With rural villages losing their pubs at an alarming rate, it’s always heartening to hear about young entrepreneurs determined to keep these precious community assets up and running.

One such pub is the General Burgoyne in Great Urswick, a venerable old village local which finds itself in the hands of a young man only just this side of the legal drinking age.

John Oldfield took over the reins at the Burgoyne a year ago, at the tender age of 19, fresh from Barrow Sixth Form College and with a zest for the challenge that only extreme youth can bring.

The Burgoyne is a well-loved pub, once famous for its pie and peas, latterly known as something of a gastropub, and now back to its roots as a solidly traditional, proper locals’ pub.

My husband and I called in for a leisurely lunch recently and were delighted to find all is well at the Burgoyne in the youthful care of Mr Oldfield. It’s a place for which we both have a soft spot, as it is redolent with memories of a much-missed school pal of Gordon’s, Peter Redshaw, who was a regular at the Burgoyne and to whom we raised our lunchtime G&Ts in his honour.

The conservatory dining room was busy, so we opted to sit in the cosy heart of the pub, taking over a window table and enjoying having this part of the pub to ourselves. Locals were propping up the bar and gossiping gaily (who says that gossiping is predominantly a women’s art? The fellas of Great Urswick can give anyone a run for their money) and relishing their afternoon liquid refreshment. Just how a proper pub should be.

The menu at the Burgoyne under its new owner is straightforward, traditional British – hurrah. We started with an absolute pub classic: prawn cocktail for £5.50, which came as it should, namely in a traditional glass bowl, smothered in marie rose sauce and accompanied by triangles of brown sliced bread. The prawns were fine – not the juiciest I’ve had but perfectly OK – so all in all this was a satisfactory start. It never ceases to dismay me how many pubs and restaurants get carried away with insisting on putting their own “twists” on classic dishes – and getting it disastrously, pretentiously wrong in the process.

The Burgoyne of 2019 clearly knows what it’s about and I love the fact that so young a landlord is taking an “if it ain’t broke…” approach to running his pub.

Sticking to the classics, Gordon had gammon and eggs for his main (£9.95), asking for salad instead of chips, as he’s cutting down on his carbs. I’m not, so I went for the full Monty scampi, chips and peas for £11.95.

Both were good dishes. Unfussy, simple, well-cooked, traditional pub grub, nothing more and nothing less. In a reassuring way. I was more than happy with my plate of scampi – for which these days you can be paying nearly £15 in some places. And Gordon’s gammon was thick and juicy, with a well-dressed salad which he enjoyed.

John the landlord was cheerful and friendly, making sure we were happy with our meals and being kept on his toes dealing with the numerous customers that midweek lunchtime.

Under its new proprietor, the General Burgoyne – named after a British officer, dramatist and politician – is playing to its strengths. It’s true to itself, traditional and timeless – as all good pubs should be.

General John Burgoyne was criticised for surrendering his entire army at Saratoga during the American Revolution. John Oldfield, who runs this Great Urswick pub named in his honour, is clearly determined not to follow in those particular footsteps in the noble fight to keep our traditional village pubs thriving.


Food 3.5

Atmosphere 4.5

Value 4

Service 5


Traditional and authentic

Plenty of car parking

Homely atmosphere


If you like your food fussy and pretentious, this isn’t for you