Located on a difficult bend in Coopers Lane, on the road to Northaw, in the north-east corner of Potters Bar, stands the Chequers – once in a tiny cluster of houses but today also close to a large estate of post-WWII housing.
The original Chequers pub occupied a building opposite, now known as Chace House but formerly the New Inn – a building also used as a grocery. In 1841 Joseph Turner was the innkeeper and Hannah Tomlinson the grocer. The Jacques family were licensees from around 1770 until 1805 and it is thought that the pub “crossed the road” after 1807. The present pub building is Grade II listed and fashioned from two formerly adjoined buildings, one brick and one timber, dating from the 18thC and extended in the 19thC. It sits within the boundary of the nearby Enfield Chase, a huge hunting estate created after 1154 by Henry II but which ceased as an entity in 1770 and has since been mostly deforested for urban development and farmland.
The Chequers wearing its Benskins livery of the 1950s
In 1815 the pub was part of the Hatfield Brewery tied estate and by 1837 was in the hands of Alfred Pryor. His son Edward bought the brewery and its pubs in 1876 and in 1881 his brother-in-law, Percy Reid, joined the company which continued as Pryor Reid. In 1920 the company – and the Chequers – was sold to Benskin’s of Watford who were bought by Ind Coope in 1957 and then subsequently Allied Breweries in 1961 when Ind Coope joined Taylor Walker and Ansells in the new company. It was in 1976 that real ale re-appeared at the Chequers in the shape of Ind Coope Burton Ale but in 1978, as part of a larger pub swap, the pub was transferred to Courage who installed handpumps for Courage Bitter and, fairly rare for the time, Courage Directors. A major re-fit in 1987 opened out the interior of the pub which went on to be passed through the hands of pub companies.
Paul and Gill Englefield have been at the helm since 2000 having previously had time at the Sebright Arms in Barnet. They have freedom to source their own real ales, with Greene King IPA the staple regular and a second, sometimes third, beer from wherever – Vale brewery when I visited. All cask ales are served direct from the barrels in the cooled cellar.
The Chequers as it is today
Open all day from 11.30am, the pub offers a menu of hearty meals or light bites from Monday to Saturday – lunchtime and evening – and Sunday roasts until 3pm. The large garden with play equipment is a major draw for families, with weekend barbeques in the summer months and special food events at Easter (including an egg hunt), St.George’s Day and Halloween. There are regular charity events raising money for the likes of Prostate Cancer and Herts Air Ambulance and outside of the pub Gill finds time to run a Youth Club at Wayside Jubilee Centre. Back at the pub, Wednesday is Quiz Night.
The comfortable single bar has two distinct areas featuring local photographs and with TV Sport and pub games. Paul says “The Chequers is a friendly family pub for everyone, young and old, where everyone mixes. Its heart is definitely in the local community but we have visitors from all over the area.”
And what of the pub name? Generally, it is thought the name “Chequers” was brought to England by the Romans (so that’s what they did for us) and there is evidence that it was already in use in Pompeii, for a game similar to draughts. Later the name was used in connection with money lending, some publicans acting as bankers. But here at the Chequers in Potters Bar, local tradition directs that the pub was named after the chequer, the fruit of the service tree which was once used as a remedy for colic. And if we need another connection to pubs, before the introduction of hops, the fruit was used to flavour beer.
If you are driving make sure you take heed of the pub’s very own traffic light as you leave the car park – the only pub in Britain with such an arrangement. The Chequers is 1½ miles from Potters Bar Station but can be reached from there by catching the Waltham Cross-bound 242 bus service which operates Monday to Saturday. Alight at Torrington Drive.