Pub History

The Ferry Tavern, Est. 1762

The information on this page has been gathered personally by us and is to the best of our knowledge. It will constantly be under construction and may contain some inaccuracies. If you have any information, photographs, newspaper article etc relating to our pub then we’d be more than pleased to hear from you – contact us. 

1762: The Ferry Inn was first licensed
Thomas Warburton became the first licensee of The Ferry Inn, which was also one of the first licensed public houses in Penketh. Mr Warburton held the licence until 1775. (Photo of The Ferry Inn. Date of Photograph Unknown).
1776: The Ellison Family
The licence was in the Ellison family from 1776 to 1831. Unfortunatley, there is very little in terms of records from this period.
Thomas Ellison 1776 - 1824,
Jane Ellison 1825 - 1826,
Thomas Ellison Jr 1827 - 1831.
1833: The Johnson Family
Samuel Johnson becomes the licensee at The Ferry Inn in 1833 - the first in a line of Johnson's who held the licence for almost 100 years. Samuel held the licence until 1954, before passing it to John Johnson in 1854.
1854: John Johnson
The longest serving licensee at The Ferry Inn on record was Mr John Johnson, who held the licence from 1854 until his death in 1909. (Photo: Licensee, John Johnson (seated in the centre) and family ~ Taken in 1885)
1899: John Johnson & Martha Johnson
Photograph of Licencees John Johnson and Martha Johnson (nee Gandy) taken outside The Ferry Inn in 1899

Extract from Warrington Guardian 13 March 1909

We regret to record the death which took place on Monday, at the age of 85, of Mr Johnson, for many years the landlord of the Ferry Inn, Fidlers Ferry. Mr Johnson, who was born at Halton, Cheshire, in the year 1824 was widely known and respected and was one of, if not the oldest licensed victualler in the United Kingdom. He came to the Ferry Inn when 9 years of age, and was one of the first five apprentices that the late Robert Garnett’s father had when he first started the cabinet making business at Vine House, Penketh. Mr Johnson, on the death of his father, took over the licence of the Ferry Inn. Throughout his life he was an enthusiastic painter, and when quite a boy he used to cut the hair from the horse’s tails in order to make paint brushes for himself. A number of his works are now to be seen in the Ferry Inn. He took the Paris prize for the painting of the ‘Wounded Hound’, his passport on that occasion being signed by the Earl of Clarendon. He maintained a steady interest in his painting and did some excellent work right up to a few weeks ago, showing his unimpaired faculties. Not only had he the gift of painting but he was also a great carver in ivory, and a bowl maker, probably at one time the only bowl maker in the North of England. He was a companion of the late Dr. Gerrard of Widnes. As a sportsman Mr Johnson was in his element. He was a true shot. He loved bowling, and another phase of his sport was yachting, and years ago he owned his yacht on the river Mersey. In his younger days he had a boat of reeds and dressed himself in a calf and sheep skin while wild fowling on the Mersey. He was a friend of the late Sir Richard Brooke who always allowed him to walk over his estate for the purpose of his studies.


Extract from Warrington Examiner 13 March 1909

It is with regret we report the death of one of the oldest parishioners in the person of Mr John Johnson who passed away at his residence on Monday. The deceased, who was 85 years of age, had been ailing for some time. A bad attack of bronchitis was the cause of death. Mr Johnson died at his birthplace, “Ye Olde Ferry Inn”, on the riverside. As landlord he managed the business up to the time of his illness. The deceased was highly respected by all who knew him. He served his time as a cabinet maker with the late Mr Robert Garnett’s father at the Penketh works. On the death of his father he took over the management of the Ferry Inn. Deceased took a great liking to making bowls, and a great many of his bowls are still in use. He also took great interest in painting and when a young man won a prize at the Warrington School of Art. Many of his pictures can be seen at the Ferry Inn. The deceased leaves four daughters.


JOHN JOHNSON of the Ferry Inn, Penketh, Lancashire, licensed victualler died 8 March 1909. Probate Liverpool 20 April to Mary Johnson spinster. Effects £811-10-3.

28th January 1911
Photograph of gentlemen outside the front door of The Ferry Inn about to 'Beat the Boundaries of Penketh' ~ Taken 28th January 1911. Left-Right: Harry Mainley, Joseph Leigh, James Woodward, Frank Ward, Ernest Davis. In the doorway: Mr. Davies.
28th January 1911
Henry Burthem with his wife and dog outside The Ferry Inn - Served as licensee from 1913 to 1951
1922: Mr Frank Ward
Copy of original oil painting by Mr Frank Ward who was manager of the old sheep dip factory at Fidlers Ferry. The painting is initialled but not dated. Frank Ward was born 1875 and died 1922.
Photograph of The Ferry Inn in 1925. Photographer unknown.

Warrington Guardian, Wednesday 10th April 1912.


The boisterous elements on Saturday served to mark Eastertide and the annual boat race of the Warrington Sailing Club by a sad tragedy in which two married men named Walter Warburton, 40, a rangefitter, 7 Fairclough Avenue, Warrington and James Edward Crookes, 38, a labourer, 41 Lord Nelson Street, Warrington, lost their lives in the River Mersey, the boat in which they were sailing capsizing.

The course of the race was from Cooper’s Yard, Widnes, to Bank Quay, Warrington and eight boats competed, the Zennia, the property of Mr. Warburton, being one of them. The owner was accompanied by his two sons, Walter aged 14 and John Henry aged 16 and Mr. Crookes. When the starting signal was given all went well until Zennia, which was the scratch boat, got into midstream. The water was very choppy and half a gale was blowing at the time. Opposite Widnes Marsh, where the Mersey is quite open, Warburton’s boat got into difficulties and it was conjectured by those witnessing the race that the crew had too much sail on. The boom was suddenly seen to snap and the top half of the sail fell into the water. The small craft which was an 18 feet racing boat swerved to the right and owing to the weight of the broken mast and sails was dragged over on to one side. Suddenly the boat dived down stern foremost into the river and disappeared. One of the Warrington competing boats, seeing the helpless condition of the Zennia, gallantly threw up their chances in the race and turned back to the rescue. The owner of the ill-fated boat and his eldest son were picked up exhausted and unconscious, while the second son was rescued by a Widnes boat which had been cruising in the vicinity and from which a number of spectators had witnessed the start. The Warrington rescuers conveyed the two elder Warburtons to Fiddler’s Ferry, the headquarters of the club, and on the way artificial respiration was resorted to but the treatment was only successful in the case of the son, the father dying. The boy John was conveyed to the Mersey Hotel, Widnes, where he was brought round. He received every attention and he was taken home the following day (Sunday) little the worse for his startling escape, although anguished at the loss of his father.

The body of the man Crookes was picked up on the foreshore at Widnes two hours after the accident.

The tragedy caused great consternation amongst the Widnes spectators of whom there were quite a large number. Mr. Warburton had taken part in the races for a number of years and was an experienced yachtsman. The accident was rendered all the more tragic inasmuch as the other boats participating in the race finished the course ignorant of the tragedy that had taken place.

Fiddler's Ferry
The Ferry Inn - Date of photograph unknown.. discovered hanging on the wall at The Cuerdley Cross public house
19th October 1932
Copy of page 1 and page 10 from an original auction book from 1932.
Warrington Guardian - Saturday 22nd October 1932 ~ Page 14

The largest property auction sale in the district for many years, and which aroused considerable public interest, was conducted at the Blue Bell Inn, Horsemarket Street, on Wednesday evening. Mr Stanley Johnson of Herbert Johnson and Son auctioneers, Sankey Street, sold a portion of the Sherdley estate comprising three farms and an inn and totalling about 145 acres. The amount realised was more than £17,000.
The company was so large that some difficulty was experienced in finding accommodation for all who wished to attend the sale and the bidding was brisk. Lots one and two – Sankey Lodge Farm, Great Sankey and Brookside Farm, Penketh respectively went quickly under the hammer and Lot three (Penketh Hall Farm, Penketh) was sold to the tenant before the auctioneer left the room. The Fidlers Ferry Inn also found a buyer without difficulty.
The land includes valuable main road frontage and there is a probably that building developments will take place in the near future. It is understood that ther is a possibility of one of the sites being purchased for the erection of a works. The vendor was Colonel Michael James Hughes and the solicitors Woods and Hancock, Bold Street.
19th October 1932
Pip Tinne aged 6 years and Hilary Jerams aged 1 year (in the pram) outside the Ferry Inn - Summer of 1938
January 1947
1947: "Rustic, But Adequate"
Post card sent from The Ferry Inn to a Miss Hole of Somerset in January 1947

The card reads:
"Will ---- you up Monday night after I visit (wrebles). Will see about rooms. This place a bit rustic but adequate. NO EARLY TEA! Joan and I are going to Manchester this afternoon. It’s cold up here. Very B- journey after Crewe, mostly the total run healed gloom! Thanks to cup pressed on me by porter at Pontypool Road was able to keep up fluid intake. Love R"
January 1947
May 1951

Warrington Guardian, 23rd May 1951. Front Page. 

FALSE REPORTS ON RIVER DEATH SAYS U.S.A.F. Reports that civilians threw stones at 20 year old Eugene D Pickering - American airman who was drowned in the Mersey at Fidlers Ferry on Saturday - are refuted by the USAF Public Relations Office, Burtonwood. "They are completely erroneous." said a spokesman. Five miles of the rivers banks from Fidlers Ferry to Widnes have been searched by civilian and US military police but no trace of the missing airman has yet been found. Pickering and another airman, members of the 'soft-ball' team, went swimming near the Ferry Inn - apparently for a bet - but on the return trip to the Penketh side Pickering got into difficulties and disappeared. A companion tried to hold on to him but became exhausted. He swam back after Pickerings disappearance. Staff Sergeant Harry Kindaff made a second rescue bid in vain. He dived, fully clothed, from the river bank and after his search had to be helped from the water.
May 1951
May 1951

Warrington Guardian, 30th May 1951. Front Page. 


The body of 20 year old Eugene D Pickering - the American airman who disappeared on May 19th whilst swimming in the Mersey was recovered early on Monday, on the bank of the river, near Walton Hey Farm, Penketh.

Since Pickerings disappearance miles of the river bank from Warrington to Widnes have been searched by US military and civilian police.

Pickering and another airman, members of the "soft-ball" team went swimming near the Ferry Inn - apparently for a bet - but on the return trip to Penketh side Pickering got into difficulties and disappeared.

May 1951
January 1976

Warrington Guardian, 9th January 1976. Front Page. 


“Sankey Brook also overflowed leaving a trail of damage. The cellars of the Sloop Inn, Great Sankey and the Ferry Inn, Fiddlers Ferry, were flooded and the latter pub was closed temporarily”.

January 1976
February 1983

Warrington Guardian, 4th February 1983. Front Page. 


“BATTERED and bruised by 18 hours of whiplash gales, Warrington sighed with relief as normality returned late on Tuesday.

The town, along with many other parts of the country, had been hit by unrelenting winds, gusting up to 70mph, which with torrential rain caused widespread damage and flooding. The havoc resulted in a huge influx of emergency calls to Warrington Police by people seeking help in repairing damaged property and sandbags to check rising flood water.

Scores of slates where sent spinning from roofs, chimney stacks crashed, trees uprooted, roads cut off for hours by floods and cars and homes damaged.

And as police in the control room worked flat out answering distress calls, high winds ripped slates from the roof of the police HQ in Arpley Street, causing them to crash onto officers cars. One slate sliced through the roof of an unattended car.

Worts hit parts of the town were Penketh and Great Sankey, where flood water halted movement on some roads, caused thousands of pounds damage at a factory and a freak tide on the Mersey surged into the Fiddlers Ferry pub – and three feet up the bar!

In central Warrington, part of the roof of the kegging plant of the giant Tetley Walker brewery crashed 100 foot onto a parked lorry. Police sealed off a section of the A49 because of the danger to pedestrians and motorists from falling debris.

The gable end of a house in Orford Avenue was also sent crashing.

February 1983
February 1990

Warrington Guardian, 28th February 1990. 



“CHAOS reigned supreme in Warrington on Monday as winds reaching 90mph battered the town.

Gales raged relentlessly during Sunday night, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Dawn broke upon a scene of devastation—roads were blocked up by uprooted trees and roofs were bereft of tiles.

But for the people of Warrington ‘Stormy Monday’ had only just begun.

Huge snarl-ups stretched some 15 miles on all sides of the town as thousands of commuters faced enormous tail backs on the motorways. Many did not arrive at work until late morning.

After two high sided lorries blew over and blocked the Thelwall Viaduct, police chiefs took the precaution of closing it in the interests of safety.

The weather also stopped rail services in their tracks after problems with overhead power lines caused disruption to the north and south of the town.

Buses were halted after an urgent meeting between management and unions, leaving hundreds of people with no means of transport.

As emergency services battled to keep the situation under control, winds continued to wreak havoc. The River Mersey burst it’s banks in at least three points after tides rose to a height of 27 feet. For the first time in 50 years, Eastford Road in Lower Walton was submerged three feet of water as the Mersey coursed down the hill and swept into residents homes. In Penketh the manager of the Ferry Inn fears he may have to close for more than a week after the flooding. In Victoria Park, police and firemen were turning people away as a precaution after the bowling greens and football pitches were hidden under five feet of water. With gales upto 80mph forecast for the rest of the week, officials are warning people to take all necessary precautions. More pictures and stories to follow in Fridays Warrington Guardian.

February 1990
February 1997

Warrington Guardian, February 1997. 


“WARRINGTON was washed out this week when freak weather conditions brought floods across the town. Westerly winds and a high tide saw the Mersey burst its banks at Howley, Walton Locks and Penketh.

Landlord and landlady, Terry and Pat Maxwell are still moping up after the deluge which caused thousands of pounds worth of damage at the Ferry Tavern.


Pat said she expect the pub will be closed for two weeks while the repair work is underway.

“The water was up to the top of the bar and the fridges and freezers were floating in the water.” she said. “The customers were very helpful and helped us to get things upstairs.

“It’s ruined the wallpaper and carpet. All the electrics have gone and we’ve no power. It has caused thousands of pounds of damage.” Meanwhile, boats went adrift at Fiddlers Ferry Sailing Club.

Member Jack Cox said “We lost five dingies and a sailing boat but we should be able to get them back—they’ll be in the riverbanks.

“We were very lucky. The water only lapped the back door step of the clubhouse. We’ve a workshed that’s still surrounded by water.”

A flood alert went out on Monday and council staff raced to build up sandbag barriers.

But the waters still managed to break through the weak spots at Walton Lock and at Howley, leaving Victoria Park’s bowling green and rugby pitches under water.


February 1997
April 2006

Warrington Guardian, 6th April 2006. 


Mersey bursts its banks as solar eclipse causes unusually high tides and floods “A SOLAR eclipse caused flooding through Warrington on Thursday.

The sun and moon were lined up, which gave amateur astronomers in some parts of the world a spectacular view.

But the combined gravitational pull produced an unusually high tide, which burst the banks of the Mersey in several places between 1pm and 2pm.

Worst hit was The Ferry Tavern Pub in Penketh which is only around 15 feet from the river.

Up to four foot of water poured in. The carpets and fittings now need replacing and the water has made all the plaster peel away.

“The pub absolutely stinks. It smells like sour milk,” said licensee Jade Maxwell, aged 23, who lives there with partner, Andy Mulholland, aged 28.

The pub will be shut for around two months.

Jade said: “We haven’t got any heating because the boiler floated away from its mooring. The customers brought in blankets and one brought in a heater for us, but it’s still cold.”

The businesses at the bottom of the ‘Pink Eye’ tower in the town centre were also hit hard.

Steel Manufacturer Warrington Fabrications sits right on the riverbank and six employees had their cars flooded—one man had to cancel three viewings by potential buyers for his Peugeot 307 that night. Martin Simcock, managing director, said the the factory itself sits on stilts and was not affected.

However mechanics working in the garages at the foot of the tower were not so lucky. One said: “If the water touched the electrics while you are working you would go through the roof.”

Keith Cosgrove, the 29 year old owner of SPS Bodystyling, said the water costs hit two days work and a couple of hundred pounds worth of damaged equipment, including a heat gun and welder. He had to knock a hole in his wall to let the water escape.

April 2006
December 2013
2013: Ferry Tavern in Penketh is flooded out

Runcorn and Widnes World, 5th December 2013. 

THE Ferry Tavern in Penketh has been flooded out.

Manager Andy Mulholland said the water starting coming into the pub from just after noon and continued to pour in until high tide hit at around 1.40pm.

He said: "The water is over the top of the bar and we are waiting for the tide to go out so the fire brigade can pump the water out.

"We are going to be out of business probably til at least after Christmas, if not for good because of this."

Andy said he had to move his wife and three-month-old baby son to safety.

December 2013