow and rutted and the passengers would appreciate the respite from the jolting coach that this and similar inns offered.

On alighting from the coach they would be met with the smell of wood smoke and the inviting glimmer of oil lamps and candles from the small leaded glass windows. Inside, the mid-winter frost would give way to a blazing log fire and warm ale.

The first landlord was Thomas Gardiner or Garner and he is listed as being the licensee from 1727 to 1728.

Thereafter little is known of the licensees until 1822 when Elizabeth Bull took over and the name of the pub was changed to The Blue Cap.

This name comes from a famous Sandiway foxhound called Blue Cap.

He was owned by the Hon John Smith-Barry who was the first Master of the Cheshire foxhounds.

In 1763 when Blue Cap was four years old Smith-Barry laid down a challenge to Hugo Meynell the Master of the Quorn Hunt.

He told Meynell that he had no dogs capable of beating his Blue Cap or Blue Cap’s three-year-old daughter Wanton over four miles.

The challenge was accepted and in the subsequent race at Newmarket, with a purse of 500 guineas, Blue Cap came first and his daughter second winning 400 guineas and 100 guineas respectively.

After that the dog was a legend. He died in 1772 at the age of 13 years.

The pub still offers the weary traveller good ale, excellent victuals and a friendly and historical ambiance.