The Holly Bush Inn is located on Warrington Road in the tiny village of Bartington, close to Whitley.

It was originally a working farm with a licence dating from the 1600s. It is still in existence as a building, although no longer an inn.

The pub was owned and run by the Cowap family from the late 1700s. In the 1800s, it was called the Bartington Bowling Green, later becoming the Bowling Green until 1960 when it became The Holly Bush.

The bowling green itself was situated on the opposite side of the lane at the side of the pub.

From 1959 to 1990, the licensee was Albert Cowap Jr, having taken over from Albert Cowap Sr.

Initially, the premises were owned by Sir Thomas Leigh, 2nd Baronet of Stoneleigh, followed by Greenall’s in 1918.

Warrington Guardian: Inside the Holly BushInside the Holly Bush (Image: Rose Hurley)

Sir Thomas Leigh of Stoneleigh, on the outskirts of the city of Coventry, was linked to Cheshire through a family connection with Sir Piers Leigh of High Legh, and also when Thomas married Mary Egerton in 1615, daughter of Sir Thomas Egerton and his wife Elizabeth (née Venables) from Dodleston near Chester.

Thomas received his baronetcy in 1643 after showing great loyalty to King Charles I during the suspension of parliament. The gates of Coventry were closed to the king, so Leigh hosted him at his own home, Stoneleigh Abbey.

In 1990, Albert was due to retire, and Greenall’s decided to close it as licensed premises. There was uproar from far and wide.

This pub was unique as it was Cheshire's last farmhouse pub. To obtain a pint, the landlord used to take the order at a hatch and then go down the cellar steps to draw the ale.

The planning committee took note of the objections at the time from heritage-conscious locals and refused Greenall's application to de-license it.

Warrington Guardian: The bar room at the Holly BushThe bar room at the Holly Bush (Image: Rose Hurley)

From then on, the pub went from strength to strength under private ownership. What was once a working farm with a small tap room became a prestigious pub restaurant/hotel into which the ancient barns were integrated.

It is a Grade II listed building, and accordingly, all alterations had to be sympathetic to its antiquity.

The owners at the time were Mr and Mrs Lloyd, and it continued the tradition of being a family concern.

The head chef, licensee and general manager, Tim, was the son of Mrs Lloyd, and most of the staff members were related.

Warrington Guardian: The Barns Hotel at the Holly BushThe Barns Hotel at the Holly Bush (Image: Rose Hurley)

The manager was Tim's brother-in-law Martin. There were a number of en suite bedrooms and a large dining area.

All meals were prepared on the premises, and the kitchen had all the mod cons to produce hearty and healthy food.

There were food theme nights when curry and other Asian specialities were available; each Sunday, there was a quiz night and darts on a Monday. Outside was a large beer garden and children's play area with a vast car park.

The original building is as it was centuries ago with its thatched roof. This originality was carried inside to the small bar area, using the old furniture and with a patina that only comes with age.

Warrington Guardian: The Holly BushThe Holly Bush (Image: Rose Hurley)

The lounge also boasted an open fire and domino tables; it was indeed one of the last old-time bar rooms to be found anywhere. Unfortunately, the decline in the hospitality industry caught up with the Holly Bush, and it closed in 2021.

For a while now, the building has been empty, although various attempts have been made to change its use.

The last attempt was rejected by the planning authority in 2023 when the request was made to change the use to several letting rooms.

The locals have also tried numerous times to encourage the reopening of the Holly Bush to its former glory.

What happens in the future to this wonderful old hostelry remains to be seen.