The two front sides of the horseshoe shaped original longest bar in Europe (104 Feet 3 inches)
19th - 20th Century
The pub (we’re not sure what is was called then) opened in 1846 when William Turnbull, a spirit dealer, occupied the premises. Between 1846 and 1884, the licence changed hands several times.
On 17th June 1884, the licence and premises were bought by John Scouller. Mr Scouller completely refurbished the premises and renamed it to The Horse Shoe Bar. He also had other Glasgow pubs, all named in relation to horses, such as the Spur bar in Polmadie Street and the Snaffle Bit in Howard Street.
During Mr Scoulers time at the Horse Shoe, one of his employees, John Young Whyte, after working for many years in the bar, became manager, then eventually bought the pub in 1923. John Young Whyte also owned the Cecil Bar in Renfield Street and the Union in Union Street. He continued adding horse themes to the bar and the upstairs area where the clock, photos, tables and every item of furniture had a horse motif.
Other well known managers over the years were John Thomson and James MacKenzie. John Thomson, completed forty-eight years at the Horse Shoe after, coming to Glasgow in 1890 to work with Mr. Scouller. He took over the Spur Bar when Mr Scouller died and in 1930 he took over the Snaffle Bit.
James Mackenzie spent fifteen years in the Horse Shoe in the 1920’s and when John Young Whyte took over the Union Bar, he moved on to there.
In 1988 the Horse Shoe Bar was classified by Historic Scotland as a Category A Listed Building of historic importance, safeguarding both the external structure and interior from the ravages of so called modernisation.
The bar was installed at the end of the 19th century and described as :
Elongated timber-boarded horseshoe island bar, with additional lobes at rear, superstructure on slender turned columns, etched glass partitions, terrazzo spittoon.
In the 1960's you could buy a 3 course lunch in the bar for 2 shillings (20P) and even up to the early 2000's it was still only £3.00 for soup, pie and chips, and a home made rice pudding with peaches. You could only sit on one of the bar stools between the two bar serving gaps at the rear of the bar if you were having a meal - If not, then Mary or Violet would soon tell you how and where to move !! - Then along came the brewery management and the meals moved to the upstairs lounge. But at least at the bar, you could still have a famous Horseshoe pie, with beans or mushy marrowfat peas. Then....
In 2007, the present owners of the Horse Shoe, Mitchells & Butlers, attempted to change the age old tradition of a pie and a pint, by introducing a standard pub menu and doing away with the pies. Little did they realise how out of touch they were with the Horse Shoe regulars. Our web site petition raised 65,000 viewers from all over the world in the space of a week, 90% in favour of the return of the humble pie. It was big news in Glasgow with national and local television and newspaper coverage. Eventually Mitchells & Butlers reversed their decision and the pies were back on.
Sadly another Horse Shoe well known fitting, the stained glass behind the main front windows, although not as old as the original fittings,was removed by Mitchells & Butlers leaving huge plain characterless windows to the street and completely spoiling the rich heritage created by John Young Whyte.
In 2013 -Replacement panels were installed by Michael Rogerson of a more modern design.
2014 - Saw the change unfortunately to the 'Famous Horse Shoe Pies' supplied by the local bakery of McGhees being replaced by pies, supplied frozen, through a multi-national supplier due to supposedly consolidation of suppliers and an EU regulation on Food Information for Consumers - Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011.
Regulars noticed immediately the change in taste, (and the fluorescent green peas !!) however Mitchells & Butlers made no attempt to appease public opinion on either the pies or the removal of home-made dishes from their popular 3 course menu.
Contact was made with Alistair Darby, Chief Executive of Mitchells & Butlers (left M&B 2015) as well as Jayne Baker, Retail Director (left M&B in 2015) and Rob Pitcher the Brand Operations Director (left M&B in 2018).
Sadly, nothing could change the intransigent attitude of Mitchells & Butlers who went ahead with new pies and advised us that McGhees Bakers "Did not come up to the necessary A Standard qualification as required by Mitchells & Butlers under the EU Regulation", this despite the fact that they never contacted McGhees who naturally do have full A Standard EU Food Regulations Accreditation.
A total insult to one of the most highly respected and professional bakers in Scotland.
2015 saw continuation of the new frozen pies which were not popular with regulars but who's views were still being ignored for a change back to a proper fresh McGhees pie.
In October 2015- A complete refurbishment of the upstairs lounge, together with a repainting of the interior and exterior of the main bar, saw a few changes including the maroon colour of the ceiling and structural columns now cream - not all of it quite in character with the old interior design.
Another coat of varnish to the bar frieze has meant that the quotations printed on it have just about disappeared.
2017 - Nothing's changed - The pies are still sitting forlorn in the pie oven, the 3 course lunch has not recovered from the demise of the home-made scotch broth and the home-made macaroni cheese. At least the outside notice board has stopped using the phrase "Famous Horse Shoe Pies"
2018 - Nothing's changed - The pies are still sitting forlorn in the pie oven.
20th and 21st Century Managers
Started in The Horse Shoe in 1941
Retired in 1981 after 40 years service
John Watson - 1982
Linda Brown - 1983
The well known and very popular David Smith from 1983 to 2003.
On taking over as manager of The Horse Shoe he increased the turnover by eight, won Grouse Manager of the Year, Tennent Caledonians pub of the year award twice, Innkeeper of the Year regional award and Pub of the Year 2001.
David is well known for letting the pop group Travis use the upstairs practice room as well as many Glasgow karaoke singers such as Garry Mullen (Freddie Mercury)
Mark Smith - Dave Smith and son Mark - 2003 to 2009
Michael Rogerson - 2009 to present
The Horse Shoe now appears to be in excellent hands with Michael actively ensuring that other unique facets of The Horse Shoe have been retained and in some cases restored to their original condition.
The Horse Shoe has changed very little in 134 years which is why it continues to be known as one of the greatest traditional Glasgow pubs with locals, tourists and celebrities.
Deacon Blue, Billy Joel, Oliver Reed, Peter Mullen and Billy Connolly have all had a pint in the pub, while TV chef Keith Floyd said it was his favourite bar in the world and was a vocal supporter of the 'Save The Pie' campaign in 2007