Cambridge Pubs – Salisbury Arms

Salisbury Arms

Cambridge News 1976

The Salisbury Hotel, first licensed in 1886, closed in 1973 with owners Whitbread securing planning permission to convert it to three separate dwellings. When the pub and its license were put up for sale the following year, it was bought for £22,000 by CAMRA Investments, a sister organisation to the campaign itself, whose objective was to acquire and run a chain of traditional pubs serving traditional beer. Prior to reopening in 1976 only three breweries provided real ale in Cambridge, but this increased to ten under its new ownership, including the likes of Sam Smiths and Batemans, 180 gallons from each being served in the first few days, no doubt helped by the first 1,000 pints being free (for comparison the Pint Shop recently offered 50 free pints at their reopening, although to be fair costs were probably similar), alongside Adnams, Bass, Charles Wells, Elgood’s, Greene King, Hannan, Marston’s and Ruddles, and “possibly the largest selection in the country of bottle-conditioned English and Belgian beers”.

Salisbury advert 1970s

Fast forward forty years and the Salisbury Arms, under present owners Charles Wells, had only two of four pumps in action when visited, giving a choice of Directors or Young’s Bitter, although at least among the eight keg usual suspects was Young’s London Stout, a decent drink and my default choice in most Wells pubs. The Directors was good enough for a pint. And they say CAMRA’s battle has been won.

Salisbury Arms

‘Real ale men’ might have found their haven back then, but a student guide at the time offered this review of the Salisbury:

“CAMRA pub, which means exquisite beer, and cohorts of bearded, pot-bellied beer bores. Don’t try to rip off the glasses. CAMRA know social parasites when they see them”

Salisbury Arms

Two years on from the most recent refurb, the interior is beginning to look more naturally worn rather than intentionally distressed. The high-ceiling of the lounge, achieved by the removal of a complete floor of the former hotel, and lower floor level gives the pub a spacious feel, the large room opened out to the former public bar on the low-ceilinged upper level, apparently once only accessible by going outside the building and back inside through another door almost side by side. A small side room leads to an outdoor courtyard where a wonderful old mirror sits exposed to the elements.

Salisbury Arms

Thankfully, the beer festival posters and ring the bull have survived successive refurbishments. Surprisingly, there’s nothing to commemorate the Salisbury being the place where in 1908 Cambridge City FC was born

Salisbury Arms

The most recent refurbishment branded it as one of Charles Wells ‘Pizza Pots & Pints’ concepts based around wood-fired pizzas, one-pot meals (aka mac n cheese) and “an excellent range of local beers”, which stretches the definition of local beyond CAMRAs ‘Locale’ definition, the Bedford brewer of Young’s Bitter and Directors located over 30 miles away by “the shortest driving distance”. Then manager Sam Adams (yes) has since moved to roll out the brand at Peterborough’s Queen’s Head. Meanwhile, after opening a fourth Pizza Pots & Pints in Hitchin’s Radcliffe Arms, Charles Wells are continuing to expand the brand after acquiring another site in Cambridge… sometime early next year (tbc), the Carpenters Arms on Victoria Road will see its current menu of wood-fired pizzas replaced with a new menu of wood-fired pizzas. Progress is unstoppable.

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Cambridge Pubs – Golden Hind

Golden Hind

I pass this building most days and it still manages to impress. One of the “Tolly Follies” built by the Tollemache brewery in the 1930s, a mock-baronial pub based on the design of Helmingham Hall, the Tollemache stately home in Suffolk, although sadly with a car park where the moat should be, and a beer patio instead of a deer park. It was designed by Ipswich-based architects Cautley and Barefoot, who’d previously designed the 1935 neo-Tudor south corner extension to the present Lloyds bank on Sidney Street; its twin pub, the Golden Hind in Ipswich also still survives.

The Star Brewery of Cambridge proposed to erect a pub in this area in 1928, and had the application not been turned down then, Cambridge might have lost what’s now one of its finest pubs in the process – the Elm Tree, two miles away in the centre of Cambridge!

The Cambridge News of February 1928 records:

Justices turned down an application for the removal of the licence of the Elm Tree, Orchard Street, Cambridge, to premises proposed to be erected at the junction of Milton Road and Green End Road. The Elm Tree was redundant and not necessary for the needs of the locality and there were over 100 people in favour of the new site. Large numbers of houses were being erected in that area which would be inhabited by people who would not be able to afford a wine cellar of their own and have to go to a public house for their bottle of beer. But the residents were people who’d been taken from the slums; their incomes were small and there was no margin for drink in their budget.

Golden Hind

In 1936, after having been taken over by Tollemache, the brewery applied again for the new pub, the area of Milton Road having had over 1,000 new houses built over the previous decade, with the Milton Arms pub being built half a mile south-west of the site in 1930. This time the brewery offered to surrender the licences for the Racehorse on Newmarket Road (since demolished and replaced by a McDonald’s) and Plume of Feathers (stood the near the Maypole until it was demolished in 1953), but instead the Bowling Green in Chesterton (the building still exists, near the Haymakers) was the unfortunate pub whose license was transferred. The license was granted despite the Women’s Total Abstinence Union surprising everyone by opposing it.

Golden Hind

The original interior must have been impressive too; although now much altered, it still retains the leaded and stained glass skylight above the bar. There are many areas on multiple levels, and there’s plenty of natural light thanks to the skylight and large windows, and it generally does good trade – there were plenty of people of all ages in there at 5pm, and at lunchtimes I’ve joined large queues for food on occasions. There are TV screens for sport (actually on all the time regardless), a pool table and table football.

Despite having up to 8 real ales, on previous visits four of these were from Cottage Brewery, but as that brewery closed earlier this year, I was interested to see what would have replaced them. It was a pleasant surprise to find an improved selection, including two from Lacons, of which I had an excellent pint of Falcon for £3.50, alongside Milestone Honey Porter, Penine Howzat, Navigation New Dawn, Bootleg Twisted Groove, a beer called Starry Night with a flashing pump clip and no mention of the brewery, the obligatory Doom Bar, while Keg beers included Meantime Yakima Red.

It’s a decent pub in an area that lost the Jenny Wren estate pub earlier this year, and one I’m likely to visit a little more frequently if Lacons turns out to regular.

Golden Hind

Sources:
Cambridge CAMRA
Cambridge News articles
Mike Petty – Looking Back

Cambridge Pubs – Carlton Arms

With wind in our sails, triumphant after splicing the mainbrace at the Ship, myself and able seaman fellow pubman Martin headed for the calmer waters of Arbury – specifically, the safe haven of “South Arbury” as the sign notes; no borders with King’s Hedges here!

Carlton Arms sign

Again, there are the obligatory three-old-boys-at-the-bar one finds in a lunchtime estate pub, impeccably observing the etiquette of gathering at one end so others can order drinks. We take pints of Oakham JHB, served from the tap room, to a high table by the front windows, and agree the beer is worthy of NBSS 4 – and for someone well-versed in lunchtime tipples, Martin’s opinion carries weight with me. I think I’ve had JHB each time I’ve visited since the pub was taken on by Jethro and Terri in 2003, and they have of course been at the Cambridge Blue for the last ten years, so it’s interesting to note the beer’s sustained popularity under successive owners. ‘Taken on’ is a significant phrase too – the pub was regarded as troublesome until they tackled the clientele and gave the pub the reputation as the welcoming place for real ale it still has under the present ownership. So marked was the improvement, it won branch POtY in 2004. It has since won cider POtY in 2014, and we note the large selection on the chalkboard.

Carlton Arms

Before long the bar is busy with lunchtime trade, more so than I’ve generally witnessed on a Monday, and at one point an elderly gent approaches us with a fresh pint of JHB – “I ordered this by mistake, but I notice you’re both drinking it” he says as he places it on our table. We gratefully top up our glasses and continue drinking, pausing to acknowledge The Spinners ‘It’s A Shame’ as it’s piped over the speakers, before Martin proves his pub quiz credentials by naming the precise year and UK chart placing of Jocelyn Brown’s ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ as it plays.

An estate pub from 1959, when it was owned and run by two breweries, Wells and Winch and Whitbread’s, surviving despite a fire in 2011. The public bar has separate areas for pool and darts, and although the Northamptonshire Skittles table isn’t visible, the locals are quick to point out it’s still brought out when visiting teams come for games, the league starting again in October. They even offer to go and get it if we want to play, and then ask if we want to join the team. It’s that kind of a welcoming place.

All too soon we depart, stepping outside but then briefly sticking our heads in the lounge bar, for which there seems no passage from within the pub, but which was originally separated from the public bar by a Bolton Gate. There’s no food on Monday’s so the room is empty – “this is where I serve my Sunday roasts” says the landlady, encouraging a return visit.

We leave, passing a fine wooden whisky barrel by the door…

“I only got that this morning”, she says.
“You should put it in the bar – I’d happily pull a stool up and rest my drink on that” I comment.
“I just might do that” she replies.
“Me too”, I think to myself.

Carlton Arms

* The Carlton Arms is, so far as I know, the only pub in the branch to retain its skittles table, but the following clubs are also in the league and must also have tables – Bar Hill Social Club, Fulbourn SSC, Girton SSC, Newnham Croft, Rathmore Club. Previous teams that are no longer in the league include the now demolished Osborne Arms, and the Romsey labour club, currently closed with redevelopment looming – I wonder if their tables were passed on to the current league teams?

Sources:
Cambridge News – various articles
Cambridge CAMRA

Cambridge Pubs – The Ship

Ship

The Ship is the only pub in Cambridge whose name provokes sharp intakes of breath, generally followed by anecdotes of physical harm or the ever-present threat of violence. For a city with no really rough pubs (the now demolished Duke of Argyle is widely regarded to have been the last truly rough pub) it’s the closest thing Cambridge has – an estate pub in Arbury (it’s now technically in the adjoining Kings Hedges ward), considered by many to be the wrong part of town. Shiver me timbers.

Ship

The three* old men at the bar when I visited certainly didn’t seem to be kind of characters to attack people, or even make one feel unwelcome (contrary to the tales I’d been told, a search of local news stories reveals the Ship is actually the place victims generally seek refuge). Perhaps the most amusing and truthful tale I’d been told about the Ship came from a former landlord of a nearby pub. The landlord of the Ship at that time invited him to come and visit, and one day he decided to take him up on the offer. On entering the pub, everyone turned round and stared at him, and he recognised every face – he’d banned them all from his own pub! The landlord swiftly invited him behind the bar, through to an exit at the rear of the pub, and he scarpered.

Ship

The Ship isn’t likely to get in the Good Beer Guide, principally because it doesn’t have four or more pumps; the one real ale is Charles Wells Eagle at £3.60 a pint (keg Eagle Smooth also available), surprisingly okay considering I was the only one who appeared to be drinking it. But I didn’t come here to marvel at beer selections, my visit was to finally tick off the only Cambridge pub I’d never visited before, and find out for myself what it was really like. It’s the well looked after, functional community pub it should be. I suspect it’s different in the day than it can be at night, but then the same could be said of the city centre Spoons.

A one-bar pub, which originally had an off-sales shop accessible from the adjoining side road, it cost £63,000 to build according to articles from the Cambridge News at the time. There are even two ‘real grass’ beer gardens, one overlooked by the main bar and occupied by a less-than-real lamb. The interior has dark wooden chairs and tables, bench seating, large carpeted areas, and a layout that was designed to provide smaller individual areas within the main space; one with a pool table, while at the far end of the bar a raised darts area is now used as a stage for live entertainment, which the ‘Shipping Forecast’ noticeboard suggests will next be occupied by none other than Biggsy.

Ship

Oddly for a landlocked city there are pubs called the Ship and the Golden Hind just a mile apart. The Ship is so named because its license originates from a pub of that name that used to stand on Quayside, no doubt appealing to trade from the visiting boatmen there. That license and name moved to Coronation Street, and when that pub was demolished to make way for housing, Charles Well hung on to the license until it was transferred to the current pub.

Ship

It was the last of the 20th century estate pubs to be built, outliving the nearby Snowcat and Jenny Wren opened in 1959 and 1965 respectively. If anything seals its fate it will be the unnecessarily large car park (why did estate pubs need such large car parks if trade was from the surrounding estate?), ripe for redevelopment just as it was for the Jenny Wren. In 2012 the owners Charles Wells did indeed suggest the site could become available for redevelopment “within 6 to 10 years”, a timeframe now perilously close. Worryingly, the council said that so long as any redevelopment included a replacement pub, it would be “the right way forward” and they couldn’t see any problem with that approach.

While the Ship’s seaworthiness hangs in the balance, another estate pub a mile away still survives and seems to have plenty of life left in it yet (smaller car park, you see). That was our next port of call..

Ship

Advertising the Ship’s opening in Cambridge News 1974

* I say there were three other drinkers in there, but in truth there was a fourth, none other than fellow beer blogger Retired Martin. It turns out he’s spent his entire adult life drinking in the Ship, from where he concocts fantasy stories of his imaginary travels around the country ticking off Good Beer Guide pubs; in truth he never leaves the corner of the Ship’s bar, and only drinks Guinness. Martin told me the other three men at the bar were the same “old boys enjoying a lunchtime pint in front of the TV news” as when he blogged about the Ship last year.

Trumpington Pubs

The village of Trumpington is subsumed by the Cambridge city boundary, and therefore has three pubs that are included in the list of every pub and bar in Cambridge. We walked there from the centre of Cambridge, via the meadows to Grantchester, where in retrospect we should have done our drinking, continuing to Trumpington, a four mile jaunt. There’s a much more straightforward, 2.5 mile route along Trumpington Road, but that was too obvious.

Lord Byron Inn

Trumpington Lord Byron

Formerly the Unicorn, the youngest of Trumpington’s remaining pubs, it was renamed the Lord Byron in 2012; the pub is about half a mile from Byron’s Pool, the former millpond of Trumpington Mill, where said Lord used to swim in what was presumably a more picturesque place before the concrete weir and metal railings were added in the 1940s. With a pub in neighbouring Grantchester renamed after another renowned author, Rupert Brooke, it’s surely only a matter of time before one is called the Lord Archer.

Reaching the first pub at lunchtime I boldly ordered a pint of real ale and returned it after one sip, it tasting distinctly on the turn. A cautious taster of TT Landlord was equally unpalatable, so I ended up with a Corrs Light, which was at least drinkable, but not as flavoursome as the bottle of mineral water I’d carried with me. Perhaps it was a slow Sunday; the kitchen is currently undergoing refurbishment so there were no diners, just a group of chaps playing dominoes in a side room, and I’ve no idea what they were drinking but the ale didn’t seem to have had much throughput.

Trumpington Lord Byron

It’s a nice enough pub inside with plenty of rooms to explore, but doesn’t seem to make best use of its character; in the main bar one fireplace bizarrely screened from view by white armchairs. The large ‘real grass’ beer garden is in good shape, overlooked on one side by the extended accommodation block, on the other the large conservatory extension, but we were the only ones out there too. The car park, as large as the garden, was another empty space, except for one car which had made best use of the space by parking directly in front of one of the pub’s windows.

Lord Byron

Reasoning we’d caught the pub on a bad day, we moved on, though with such reliably good pubs just down the road in Grantchester, I’m not sure when we’re likely to return.

Green Man

Green Man Trumpington

A 15th-century timber framed building recorded as an inn by the late 18th century, but again one that largely conceals its character, save for the low ceilings and a few exposed beams in the front bar. Even the pub sign, which used to stand roadside as one would expect, has been removed and affixed to one side of the building.

Green Man Trumpington

Ignoring the ubiquitous Abbot Ale and Doom Bar, alongside Marstons 61 Deep, I had a pint of keg Adnams Mosaic and wandered outside, passing the room at the rear of the pub which is very much a restaurant, but seemed nice enough for that purpose, and was busy with diners.

Green Man Trumpington

Outside is a large outdoor patio overlooking the busy Trumpington Road, to the other side a massive car park at the back of the pub, this one full of cars unlike the Lord Byron’s. Nevertheless a rural feel had been achieved by the thoughtful positioning of two bales of hay.

Green Man Trumpington

Getting hungry, and ignoring the Wok ‘n’ Grill in what was formerly the Coach & Horses, a wonderful old coaching inn we’d had the pleasure of visiting several times before its closure as a pub, we held out for the final pub, Hudson’s Ale House, about which we’d heard good reports since its refurbishment a couple of years ago.

Hudson’s Ale House

Hudsons Ale House

Formerly the Tally Ho, an uninspiring pub we visited a couple of times a few years ago to see live music. Back then even the keg lager was in poor shape, let alone the real ale, but it closed and reopened under new ownership after a significant refurbishment. The pub is much improved and is clearly being taken care of, the new layout creating a lot more space, the bar lined with 7 real ales and accompanying jars showing their respective colours – Woodfordes Reed Lighter, Tydd Steam American Eagle, Cotleigh, Lymestone, and so on, as well as a Hudson’s labelled beer, no doubt Greene King IPA or similar in disguise (it’s a Greene King pub with the Local Hero agreement, allowing for half the cask ale choice to be free-of-tie). There was a queue at the bar when we arrived, but we were immediately acknowledged while coffees were being prepared for someone, which is all it takes really; I don’t mind waiting if I know I’ll get served in turn.

The two real ales we had weren’t at their best, and I can’t help thinking it would be better having fewer pumps getting better throughput; it seemed a lot more coffee and keg lager was being served this particular lunchtime. I’ve no doubt they’d have been replaced without a fuss had we asked, I was just feeling jaded at this point.

Hudsons Ale House

For some reason, despite the Trumpington Local History Group publishing well researched information about the past and present pubs of Trumpington, the pub’s website mistakenly says it was “first opened in 1840 under the name of ‘Hudson’s Noted Ales & Stouts’”, only becoming the Tally Ho in the 2000s. I’ve trawled through the directories myself and can confirm it clearly opened as the Tally Ho by 1840 and carried that name until the current owners changed it a couple of years ago; old photos show the “Hudson’s” name painted on the outside because it was owned and supplied by Hudson’s Cambridge & Pampisford Breweries.

Despite these observations, the veggie Sunday roast was excellent, the service was welcoming and attentive, and Hudson’s Ale House was the best, and most improved, pub in Trumpington. It deserves another visit…

Cambridge Pubs – Snug Bar, East Road

Snug East Road

The Snug was originally called the Waggon and Horses, in a wonderful red brick building with narrow arched windows that dates back to 1827, two years before the first Boat Race after which it was later named, the date helpfully inscribed on the front of the building. Later its name changed to the Falcon, a “strong darts centre” with an expansive saloon featuring an impressive array of trophies, a smaller lounge, and a “minute and bare” smoke room – an “extremely grotty” pub according to a guide of the time. By the mid-eighties it was refurbished as the Boat Race, and became “not so much a pub, more a music venue” through the 90s when there was live music every night of the week and a free blues jam on Sunday afternoons. For a time this was run by the Shebeen Arts & Music worker’s co-operative, who provided a remarkable number of now-famous bands people claim to have seen at the Boat Race – Oasis, Blur, Stereophonics, Pulp, Franz Ferdinand, Placebo, Super Furry Animals, Snow Patrol, Kasabian, Travis, The Libertines and Babyshambles, The Darkness, Groove Armarda, Cornershop, and so on. It was also the venue where Cambridge band Ezio made early appearances, with videos for their songs including clips of their performances at the Boat Race.

Sadly the Boat Race was closed by Enterprise Inns in January 2004. It was ‘refurbished’, which included the reinstatement of the original corner entrance into the building, and reopened that August as the Vine, a bar-kitchen that did at least still serve a few real ales. In 2009 it closed and was refurbished again, reopening as part of what’s now a chain of pubs called the Snug (another can be found on Lensfield Road). It served Adnams Bitter for a time, then occasionally GK IPA, but real ale became irregular and eventually the last pump was removed. It had only the usual suspects until last month when new founts appeared.

Snug East Road

I’d not tried either of these before, and although the Pils wasn’t to my taste, the IPA was actually quite enjoyable, probably the best beer I’ve had from Caledonian, the brewery I later discovered it was brewed at, though it’s branded as Maltsmiths and Heineken are behind it. According to the press release the beers are designed to “appeal to the beer-curious that for whatever reason have yet to experiment”. I’m guessing they mean retailers rather than drinkers.

Snug East Road

It is much altered inside from its time as the Boat Race; the bar used to be at the end facing East Road, the stage at the opposite end. Nevertheless, the row of windows give it a lighter, airier feel these days, although It’s aimed more at serving cocktails and food now. We took our drinks out to the courtyard at the rear, a space much improved from when it was occupied by a neglected Triumph Spitfire during its Boat Race days.

Snug East Road

There is another Snug Bar in Cambridge, on Lensfield Road, the first of what became a chain of 10, but at the time of writing that leasehold is up for sale, and follows the recent closure of their Bedford bar. It would be nice to think the Lensfield Road building could revert to the Spread Eagle pub it once was, but as it’s tied to Ei Group PLC, with provision for only one free of tie guest ale, that seems unlikely. Meanwhile, this Snug on East Road does at least have a couple of beers that aren’t the usual suspects.

Cambridge Pubs – Queen Edith

Fifteen minutes walk from the Med is another estate pub serving part of the same catchment area. The original Queen Edith opened in December 1961, two years after the Med, but closed just 50 years later in December 2011. The present building is built on what was the car park of the previous pub, and was the first new build pub in Cambridge in over 30 years when it opened in April 2015.

Queen Edith

It’s the third pub in the city run by Milton Brewery, following their reopening of the Devonshire Arms in 2010, and the Haymakers in 2013. It’s already established in the Good Beer Guide, and the pint of Milton Justinian I had, from a choice of 5 of their own and 2 or 3 guests, was worthy of the accolades. The wooden booth seating in the right hand bar is typical of their interiors, but this time I sat in the larger left hand bar. Looking out to the street, the pub is so well screened by the tree planting that the surrounding estate isn’t visible. It’s a handsome Georgian style building, a model for redeveloped estate pubs that hopefully the Jenny Wren, currently closed and awaiting redevelopment, will take inspiration from if the development incorporates a new build pub.

Queen Edith

Accompanied by a soundtrack including The Black Keys and The Growlers amongst others, conversation at the bar was about closed pubs. It was interesting overhearing and noting how even pubs that had closed relatively recently were being confused with others at different locations.

“What was that pub near the old Evening News offices?”
“That was the Bird In Hand”
“No it wasn’t, the Bird In Hand was over the bridge, opposite the petrol station”
“No, you’re thinking of the Fleur De Lys”
“Oh yeah, I think you might be right”

The name of the Queen Edith itself may be a case of mistaken identity; rather than the wife of Edward the Confessor, it may be the more appropriately named Edith Swan-Neck that the pub and surrounding area should commemorate.