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History in the heart of the Community

The Cardinal's Hat is Worcester's oldest inn and originally dates back to the fourteenth century. A sensitive restoration in 2013 has turned it back in to a traditional English ale house retaining a wonderful sense of its unique heritage.

A stone’s throw from the Cathedral, The Cardinal’s Hat was one of numerous ecclesiastical inns originally established to accommodate the many travellers and pilgrims who visited Worcester during the Middle Ages.

Nestled in the heart of this venerated city, this time-honoured establishment is aptly situated in Friar Street. A noteworthy locale which gets its name from the Franciscan Friary that once dominated the area from the thirteenth century through to the Henry VIII’s Reformation in the 1530s.

A pub steeped in history

Over the centuries, Worcester’s oldest pub has had many incarnations. In the mid eighteenth century -around the time that the present building originates from – it was known as the Swan and Falcon. This was just after the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, when anything remotely supporting Roman Catholicism was out of favour!

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, it changed its name to the Coventry Arms. This re-brand is seen as an attempt gain favour with George William Coventry, 7th Earl of Coventry, then Lord Lieutenant and Recorder of Worcester. This name change lasted well into the twentieth century, until this traditional ale house reverted back to its original name in the 1950s.

Friar Street 1951.png

Rich Heritage

The building you see it today is typically Georgian in architectural style with its red brick facade, sash windows and attention to symmetry. Just two rooms deep as was common during that period, however, we are told in fact that our cellars date as far back as the 1300s…

Its interior contains many heritage features, and we hope you delight in them as we do. From the unique Cardinal’s Hat motif in the front bar above the limestone fireplace, to the floor-to-ceiling oak panelling in the back room. We’ve kept the décor simple and authentic to let this ancient tavern speak for itself.

As with many an historic inn, we also have our own resident ghost. It is reputably that of a young girl, who was regularly seen by previous incumbents, drifting along the second floor in her flowing white night gown. She is apparently prone to mischief making and delights in moving objects or even making them disappear!

Traditional English
Ale House

In recent years, The Cardinal’s Hat spent time as an Austrian bar and even served its beer by the litre. After a sensitive refurbishment, it was officially re-opened on 1 May 2013 by national treasure and local porcelain expert, Mr Henry Sandon, amid much quintessential May Day merriment!


Licensee Nigel Smith, is also the landlord of the iconic National Trust-owned Fleece Inn at Bretforton, Evesham, much renowned for its asparagus connections. It is Nigel’s vision and patient enthusiasm that has lovingly brought The Cardinal’s Hat back to its former glory as a traditional English ale house.

The Cardinal's Hat in the spotlight! In 2017 The Cardinal's Hat featured on hit TV show 'Four in a Bed'. The popular show takes owners of bed-and-breakfasts from across the country, and sends them to each others' establishments, marking them on various criteria such as cleanliness, how the hosts are, food and value for money - every aspect is meticulously scrutinised. For licensee Nigel Smith, it was a moment of pride as The Hat clinched an impressive second place in this unforgettable experience.

The Coventry Arms - Gill Cox Grandad & family on the steps the day they took over.jpg
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