The impending sale of the Red Lion, Market Square, Llandovery will remind Llandovery inhabitants of the gem of a public house that has been in its midst from the reign of Queen Victoria, writes Huw S Thomas.

One of only six licensed premises in all of Wales to be awarded a Heritage Star in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Pubs, being those with outstanding original interiors, the Grade II Listed Red Lion is to be sold following the death of landlord John Rees, whose three generations of family had run the pub for all the past 130 years.

The Campaign For Real Ale noted in one of its guides:

“You are assured of a warm welcome at this superb old pub which features in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Interiors. Here is an ancient, eccentric and friendly watering hole, the like of which is fast disappearing, a very rare survival of the kind of simple arrangement for serving beer that was once common in Wales.”

In “The Red”, there were no carpets, no counter, no till, no music, no darts, no TV, occasionally lit by gaslight and only conversation from which you could not escape as the incorrigible landlord served tables, plonking down pints of real ale poured straight out of the cask.

The following entry from the Real Ale Heritage of Wales further paints a picture of a public house which has all but gone:

“This is an unique no-frills market town warp pub – one of only two in Wales without a bar counter. The building itself is 18th and 19th century and part may be older still.

“It has a two storey, symmetrical front to the market square (see photo) and has the attractive feature of a pentice roof supported on iron columns running the whole length of the building and sheltering the ground floor.

“The front door leads to a red quarry tiled passage and just past the inner doors the bar is a small room on the right with an alcove at the front called the ‘lounge’.

“The ‘lounge’ turns out to be tiny room, three settles to sit on, with dado panelling, hand written bar prices stuck on the wall, a picture of Manet’s “Bar at the Folies Bergeres” above the fireplace.

“There is a small hatch and a door leading to the cellar server at the rear of the bar room and you can see a stillage with a few casks of beer sitting on it.

“Find a seat around the large square table and landlord John Rees (who is lilely to be sitting amongst you) will take your order as had his family before him for over 100 years.”

“The Red” has suffered somewhat from being closed and uninhabited for the past three years, but many old and loyal customers - from Llandovery and further afield - have expressed a fervent wish to see someone with sympathy and enthusiasm restore this venerable institution to its historic purpose in the heart of Llandovery.

An online auction will be conducted by Seel and Company of Cardiff (tel 029 2037 0100 / [email protected]) over the December 11 and 12, 2023.

It is hoped the price guideline of £75,000 will convince a buyer to take on the task of renovation and regeneration of a valuable part of the town’s history.