Page last updated at 12:07 GMT, Wednesday, 28 May 2008 13:07 UK

Town has pub for every 173 people

The Crown Inn in Rhayader
You won't go thirsty in Rhayader

The unofficial title of the UK town with the most pubs per person has been awarded to Rhayader in mid Wales.

Dozens of places up and down the country may claim the accolade, but BBC Radio 4's More or Less has given it to the quaint Powys market town.

Rhayader has 12 pubs for its 2,075 residents, or just about 173 people per watering hole.

But Mary Collard, who runs the Lion Royal Hotel, said: "It's a bit of a dubious honour isn't it?"

Until now, Rhayader was probably better known for being the gateway to the Elan Valley.

Daniel Tetlow, of More or Less, said the programme set out to explode the theory held by many towns - including Glastonbury, Weymouth and St Albans - that they have the most pubs per person.

Among the criteria were that it applied to towns, and excluded small villages and hamlets.

If there's something to claim and we can claim it for Rhayader, then let's claim it
Mary Collard, Lion Royal Hotel

Listeners sent their own suggestions, but eventually the programme declared Rhayader the winner.

"Manningtree [in Essex] had five pubs and 900 people and that was the title holder for about four weeks," said Mr Tetlow.

"But then a teacher you might call a bit of double agent because she knew Manningtree well and had then moved to her new Welsh home town of Rhayader said actually she thinks Rhayader should come out on top."

The key to Rhayader's success was the fact its population is officially counted with neighbouring Cwmdauddwr - so its pubs were taken into consideration too.

Series of reservoirs

Mrs Collard of the Lion Royal said: "As far as we're concerned in Rhayader, we're all one town.

"If there's something to claim and we can claim it for Rhayader, then let's claim it."

She said she believed the high ratio of pubs to people dated back to the 1890s when the Birmingham Corporation bought the Elan Valley as a future water supply, and where it later built a series of reservoirs.

"I remember my late uncle saying there were 1,000 labourers accommodated in temporary shelters: 1,000 thirsty labourers after digging that lot out, because don't forget there were no JCBs and diggers and things then," she added.

Keith Hughes
On an average night out drinkers go on a tour of the town and try to visit most or all of the pubs
Keith Hughes, Rhayader resident

William Davies, a barman at the Lamb and Flag Inn, said: "There used to be 14 pubs in the town, but now there's only 10 and two in a neighbouring village, but that's still a large number for such a small town."

He also supported the Birmingham dams theory.

"The number of pubs is probably due to the work on the dams that was done in the early part of the last centrury and as a result a lot of workers moved into the Elan Valley and a lot of pubs probably sprouted up as a result."

So how do so many pubs survive in such a small town?

Mr Davies said the area attracted a lot of walkers and cyclists and from Easter onwards in particular the pubs were busy.

Keith Hughes, 65, who owns Cambrian Carpets, moved to the town 30 years ago and said most locals tended to drink in all the pubs and did not favour one over the other.

"On an average night out drinkers go on a tour of the town and try to visit most or all of the pubs," he said.

"As a stranger to the town 30 years ago I found it a bit odd because where I came from people stuck to one or two pubs.

"But people seem to care about their locals and are loyal to them."

More or Less can be heard on Mondays on BBC Radio 4 at 1630BST


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