Sheringham Pubs

There are six pubs in Sheringham, and a bar at the Burlington Hotel (the last Sheringham hotel with a fully licensed bar, following the recent closure of the Beaumaris Hotel). We visited them all over a recent long-weekend stay – it’s a small town and easy to reach them all within a short walk.

In general the pubs serve some of the same familiar beers – Adnams Ghost Ship, Greene King Abbot Ale and Old Speckled Hen, and Woodfordes Wherry each appeared in three of the six pubs.

Then again, perhaps there’s never been a wide choice of beer here – the now defunct Steward and Patteson brewery once ran and supplied many of Sheringham’s pubs:

  • Dunstable Arms – from 1870s, rebuilding the pub in 1931
  • Lobster Inn – leased from 1897, purchased 1929
  • Robin Hood (when Railway Tavern) – from early 1880s
  • Windham Arms – until at least the middle of last century

The best beer tried was a wonderfully rich Humpty Dumpty Jubilee Mild in the Windham Arms; also noteworthy were Tipples Lady Evelyn in the Dunstable Arms, and Wolf Lifeboat Ale in the Two Lifeboats – all from Norfolk breweries. That said, pints of the ubiquitous Adnams Ghost Ship in the Crown and the Robin Hood were excellent too. The best sea views are from the Two Lifeboats and the Crown Inn, both of which also served decent veggie food.

Crown Inn

Lifeboat Plain | @CrownSheringham
Crown Inn
If it was licensed pre 1781 but was rebuilt further inland several times, most recently c.1935, it is one of the oldest licensed sites yet the newest building of the remaining Sheringham pubs. According to www.norfolkpubs.co.uk, the first known inn was taken by the sea on 22nd October 1800. The second inn “was built in 1805, when it was 70 yards from the sea. Between 1824-29 17 yards of cliff were swept away, and the distance before the sea-wall was reduced to 12 yards” (Sea Coast, Wheeler, William Henry, 1902). In front of the inn there used to be a considerable amount of land, stretching west past the Two Lifeboats, which for many years was the site of an annual fair, and later a bowling green – even after the sea had taken it, the narrow strip of shingle in front of the pub was still called The Green. There used to be a coal yard by the side of the inn, with coal ships coming up onto the beach.

Musical Traditions says that Ralph Vaughan Williams, as part of his excursions in the county collecting traditional songs and music, visited Sheringham on 12th January 1905 and noted down the music to “Near Scarborough Town from Mr Emery, in The Crown Inn (the second Crown inn which lasted until 1935)”.

Memoirs of a Shannock records “one spectacular occassion” of fate during WWII involving the Crown:

“The landlord, Mr Charlie Holsey, was in his bar serving his usual customers. This pub was used by several of the lifeboat crew who often met here for a game of darts or dominoes. As the landlord was washing some glasses, he held one up as he wiped it clean and spotted what he thought could be a boat or plane at sea, quite a way out… and the lifeboat was launched. Half an hour later, they were able to rescue five Polish airmen, who had been in a dinghy for a couple of days, drifting along the coast. Their plane had crashed in the Wash and the poor fellows had suffered a great deal. At one time they were nearly ashore, as they could hear the surf, but the wind changed direction and they were blown further from land. It was by sheer good fortune that they had been spotted”

Crown Inn Sheringham
Landlord Bob Brewster has been running the Crown Inn since 1978 – he also ran the Windham Arms from 1974 – 1980. There is regular live music – we were lucky enough to see the excellent Cambridgeshire blues band Split Whiskers play there on the Saturday night. Beers when visited were Adnams Ghost Ship, Fullers London Pride, Greene King Abbot Ale, Shepherd Neame Spitfire, Woodfordes Wherry.

Dunstable Arms

27 Cromer Road.
Dunstable Arms
Licensed by 1861, a building is shown here on the Tithe Map from c.1840. The present building dates from 1931 (just a few years before the Crown Inn was rebuilt) and at that time cost owners Steward & Patteson £3,795 to rebuild it.

The pub has a regionally important historic interior:

Re-built in 1931 in Tudor-style this attractive pub with a veranda was designed by Buckingham and Berry of Norwich for Steward & Patteson. It has three rooms and still retains many original features. On the left is an extension added in 1945/6 in a similar style to the original (the pub is reported as having been damaged by enemy action in 1940). The only recent change is the cutting of a doorway between the public bar on the left and the saloon bar on the right – until then you could only access each bar via its own front door.

On the right is the saloon bar with its original counter, fireplace and parquet floor. When built a wooden partition separated the saloon bar from the rear ‘club room’ (wording from the original plans which are in a frame on the wall) – when it was removed in mid 1980s the timber was re-used for the present bar back fitting in the public bar. The former club room, now a dining area, is in “Tudor hall” style with a high ceiling and exposed timber beams. It has a magnificent full height chimney breast in brick and tile.

The public bar retains its original bar counter, unusually of brick with a wooden top, a brick fireplace, timber frieze, parquet floor and some original fixed seating. A brick arch from 1945/6 links the public bar with the left hand pool room, which was converted in the mid 1980s from the off sales / snug and a previously private room and has no old fittings. The small counter here replaced a hatch in the mid 1980s.

Dunstable Arms Sheringham

It’s not clear why the pub is named the Dunstable Arms, although it’s located close to the ruins of the Augustinian Priory at Beeston Regis, and as Dunstable Priory was also Augustinian, there may be some link – the arms of Dunstable Priory became “corrupted into the later device of a conical ale-warmer“, a tin or copper cone for mulled ale that could be put directly in a fire.

The pub was closed for a while but reopened in 2011 and was recently “given a stylish refurbishment and warm feel with new furniture and layout, in-keeping with the charm of the building”. Beers when visited were Tipples Lady Evelyn and Sea Lantern, and Sharp’s Doom Bar, enjoyed in the beer garden at the rear of the pub. Although it’s away from the centre of the town and the other pubs, it’s worth the walk of less than 10 minutes and the chance of a different choice of beer.

Lobster

13 High Street | @thelobsterpub
Lobster
Open by 1832, the Lobster is a fitting name for a pub in Sheringham, a town enriched by the fishing industry, particularly lobster and crab fishing – a lobster in a golden ring features on the town crest. A 1970s pub guide describes the lounge as “festooned with lobster-pots, nets and ships’ lamps” adding that “it was once an early-nineteenth century coaching inn and the stables are still here to prove it” – the stables have been converted into a dining area.

The pub has a beer garden and an historic interior:

The Lobster was refitted by Steward & Patteson in the early 1930s and is worth a visit to see the little altered lounge on the left. It would appear two small rooms were combined in the 1930s and fielded panelling to 2/3rds height added throughout. The bar counter and most of the mirrored bar back with a set of drawers dates from the 30s as does the Tudor arch shaped wood surround of the fireplace (but the copper hood is possibly a 60s addition?). The public bar has been refitted in recent years but does retains a ‘Bar’ etched panel in the door and a parquet floor possibly of the 1930s. A third ‘Garden Room’ may well have been a pub room for some time but looks like it has been extended back. Service to it is from a hatch in the corridor. At the rear is a separate pebble fronted building now a function room/restaurant called the Stables which has its own modern bar.

It’s been run by the Dean family for the past 14 years. Beers when visited were Greene King Abbot Ale, Timothy Taylor Landlord, and Woodfordes Wherry and Nelson’s Revenge which were both served from casks on top of the bar counter.

Robin Hood

13-15 Station Road
Robin Hood
Originally named the First & Last by 1846, then by 1881 the Railway Tavern, and by 1892 the Railway Hotel, on the 1st January 1904 its name was changed to the Robin Hood. Despite the popularity of Robin Hood in folklore and as a pub name, it’s not obvious why a pub located over 100 miles away from Nottingham and Sherwood Forest would change to that name, especially when the railway at that time had such importance to Sheringham tourism. It may be named after “Robin Friend”, a chalk and flint platform on the foreshore just to the west of the town, which may have been associated with the Robin Hood legend. Any other links with Robin Hood seem tenuous; the Robin Hoods 7th battalion held their annual training camp near Sheringham (West Runton?) in August 1912 – perhaps it was named in honour of the Robin Hood Rifles service in the Boer War from 1900-1902?

The central gable of the roof has a terracotta tiled panel with “SPF & Co” – Steward, Patteson, Finch & Co, a Norfolk brewery. This was the name of the company from 1837 to 1895, in which year the company became Steward & Patteson. In 1940 the roof of the pub was damaged by enemy action, but presumably the panel survived that.

Robin Hood Sheringham

The inside has lots of breweriana and items of interest dotted about, including old slot machines and a beer bottle from Steward & Patteson. In retrospect, I probably enjoyed this pub more than any of the others, mostly because it felt like a traditional drinking pub, rather than one aspiring to be a restaurant. There is an outdoor seating area, some of it covered.

Beers when visited were Adnams Ghost Ship, Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen, and amongst the keg offerings a pleasant enough M&B Mild (apparently brewed at Thwaites)

Two Lifeboats

2 High Street
Two Lifeboats
According to the blue plaque on the wall of the pub, “this building was originally a coffee shop circa 1720 and also the site of the fishermen’s mission hut”. That seems to be an inaccurate history, as the Sheringham Heritage Trail says the inn began life as a farmhouse, and deeds going back to 1720 describe it as the New Inn. “It then degenerated somewhat and became known as a house of ill repute, so much so that its license was not renewed. In 1878 it was bought, and following improvements and enlargement, it opened in 1879 as the Two Lifeboats Coffee House”. A street directory of 1881 confirms the Two Lifeboats Coffee House was established in 1879 (Sheringham had two lifeboats for many years – in 1879 they were the Duncan and the Augusta, the latter built in 1838 by Robert Sunman who was landlord of the Windham Arms).

Two Lifeboats

Musical Traditions quotes from an article in the Eastern Daily Press (A Smugglers’ Inn is Renamed, 21.05.65)

There is a considerable history attached to The Two Lifeboats Hotel. Once upon a time – some say as long ago as 1720 – there stood near the edge of the cliffs at Lower Sheringham a small tavern known as The New Inn, a tavern which was the focal point of the village life of that era. The fishermen used to meet there each week and after the serious business of the evening was over, a jolly time was had by one and all, with the fiddler and accordionist playing a lively step dance or jig or accompanying anyone who wanted to sing a song.”

Norfolk Pubs says the 1871 census lists the New Inn as a beer house at Cliff Street, but that the entry for Robert Hammond, licensee from 1863, is crossed out after 1877.

Whatever its origins, it became a hotel, the Bijou Hotel from 1925-1964, a temperance hotel for a time, and eventually a licensed pub, the Two Lifeboats, in 1964. If the deeds to the original inn date back to at least 1720, then it could be the site of the oldest pub and the oldest building now in use as a pub.

The emphasis is on food here (the veggie burger I had was nice enough), but in good weather the outdoor seating has the best sea views so is well worth a visit. Beers when visited were Greene King Old Speckled Hen, Wolf Brewery Lifeboat Ale (possibly Golden Jackal in disguise) and Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, and Woodfordes Wherry.

Windham Arms

Wyndham Street

Licensed from at least 1808, the pub owes its name to generations of the Windham/Wyndham families, owners of nearby Felbrigg Hall from the 15th century – the last Wyndham at Felbrigg died in 1810, just two years after the earliest known license for the pub.

Windham Arms

In 1838 licensee Robert Sunman built Sheringham’s first lifeboat, the Augusta. Opposite the pub, “Whitehall Yard” was the site of the first bomb dropped on Britain in WWI, at 8:30pm on Tuesday 19th January 1915 – part of the unexploded bomb casing is on display in Sheringham Museum.

Whitehall Yard

Wyndham Arms, looking to Whitehall Yard, where in 1915 a bomb was dropped on the cottage in the top right hand corner

Last year it was taken over by a member of the family that also runs the Robin Hood and was refurbished. Part of the lounge bar is given over to restaurant seating and didn’t feel very comfortable for just drinking, but the separate public bar facing Windham Street was much more comfortable (although seating is limited owing to most of the space being taken up by a pool table). Beers when visited were Adnams Ghost Ship, Greene King Abbot Ale and Old Speckled Hen, Humpty Dumpty Jubilee Mild (a highlight), and Woodfordes Bure Gold.

Burlington Hotel

The Esplanade.
The Burlington
Built in 1899 as apartments, only later becoming a hotel, not gaining a full license until 1967. The bar is located to the west of the main building – originally symmetrical in design, only the lower and upper ground floors to the west of the hotel entrance were built, and the four further floors above were never completed, owing to the construction company’s financial problems.

Burlington

A six-storey, somber, red brick building that stands above the west promenade and seems to loom over the town. The interior is tired and dated, its heyday well behind it. The one real ale, Courage Best, was well past its best too, and after a taster, and several minutes waiting for the girl who served it to return from a phone call, we left the empty bar.

In 2014 plans to demolish the bar block, and relocate it at the back of a new development of apartments, were rejected partly because they were out of keeping with the only remaining in-use Victorian hotel in Sheringham. However, it’s hard to argue with the grim assessment from the architect of the proposed redevelopment:

The current premises, as a hotel, are only used at a maximum of 60% potential for specific time-slot periods of the year. The main clientele of the business are an ageing population of coach party type holiday accommodation and occasional wedding type functions. With the ongoing demands of clientele requirements for updated facilities and expected standards of comfort, plus the ever increasing demands of regular updates regarding health and safety, environmental health and fire standards, the large premises have an ever-increasing annual drain on financial resources set against a declining market. The external fabric of the buildings detailing mixture of red brick and stonework is suffering from the harsh climate of salt laden air and strong northerly winds. Serious finances are required to meet the cost of repair of the decay and erosion of areas of external walls, roof and original timber windows.

Closed Pubs

Beaumaris Hotel

Closed 2016.
Beaumaris Hotel
15 South Street, Sheringham.
The most recent closure, earlier this year Hilary and Alan Stevens retired and closed The Beaumaris after 25 years since taking over in 1991. It had a fully licensed bar serving Adnams Bitter. The Beaumaris was founded as a hotel in 1947 but in the 1880s it was a guesthouse that stood on the opposite side of the street to its current location.

Dormy/Highwayman

Closed c.1996.
Highwayman
Cromer Road.
Formerly called Dormy House Hotel from about 1930 (although the building has the date 1894 on it), a license was granted in 1938, although there was no public bar until the full licence in 1960. It became the Highwayman from the 1980’s but had closed by 1996 when permission was given to convert it to eight two-bedroom flats.

Apparently the “Dormy at Sheringham, (now renamed Highwayman) referred to the golfing expression. ‘Playing dormy six’, for example, would mean that the player was six holes ahead with six left to play”. The nearby golf course was opened in 1891 as a nine hole course, extended in 1898 to eighteen holes.

Grand Hotel

Demolished 1974.
Grand Hotel Sheringham
The Esplanade.
Built in 1898, the year before the Burlington Hotel, on the Esplanade as part of new development following the arrival of the railway. An impressive building by the architect Herbert John Green, with domes on the corners, and 120 bedrooms inside, it was demolished in 1974 and replaced by flats.

Sea View Hotel

1 High Street
Sea View Hotel
This shabby, empty Victorian building overlooking the promenade, between the Two Lifeboats and the Crown, was once the Sea View Hotel, more recently Shannocks, finally closing under the name No.1 Bistro Bar.

ShannocksAs Shannocks Hotel in the early 2000s, it advertised “a spacious bar open to everybody all year round”, serving “a full range of beers, lagers, wines, spirits and soft drinks”, with “all tables having a panoramic view of the sea”. In April this year, the owners, under pressure to do something with the dilapidated building, submitted plans to demolish the former hotel and develop the site.

Sheringham Hotel

Sheringham Hotel
Built in 1889 at a cost of £10,000, and designed by Norwich architect George Skipper (who also designed Norwich’s Royal Arcade), it overlooked the Weybourne to Cromer Road and the golf links. By 1958 the licence had not been renewed and in 1984 it was converted into apartments, Sheringham Court, although apparently the grand double staircase and entrance hall have been retained:
Sheringham Hotel

Sherry n Ham

Closed c.2009
18 Beech Avenue. A former shop, it was a pub since at least the mid-80s. In 2007 it was “under new ownership”, but the license was surrendered in November 2009. The former pub has been converted into a house and appears to be substantially altered.

Sherry n Ham

Advert for the Sherry n Ham, 2007

Station Hotel/Dolphin

Closed 1975
Station Hotel / Dolphin
The building of the former Station Hotel still stands opposite the Railway Station, on the Corner of Station Approach and St Peter’s Road. Licensed in 1896 but with no public bar until 1904, in the 1960s it became the Dolphin Hotel,around the time parts of the station and some of the lines were closing. The Dolphin pub sign from c.1963 shows a painting of a Dolphin and the name of then owners Bullards brewery – as well as its obvious maritime connections, ‘Dolphin’ might also refer to the nautical term for a structure consisting of a number of piles driven into the seabed as a mooring point. It has since been converted into residential and office accommodation, now St Peter’s House.

Sources:

Credit to www.norfolkpubs.co.uk , the basis for much of this research, which I’ve tried to validate with street directories, various articles, and the following:
A Sheringham Album (Peter Brooks, 1985)
Sea Coast (Wheeler, William Henry, 1902)
Memoirs of a Shannock (May Ayers, 1995)
Cromer & Sheringham History Tour (Michael Rouse, 2016)
www.heritagepubs.org.uk
www.mustrad.org
www.norfolkpubs.co.uk
www.norwichcamra.org.uk

Old Bicycle Shop, Cambridge

Old Bicycle Shop

The Old Bicycle Shop is a new freehouse “bar and kitchen” on Regent Street, Cambridge. Gearing up for the official opening on Wednesday 4th May, we visited for preview drinks and food.

Old Bicycle Shop beer

There were 7 keg and 3 cask beers – we had ‘Misty River’, brewed at the company’s nearby Cambridge Brewhouse (I’ll throw in “Vélo City” as my suggestion for a house ale), Lagunitas IPA, and a simply stunning Cloudwater Bergamot Hopfen Weisse – fresh, zesty and citra-hoppy – which proved to be a perfect accompaniment to the food, but makes a visit worthwhile for beers like this alone. Although the Old Bicycle Shop is aimed more at dining, drinkers are welcome in the small front bar area (there’s a smokers’ bench outside at the front), and it’s promising that there is beer of this quality, and friendly staff that enthused about it as much as we did. Most of the space is reserved for dining, including two upstairs function rooms and an outdoor seating area (initially this was intended to be a terrace that would allow it to keep smokers within the curtilage of the site, but I assume in practice that as the small outdoor area is enclosed by 8 foot walls, any smoke would have wafted straight inside the building). We really enjoyed the food, and were especially impressed by the number of vegetarian and vegan dishes, including all three desserts, that would give us reason to return.

Old Bicycle Shop

Purchased for £750,000 by City Pub Company East, their twelfth pub and third in the city, following the Mill and the Cambridge Brew House, over half a million was spent converting the building, never previously a pub. This represents a change in strategy by the company, following new Enterprise Investment Scheme rules last year that restrict investment to closed pubs, new pubs or pub conversions.

The building was previously occupied by Howes Cycles, a shop established further along Regent street in 1840 in a building since demolished and replaced by Downing College’s Parker’s House (now Battcock Lodge). Originally John Howes was a coach builder and wheelwright, said to have been inspired to turn his hand to making bicycles in 1869 after seeing the new invention at the Paris exhibition, creating his own ‘Granta’ model – one of the upstairs function rooms is named after it, and the walls of the bar have plenty of Howes memorabilia. The business had moved to number 104 by 1980 and finally closed in December 2013 when Michael Howe went into retirement, closing the oldest bicycle shop in England and ending it’s 173 year history on Regent Street.

Howes

Good to have another bar open in Cambridge, especially one that is another outlet for Cambridge Brewhouse’s own great range of beers (the keg Dark Wheat, Pale Ale and hoppy Pils are particularly good) as well as draught beers from the likes of Cloudwater, a fridge full of Beavertown and Moor cans, and one that has made an effort to provide good veggie/vegan food choices.

www.oldbicycleshop.com | @oldbicycleshop

Grantchester Pubs

One of the most pleasant walks in Cambridgeshire is the ramble upriver from Cambridge to the “lovely hamlet Grantchester“, a leisurely stroll of less than an hour, crossing the “lazy water meadow“, with four pubs to visit (well, three pubs and a restaurant-in-a-former-pub).

150 years ago the village had a population of about 550 supporting four pubs, and remarkably the same numbers are true today, although it’s often been in the balance. In 1924 objections to the renewal of the Blue Ball’s licence raised concerns that there were four licensed houses in the village and the population had fallen to 489, making 122 persons per pub, although the license was renewed. It was noted that pub trade in the village had decreased due to the decreased spending power of the agricultural labourer – the terrace of which the Blue Ball forms part was “probably occupied entirely by agricultural workers”. In addition to managing the house, the tennant John Wilson was a brick-layer’s labourer. The landlord of the Rose & Crown had not been so fortunate in the previous century – by 1840 Thomas Ellis, publican and carpenter, was recorded as insolvent and in the Gaol of Cambridge. In 1955 a Grantchester landlord told the bankruptcy court that some days there were no takings at all. The pubs, along with the Orchard Tea Rooms, are kept viable today by the large numbers of tourists who are drawn here to the tea rooms and meadows, mostly owing to the links with Rupert Brooke, Pink Floyd, and more recently the TV drama – parts of ‘Grantchester’ series 1 were filmed in the Green Man, and series 2 includes the Red Lion.

The path across the meadows from Cambridge leads eventually to the foot of the Green Man beer garden, but you can leave the main path earlier at a right angle to cut across to arrive first at the Blue Ball instead – if taking the No.18 bus from Cambridge, the bus stops right outside the Blue Ball. It’s less than 500 metres distance to visit all four pubs.

BLUE BALL
@bbgrantchester

Blue Ball Grantchester

The oldest purpose built pub in the village, listed on CAMRA’s National Inventory as an historic pub interior of regional importance, with a two-bar, open-plan layout, an open fire and the traditional pub game of Ring the Bull. In May 2014 it was bought from Punch Taverns by local resident Toby Joseph who wanted to “protect and cherish” the pub he had been using for over 30 years. It closed briefly for redecoration but reopened again in October this year. There are thankfully few visible changes apart from a lick of paint, but hot food and sandwiches are now available, and lager is served again for the first time since 2002.

Toby is only the 24th landlord since it opened in 1767 – the village church during this period has had 17 vicars (with the post for the 18th currently vacant), amongst them a Noel Brewster and a John Beer. The original pub dates from 1767, but it burnt down and was rebuilt in 1893, retaining the original cellar – a photograph in the bar shows the original pub and above the door the name of licensee Wilfred Bard, who must have overseen its transition from the old to the present building. There was a small brewery behind the inn in the 19th century, probably Samuel John Heffer’s Grantchester Brewery. Nowadays, at the rear of the pub is a small beer garden featuring one of the most comfortable smoking ‘shelters’ I’ve seen – a heated pavilion complete with cricketing memorabilia and a piano!

Under the new ownership this is the first time it has been a free house, having been owned by Hudson’s Cambridge and Pampisford Brewery for a period in the early 20th century, followed by Greene King and Punch Taverns. The pub gets its name from a hot air balloon said to have flown near here, or even landed opposite, in 1785.

On the bar:
Cask – Adnams Bitter, Woodforde’s Wherry
Keg – Adnams Dry Hopped Lager (although this was temporarily unavailable when we visited, having sold out on Boxing Day – not surprising as the pub was celebrating victory in both the men’s and women’s barrel race!)

RUPERT BROOKE
www.therupertbrooke.com | @therupertbrooke

Rupert Brooke Grantchester

Formerly the Rose and Crown, in the 1970s the name was changed to the Rupert Brooke. In the 1950s it was the landlord of the Rose & Crown who introduced the Boxing Day barrel rolling contest between teams from the four pubs, an event revived 12 years ago and which still takes place annually. The Rupert Brooke remained as a pub until it was purchased in April 2014 by Chestnut Inns who also run the Packhorse Inn in Moulton near Newmarket, reopening in October 2014 as more of a restaurant than a pub after being extensively renovated and altered. The interior is unrecognisable from the former pub, with the beams removed and the layout completely changed, the addition of a conservatory dining room, a roof terrace, and a large copper-topped bar replacing the previous bar which had been constructed from timber rescued from an old barn.

I lived almost opposite the pub one year over a decade ago when it was still primarily a pub, and its best selling regular beer was Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter. It’s no longer really a pub (as we overheard a customer being told as they walked in hoping to get food, not realising it had become a fully booked restaurant), but there are bar stools and sofas for those just wanting a drink – I had a surprisingly good half of Woodforde’s Nog (£2); also on cask was Woodforde’s Wherry (£3.60 pint), with Pilsner Urquell, Carlsberg, Estralla Damm and Guinness on keg. I’ve not yet eaten here, mainly because for me the Green Man has a more appealing choice of vegetarian food, but if you want your meal accompanied by “caviar crème frâiche” or “fois gras yoghurt” then evidently this is the place.

I tend to agree with a pub guide from the 1970’s that even then “found it somewhat lacking in character” compared to the other pubs, while E. N. Willmer (Old Grantchester, 1976) called it a “public house of no great antiquity but one notorious for a fire in 1867”.

GREEN MAN
www.thegreenmangrantchester.co.uk | @GMGrantchester7

Green Man Grantchester

Of the four pubs in Grantchester, the Green Man is the oldest building, originally a 17th century house. Willmer (1976) suggests the building may be 16th century, and the Green Man was first recorded as a public house in 1847, the stables and outhouses at the back pointing to its function as a coaching inn. A wonderful old timber-framed place, with a low oak beamed ceiling and an open fire. A long beer garden at the rear stretches down to the meadows, and there is also seating at the front on the verandah next to an Elm tree believed to be over 500 years old, which features on the pub sign – in 1974 gail force winds split the tree in two, although it still survives with its hollow trunk.

The Green Man closed for over a year from December 2008, before being rescued by Josh Vargo, the current landlord. Josh has improved the beer selection with 5 handpumps for cask ales on the bar, usually including one from the excellent Buntingford Brewery, and several beer festivals which have seen over 50 beers at a time, with the likes of Redemption, Summer Wine and Thornbridge alongside Cambridgeshire breweries such as Moonshine, Blackbar and Bexar County.

Gingerbread Green Man

Photo by kind permission of the Green Man

During this most recent visit we enjoyed excellent pints of Backyard Brewhouse ‘Winter’ and Buntingford ‘Chinook’ while snacking on chunky chips and admiring the gingerbread replica of the pub, made by one of the talented regulars apparently.

Again I couldn’t agree more with the 1970s pub guide which says the Green Man is “we frankly admit, our favourite pub in Grantchester… there is something indefinable in the friendly atmosphere of this tavern which appeals to our tastes, and which we suggest that you go and sample for yourself”.

On the bar:
Cask – Backyard Brewhouse Winter, Buntingford Chinook, Oakham Citra, Tydd Steam Barn Ale, Adnams Bitter
Keg – Adnams Mosaic, Leffe Blonde, Budvar, Amstel, Guinness

RED LION
www.metropolitanpubcompany.com

Red Lion Grantchester

The Red Lion’s foundations date back to 1777 when it was the Axe and Saw (Willmer, 1976), although the present Red Lion dates from 1936 and was designed for Greene King by the architect Basil Oliver, who also designed the Portland Arms in Cambridge. It replaced a smaller Victorian pub owned by Banks & Taylor which had a tea garden and bowling green.

It’s a pleasant enough pub, nicely decorated for Christmas when visited, and surprisingly for a pub owned by Greene King under the ‘Metropolitan’ brand, it has a decent choice of beer, with 5 cask ales and changing Redwell beers on keg.

On the bar:
Cask – Trumans Gunboat Smith Black IPA, Black Eagle (presumably brewed at Trumans) Project X Stout, Jo C’s Norfolk Kiwi, Nene Vally Bitter, Greene King IPA
Keg- Redwell Steam Lager, Amstel, Estrella Damm, Guinness

There is an hourly bus service to Grantchester from Cambridge Mon-Sat, but that misses the walk across the meadows, after which the beer always seems more rewarding.

The Royal Standard, Mill Road

The Royal Standard on Mill Road finally reopened on October 22nd, almost a decade since it last operated as a pub. Landlord Jethro, who also runs the Cambridge Blue and the Blue Moon with his wife Terri, has revived the pub and brought good beer to an area where it was in short supply.

Royal Standard

A fine Victorian two bar pub built in 1881, when Mill Road was suddenly expanding over the railway bridge and across the open fields to the east, it stands on the corner of Malta Road, a side street which like many off that end of Mill Road had not yet been completed when the pub was built.

Royal StandardIt has now been opened out into a one bar pub, with a grand, brown tiled bar as the centrepiece, with 6 real ales and 10 keg lines serving the likes of Nene Valley Bible Black, Adnams Blackshore Stout and Hardknott Lux Borealis, all of which we enjoyed when we visited. There is also a fridge full of Belgian beer, food is available, including Sunday roasts, and there is plenty of seating.

Royal Standard Indian Restaurant

Menu from the Royal Standard’s time as an Indian Restaurant

It’s good to see another Cambridge pub reopen, especially one that was neglected and looked lost for good when it was converted to an Indian Restaurant in 2007, and when that closed in 2011, served as a charity shop while awaiting its likely fate of redevelopment for housing.

There was opposition to the loss of another pub in Romsey*, an area of Cambridge covering the far end of Mill Road and the back streets between Mill Road and Coldham’s Lane, following the closure of the Grasshopper in 1999, the Duke of Argyle and the Jubilee in 2009, all demolished and replaced by housing, and the Romsey Labour Club in 2014. *The Greyhound on Coldham’s Lane, which closed in 2008, was also in the Romsey Ward, but not in close proximity to the other pubs. This left only two pubs – the Brook and the Earl of Beaconsfield – bookending the stretch of Mill Road east of the bridge, and the Empress as the only remaining backstreet pub. Eventually plans which retained the Royal Standard alongside the residential development were approved, an agreement similar to that which enabled the recent reopening of the Queen Edith, although in this case the original building has thankfully been retained.

The Royal Standard is open every day from 11-11 at 292 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 3NL

Thirsty Cambridge

Thirsty Cambridge, a new independent drinks shop, opened this week at 46 Chesterton Road, near the Bermuda Triangle of Mitcham’s Corner, in what was formerly the Threshers off licence that closed at the end of 2009.

Thirsty Cambridge

When I visited, Matthew and Sam were pouring the first bottle fills from their newly installed CrafTap beer dispenser. A fill of Summer Wine Pils was passed around with anticipation, beaming smiles all round upon tasting it, the kit doing the beers justice.

The CrafTap counter pressure device fills the growler first with CO2 and then, as that is discharged, the beer from the keg, maintaining the carbonation. Apparently the beer can then keep for weeks in the growler, although with beer this good it’s likely to be gone before you leave the store – there are some Bavarian bierfest benches and tables to sit at. 1 and 2 litre growlers are available for take out, or you can bring your own, and there’s a good selection of bottled beer including Moor, Weird Beard, Hammerton and Siren.

It’s a nice new place to get good beer and hang around for a chat, and as the nearby area of Mitcham’s Corner is about to be redeveloped, it feels like the right place at the right time. There are also four pubs less than a minute away – the Old Spring, the Waterman, the Boathouse and the Portland Arms (a fifth, the Tivoli, is currently closed, pending a rebuild following the fire earlier this year), with a beer festival across them all from September 4th – 7th, including a food market on the Saturday.

Thirsty Cambridge is open 7 days a week.

The Plough, Shepreth

The Plough is a pub in the South Cambridgeshire village of Shepreth, less than ten miles from Cambridge.

Continue reading

Cambridge Beer Festival 2015

The 42nd Cambridge Beer Festival begins on Monday 18th May and runs through to Saturday 23rd.
Continue reading