Category Archives: Pubs

Haymakers, Chesterton, Cambridge

The Haymakers in Chesterton reopened on Friday. Closed for the past couple of years, it seemed like it would be lost to housing or become a restaurant, but is now under the ownership of Milton Brewery. The refurbishment has added interest to what was previously a large open space with a stage at the end during its time as a music venue. A new snug now separates the space into two rooms, with wooden bench seats and tables fixed to the walls. The work has also uncovered an impressive beamed ceiling. Eight real ales were on when visited, the Milton Nike particularly good.


History in the Haymaking

The Haymakers may date back to at least 1851 when Thomas Keath is listed as a beer retailer, although the pub is not named. By 1869 the Haymakers is named with Thomas Keath the publican and ‘hay dealer’, so it’s possible he gave the pub its name. In the 1850s the Haymakers would have stood opposite two other pubs – the Wheatsheaf on the east corner of Union Lane and the High Street, and the Bleeding Heart/Hart on the east corner of Chapel Street and the High Street. There have been many pubs on the High Street, but only the Haymakers has survived.

Haymakers map

The Bleeding Heart may have dated back to at least 1786, possibly becoming the Maltsters Arms (a large malthouse and kiln stood behind the pub, in the area now named Maltsters Way) by the late 1800s, before being converted into a Co-operative store by the 1920s, demolished in the 1970s. The Wheatsheaf has also been demolished and replaced by modern housing.

Prior to the First World War:

“Parish meetings, dances (like the St Patrick’s Night dance) and childrens Christmas parties were held… on occasions, in… the Haymakers public house in the High Street… mass had been celebrated in a room attached to the Co-operative Stores in High Street, Chesterton. This room formerly belonged to an inn known as the bleeding Hart” (Catholics in Cambridge, Nicholas Rogers 2003)

In the late 1800s, the Haymakers publican Robert Green is listed as a “farmer and brewer”, followed in the early 1900s by Charles Green, also a “farmer and brewer”, so it seems possible they supplied their own beer for the pub, although by the 1930s the Haymakers was owned and supplied by the Star Brewery.

Haymakers during WWII

An 83 year old former resident of Chesterton, Peter told me

“The Haymakers was the centre of entertainment in Chesterton. There was music and dancing. Jack Mays would be thumping it out on his accordian, there’d be shouting and balling. It was a rough and rowdy pub. If women were seen going in there, people would turn their noses up at them! It was more gentlemanly in the Wheatsheaf opposite. There was a little island outside the Haymakers at the entrance to Chapel Street, which used to have a Police Box on it.

During the war, it was the hangout of the American Servicemen from G23 Camp (where the Science Park now stands). There’d often be fights between black and white Americans – they had separate nights for a time. The Military Police would go in and sort them out when there was trouble and they’d ban them. After D-Day, the Americans vanished overnight. When I was in the Army Cadet Forces, we’d come out of the drill hall on East Road on Wednesday evenings and walk home past the Haymakers. Sometimes one of us would open the door and throw in a thunderflash. Then there’d be a commotion!”

“It was a rough pub in the sixties too!” another former resident of Chesterton told us. “We hardly came in here, we used to go to the Prince Albert just along the road” (the Prince Albert stood on the same side of the High Street, the next pub west of the Haymakers, it was demolished in the 1970s).

Haymakers Chesterton

The refurbished Haymakers is certainly not that ‘rough pub’ anymore, but it was ‘the centre of entertainment in Chesterton’ when it reopened this weekend. Long may it reap the rewards.

Ale Trail – A Bumble Through Beer Gardens

Whittlesford ChurchTicking off a few of the most southerly pubs on the Cambridge CAMRA Ale Trails, all with beer gardens, a twenty mile round trip following good cycle paths pretty much all of the way to Whittlesford and then roads through Duxford to Ickleton. Despite losing the cycle path as it goes through Stapleford, it was a pleasant route that even goes through the churchyard of St Mary and St Andrew’s at Whittlesford.

Bees In The Wall

Bees In The Wall

Built in 1851 as the Exhibition, the pub’s name was changed in 1950 when bees were discovered living in different sections of the walls as the pub was being redecorated. Initially the hives were actually cleared away and the walls sealed up, with 25lbs of honey extracted and used to make mead. However, a couple of years later in 1952, the bees returned and were allowed to remain. The bees still live here and can be seen going in and out of a hole high up on the outside of the building. Apparently upstairs in the private lounge, the landlord can view the nest through glass. They usually swarm once a year around May – on occasions they have left in autumn before returning in spring.

I have to say this pub has been one of the highlights of the Ale Trails for me. I enjoyed an excellent drop of Timothy Taylor Landlord and a friendly chat with Marie, who was happy to explain the history of the pub and the bees. The landlord Lawrie has been here for thirty years making him the second longest serving landlord in Cambridgeshire. A cosy two room pub with a large beer garden bordering the pub’s own wood! I look forward to visiting again soon, perhaps taking the short train journey from Cambridge to Whittlesford, followed by a 30 minute walk to the pub. Marie said they’d had more people passing through on the Ale Trail than in previous years. It was quiet when I visited during a weekday lunchtime, some companies that used to provide lunchtime trade have recently moved out of the area, so I hope more people discover this gem of a pub.

Tickell Arms, Whittlesford

Tickell Arms

Nearby, the Tickell Arms, formerly the Waggon and Horses from c.1810, is a pub and restaurant that was refurbished and reopend last year. There are usually four real ales on and on May 26th they’ll hold the pub’s first mini beer festival. I enjoyed a Milton Pegasus in the beer garden before cycling further south.

Ickleton Lion

Ickleton Lion

Furthest south of the pubs on the Ale Trails, Ickleton Lion, formerly the Red Lion, is a building thought to date back to the 1700s, with beamed walls and an inglenook fireplace. A pleasant Greene King pub busy with lunchtime diners, I had a rather insipid Old Golden Hen in the beer garden before retracing the route to Duxford.

Plough, Duxford

Plough Duxford

The Plough, a timber framed pub with a thatched roof and porch, also dates back to the 1700s. I liked this pub and had a decent Adnams bitter – also on were Holdens Golden Glow, Bombardier and two from Everards. By this time I was seeking shelter from the sun so only sat in the beer garden briefly.

Three Horseshoes, Stapleford

Three Horseshoes Stalpeford

Here since the early 1800s, the Three Horseshoes reopened in February, and has been steadily getting busier as word has spread. An unfussy pub, recently refurbished, serving a good range of real ales and bottled beers from around the world.

Route map:

Map of all the Ale Trail pubs (from @YvanSeth)

Cambridge CAMRA
Mike Petty – Down Your Way
Roger Protz – Best Pubs in East Anglia
Ted Bruning – Cambridgeshire’s Best Pubs

Pints and Punctures

On the Cambridge Ale Trail

Ale Trail Stamp

This year’s Cambridge CAMRA Ale Trail has forty-four pubs to visit over three ‘trails’. There are no routes to follow, just lists of some pubs in the district. Still, it seems like a good excuse to visit some pubs out of town that I haven’t yet got around to, along with some pubs in town I only occasionally visit. After ticking (stamping) off a few pubs in town, I thought I’d better visit some further afield. Intent on avoiding roads where possible, sticking to cyclepaths and footpaths, I cycled out with a photocopy of a piece of OS map. Other than that, I hadn’t really prepared.


The Dykes End pub in the village of Reach is about 13 miles north of Cambridge, that is if your route follows the river Cam downstream and then diverts across tracks alongside old Roman canals and fenland fields.

Swaffam Bulbeck Lode

It was going well until I was within a mile of the pub and decided to detour to see the Devil’s Dyke earthwork from which the pub gets its name. This involved walking my bicycle through a tunnel of blackthorn, hawthorn and wild rose bushes. By the time I reached the pub, both tyres were punctured.

Reach Dykes End

I ordered a pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord and sat in the beer garden considering my plight. Thirteen miles from home with two flat tyres and nothing to fix them. A local cycled up, and as luck would have it he was carrying a repair kit, tyre levers and a pump. “I’ll be back in an hour” he said, “leave them behind the bar and I’ll pick them up later”

When it came to fixing the punctures, having carelessly pulled out and thrown away the thorns, I struggled to find the holes they’d left. I then discovered that the pump adaptor was the wrong size for the valves so I couldn’t get any air in the tyres. Even with a bowl of water from the pub, it took an age to find and fix both punctures. Eventually I left the tools at the bar and paid for another pint so the gent who’d lent them to me had a rewarding drink when he returned. As I asked for directions to the nearest garage so I could get air, facing a two mile walk there, someone at the bar offered to get a foot pump from his garage.

“If you’re going to get a puncture, best place to get one is at a pub” said Simon. “You never know who you’re standing next to in a pub. Could be a dentist, could be someone who can remove a dent from your car…”

…Or someone who can help fix a puncture. Tyres repaired and full of air, I headed home, and feeling luck was on my side after all, detoured to some more beer gardens, at the Red Lion, Swaffham Prior and the White Swan, Quy.

Red Lion, White Swan

It wasn’t a particularly warm day, yet I arrived home with a sunburn of the intensity I’d forgotten was possible in this country. In April.

But the tyres stayed up.

Three Horseshoes, Stapleford

Stapleford BitterThe Three Horseshoes in Stapleford reopened last week. Jethro and Terry from the Cambridge Blue have taken it on as a second pub and are aiming to turn the freehouse into a ‘real ale paradise’.

When we visited, there were seven real ales on including Oakham/RCH Light Porter, along with draught Duvel and Köstritzer Black Lager among others. There’s also a range of bottled beers with plenty of Belgian beer and glassware. The refurbished pub has a large room to the right of the main bar and a smaller darts room to the left.

The Three Horseshoes has been here since at least the 1840s, possibly as early as 1815. After alterations in 1976 it was renamed the Longbow, “a completely new pub, only the exterior of the building remains the same”. Initially it stocked ‘Truman’s Crown, Whitbread Trophy and Whitbread mild on draught’. The Longbow closed last May after some trouble. Reverting to its former name, the Three Horseshoes is now a welcoming place, serves good beer and is easily reached from Cambridge – by the Citi 7 bus, a short cycle along the Shelford cycleway, or by train to Stapleford railway station followed by a ten minute walk.

Three Horseshoes Stapleford

Church Street, Stapleford, Cambridgeshire CB22 5DS

Stapleford village website
Deans & Stapleford pubs
Cambridge CAMRA

Cambridge Brew House

The Cambridge Brew House, King Street

The Cambridge Brew house opened on Wednesday 6th February.

Brewing will soon return to Cambridge as the Brew House opens this coming week with a brewery launch to follow next month. Head brewer James Godman was formerly senior brewer at the Hop Back Brewery in Wiltshire, where he brewed Hop Back Entire Stout, Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2011. Last year he launched the Henley Brewing Company and this year returns to Cambridge, his former home, to launch the Cambridge Brewing Company.

King's Parade Best BitterThe brewing vessels arrived just a few weeks ago and aren’t yet fully installed so the new beers are currently being brewed at Henley. The new beers for Cambridge are:
King’s Parade 3.8% ABV ‘best bitter’
Night Porter 4.8% ABV ‘stout porter’
Misty River 4.7% ABV ‘hoppy ale’

They’ll also serve guest ales, mainly from local breweries, and hope to soon have beers from Bexar County Brewery, a new Peterborough brewery that has already released some cracking beers, ‘robust porters’ and ‘aggressive American styled’ IPAs amongst them.


The pub has been completely refurbished with the lower bars opened out into one large room with two main areas – a pub lounge side with views through to the brewery and a side aimed more at dining, joined by a long wooden bar. Lucas the opening manager kindly showed me the upstairs function room that also has views of the brewery, and the ‘Locker Room’, a bar with a smaller beer selection and a screen to show sports. This room has perhaps seen the biggest change with the former low ceiling removed to reveal a much higher ceiling, creating a light and airy space in what was once a fairly dimly lit room. It leads to an outdoor terrace at the rear of the building. There are lots of different styles of furniture and lighting throughout but it all works well together and there are some really nice touches.

Cambridge Brew House

We were lucky enough to go along pre-launch for a vegetarian Sunday Roast and really enjoyed the food, including a sample of their own smoked cheddar and an Eton Mess for dessert. We washed it down with a pint of King’s Parade, a biscuity best bitter using East Kent Goldings & Styrian Goldings hops, and a Freedom Organic Lager. Adnams Broadside was also on.

The 1970s building doesn’t look like a place that would have much of a history – a 1974 pub guide says “It is all too easy to be deterred by the stark modernity of the brick exterior, but the inside is in fact quite pleasant” – yet there has been a pub here since at least 1839 and brewing in this area of Cambridge goes back centuries…



The Cambridge Brew House is the only brewery in the city, the first since Moonshine moved from Radegund Road to Fulbourn in 2008, the City of Cambridge Brewery ceased brewing at Cheddars Lane in 2001, and the first brewpub in Cambridge since the Ancient Druids (now China City restaurant) and the Fresher Firkin (now the Tivoli) ceased brewing in the late 1990s.

King Street has been home to a brewery before; in 1866 George Scales founded the Cambridge Brewery behind what is now d’Arry’s restaurant, opposite the Cambridge Brew house. Much of the former Cambridge Brewery buildings and memorabilia remained until the late 1990s when Greene King stripped the heritage out and threw it away when they turned it into the failed ‘Rattle and Hum’ theme pub. The remaining brewery buildings can best be seen from above street level:

  © Copyright David Purchase and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

Cambridge Brewery © David Purchase, under Creative Commons Licence

Brewing on King Street goes back much further. The Charters of the Radegund Priory, which existed from the 12th century to the end of the 15th century, record in 1446 the lease of a building on Walls Lane, now King Street, to

John Chapman, brewer, and Margaret his wife, a vacant plot in Walls Lane, in the parish of Holy Trinity, lying between the wall of the Friars Minor to the west and a tenement of the nuns in the tenure of Thomas Thorne to the east, the Lane to the south, and a garden of the nuns occupied by John Heyward to the north.

The lease was for 26 years at 2 shillings, with a covenant to “build and maintain a house on the said site”. Beer was also brewed at the nearby Benedictine Priory, now Jesus College on Jesus Lane which runs paralel to King Street, and the Franciscan Friary established in 1266 on land bordered by Walls Lane, now the site of Sidney Sussex College. One of the only buildings mentioned in the Nunnery accounts was the Priory’s ‘Hospicium’ where brewing was carried out (Gray, 1898) and the Franciscan Friary buildings included a brew house (Porter, 1958).

Former pubs on this site

King’s Arms. Several pubs have stood on this site previously. The King’s Arms is recorded from as early as 1839 with the publican James Creek. As Queen Victoria reigned from 1837, the King’s Arms could well have existed before then. As early as 1688 (Loggan’s map) buildings are shown on the site. King Street itself was formerly Wales lane, later Walls Lane until as late as 1804 (Cole’s) becoming King Street by 1830 (Baker’s). This would suggest it was named King Street sometime during the reign of George III (likely, since the Royal Arms of George III appear in the Cambridge Arms), George IV or even the year King William IV ascended to the throne.

Glazier’s Arms is recorded here or adjacent to it from at least the 1850s to 1887. William Austin was recorded as a beer retailer on King Street in 1839. A glazier by profession, he is later recorded as the publican of the Glazier’s Arms, so it seems possible he gave the pub its name.

Royal Arms is then recorded here from at least 1895 to 1970, after which the building was demolished and the area redeveloped.

King’s Arms (again). In the early 1970s redevelopment, the present building was erected with the pub name reverting to the King’s Arms. It comprised of three large bars and a restaurant, the bars being named after significant items of the King’s Coat of Arms – the Lion Bar, equivalent to a public bar, the Unicorn Bar and the Rose Bar upstairs next to the restaurant – items which seem to support the ‘King’s Arms’ being a Hanoverian Coat of Arms.

The Bun Shop, King Street - - 797065

Bun Shop. In the early 1990s the pub was refurbished and took the name of the Bun Shop (a pub of that name originally stood on Downing Street). A CAMRA guide from 1994 called it a “hugely enterprising revamp of the once hapless King’s Arms” which served amongst other beers, a Tolly Cobbold ‘Bun Shop Brew’ house beer. That would have been about the time I first visited the Bun Shop. It comprised of a traditional bar with a snug in the right hand room, a wine bar to the left and a tapas bar and restaurant upstairs that was also used as a function room. By 2002 the ‘Traditional Bar’ advertised “a range of beers from some of Britain’s finest regional breweries, including Youngs, Tetleys, Marstons, Greene King, Shepherds Neame and Adnams.”

Bun Shop by Kake Pugh

Kake Pugh / Flickr)

Jolly Scholar
The Bun Shop closed in 2008 and for the past few years the pub had opened only for short periods before closing again, first under the management of D’Arry’s (opposite the pub) who scattered plenty of sawdust all over the floor, and then in 2011 under the management of the Jolly Sailor in Suffolk. It became the Jolly Scholar, with another refurbishment opening up the previous two room layout into one large room. It closed again just a year later and stayed shut until reopening as the present Cambridge Brew House.

Jolly Scholar

King Street pubs

In 1874 twelve pubs are recorded on King Street, today only four remain – Cambridge Brew House, Champion of the Thames, King Street Run (formerly Horse & Groom) and the Saint Radegund. The buildings of several former pubs still stand – the Earl Grey is now Raja Indian Restaurant, the Cambridge Arms and brewery is d’Arry’s restaurant and the Yorkshire Grey is a private dwelling.

In 1881, at least ten pubs were named on King Street:
Carpenter’s Arms
Champion of the Thames
Earl Grey
Glaziers Arms
Horse & Groom
Town Arms
Yorkshire Grey

An 1888 town plan shows names for eight pubs, with the Garrick demolished and replaced by the Saint Radegund, the Town Arms renamed the Cambridge Ale Stores, and a Millers Arms standing opposite what is now the Cambridge Brew House.

Here’s hoping the future of the Cambridge Brew House is a long and prosperous one.

- – -
Other sources:
Arthur Gray, The Priory of St Radegund, Cambridge (Cambridge Antiquarian Society, 1898)
H.C. Porter, Reformation and Reaction in Tudor Cambridge (1958)
The Cambridge Brew House

Black Horse, Rampton

“Some village pubs I’ve been to, everyone stops and looks you up and down as you walk in” said one of the locals. “Not this pub.” Before long another local was trying to persuade us to move to the village, with several houses recommended.

Black Horse, Rampton

A pub since at least 1851, with two rooms, the left side laid out for dining with several people having Sunday lunch, the right side more the place to drink beer, and good beer it was.

The landlord comes from Tring and beer from Tring Brewery is regularly on. We had a nice drop of Dark Star Partridge Best Bitter before returning to the bar. “I’m just about to put on a new one from Tring, you should wait” he said. After a while the beer was pulled through and several glasses were held up to the light before the clip went on and it was served. It was worth waiting for. He said they visted the brewery the other week, clearly they care about the beer they serve.

Tring Bessemer

Meanwhile, the locals regaled us with stories stretching back over twenty years, of a previous landlady who on her birthday was given the bumps and was swung up into a beam and soon after was taken away in an ambulance, and a ‘lady’ someone brought to the pub who did something that resulted in them “all being barred from the pub”. We couldn’t glean what it was the lady had done, but they were keen to emphasise it occured a long time ago.

I hope we’ll visit this friendly place again soon, drink more good beer and hear more tales, but I’m happy to keep imagining what happened that evening “a long time ago”.

Further back in time, during the Second World War, ‘local Rampton man Arthur Bowness’ recalls that for the village Home Guard, “all the parades and whatnots that used to take place used to mostly start at the Black Horse and finish at the Black Horse.” Nearby is the Giant’s Hill earthwork, an unfinished 12th Century castle that was utilised as a gun emplacement by the Home guard.

Along the High Street, on the opposite side of the road, stands the closed Chequers pub, open c.1765-1917, now a private dwelling.

Rampton Chequers - closed

Rampton is about 7 miles north of Cambridge by road. From the guided busway stop at Longstanton, it’s a four mile round trip along footpaths, or from the Oakington stop it’s a five mile round trip.

Rampton Map

Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC BY-SA

Other pubs along the Cambridgeshire guided busway

Beery goodbyes 2012

Many pubs and breweries closed this year, so here are some fond farewells.

Beers we have known and loved

Northcote Brewery

Jiggle Juice was one of my favourite beers at the Cambridge Beer Festival 2010, a cracking Citra hopped IPA. That was the first Northcote beer I tried, but soon after that I enjoyed Sunshine Jiggle and from then on would stock up on bottles of Northcote beers each time I visited Norfolk – my parents even called in at the brewery to pick some up and said they were really friendly there. So it was sad when at the beginning of the year they announced they were closing. I was lucky enough to come across what was probably their last beer when I visited the Euston Tap in January – ‘One for the Road’, a collaboration with the Tap. I grabbed one last mixed box of Northcote beer when I next visited Norfolk and I still have a couple of bottles of the El Salvador IPA, an IPA brewed with NZ hops and fresh coffee, that I’ve yet to get around to opening.

Northcote Brewery
Northcote Brewery
Northcote El Salvador IPA


Another Norfolk brewery to close this year was Blackfriars from Great Yarmouth, just a few minutes from the seafront near the Pleasure Beach. Although the brewery has closed, it is now in the hands of JV Trading who are also “Custodians of the Lacons brand and associated trademarks, who are extremely committed to re-establishing this much loved former Great Yarmouth brewery.” (Lacons Memories). So far, Great Yarmouth Brewing Company has been established, with Wilbur Wood, who had been Head Brewer at Fyne Ales and brewed at Oakham Ales for years before that, already having brewed three new beers – ‘D.N.A.’ a 3.8% pale ale using Citra, Centenial and Perle hops, ‘Identity’ a 5% bitter, and ‘Fingerprint’ a 4.4% Golden Ale which has already been on at the Alexandra Arms, Cambridge.


St Judes

I enjoyed St Judes 14% strong ale ‘Negro Mortis’ at last winter’s Bury Beerhouse Festival and was sad to hear the Suffolk Micro Brewery ceased brewing this year, although the St Judes Tavern in Ipswich recently reopened.

Back from the dead

Buntingford Silent Night

Good news, that despite Buntingford‘s announcement last year that it would be ‘quite possibly the last year’ for Silent Night, it reappeared this winter – although as they ‘change the recipe each year, just to confuse people’ I suppose it was really only the name – that said, it did taste pretty much as I remember, a really nice citrusy bitter.

Closed pubs:


There has been good news with some new or reopened pubs (in Cambridgeshire, the newly opened ‘Bank’ at Willingham, the refurbished Mill and Alexandra Arms in Cambridge) but a lot of closures with many more under threat. The Flying Pig faces an uncertain future and is threatened with demolition to make way for more offices – the neighbouring Osborne Arms was demolished a few months ago despite being in a conservation area – the developers simply demolished it then afterwards claimed they were ‘unaware of the need for conservation area consent’ and were then invited to apply for retrospective consent – so that’s okay then?!

Osborne Arms, Flying Pig

Cambridge’s Newmarket Road, which in 1878 listed nearly thirty pubs along with several breweries, this year saw the closure of The Seven Stars and Bird in Hand, which after the closure of the Zebra last year, leaves just three pubs (the Burleigh Arms, the Corner House and the Wrestlers) along the length of the road and currently not a single brewery in the city itself (although this is set to change in 2013 with the January opening of the Cambridge Brew House on King Street). I keep looking at certain pubs and wondering if the next time I pass they’ll still be open. The proposed Cambridge Tap seems very unlikely to happen now, which is a shame as Cambridge could do with more variety.

Seven Stars


I lived in Norfolk and regularly visit family and friends there so I’ve noticed the closing of many pubs which have been familiar landmarks, such as the 17th century coaching inn the Green Man in Rackheath on the road from Norwich to Wroxham. In Wroxham itself, the Shed closed and although it may reopen as a private members club or bistro, it’s unlikely to be a pub again.

Wroxham Tap

A toast

So as the year draws to a close, I’ll crack open a Northcote El Salvador IPA and raise a toast to beers and pubs known and loved. Cheers

Alexandra Arms, Cambridge

The 30th November saw the reopening of the Alexandra Arms on Gwydir Street.

Alexandra Arms

The Alexandra Arms dates from c.1870 and was one of the earlier buildings on Gwydir Street, the houses at the north end being the earliest. It’s a Greene King pub but was formerly owned by Hudson’s Cambridge and Pampisford Breweries Ltd from at least 1882-1930. It was later owned by Wells & Winch brewery until that was amalgamated with Greene King in 1961.

“By 1874, there were about 120 houses in Gwydir Street, only about one third of which were numbered. There were five pubs – the Brewer’s Arms, the Dewdrop, the Gwydir Arms, the Alexandra Arms, and the Prince of Wales on the corner of Norfolk Street”

Only the Alexandra Arms and the Dewdrop (now the Cambridge Blue) remain. Pitson and Newman’s Gwydir Brewery existed at the other end of Gwydir Street at that time, later the site of Dales Brewery. From at least 1888 the Beaconsfield Club stood on the corner of Milford Street opposite the Alexandra Arms, serving alcohol until it lost its licence and was replaced by flats in 1984. Also in 1874, at the other end of Milford street, just round the corner on Sturton Street stood William Worboys Sturton Brewery and off-licence.

Alexandra Arms

The pub is named after Alexandra of Denmark, wife of Edward VII. Alexandra would have been Princess of Wales at the time the pub was built. Further up Gwydir Street, on the corner of Norfolk Street stood the slightly earlier pub (c. late 1860s) the Prince of Wales – Edward was an undergraduate at Trinity College in 1861. The princess outlived Edward, and the Alexandra Arms has outlived the Prince of Wales which had closed by 1963.

Alexandra ArmsA new pub sign shows an image of Alexandra on a stamp issued in Newfoundland in 1911 as part of the King George V coronation issue, a set of eleven stamps portraying members of the British Royal Family. The previous pub sign showed the coat of arms of Alexandra of Denmark “the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom impaled with the coat of arms of her father, Christian IX of Denmark” complete with a wild man holding a club. Arms and the man, and various beasts has photos of the old sign.

The Sturton Town development was an area of railway workers from the nearby railway and skilled artisans. Amongst the bakers, bricklayers, carpenters, engine drivers, firemen, millwrights, railway servants, stonemasons and tailors living nearby, street directories from 1878 and 1881 record a cellarman and a brewer (William Douglas Brown from the Paradise Brewery on Paradise Street) living next to the Alexandra Arms.

Alexandra Arms

A 1975 pub guide mentions ‘congestion round the entrance owing to the narrowness of the room’ but that ‘at the other end there is more space, and it is there that the dartboard is situated’. About 10 years ago the pub had a major refurbishment that turned that space into a seated dining area and the pub into more of a gastropub. It then became ‘The Alex’, but the modernised interior of pale wood, soft furnishings, pastel colours and spotlights didn’t really provide the welcoming atmosphere of what had once been a traditional two-room backstreet pub. The latest refurb has replaced the spotlights with more traditional lighting, returned the dark painted wood and given the whole place a more welcoming feel – it’s the Alexandra Arms again, no longer ‘the Alex’. There are some great additions including two small snugs each side of the stairs near the bar, a log burning stove and various old pictures and maps of the local area including a wall covered with a late nineteenth century OS map.

Alexandra Arms

A 1993 CAMRA guide reviews the Alexandra in three words – ‘No real ale’. It was one of the last keg-only pubs in Cambridge until handpumps were installed in 1999 (Cambridge CAMRA). Now there are eight handpumps with four Greene King beers including XX Mild and four free of tie guests. On the opening night these included the excellent Buntingford Oatmeal Stout, St Austell Proper Job, Green Jack Trawlerboys and Grain Oak – all in great nick and served in lined oversized pint glasses.

Alexandra Arms

Craig and Jenna, who also run the Free Press pub nearby, are now the tennants giving a new lease of life to the pub. Although there have been several licencees in the past 10 years, prior to that it had some long-serving landlords including William Russell for over 30 years from the mid 1930s, and Graham and Mary O’Hare who in 1996 were celebrating 23 years as tennants – in 1973 the pub bitter cost 11p a pint, in 1996 a pint of best was £1.64. It was around this time in the mid 90s that I first visited the pub, entering the lounge bar via the door on Milford Street that’s now in private use. It was still a traditional two room pub back then. The lounge bar once had a snooker table according to a local and a bar served both rooms if I remember correctly. You could enter the main bar through a doorway, bricked up during a previous refurb, at the north end of the room by the existing bar.

Alexandra Arms

This part of Cambridge is not short of good pubs selling good beer, but the reopened Alexandra Arms is well worth a visit.

Cambridge Breweries – R.J. Flood (1987)
Down Your Street – Sara Payne (1984)
Cambridge CAMRA
Greene King History
Gwydir Street History

Glastonbury Pubs

Glastonbury has a number of pubs including the 15th century George & Pilgrim. None have a wide range of beers, but most serve a few local ales.

Glastonbury Pub Map © OpenStreetMap contributors

Riflemans Arms

Riflemans Arms

The Riflemans Arms sits just outside the centre of Glastonbury near the foot of the Tor, on the main road that skirts the south edge of the town. The building, listed as a cottage dating from probably C17/early C18, doesn’t look much from the outside, sooty from the traffic that rumbles past the pub. But stepping inside, onto the stone and tile floor, the beamed walls and ceiling dimly lit with candles and fairy lights, a few locals engaged in banter at the bar casting shadows from the fire, was an unexpected delight when first visited a few years ago.

Riflemans, Glastonbury

On that occasion, a fellow walked in with several conkers laced and ready to go, and I found myself in an impromptu conker championship with some locals. Several games later, owing more to the luck of the draw than skill on my part, I left the pub with my winning conker.

Riflemans Arms interior

Serving local beers – Cheddar Ales Potholer and Butcombe Bitter – with a decent jukebox and seating outside at the back with views across the somerset levels, it’s one of the best pubs I’ve had the pleasure of drinking in. “Everybody’s rushing around going bloody nowhere”, I heard an old fellow say at the bar. The Riflemans is a haven from all that.

Riflemans Arms views

From here it’s a 5 minute walk to the top of the High Street, heading to the town centre.

Beckets Inn

Beckets Inn, Glastonbury

A building dating from c.1700, Beckets Inn was previously the town’s Doctor’s Surgery for 250 years and only became a pub about 40 years ago. John told us he’s been the landlord for the past 22 years and prior to that was a publican in many SE London pubs. His wife was born opposite the pub – they met when she visited the pub early in John’s tenancy – and remembers visiting the building when it was a surgery. The pub is fairly large, built with thick walls and crossed with wooden beams, with two bars and several rooms, one with an open fire. A Wadworth pub, beers on were Henry’s IPA, Corvus Stout, Flowers Best on keg and the seasonal Farmer’s Glory.

Beckets Inn, Glastonbury

Buster is a pub dog that likes beer. He followed us out to the beer garden, jumped onto the table and sat pretending not to watch us. When the pint glass was raised from the table, he quickly licked the spilt beer where it had been. Then he retired to the pub for a lie down.

“We’ll pop in when we visit again in a year or two” we said as we left.
“I’ll still be here” replied John.

George and Pilgrim

Founded in the 1300s according to a leaflet in the pub, although the present building dates from 1475, it’s said to have ‘subterranean passages communicating with the Abbey’ (Bygone Somerset, Walters, 1897)

It may have been built ‘to give lodging to those of lesser standing’ (Inn Signs, Delderfield 1972) although a building as grand as this was surely more likely ‘designed not for the indigent pilgrim but for those wealthy enough to pay well for their food and accomodation… contributing to the abbey coffers’ (The English Inn, Burke 1981). Both sources repeat the claim that Henry VIII is said to have stayed in a bedroom here to overlook the ransacking and burning of the abbey in 1539 at the time of the dissolution.

George and Pilgrims Inn

George and PilgrimsA wonderfully preserved medieval building, stone built with mullioned windows, an interior of worn stone passages, thick wooden beams and carvings. The former Abbot’s kitchen and parlour now serve as the saloon bar.

Beers on were Glastonbury Ales Lady of the Lake, Butcombe Bitter and Otter Bitter, of which we had a decent pint along with a decent meal.

Who’d A Thought It Inn

Who'd AThought It

Formerly the Lamb Hotel, the Who’d A Thought It has a nice bar in the oldest part of the pub, with plenty of ornaments around the room, and serves a range of Palmers beers. We’ve had good food on previous visits but this time visited just for a drink – with no seating left in the old bar, and the more recent extension aimed at diners, we left but will endeavour to get there earlier next time.

King Arthur

King Arthur

“King Arthur’s Ale – who brews that?”
“It’s a trade secret”
“Is it your own beer?”
“It’s brewed for us”
“Who brews it then? Is it Glastonbury Ales?”
“No, it’s a trade secret”

Puzzlingly evasive. That particular beer tasted past its best so I didn’t finish it, but the Glastonbury Mystery Tor was good. A nice enough place with a few rooms and a beer garden at the back.

Other pubs

We’ve walked past the Mitre several times without going in – one for the next visit:


Hawthorns, opposite Who’d A Thought It, is a hotel with a bar rather than a pub, and we haven’t yet had a drink at the Crown Inn, King William, Wagon & Horses on Wells Road or The Queen’s Head.

Queen's Head

The Market House was almost unrecognisable. It used to be a pub that was a bit rough round the edges, but a refurbishment has stripped the interior and turned it into a bright restaurant, replacing the old wooden bar with a small white one lit by a green striplight. Not a place I’d go just for a beer and there are several other places to eat in Glastonbury – Gigi’s Italian restaurant a few doors down is one of the best.

Market House

The Globe Inn had closed since we last passed this way:

Globe Inn

West Country Ales

West Country Ales

No beery trip to this area would be complete without a visit to West Country Ales in Cheddar, about 14 miles north of Glastonbury.

A great selection of local beers and we brought a few back, ensuring we’ll be reminiscing about Somerset for a while yet – at least to Christmas Day when the bottle of Old Freddy Walker comes out.

West Country Beer

Marlborough Pubs

Marlborough is a town in Wiltshire with ancient history – the prehistoric Marlborough Mound, neighbour to nearby Silbury Hill, stands hidden in the present college grounds, only 5 miles from Avebury, the largest of all the prehistoric stone circles. The mound became the site of a 12th century castle, and in the 18th century was home to the Castle Inn, ‘one of the largest in England’ (E. Hutton, 1917), until 1843 when the building was used to found Marlborough College.

The great fire of 1653, which started in a tanner’s yard near the back of the present Wellington Arms, destroyed over 240 buildings in Marlborough, including many of the town’s pubs – some of the present pubs trace their origins to buildings which stood before the fire.

A 1792 directory records “twenty-five inns in Marlborough with signs; besides two other victuallers’ houses and a lodging house, not thus distinguished”, nearly a dozen other signs not recorded in the directory are mentioned in the licensing order of 1782, and “four and forty coaches used to call daily at one or other of the Marlborough inns” (A. Dryden, 1906)

The 1852 Slaters Directory records 5 brewers, 4 Inns, 18 Taverns & Public Houses and 7 Retailers of Beer in Marlborough. Today there are about 9 pubs and bars within a short walk of each other, mostly along one of the widest high streets in England.

Marlborough Pub Map

The Lamb

The Lamb, Wiltshire

The Lamb dates back to 1672. A small pub with two bars and a third room more suited for dining, it can get very busy, such that it’s difficult to reach the bar at times. Bunches of dried hops hang over the bar and along the beams. The main draw is the Wadworth 6X served ‘straight from the wood’, which seemed to bring out more of the autumn fruit flavours – a nice, smooth drop of beer.

The Bear

Bear, Marlborough

Here since at least 1757 when it was the Bear & Castle, ‘luxuriously re-built’ in 1889 and now an Arkell’s pub. We settled down with an Arkell’s ‘Bee’s Organic Ale’ – a pleasant beer, the honey complimenting the mild hop flavour – and had a good look at the football memorabilia which covers the main bar area. The pub is on two levels with the main bar on the lower level, the upper level used for the regular live music. The main room is separated by an open fireplace and has old church pews and a wooden beamed ceiling. It’s a large old hotel with outside seating by the old stables.

Bear, Marlborough

Green Dragon

Green Dragon, Marlborough

Rebuilt following the great fire of 1653, a lovely old pub on two levels with several rooms, each decorated differently with murals on the wall depicting historic events in the town’s history.

A Wadworth pub, beers included their Corvus Stout on keg, a surprisingly good beer, smooth and nutty with a pleasant and lasting ash flavour, and Red, White and Brew, a beer with a strong waft of Citra hop aroma and citrus flavour – probably the best Wadworth beers we’ve tried.


Wellington Arms, Marlborough

A pub with an emphasis on food, and indeed we’ve enjoyed a meal at the Wellington Arms on each of our visits over the years. Good, hearty pub grub washed down with an excellent pint of Ramsbury Gold, we’re sure to eat here again next time we visit. There’s a ceramic plaque on the wall from the defunct West Country Breweries.

Wellington Arms, Marlborough


Sun Inn, Marlborough

The Sun Inn can trace its history back to the 15th century. It was once, according to a late 19th century advertisement, a ‘noted house for genuine home brewed beer’ and in the last century served ales from the now defunct Ushers Brewery. When we visited we enjoyed a fine pint of Stonehenge Danish Dynamite, a well hoppped, floral and fruity pale ale – also on were Sharp’s Cornish Coaster and Wadworth 6X.

It’s a wonderful old pub, a welcoming log fire burning in the large fireplace, the walls and ceiling crossed with thick, dark wooden beams, cushions made from bar towels and a nice beer garden out by the old stables at the rear. Split into three rooms, one of which has tables laid for dining, the main bars are the kind you want to spend an evening drinking in.

Castle and Ball Hotel

Castle and Ball, Marlborough

We’ve previously stayed at the Castle & Ball, said to date to the 15th century, rebuilt c.1745 with ‘surviving original oak timber that pre-dates the Spanish Armada’, but on this occasion we didn’t visit – it’s a Greene King pub and there are plenty of those in East Anglia where we live.

Royal Oak

Royal Oak, Marlborough

The Royal Oak is another Greene King pub and a good example of a GK pub with no character, any sense of history long since stripped out during succesive refurbishments, just a line of lager handpumps facing the customer – passing the pub it’s not even obvious they serve ale at all.

There is also the 18th century Crown (formerly Crown and Anchor) on the Parade, although this appeared to be less a pub, more a bar in a hotel/restaurant so we passed that too. We haven’t yet ventured as far as the Roebuck on London Road but it looks like a promising Fuller’s pub, definitely one for the next visit…