This the Falcon: the meeting place of Chester Writers. Chester Writers will meet anywhere as long as it is a pub, and the people at the Falcon have kindly let us meet in their upstairs room for about four years now. It is an old place. You can tell because the floors and walls slope off in all directions and at all angles. When you step through the front door you immediately come face to face with a wall - always a sign of antiquity - it prevents drafts. To the left is the front bar which incorporates the remains of a medieval shop front, and to the right another bar. It is usually busy but you don't have to wait long to be served. Then if you turn around 180 degrees you will find the staircase in front of you: two sharp turns will lead you past the original medieval wall, its wattle and daub exposed and displayed for the interested visitor. A blackboard announces a private party which for the last few years has been embellished with a chalked picture of a pumpkin lamp. Then there is a door and another door, usually a vacuum cleaner and a bucket tucked away, but not so discreetly that you don’t notice. The doors of the landlord's rooms cluster to the right and to the left is the large dark door leading to our room. It is difficult to open because of its bulk. It is necessary to give it a sudden and confident shove. Then there is large upstairs room exactly as it has been for centuries: dimly lit, an impression of burgundy, a small bar in the corner and choked with items of dark-wooded furniture. The floor sags quietly - too soft to squeak. The ancient magnificent window with its hundreds of panes, each one seemingly tweezed in by hand, spreads along the entire outside wall and through it leaks the sound of the small city - its traffic and voices. There is a noisy fan on the wall, and a radiator and an array of switches to turn these things off an on, but which no one has yet mastered. On windy nights the sign creaks loudly outside in its housing - which added some atmosphere to the poetry readings of Gladys Mary Coles and Aileen LaTourette when they visited us a couple of months ago - but it is a comfortable room and we are happy and lucky to be able to meet there.
The earliest structure dates from 1200: a massive hall running down the street. Then, in medieval times, this was altered to form a smaller hall for a shop and outside that a covered walkway, which in Chester is called a row. This structure still makes up the front bar of the pub. It was taken inside again in 1642 when the owner, Sir Richard Grosvenor, needed more space for his royalist family to live safely within the city walls. There were Roundheads outside so he needed to extend this mansion.
1642 - 350 years ago - it is just the recent past for the Falcon which has given at least 700 years of nearly continuous service. There are 13th century pillars in the bar, beams in the cellar which have been dated from 1200, while the main structure built in the 16th and early 17th century. I like to think that during this time there have been lots of groups like ours - drinking the local brew, catching up on gossip and reading out their poetry and prose to an appreciative audience.