Ye Olde Murenger House
“A haven in a superpub Ghetto”
The name Murenger comes from the person responsible for collecting taxes or murages for the upkeep of the town walls. Since the town was destroyed in 1294, 1316, 1321 and 1402 it appears that the walls were not that good. The original Murenger’s House was a stone structure situated elsewhere in High Street and was demolished in the 19th Century.
The first mention of this building was in 1533 when it was the town house of the local landowners: the Herberts of St Julians Manor. The traditional date of the building is 1530 but may be earlier. In the Tudor room upstairs, there are plaster mouldings on the ceiling of intertwined Tudor roses and Spanish pineapples, symbolising the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon. The union lasted from 1509 until 1533 but the last eight years were widely known to be a bit shaky to say the least, so a date in the earlier part of the marriage can be attributed to the building.
In 1541 Sir Charles Herbert was the High Sheriff of Monmouthshire and would have stayed and entertained at this large, solidly built Tudor town house. By the 17th Century the building had become a pub, the Fleur-de-Lys, a name which stayed until the 19th Century when it acquired the present title.
In the 1970s the building was in serious danger of total collapse – scaffolding was erected on the street outside and buses diverted in case vibrations brought further damage. Luckily Sam Smith’s brewery stepped in and bought the place in 1980 and conducted an extensive refurbishment, reopening in 1983.
The Murenger underwent another refurbishment in 2003 and reopened with the bar moved and more nooks and corners to drink in. Sam Smiths still own the pub and the Old Brewery Bitter is served from the wooden barrel, one of the last pubs in Wales to do so. For other drinkers there is a range of lagers and even a Yorkshire-brewed wheat beer, comparable to any Bavarian-brewed weiss bier.
In a building this old, as well as the regular customers, it comes as no surprise that there are a few customers who have been there for a lot longer than a few pints. These hauntings include a serving wench, an elderly man and a ghostly figure of a woman who appears in the top upstairs window. However, sightings are rare since the citizens of Newport tend to scare the undead off every weekend!
The Murenger House does look slightly out of place in modern Newport; a Tudor building in a City with architecture from the 19th and 20th Centuries. If you visit the pub then have a look at the photos of old Newport on the walls – this 3-storey building stood out in the 19th Century as one of the tallest buildings in High Street – today it is dwarfed by neighbouring buildings on either side. The Murenger is a remarkable survivor in this City which, unlike other city centres was not destroyed by the Luftwaffe but by the incompetence of the town council in the 1960s and 70s. It's thanks to Sam Smiths Brewery that this pub will be with us for another 500 years.
Ye Olde Murenger House, 53 High Street, Newport, NP20 1GA