A CARLISLE venue is celebrating a first for the city with the success of its newly launched gin
Said The Actress To The Bishop is the cheekily-named venue complete with stylish 1920s
decor on the second floor of the iconic Howard Arms in the city centre.
Dianne Irving, who runs the venue, is delighted with how the gin parlour, which only launched just before Christmas, is attracting a younger clientele, particularly younger women, than would traditionally have been among regulars at the Howard Arms before it underwent a major £350,000 refurbishment.
“It shows that if you try something different, and give a place a style and a theme all of its own, that people will come and relax and enjoy a night out with a difference,” said Dianne.
“We’ve got more than 100 gins to try from the weird and the wonderful like Black Tomato gin to the more well known ones. Customers are enjoying sampling lots of different varieties.
“We’re going to be doing special gin experiences as well so that people can learn about the
different gins and the way they are made, as well as trying them for themselves!”
And it’s not just the gin which customers are enjoying. They’ve also been having fun getting into period costumes at the same time.
“We’ve got costumes from the 1920s around the room, and customers have been having a lot of fun trying on some hats and feather boas and taking selfies.
“People have been really getting into the spirit of the place, and what the venue is all about,
which is fantastic to see.
“It’s a great place for young women, or young men for that matter - and we have had plenty of those coming in as well - to come and try some different gins and have a good chat and a laugh.
“Because it is something so different we have people coming from as far away as Lockerbie,
Dumfries, Penrith and over from West Cumbria, as well as a lot from the city itself.
“From people using it as a place to meet when they are out shopping - we are ideally situated so close to The Lanes shopping centre - to those who are travelling to and from the train station, or those looking for somewhere different to celebrate a special occasion it’s an environment and experience which is appealing to a wide range of people.
“Compared to the clientele who would have traditionally come to The Howard Arms before we refurbished it, we are certainly seeing younger men and women, in their 20s and 30s, coming in and enjoying what the gin parlour has to offer.”
Former headteacher turned entrepreneur Dianne is a fan of Carlisle’s heritage and aims to bring some of the city’s rich history back to life for a modern audience through the decor, furnishings, photos and artwork at her venues.
Urban myth has it that The Howard Arms’ basement is haunted by the ghost of an actress from the days when Her Majesty’s Theatre was directly opposite on the other side of Lowther Street.
Dianne said: “After all this time of being down there we thought we would give her (the actress ghost) somewhere more comfortable than the cellar!”
Apparently actors and actresses would sneak through an underground tunnel straight from Her Majesty’s Theatre and into the Howard Arms for an illicit drink and rendezvous.
Laurel and Hardy, who performed at the theatre in 1954, are among the most famous actors to have visited the venue. But sadly the theatre was demolished in the 1970s.
Dianne said: “We are recreating the days when the upstairs’ parlour was filled with the laughter of the actress, entertaining all who visited, with some illicit gin to be enjoyed for good measure!”
“Whether the actress ever met the bishop from the nearby cathedral we don’t know. But we
certainly like to think so!” said Dianne.
The first-floor gin parlour, which is open from Thursday to Sunday, can be booked any day of
the week for a range of functions, including Gin Tasting Experiences and special ‘G and teas’
Dianne has also recently bought the Milbourne Arms in the Shaddongate area of Carlisle and aims to have the premises open for business in the next few weeks.
She is also set to breathe new life into that venue by celebrating two of the city’s iconic brands - Carlisle United FC and Linton Tweeds, which have their origins in that part of the city.
The venue will feature Linton Tweed furnishings and bar staff will wear classic retro football shirts.
The Milbourne Arms is also the start and finish point for the newly launched The Gate living
history heritage walk of the Shaddongate area.
Dianne also runs the ever popular Crown Inn in Stanwix which continues to thrive on being at
the heart of its community, and the well-known White Mare Hotel and Restaurant in Beckermet.