Many a pub customer has stood in a beer garden staring into the abyss above, looking for answers that can't be found in the bottom of a pint glass.

Pubs are starting to tap into this sense of wonder by running events that make the most of the sky at night.

Located near London's consciously cool Brick Lane area, at first glance, The Culpeper is not an obvious meeting place for amateur star-gazers.



However, when you consider that its name honours the 17th-century herbalist and astronomer Nicholas Culpeper, the link comes into sharper focus.

The pub also has a roof terrace (with herb garden, naturally), which provides the perfect vantage point for the astronomy events it hosts every two months.

Inapub joined around 30 other guests to take in the moon, The Plough, Jupiter and several lights that were either shooting stars or, more likely, aeroplanes passing over the capital.

The events are organised by Seb Jay of Dark Sky Telescope Hire (pictured below), who provides the telescopes, and commentary about what can be seen. He says: "The primary part of the business is hiring out the telescopes but we also do private star-gazing events where we go to people's back gardens or good spots such as Hampstead Heath.



"This is the only star-gazing night we run from a pub rooftop in London."

Judging by the numbers that turn up — this was sold out weeks in advance — he may soon be doing more. After an introduction on the roof and a chance to look at the moon in close-up while the night is still light, we all head down to dinner.


Star-crossed lovers


Over the meal and the wine that come with the £35 ticket, guests talk about what brought them to the event. Some are locals who support what the pub does, others have travelled from far and wide for a special occasion. Most come as a pair, with one of them having bought the ticket as a romantic gesture. Some have a degree of astronomical knowledge but the content is pitched at a beginner's level.

Nicolas Tréguer, Culpeper director, said: "With all our events, the main message for us is to simply share knowledge and experiences with people who are interested in a certain subject, whether they come from around the corner or from further afield. It's just a case of opening the conversation to those who want to talk about it.

"It's important that the events we host really speak to who we are, which is why Nicholas Culpeper's multifaceted career is the perfect inspiration."

After dinner Seb gives the guests an overview of what we might expect to see — essentially constellations that bear little resemblance to the objects they are named after. It gets some laughs and prepares people for the second trip to the roof.



With the night settled in and winter warmer cocktails being passed around to further enhance the atmosphere, the customers wrap themselves in blankets and snuggle closer to each other and the telescopes.

Seb later explains that decent kit with lenses can be bought for around £1,000, for any pubs keen to invest in more than the occasional night.

However, there is one enemy that neither Seb nor The Culpeper can do much about. As he uses his high-powered laser pointer to show us Jupiter glowing just above the high rise buildings that jag into the skyline, clouds descend, screening what had been a near perfect view.

"If we have a clear night we can always see something," says Seb. "When it's cloudy you don't get to see much at all. The moon can just about get through the clouds."

It seems fitting that a night gazing at things so far out is eventually curtailed by something beyond our control.



Starry starry pubs

The Culpeper is not the only pub to have a name inspired by the world of astronomy. Here are some of the other favourites.


  • The Astronomer, London

The Fuller's pub is a short walk from The Culpeper in Spitalfields. It was originally called Astral House, then became the Shooting Star before its most recent name change.


  • The Man on the Moon

The Moon features heavily in pub names, with other variations including the Half Moon and The Moon & Sixpence.


  • The Seven Stars, Robertsbridge,East Sussex

The Harvey's pub has been around for centuries and is supposedly one of the most haunted in the country. Its name derives from the Seven Sisters constellation.


  • The Plough

The Plough is the fifth-most common name for pubs. Signs sometimes depict the constellation rather than the agricultural reference.


  • The Rising Sun

Edward III had a rising sun as his emblem, which meant that there were plenty of pubs that followed suit during his 14th-century reign.