A Leopard With No Spots To Change

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Fire-eating Landlady Sharon Crisp
Fire-eating Landlady Sharon Crisp

The Leopard Inn – once a public house and hotel – reported to not only be haunted but to have also been the meeting place of some influential historical figures. Stories within the walls cascade centuries igniting intrigue and excitement upon those who grace the 18th century building. Reported to be the place where Josiah Wedgwood and James Brindley met to discuss the Trent and Mersey Canal, in 1765 and also an inspiration to the great author, Arnold Bennett – whose name plays host to a function room at the pub. The Leopard Inn continues to operate as a meeting hub in Burslem continuing traditions as well as providing enlightening entertainment nights for customers in 2017.

The Leopard in Burslem in around 1903
The Leopard in Burslem in around 1903

As you enter the pub, which can be found in Market Place, wooden flooring and upholstery offer a traditional feel. Antiques are spread around the adjoining rooms to the main bar and soft leather settees offer an inviting welcome. The traditional theme throughout the bar area has been maintained by landlords Mike and Sharon Crisp since they took over The Leopard in 2009 – a theme which has more values than one.

The Leopard Bar Area
The Leopard Bar Area

“We have been running the pub for eight years,” said Sharon.

“I was working here before, and so did my children, and Mike as it was Mike’s son who had it beforehand that’s how we came to have it.”

Unfortunately after three years of running the pub Mike’s son, Neil passed away.

“Neil was a fantastic host, community person and charity donator, and helper ” continued Sharon.

“It was Neil and his partner who first introduced the antics and built the business up.

Leopard signWe took over the pub to continue his name and to continue the business – those were big shoes to fill.

“In that time we have tried to keep everything the same, apart from some decorating and some pictures.

“We carried on buying antics to keep it going the same as he (Neil) would have wanted it.”

Another of Neil’s introductions was to paint various cheery comments and quotes along the bar edge and signs which are still visible throughout the pub.

Following on with her son in laws traditions sees Sharon now heavily involved with the entertainment side of things and, as well as being involved as a drummer in bands – including Don’t Eat At Joes – she has also entertained guests at The Leopard with fire eating and belly dancing.

“It took a few years to get involved in the entertainment,” she said.

“But this pub has just brought the craziness out of me really. I like to learn and do things that other people would not dream of doing.

“I do drumming, DJ-ing, fire eating, fire dancing and performing belly dancing. I had done none of that prior to coming here.”

Some of Sharon’s performances have also seen her play in a band on the pubs roof for charity. “That was so frightening up there,” she adds.

“I enjoyed it once I got up there though and would do it again.”

The Leopard in Burslem
The Leopard in Burslem

Sharon, Mike and their team are welcoming and friendly hosts to customers old and new and strive to provide not only a public house full of traditions but also one of joy and entertainment.

“We have just got a passion for this pub, the history and everything. We are all like a big family and we like to enjoy ourselves and have a laugh.

“No matter what goes on in your life you must smile – then everybody smiles.”

Fire-eating Landlady Sharon Crisp
Fire-eating Landlady Sharon Crisp

As well as entertainment from the bubbly landlady and her team, various tribute nights take place in the function room at the rear of the pub – which can hold up to 120 people and can also be used for wedding receptions and birthday celebrations.

Tribute acts such as George Michael and Freddie Mercury have recently played at The Leopard and acoustic nights are also a popular event on Wednesday evenings, with live music on Saturday nights.

The hotel, which was closed down in the 1950’s, lies abandoned and hidden away from the public unless anyone is brave enough to take part in a ghost tour hosted by Chris Stokes (see other article). The popular tours include a delicious two course meal and a 90-minute tour of the abandoned hotel and basement. (See the Entertainment category on Baba’s What’s ON for upcoming tours.)

With a wide range of beers, lagers and wines on offer The Leopard has something to offer everyone whether that be singing along to tribute acts, dancing away to the sounds of live bands or braving a ghostly tour. Indulge in the past, with the present, in a pub steeped in history and full of character!

Also see Baba’s Directory here.