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Sir Charles Napier (Blackburn)
Member Name: ronniec
Sir Charles Napier (Blackburn)
Date: 14/03/01, updated on 14/03/01 (734 review reads)
Advantages: Classic rock nights; free table football; cheap and good food; friendly bar staff; all-round excellent atmosphere.
Disadvantages: Slightly expensive drinks; some bad music downstairs at weekends; and that most painful of hyphenated words - nu-metal.
Let me explain, if you will. The Napier is a traditional pub in the small provincial town of Blackburn, in Lancashire. It has something of a reputation in the area, being arguably the best rock pub this side of Manchester. This reputation, I would argue, is more than deserved. For the three years I have been going there (which makes me... twenty-one, yeah...), the Napier has grown and grown on me to the extent I now feel a physical pain inside while away at university. The Friday night jaunt has become such a part of my life, my weekends feel incomplete without it.
The Napier is a fairly small pub on the very edge of Blackburn town centre, out of the main streets which hum with revelers at weekends, but still close enough to be a part of the many pub crawls the town's drunken population enjoy. At first glance, it is a curious affair, appealing to a staggeringly wide range of patrons. The first floor is home to the townies and regulars, playing pop and rock music from eleven to eleven during the week. At weekends, the second floor is opened up, and hosts the famous rock nights which are largely responsible for the pub's reputation. You'll hear Goths, metalheads and bikers all raving about the place - and as implausible as that sounds, the Napier carries it off remarkably well.
It is this diversity which gives the pub such wide-ranging appeal. There is literally something for everyone, from teenage townies looking for their latest chart fix, to parents on a rare night out looking to relive their youth. The main appeal of the pub, though, undoubtedly lies in the music. It's certainly the reaso
n myself and my friends have become so attached to the place. Downstairs is home to a series of jukeboxes which together offer over two hundred albums worth of music, almost all of it excellent quality (irrespective of personal taste). I have spent many afternoons in there with a pound or two worth of tracks on the jukebox, and there aren't many feelings I enjoy more. 'K, maybe punching that Turner woman would be more fun, but that'd probably cost more than a couple of quid and a pint of cider.
Physically, the Napier is indeed quite a small pub, paling in comparison to some of the larger affairs in Blackburn, such as the Postal Order (which is admittedly a J.D. Wetherspoon pub). The first floor has three main areas - a big screen above a very small dancefloor (approximately the area of four small children stood very closely together), a number of chairs around a pool table, and the dark corner towards the back with the very loud speaker in the corner. Experience has taught me, over time, to avoid the dancefloor at weekends, and head to the dark corner where only people going to the toilets will come your way. When the pub is very busy (and it does get very busy), sitting at one of the central tables is a foolhardy action - the chance of ending up with a spilled pint across your back is fairly high.
The second floor is a much different affair, yet still features the three main areas - the horseshoe shaped seating area, the dancefloor and DJ stand, and the free table football and pinball machine area. It is decorated in a very similar style, yet has a totally different atmosphere - due largely, methinks, to the lights being off and the fantastic mural adorning the walls. Depicting a number of scantily clad ladies, the painting is a remarkable sight and the Napier is worth a visit for this alone.
Who would feel comfortable here, then? The Napier is, really, like a crossbred goat. It's got a funny beard, it can walk and make no
ise, and it plays really good music. The tenuous analogy aside, the answer really lies in the time of day you go there. During the days, it is a fairly quiet pub, frequented mostly by under-age college students and office juniors on their lunch break. The classical decoration makes most feel at ease, while the televisions in the background give the lone drinker an excuse to be there. Personally, it is one of very few pubs I know where I have never felt even a little uncomfortable. The bar staff are very friendly and approachable, and regulars may be on the receiving end of the odd freebie - even should it be a worthless Budweiser tee-shirt which I wouldn't wear if I was the last man alive, thankyouverymuch.
The Napier serves food over lunch, and it is all very well priced. This is largely why the place attracts students during the afternoons, although as Blackburn does not have a university they are mostly of the shouldn't-really-be-drinking-that variety. Perhaps the only real negative side to the pub are the prices of drinks, which are a little over average town prices. A pint of Strongbow currently weighs in at £2.10, which while not extortionate does not compare favourably to other watering holes nearby (many of which have more regular special offers, such as the Malt & Hops). As such, the Napier is perhaps not a place to spend an entire night - the routine we generally follow now is to drink rapidly in the bad-but-cheap Wetherspoon pub, then finish the night off with an hour or two in the Napier when it has really got going.
At weekends, downstairs plays a mix of pop and modern rock alongside the finest classic rock - from Queen, Abba and Eiffel 65, right over to Rainbow, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. The temperamental jukeboxes seem to play tracks at random, so there will always be something to cater for most tastes. The atmosphere is friendly, with most who go being regulars along with a smattering of groups on a night out. In the th
ree years I have been going, I have seen trouble only twice - when we had an argument with two men around the pool table, and when my uncle was thrown out for swearing at the doorman. I must stress that these are by far the exceptions, though, and all in all it is a very friendly pub.
The second floor has a widely known reputation for what is basically pure excellence at weekends. The DJs, one of whom also works there as a cook during the days, are always open for requests. The style of music varies from classic rock, to nu-metal, to Goth and even the occasional punk track. As such, it is usually filled with nu-metallers and Goths, alongside the usual twenty-four year olds into skateboards and marijuana, desperately trying to hang onto their youth. If the music isn't to your taste, you may feel a little intimidated upon first walking in, but after a while you will feel at ease.
All in all, I genuinely cannot name a better pub I have ever been to - and that's quite a few pubs in quite a few places. The Charles Napier has something to offer everyone, as well as a superb atmosphere and great music. Anyone living in Blackburn will hopefully know what I mean - anyone thinking of visiting will hopefully be convinced.