Derelict smugglers’ inn may be saved as historic site auctioned

Saltersgate Inn could be saved.
Saltersgate Inn could be saved.
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This smugglers pub is for sale with a legend attached.

One of North Yorkshire’s most famous pubs could finally be saved from dereliction after being listed for auction.

Saltersgate Inn.

Saltersgate Inn.

The historic Saltersgate Inn is going under the hammer with a guide price of £50,000 at an Allsop auction in London on May 26. Those travelling on the A169 from Pickering to Whitby have witnessed the hostelry’s sad decline from popular watering hole to decaying, abandoned building.

The pub, which is steeped in folklore, closed in 2007 and was bought in 2008 by a local builder. It was stripped out ready for its reincarnation after the North York Moors National Park granted permission for it to be extended at the rear and turned into a hotel. Beset by the recession, the scheme stalled in 2010 and work has never resumed. The inn was later put on the market with Knight Frank but failed to sell even though there was interest from prospective buyers. It is hoped that the tempting auction guide price and a recovering economy will help generate bidding.

The lot includes the former public house, which is arranged over basement, ground and two upper floors. There is an adjoining building that once provided accommodation for the landlord. Also included is land on the eastern side of Saltersgate Bank and a 1.4 acre-paddock.

Whoever buys the derelict pub will also inherit a local legend. Built as a farmhouse in 1648, it was converted into an inn in the early 1700s. Known originally as the Waggon and Horses, it became a smugglers’ haven and prospered thanks to an illegal trade in salt.

Thanks to the inn’s high vantage point, customs and excise men could easily be seen approaching. However, one unlucky tax man met a bloody end when he caught the smugglers red-handed and was murdered. They buried his corpse under the fireplace and the landlord insisted that the fire should be kept burning so no-one would find the evidence. Legend had it that if the fire went out the ghost would come back to haunt the hostelry and the community would be beset by the plague. Successive landlords kept the peat fire smouldering for over 200 years until the business closed.

The fireplace is still in the building but the surround was taken out by the owner in 2010 when he was preparing to renovate the property. Surveyor Tom Dales, of Allsop, who is working on behalf of the pub’s owner, said: “The surround was in poor condition and our client removed it for safe keeping while the initial work was going on. It can be restored and he is happy to let a new owner have the surround.”

The North York Moors National Park Authority has confirmed that the planning permission to convert the Saltersgate Inn into a hotel is applicable indefinitely.

“The property is a shell at the moment but it is a good, substantial old building,” said Tom, who is hoping it will reopen as a pub as he has happy memories of the Saltersgate Inn.

“It used to be my local,” he said. “I’d love to have a pint in there again.”

*The auction is at The Cumberland Hotel, London, on May 26, www.allsop.co.uk.