The Old Pubs of Lisburn

There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.
— Samuel Johnson, 1770

"Why are you taking photos of pubs in Lisburn? In fact, are there any good pubs?!" 

A fair question, and one I've been asked more than once! Hopefully my introduction and background to this blog will help to answer it.

Smithfield House

My hometown of Lisburn has a proud history and character.  It was founded in the early 17th century and has thrived over the years as a market town with a world famous linen trade.  However, in recent years the town has struggled more than most with the global recession.  There have been rises in unemployment and a town once well-respected as a shopping destination has one of the lowest shop occupancy rates in the country.  Town centre living has become largely a thing of the past (though there are attempts to reintroduce this, most noticeably on Bridge Street).  In addition, drinking at home with cheaper off-licence alcohol has become much more popular and the lure of Belfast ever stronger. 
Together and admittedly over decades, factors such as these have had a hugely damaging impact on the pub business in Lisburn.  At one point there were 13 pubs on Bow Street/Market Square, 11 on Bridge Street and 7 on Chapel Hill.  The oldest independent brewery in Ireland is based in Hilden, in the northeast of Lisburn.  

I have lived just outside Lisburn for most of my life, but previously other than the annual visit to Lavery’s or Hague’s on Christmas Eve, I hadn’t really visited any of the pubs until a couple of years ago.  Myself, and most of my friends attended Queen’s University in Belfast and like many, our night life revolved around the capital city in haunts like The Limelight and the Duke of York.  Recently we all moved back to Lisburn and decided we should give the pubs a go.  We visited each of the pubs in turn and found every single pub to be a welcoming place with interesting and friendly characters in each.  I began wondering why I hadn’t visited the pubs sooner.

As those of you who follow my Facebook and Twitter pages will know, the photography I am interested in is largely centred on landscapes, but I’ve always had an interest in traditional pub interiors ever since I bought the book “The Irish Pub” by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury, which captures some of the most interesting and traditional pubs in Ireland.  An idea sparked in my head.  I could photograph the interior of Lisburn’s pubs!

I started in Lavery’s on Chapel Hill during an evening visit on a quiet Monday evening and liked how the photos turned out.  Soon, I was phoning all of the pub landlords and landladies in Lisburn asking if I could come in before pub opening time and catch the pubs in a rare state….when they are completely empty!

Each pub owner I spoke to provided me with more history and I soon realised that old pubs are something many people feel passionately about.  It is an important part of our culture and it is something no-one I have ever spoken to wants to lose…yet bit by bit we are losing this part of our heritage.

In this blog I’ll cover each of the present town-centre pubs in turn as well as a closing chapter on the pubs we have already lost. 

Disclaimer: I have never claimed to be a historian and my sources are varied (and thanked below) so the information is to the best of my knowledge and there may be some inaccuracies and if so I apologise.  I would love this blog to be interactive so please leave stories and comments below.


Lavery’s Bar is located on Chapel Hill in the centre of Lisburn.  It dates from 1877 when Edward Lavery was granted a spirit licence.  Within the pub itself you can actually see programmes for the Down Royal Races at the Maze in 1879 that were sponsored by Lavery’s Bar.  The pub was officially listed by the Dept of Environment in 2013 and retains the original exterior and much of the original interior from when it was first opened.

Lavery's Bar was also a lodging house with many officers from the old Royal Irish constabulary staying regularly.  It was also a stopping point for farmers from the Maze area on their ways to markets in Lisburn and Belfast.  There were stables at the back of the bar and horses would've been watered whilst their owners "got full" in the words of current owner Danny Mooney!  For a large part of its history and because of these connections with Maze, the bar was called The Maze Inn.  It was changed back to Lavery's in the 1970s.

The pub is a local landmark forming part of the folk memory of Lisburn town. The world-famous Irish tenor, Josef Locke, married a girl from Lisburn and as a result moved from his home in the northwest to Lisburn.  One night when he was drinking in Lavery’s he decided to entertain the rest of the bar with his singing.  However, he was deemed to be too loud and was soon barred from the pub for life!

Edward Lavery died in 1898 and left the pub to his wife Sarah and their seven children.  Sarah’s two oldest sons studied law at Queen’s University in Belfast and her three eldest daughters were working as shop assistants. All of the family members were able to speak Irish as well as English. By 1911 Sarah’s eldest son, Michael, was practising as a solicitor.  He practised in Lisburn and Belfast and for some years represented nationalists in the Revision Courts (where decisions are made on applications to join the electoral register).  Sarah continued to run the public house with the assistance of her daughters until her death in 1921. 

It is now owned by the Mooney family whointer-married with the Lavery family in the early part of the 1900s.  The Mooney family previously owned a licenced premises a couple of doors further up Chapel Hill called The Empire Hotel.  The Empire Hotel was burnt to the ground during sectarian rioting in Lisburn after the assassination of District Inspector Swanzy by the IRA in 1920.  Initially business associated with Sinn Fein supporters were looted and burnt but this soon spread to Catholics in general in a very sad period in Lisburn's history that led to the displacement of thousands of the town's Catholic population and affected the pub trade in particular as you will see during this blog.

Lavery's Bar was the only Catholic pub in Lisburn not affected.  This was because a Protestant bookmaker, known to own a revolver was lodging at Lavery's and dating Mrs Lavery's daughter.  He had threatened to shoot any man who tried to attack Lavery's.  As a result we still have this beautifully preserved traditional Irish pub in Lisburn today.

In the 1950s, it was reported that drinkers were called into the bar on a Sunday in accordance with a ritual that involved men standing on the opposite side of the street and going 'on patrol', as far as the Antrim Street and Smithfield Street corners. The men were called in one at a time according to their pecking order, for a Sunday drink. The pecking order was decided according to how well they behaved when they were drunk!

To many in Lisburn, Lavery’s still retains this mysterious aspect as the front door is rarely open with access granted only after the ring of a doorbell.  This is a legacy from the Troubles when many bars controlled entry in this way.  Once inside however, it is apparent to all that this pub is a hidden gem in Lisburn with a friendly atmosphere, the fire roaring and an excellent pint of Guinness served by the always hospitable Danny, Bernie and Michael.  It is much larger than people expect with a large lounge bar on one side, the original bar on the left and a more modern extension and beer garden to the rear.


Smithfield House, dating from 1856 and located on Smithfield Street is one of the oldest bars in Lisburn.  In fact, the interior is so genuinely old that it is one of the top 20 oldest pubs in all of Ireland in terms of its fittings.

Smithfield House is so named due to the Smithfield area of Lisburn it is located in, which, like its name-sakes in Belfast and London comes from the Saxon word “Smoothfield” indicating a large, flat, open space outside the town centre.  Flat areas such as these naturally suited large markets and indeed the Lisburn market moved from Market Square to Smithfield in the 1930s.

Davy Jones, (at one time during the 1970s the world's smallest man) was a regular at Smithfield House and I'm told would sit on pint glasses! His car, pictured below, is now on display in the Ulster Transport Museum.

The front bar is very simple and I love it for this. It is really a single space but, on the left, are a couple of screens which mark out what are effectively three snugs (the snug at the rear, which used to have a pair of doors, is nicknamed ‘the confessional’).

The current landlord, Colum, explained that the black counter top has what is claimed to be one of the first uses of Formica in Ireland as the pub was built by Italians. 

At the rear is a large modern lounge, popularly known as 'The Room'.  This only dates from around the 1950s and was the previous living quarters of the owners of the pub. The owners for a large part of the pub's history were the Neesons and the pub was also attacked during the rioting of 1920.

The front bar has a lively and friendly day trade, and I’ve always personally been impressed that they often serve beers from the Whitewater brewery in Attical, Co.Down.


The Hertford Arms is named after the Earl of Hertford which was the title of consecutive landlords of the Killultagh estate which incorporated Lisburn.  The Earl of Hertford came from the Seymour-Conway family, Sir Fulke Conway being the first landlord of the estate of Killultagh having been gifted the land by the King in 1611.

The current Hertford Arms dates only from 1985.  Despite the current pub being relatively modern, it is actually one of the oldest licences in Lisburn and had a previous life as the Hertford Arms Hotel on the corner of Railway Street.  This grand building became the Northern Bank (and is now Shannon’s Jewellers).

The Hertford Arms Hotel was described in the ‘Records of Old Lisburn’ in 1834 as “a suitable and commodious building, on an extensive scale with every luxury desirable to the traveller provided”.  The proprietor at this time was John Crossley who was well-known for providing charity and education to poor children in the town.

The Hertford Arms was also the scene of an attack on Dean and Walter Stannus who were the agents of the Hertford estate in 1857.  They were walking on Castle Street to record their votes in the Westminster by-election at the town hall.  Agents were unpopular and seen as rich tax gatherers heavily charging the poor people of the town for rent.  A group of men launched an attack on the pair and things were looking very serious until the military arrived, gathered them and unceremoniously bundled them into the Hertford Arms Hotel.  The group of men continued to vent their frustration by breaking all of the windows of the hotel with rocks.

When the Northern Bank bought the hotel, the Hertford Arms moved to more modest premises on Bow Street where VSL Interiors are now based.  They were based here until the 1980s when another business bought the premises.

The current landlord, Mervyn, bought a derelict site and the bar was built from the ground up.  I am not sure whether it was an intentional decision by the current owner or not, but it was built on the site of a previous Linen Hall that was actually funded by the Earl of Hertford on the junction of Linenhall Street and Smithfield Street. 

Despite the recent build, and as you can see, the front bar retains a rustic feel with the wooden bar and stone fireplace.  The large lounge at the rear has a more modern feel and I was happy to see some framed decorations in relation to Liverpool FC!


The Linfield Bar sits at the top of one of the original streets of the town plan of Lisnagarvey, Bridge Street.  It is situated within the Historic Quarter of the town backing onto the Cathedral grounds.  Bridge Street was considered to be the working class street of the town (with Castle Street the street of the aristocracy and professionals).  The Linfield Bar was established here in 1862.

The Linfield Bar was actually known as Dougan’s for most of its history and was renamed the Linfield Bar by a man named McMaster in the 1960s. 

When speaking to the current owners, Jim and Ann Bain, I asked why McMaster may have named the pub the Linfield Bar given that the Linfield area is in Belfast whereas this is an historic Lisburn pub with a separate history.  They couldn’t be 100% sure but they explained that the drinkers in the early days of the pub were predominantly working men from the linen mills and that the Hilden Mill and Linfield Mill would have had many links so they believed the name was based on this connection in some way.  As a result, a lot of the mill workers in Lisburn would have supported Linfield in the absence of a successful team from Lisburn.  The pub has adopted Linfield as its Irish League team of choice with Linfield memorabilia adorning the walls

Jim recalled a story that took a place during a general election in which John Barbour, son of linen mill owner William Barbour was standing as a radical for the district of Lisburn in the Westminster elections.  Lisburn was always true blue Tory and Barbour was not given a chance.  However, the patrons of the Linfield Bar were mill workers and confirmed “Barbourites.”

A conservative supporter entered the Linfield Bar to voice his opposition to his campaign.  The drinkers, feeling aggrieved at the vocal disapproval of Barbour, physically assaulted the man and he escaped by running out the back door of the pub and jumping over the wall which leads into the Cathedral graveyard.  The story goes that he came back white as a sheet as if he had seen a ghost.

John Barbour was subsequently elected.  However, it was overturned as it was found that Barbour had been holding conservative voters captive at his home, HIlden House during the period of polling.  Hilden House is now where the Hilden Brewery is located.

Behind the bar, mini Lambeg drums hang down showing Lisburn’s connection with one of the loudest acoustic instruments in the world.  The bar has a proud tradition of successful darts and golf teams and has a trophy cabinet to reflect this success.


This pub “over the County Down” (as everything over the Union Bridge and away from the Co.Antrim based town centre is affectionately referred) has been serving ales and stouts to the local community since the mid-1800s and was known as The Eastern (reflecting its location in East Lisburn).

However, since 1937, it has been owned continuously to the present day by the Alexander family and is now more commonly referred to as Alexander’s.  The first Alexander landlord was Ted Alexander and you can see a painting of Ted in the top left of the photo above.  The main saloon bar at the front is one of my favourite bars in Lisburn.  It always has a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and you can usually grab a quiet corner seat and watch the football in peace!  I have never walked in to Alexander's without the regulars who stand at the bar making sure they turn around and say hello when I've entered and more impressively, turn round to say goodbye as I've left.

During a recent visit, I was informed by two friendly patrons that long before upstairs was a music lounge for bands it was a very popular music hall where people would've shown off their foxtrotting ability!

There is a lot going on in the shot of the bar below.  If you open it up large you may be interested to see the Buckfast on sale behind the bar and I love the sign that reads "the beatings will continue until staff morale improves"!

Gary Alexander, the current owner, showed me around the labyrinth that is Alexander’s.  I always knew there was more to it than the main saloon bar.  However, it really is huge and I hadn’t quite appreciated that before my tour.  

Alexander’s, alongside Hague’s is one of the pubs that have done the most for supporting the local music scene and Alexander’s has its very own designated Music Lounge.

The pub is also popular with local football teams and there is another, separate upstairs bar displaying a signed Northern Ireland shirt where clubs would socialise after games.


The Speckled Hen lays claim to be the second oldest pub in Ireland, dating from 1660.  It is certainly the second oldest pub in Northern Ireland, and the oldest pub in County Antrim.

The parish memoir records that there were in 1837 there were no less than 14 public houses in the parish of Derriaghy.  The oldest of these is the Travellers' Rest as it was previously known.  Over the years it has been known interchangeably as the Travellers' Rest and the Village Inn depending on the preference of the owners at the time.  However, recently, the new landlord Martin made a break from the past and named the pub the Speckled Hen and I must say it looks fantastic and offers a fantastic range of local beers and ciders.


The Inn suffered grievous bomb damage during the Troubles including a bomb attack in 1975 in which a local man, Cecil Anderson was sadly killed.  As recently as 2001 it was attacked by petrol bombs.  However, the future of current pub and restaurant looks very optimistic.  Both the pub grub and the restaurant are superb!

Early in the 1800s , the Irish statesman Daniel O'Connell stopped at The Village Inn with ten steaming horses. The famous Irishman was on his way to Belfast and the glasses which he used on that occasion were treasured for many years afterwards, just as he left them.

In the image above, the piece of art that was used on the exterior of the building when it was the Travellers' Rest was produced by one of Ireland's most-famous artists of the 20th century, Basil Blackshaw.  Basil is still alive but is now in his 90s.

In 1939 the tobacco company WIllis commissioned a painter to travel through the British Isles painting local pubs for a cigarette card collection.  Only two pubs in Ireland were painted and the Speckled Hen, then known as the Village Inn was included in the collection.  A set of the cigarette cards is on display in the dining room and this blown-up version of the painting is on display in the pub.


Hague's was the first pub in Lisburn I ever visited as it was popular with people who worked in Tesco for watching football, particularly on a Sunday.  I would head down on my an hour-long lunch break from the bread aisle and somehow manage to watch the full 90 minutes of a Liverpool match before heading back.  I didn't get away with it very often, but it was worth it to see the football!

Anyway, Hague's is one of the oldest pubs in Lisburn and has been on Chapel HIll since the late 1800s.  However, before it was Hague's, it was McAleavey's and before that it was Quinn and Downey's and before that it was a thathced bar owned by a man called Micky Pogue. 

When the pub was known as Quinn & Downey's it was burnt completely to the ground during the 1920 Burnings as seen below.

It was rebuilt by the McAleavey's.  The McAleavey's were from Hilltown in Co.Down and if you look up at the top of building today you will see the marking "The Hilltown Buildings".

Shortly after the pub was rebuilt it was taken over by Paddy Hague.  The pub passed to Paddy's son Tom in the 1970s and remained in the ownership of the Hagues until 2001 when the current owner, Turlough O'Kane took over.  However the Hague name remains.

The Hilltown Lounge, upstair in Hague's, is similar to the Music Lounge in Alexander's in that it has always promoted local live music and bands and it should be commended for this.


The Favourite is another of Lisburn's oldest bars.  However, you wouldn't be able to tell from the interior.  It has been completely refurbished with cosy fireplace and brickwork.  One local drinker in another pub having looked through my pub photos on my phone remarked that "no matter how good your camera is, you wouldn't have been able to make the old Favourite look good!"  This does corroborate with a story my school friends told me when they went in for one drink.  I was told you had to naviagate a sodden wooden plank over a hole in the floor to get to the toilets!

I think I would have quite enjoyed photographing the old Favourite, but it's hard to deny the new version is hard to beat on a cold Winter's day beside their roaring fire.

The pub is named The Favourite because of successive owners interest in horseracing with the barmaid informing that many of the owners have actually owned racehorses.  You can see pictures of horses on the wall in the shot above.

It was on our first visit around many of Lisburn's pubs that the barmaid, who I now know as Maggie, asked if we were on a pub crawl as we left after one pint.  When we told her yes, she answered enthusiastically "good for youse".  That made me smile!

One sign in the pub reads "Lisburn in Summer: The rain is warmer".


The Three Crowns celebrated its 30th anniversary last year.  It was founded and set up in 1983 by three ladies - Barbara Boal, Carol Lewis and Maureen Beattie.  They decided to name the bar ‘The Three Crowns’ to remember the three founders.  Maureen has since retired and Carol Lewis sadly passed away in December 2013 but Barbara is a familiar face to anyone who has had a pint in this popular Bridge Street pub.

The Three Crowns, like the Linfield Bar and The Favourite, has recently taken advantage of the Bridge Street Heritage Initiative to improve conditions within the pub and modernise the exterior in a style sympathetic to the heritage of the street.

Before it was the Three Crowns, it was another pub called The Hunting Lodge reportedly owned by someone called Artie.  Based on some reading I have done I also believe this was the site of McKeever's Bar which again was burnt down during the 1920s Burnings.

It is currently one of the busiest pubs in the town and has a lively atmosphere, particularly at the weekends.


Robbie Cahoon's dates from 1912 when it was opened by Mr Robbie Cahoon himself.  Robbie owned the pub as well as some land behind the pub.  On this land he built a racecourse and raced greyhounds.  However, the main races organised here involved horses and carts.  

If you zoom in on the photo above and look towards the top right you can make out some ornaments of greyhounds and a horse and cart.

Robbie Cahoon's was opened not long after another pub in nearby Lambeg(Moore's) was bought over by a local church and then closed down by the same churchmen as they did not want a pub in Lambeg!

In the mid 1900s, the pub was renamed the Sportsman's Inn and retains close links to many sports clubs today such as Lambeg Star and local cricket and golf clubs.

However in 1998, the current landlord, Martin decided the time was right to restore the original name to the pub and ensure Robbie Cahoon and his popular local races remained in local folklore. 


The Highway Inn, named due to its location on the junction Cromwell's Highway and Hillhall Road, has been recently renovated and two of the bar's managers Vince and Neil kindly gave me permission to photograph the pub. In the 1920s the pub was known as the County Down Arms Hotel (it was known as the County Down Arms until relatively recently).  It was then owned by a Catholic man called Hugh Rice and was a thatched pub.  It was looted and burnt during the 1920s Burnings as seen below.  Barrels of porter were looted and rolled over the Union Bridge past the watching RIC.

The photo below appeared in the Belfast Telegraph with the caption 'This is Lisburn, not Ypres', a reference to the destruction that had taken place in France during the war. 

Local SDLP Councillor Pat Catney's mother lived in these premises when it was the County Down Arms.

The Highway Inn is actually a social enterprise with any profits being put to use for the benefit of the local community.  There is regular entertainment such as live bands, themed nights, BBQs, discos and charity fundraising and social events.  

The off-licence which forms part of the pub is named Trumbles which is another nod to history.  The name comes from one of the old names given to Cromwell's Highway.  The book, Lisburn Miscellany explains that before this road was Cromwell's Highway it was Trumble's Highway in 1833, Trumill's Highway in 1868 and Trimble's Highway in 1914.  It would've been the main connecting road between Saintfield Road and Hillhall Road before Mercer Street was built.  It is now of course called Cromwell's Highway, though I can't see any actual connection with Oliver Cromwell...perhaps I just can't find it!

The Highway Inn has three local dart teams: The Highway Men, The Highway Ladies and The Manor Dart Team. All teams are at the top level of their game and win the local championships on a regular basis.  They also have a golf team and football team reinforcing their role at the centre of the Hillhall community.  The upstairs lounge will become the new home for these sports teams but unfortunately it is still being renovated as I write this blog. 

In addition to the more traditional pubs above, there are a number of other pubs currently in Lisburn, some of which have a fantastic history and some of which are new.  However, what they all have in common is that they are very modern inside and whilst they do great food and beer and are well worth a visit, they aren’t the types of pubs I wanted to focus on in this blog in terms of photography.  They are as follows:

BAR 15

One of the most modern bars in the town, Bar 15 actually has one of the oldest histories in the town as the ‘Central Bar’.  In the 1940s, the Central Bar was known as Napiers.  In 1945, the landlord, William Napier acquired a cask of extremely rare Irish whiskey from the Tullamore distillery.  Due to extreme shortages at the time, a cask such as this was worth more than its weight in gold.  Napier realised the value of the cask and decided to put it up in bond until it could be fully appreciated.  In 1990 the cask came out of bond and was then bottled.  Only 114 bottles made it into circulation and they were amongst the most expensive bottles of whiskey in the world.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the bar was known as the Admiral Benbow Inn and was owned and operated by the UDA leader John McMichael who lived in Hilden.  McMichael had a reputation more as a leader of political loyalism rather than an organiser of terror.  However, it was reported that the assassination attempt of Bernadette McAliskey was planned in a room above the Admiral Benbow.  

In the 2000s, the bar was known as Bar Burgundy and was popular as an upmarket wine bar with associated steakhouse and grill.  It is now a very popular sports bar called Bar 15 with numerous screens to watch the football, boxing and other sports.  I notice it's actually had another facelift since I took this photo and is looking very well.


The Wallace boasts a fantastic beer garden right next to the River Lagan and easily the best selection of craft beers in Lisburn.  A corn mill used to sit on this site and when I see pictures of the old corn mill, I believe the architects designed the current pub/restaurant building with this in mind.  Before it was the Wallace it was the Riverhouse, Piper's Quay and the Point at different times.  Thankfully the new restaurant is brilliant and hopefully it will stay as the Wallace for a long time!
It is named after Sir Richard Wallace, a descendent of the Earl of Hertford and who did so much for the town’s inhabitants, including gifting the Castle Gardens and Wallace Park to the public.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2016: The Wallace is now closed and building has been sold.  


The Cardan bar has a long history and is also well known under its previous incarnation, The Robin’s Nest.  It wasn’t that long ago that I phoned a taxi for the Cardan and the phone operator corrected me and said “do you mean the Nest?”

It dates from 1843 when it was built in response to the construction of the railway line between Lisburn and Belfast in 1839.  It started life as The Railway Tavern until it became the Railway Hotel in 1852 complete with stables, as seen below and as viewed from the train platform steps.

BY the time of World War II, the Railway Hotel had become the Robin's Nest and was popular amongst American soliders which meant it didn't have the best reputation with the local men!  However, it went on to become one of Lisburn's most well known and loved pubs.

The Robin's Nest was owned by a Mrs Mac who then worked behind the bar after she sold it.  It was said to be a very welcoming place.  The Friends School Old Boys Hockey Club used as a meeting place cum Clubhouse as did Lisburn Academicals Rugby Club, before they built their own respective club houses in the 1970s.

It became The Cardan about 10 years ago and hosts the most popular nightclub in Lisburn, Distil.


In my introduction to this blog I mentioned how there used to be 13 pubs on Bow Street/Market Square.  Now there is one! (Bar 15 on Market Square East).  One of those old pubs was Magills, as seen above.  Judging by the decorations the pub must have been celebrating the Twelfth of July.  I can't however explain the goat!  

Magills was also an undertaking business.  This dual profession of publican and undertaker was prevalent across Ireland.  I wouldn't like to comment on the connections between the two professions!  This dual profession could also be seen at Hall's pub at the junction of Quay Street and Bridge Street (right on the Union Bridge, and which closed in the 1970s) and Marley's on the Dublin Road (now Market Place).  All of these pubs also ran undertaking businesses.  Whilst we are on Market Place, next to Marley's there was another popular pub, Lizzie Mulligan's.  Marley's was a very popular pub up until it closed not that long ago.  A pub I remember from my own childhood was the Gaffe Cutter beside the old Lisburn Swimming Pool.  It was demolished to make way for Lisburn Square. Behind that was the Mucky Duck.  No-one tells me much about the Mucky Duck but they always smile when they recall it!  

Magills was situated where the entrance to Woodsides is now in Market Square.

Above is Tom Oliver's.  The men pictured here were about to leave for World War One.  I wonder how many came back...This pub was located on the corner of Bow Street and Antrim Street and was owned by the McKenny's in the 1920s.  It became 'The Corner House', a long standing pub in the town centre.  It is now Midas Jewellers, and if you look above the jewellers you can tell it used to be a pub. It just looks like one!  The Corner House had a mynah bird.  The mynah bird picked up the foul language of the drinkers and everyone would hear the mynah bird swear as they walked past!  The Corner House then became Maginty's.  I'm also told that the bird also used to wolf-whistle at passers by and that women not familiar with the local bird would be rather offended as they walked past at the "roughians" in Lisburn's pubs, not knowing it was in fact a mynah bird!


Two of the longest standings pubs in Market Square were Corkens and Brownes (with Mercer's and the Coachman's Inn across the road).  Brownes suffered the same fate as McAleavey's (now Hagues) and was burnt and looted in 1920 as it was a Catholic pub.  It is pictured below, shortly after it was looted. Thomas Browne, the landlord,who had only recently moved to Lisburn from Clones, stands in the doorway contemplating his livelihood.  Thankfully though, he was able to rebuild his pub and serve Lisburn for decades.  If you look at the signage at the top of the building, you might recognise it.  Brownes was located were Daltons sandwich shop is now (great chicken tikka!)  The signage dates from when the pub was the County Antrim Arms.

Just next door was Corkens (where the YMCA building is now).  In my research I was told that the upstairs lounge in Corkens was popular with the Army with the downstairs mainly locals.  There was a disco every Wednesday and excellent live music every Saturday night downstairs.  I was also told that it was often very cold! One night a couple of drinkers sneaked into the back where the boiler was and filled it with charcoal and soon it was as warm as an oven!

On Antrim Street, near to where the railway bridge is now we had Andersons and on Bow Street was Tappins pub owned by brothers Herbie and Sammy Tappin.  The pub was popular with Orangemen and there were regular drumming competitions.

Further on towards the river, Bridge Street was always filled with pubs.  Even today with the ever dwindling number of pubs, there are 4 on Bridge Street.  It wasn't that long ago there was five but we have lost The Tavern.  McFalls was burnt down during the 1920s and nearby was an ornate pub called Hamiltons.
The Tavern Bar,  is still there though (kind of…)  It is one of the oldest buildings in Lisburn dating from the early 1700s.  It became a pub in 1866 after being opened by a man called William Wilson but changed hands many times over the intervening years, regularly lying vacant.  The main body of the pub was recently demolished as it was threatening to collapse in on itself, but the facade is still there and is listed.  I recently photographed the facade covered in scaffolding as restoration works begin.

Another popular pub which closed relatively recently was the Old Castle (or the Hayloft).  There are many other pubs too and I would love to hear your stories about other pubs including Murdock's (which became the Manor Inn and was previously Topping's on the Longstone, if anyone has any information about this pub then please get in touch).  I'm also told there used to be a very popular sports bar opposite Hague's.  

I don't want to finish on a negative by talking about pubs in the past tense as the pubs we still have left in Lisburn have great atmospheres and plenty of characters keeping them going and long may it continue!  

I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog as much as I have researching, photographing and writing it.  Hopefully reading about all the pubs has made you thirsty and you’ll want to go and try one of them out for yourself soon, or perhaps you’re already a regular!

I really would love to hear feedback on the blog, more stories and perhaps some revisions or corrections! If you decide to visit one of the pubs for the first time, then let me know what you think! I have heard from dozens of people since I first uploaded this blog and they've shared in the entirely positive experiences I've had.

All of the photos in this blog are available to buy, so if you want a print of your local then just email me at

Many local readers will be familiar with the Lisburn Busker of Haslem’s lane, Ringo Dolenz (@RamblingRingo).  I asked Ringo if he would like to write a song about the pubs in Lisburn to coincide with this project and such is the creativity of the man, he had one penned, recorded and sent across to me in a matter of  24 hours!  I suggest that you listen to his song ‘The Old Pubs of Lisburn’ whilst flicking through the photos above.  Keep an ear out for it when you're in town!

Sincere thanks goes to Danny, Bernie and Michael at Lavery's, Turlough from Hague's, Colum from Smithfield House, Mervyn from Hertford Arms, Jim and Ann from the Linfield Bar, Barbara from The Three Crowns, Michael and Maggie from The Favourite Bar, Martin from the Speckled Hen, Gary from Alexander's, Vince and Neil from the Highway Inn and Martin from Robbie Cahoon's.  I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without their kindness and flexibility in letting me into their pubs when they were busy trying to get ready for opening.
I must also thank my other sources including the patrons of Lavery's, Alexander's and Smithfield House, Lisburn City Centre Management, Andy Murdock, Michael McKenna, Steven Turtle, Peter Kelly, Patricia McEvoy, Gordon Galloway Stephen Stewart, the members of the Lisburn Exiles Forum as well as the taxi drivers at New City Cabs and the Lisburn public hire taxis!
The rest of the information and photos came from:
The Burnings - Pearse Lawlor
Pubs of the North - JJ Tohill
Lisburn : The Town and its People - Brian Mackey
Lisburn Miscellany - Frederick Kee; and
Old Lisburn - John Hanna