Cambridge Pubs – The Haymakers

Haymakers

After being closed for a couple of years with the inevitable looming threat of redevelopment, the Haymakers was rescued and refurbished by Milton brewery, reopening in April 2013. Much improved, it bucked the trend of ‘opening out’ pub interiors, instead turning one large room into two and adding a new snug. There’s a distinct Milton style seen in their other Cambridge pubs the Devonshire Arms and the Queen Edith, with high-backed wooden bench seats, the work also uncovering an impressive beamed ceiling.

Haymakers

The Haymakers dates back to at least 1851 when Thomas Keath is listed as a beer retailer, although the pub isn’t 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. 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’s possible they supplied their own beer for the pub, although by the 1930s the Haymakers was owned and supplied by Cambridge’s Star Brewery.

Though I’ve covered the history of the Haymakers before, I think these anecdotes are worth repeating. An 83 year old former resident of Chesterton 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/Business Parks now stand). 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 said. “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).

The roughest thing about the Haymakers now is the improvised Medusa pump clip.

Haymakers Milton Medusa

From the choice of 6 real ales – 5 from Milton plus Isle of Purbeck IPA – I took a half of the Milton Apollo, a strong blonde previously encountered at last year’s Cambridge Beer Festival, and Milton’s craft keg offshoot Beach Brewery Waikiki, which sits alongside Moravka’s fine keg lager, out to the ‘real grass’ beer garden – and there aren’t many of those left in Cambridge.

Haymakers beer garden

The Haymakers is by far the best pub in this area (Chesterton) of Cambridge, and would no doubt make my top ten Cambridge pubs (I’m bracing myself, having just been asked by the local rag) if I lived nearby. I don’t, so I’ll just have to appreciate these too infrequent visits, and accept I’m missing out.

Cambridgeshire Breweries – BrewBoard

BrewBoard

Twenty years ago, the South Cambridgeshire Village of Harston had four pubs – the Old English Gentleman, Pemberton Arms, Three Horseshoes, and Queen’s Head. Only the latter remains open, and even that is now primarily a Thai restaurant, typical of the decline of Cambridgeshire village pubs, despite the increasing local populations. In contrast the 1997 Good Beer Guide lists just one independent brewery in Cambridgeshire, Elgoods, but twenty years on another twenty are listed alongside it. So far as I know, two of those have since closed – TinShed in Kimbolton ceased brewing earlier this year, and BlackBar at the end of last year – but another is soon to launch.

BrewBoard Ripchord

On the site of the former BlackBar Brewery in Harston, an 18 barrel plant has been gearing up for its official launch next month, with small batches of their brews appearing at a series of tap nights over the past few months. I’ve only tried two of the beers that will form their core range, ‘Ripchord’ session pale and ‘Lakota’ American pale, but they are already assured and impressive in a way they have no right to be, considering the first brew on the new kit only happened at the end of June.

BrewBoard

But then, there is a prologue to all this. Almost two years ago, a beer festival at the Plough in Shepreth, hosted by owner Nick Davis, had amongst the beers a handful from an unfamiliar brewery with distinctive branding, Dragon Forge. After a particularly satisfying saison, I enquired about the brewery, and it turned out to be one of Nick’s friends, at that time operating out of the Old Forge in Audley End. I heard nothing more about Dragon Forge, but fast forward two years and the brewer has reappeared as BrewBoard’s head brewer alongside business partner Nick, with some of the beers originating from those Dragon Forge recipes, albeit much tweaked and refined.

BrewBoard

The dragons, verdigris and burnished copper brand assets of Dragon Forge, striking though they were, have been replaced by designs more befitting of a modern craft brewery. Ollie, another of the brewery partners and the graphic designer, has produced the kind of designs that would make BrewBoard’s beers instantly recognisable in a row of taps, if they weren’t more likely to appear in the kind of bars where keg beers are listed on a chalkboard.

BrewBoard

Still, seeing them in the fridge of Haslingfield’s Country Kitchen deli for the first time, I had to fight the urge to turn all the cans round until the designs were aligned and clearly visible. Again, while some breweries seem to struggle to translate a beer to cans, the first run of Lakota and Ripchord were instantly crushable, perfect companions.

BrewBoard

BrewBoard seems keen to make the beer just part of an experience, hence the regular tap nights, where their own beers are served alongside equally impressive guests, accompanied by pop-up food vans and a variety of beats from the elevated DJ booth. The crowd of people of all ages this attracts might suggest Harston regrets not hanging on to its village pubs. Yet this is something different, and while I doubt the more elderly residents of Harston would point to the liquid drum & bass, American Pales, or miso hummus as the main draws, nevertheless something about the overall experience draws them to an industrial unit on the outskirts of the village. In truth, it was mainly for the beer that I cycled the 40 minutes from the centre of Cambridge last Friday evening.

BrewBoard

Very soon the wood stove will be another of the main attractions

The official launch night of the brewery is scheduled for 29th September, by which time the next of the core brews, a ‘modern stout’ tantalisingly out of reach in the FV at the most recent tap night, will no doubt be available as the perfect pairing for the wood stove.

Cambridge Pubs – The Geldart

Well kept. There’s my two-word review of the Geldart. For three words, I’ll add “extremely well kept”, which happens to also be the opinion from a review of the pub in the 1970s; a case of the pub self-regulating its appearance over the decades, maybe?

Geldart

Well kept beer; in the Good Beer Guide since it was taken over by Elvis 9 years ago, where Tribute and Deuchars were joined by Titanic Plum Porter, Dark Star Festival, Lancaster Bomber, Oakham Citra, and St Austell Liquid Sunshine (I could have done much better using the words tribute and Elvis in the same sentence, as anyone who witnessed MJ Trayner at the Fleur De Lys in the 90s would agree). I only noticed the keg Tiny Rebel (Fubar?) on the way out, or I’d have had that over the Citra, fine though that was.

Well kept beer garden; either it’s a coincidence and each time I visit they’ve just deadheaded the flowers, or they generally take great care maintaining the courtyard at the rear, where we managed to catch the last of the sun before it dropped behind the rooftops of the terraced streets, noting the covered seating for the other 364 days of the year when it’s too wet to sit outside. I defended the contentious choice of a 1970s Ford Cortina as the focal point of the courtyard – it’s a thing of beauty! (similarly, the garages by Calverley’s Brewery, around the corner on Hooper Street, shelter an awesome hot rod barely recognisable as a car that began life as a humble Morris Minor).

Geldart

The pub itself is an 1870s backstreet corner pub, named after landowner James William Geldart, former Fellow and Vice-Master of Trinity Hall and, like his father before him, rector of Kirk Deighton in Yorkshire. It’s split into three rooms; the main bar, with a real fire in the winter, to the left as you walk in, a large room to the right more for diners, and a small room between the two with a grand piano as a table, accompanied by a record player and a pristine jukebox. The whole pub seems music themed, even the menus are on vinyl, and there’s regular live music from some of the best local bands. Mention must also be made of the toilets, because they are immaculate! Gents might think they’ve mistakenly walked into the ladies, the cleanliness is so unexpected.

The Geldart must rank as one of Cambridge’s best pubs, and one I should visit more often. It is indeed “extremely well kept”.

Sources:
Gray, R. (2000) Cambridge Street-Names: Their Origins and Associations

Cambridge Pubs – The Green Dragon

Not for the first time, we were sat in the packed Thirsty ‘biergarten’ on a Sunday afternoon wondering what made it so popular. We’d walked 15 minutes from the city centre to get there, mostly to get some photos so I could finish the blog post about it I’d started after our last visit, but what drew so many other customers? Providing a temporary place to drink beer within sight of a river was bound to appeal, but is it really as ‘revolutionary’ as Thirsty believe? I mean, less than half a mile (650 metres precisely) downriver, the Green Dragon has a beer garden on the river bank, but I’ll have bet that wouldn’t be nearly as busy. Good beer helps, sure – the Green Dragon won’t have ‘craft’ beer from the likes of Howling Hops and Lost and Grounded, but of the three beers on at Thirsty at the time, two were lagers and the other a pale ale, surely not the deciding factor. Maybe it’s not the beer at all, and the food is what separates them, pop up vs. pub grub; but again, the van at Thirsty on this particular day was offering cheese toasties, which unless I’m missing something, isn’t too far off the cheesy garlic ciabatta any Greene King pub could throw together.

Thirsty riverside

Thirsty riverside biergarten

Looking around, it was hard to see the commonalities in a mixed crowd that was perhaps predominantly young but spanned a wide age range. Affluence was probably the defining characteristic, especially at Thirty’s card-only ‘cashless’ bar, yet there are plenty of traditional pubs in Cambridge frequented by the flush, and the nearby Haymakers on the same side of the river as the Green Dragon does good trade from the tech companies around the Science Park. The only shared attribute seemed to be that everyone was relaxed. About to order another drink, we thought instead we’d wander along to the Green Dragon to compare and contrast. That was our mistake.

Green Dragon

The Green Dragon is one of Cambridge’s oldest inns, a timber-framed, crooked-roofed building listed as 16th century, and described as “an ancient victualling house” even by 1630 when a license was granted (Enid Porter, Old Cambridge Inns). It was a regular in the Good Beer Guide until it dropped out a few years back, described then as serving “excellent food” and offering “friendly company”. The interior walls featured various local artefacts, including a display which told of an old local who left the pub one evening to row home, with a collection of the possessions found on him when his body was recovered from the river the following morning.

Naturally, just the kind of characterful, ancient pub that needed a ‘Flame Grill” refurb. So in 2012, out went the local history (I was told the local’s last possessions had been “thrown in the skip” when I enquired), the old pictorial sign to be replaced by a bland branded one until the outcry forced them to reconsider.

Green Dragon

It wasn’t all bad though – they hadn’t removed the timber frames or bricked up the inglenook fireplace, and the beer garden got re-turfed a couple of years later and looked in good shape.

Green Dragon 2014

The Green Dragon was, it’s worth remembering, the only pub in this part of Chesterton at that point; the former Dog and Pheasant having been demolished, the Penny Ferry awaiting the same fate, and the Haymakers yet to reopen. In 2013 the Haymakers did reopen, and I know anecdotally that a fair few people, feeling the post-refurb Green Dragon lacked atmosphere and the food was increasingly disappointing, made the Haymakers their default destination and never returned. In contrast, the Green Dragon became the pub of choice for patrons from the nearby traveller’s site, who had previously frequented the Penny Ferry.

Now before I go on, I’ll make my position clear. I’ve no time for pub snobbery, and while not every pub is going to meet my tastes, I wouldn’t expect or want them to. The Green Dragon clearly offers an environment some people appreciate enough to keep going back to; for plenty of people this is their local, and I’m glad there are still pubs in Cambridge that haven’t been gentrified or raised their prices such that some people might be priced out of having somewhere to drink – it’s a long walk to a Hungry Horse or Wetherspoon from this part of town. But for me, it turned out to be the worst experience I’ve had in any of the 80+ pubs I’ve visited in Cambridge this year, and although that’s just my opinion, it perhaps goes some way to explaining why many people who might feel welcome at the packed Thirsty biergarten, might not feel so relaxed in the almost empty beer garden of the Green Dragon.

Green Dragon

We stood at the bar next to a couple of sweary gents, so drunk they’d probably have fallen on their faces if the bar wasn’t there to prop them up. Fine with me, it’s a pub after all. I was shouldered out of the way while waiting to be served, but that’s not a first, and it’s a pub after all. A woman sat scowling at me while I waited for my Amstel – perhaps she objected to me asking again for Amstel when the barman, having misheard me, presented me with two glasses of Aspall. Fine with me, etc. After further shouldering, I grabbed the drinks and made a swift exit to the beer garden. Outside a couple of young lads who I’m pretty certain were from a local caravan site that might not be Caravan Club certified, tried starting a fight with an old man who had the audacity to be using the same pavement, but when he failed to react to their taunts their attention turned to a single female walking on the opposite side of the street. Their charming chat up line “Oi, get over here. Oi you, get over here” failed to elicit the desired response, so they went back in the pub. That’s not fine with me, it’s not acceptable outside a pub or anywhere, and I’ll take all the ‘snowflake’ taunts you can throw at me if you disagree.

The Amstel was proof even keg beer isn’t indestructible, and fearing the lads might return and look for other targets for their aggression, we decided to leave the drinks and get away from the area. It was actually a relief to cross the bridge and be away from the place, and this was 5 o’clock in the afternoon, good luck with a Friday night there. I cycle past it several times a week and it’s not the first time I’ve seen aggressive behaviour. Whatpub has this marked as ‘family friendly’, make of that what you will. Again, I’m not holding the pub responsible for customer’s behaviour, and we weren’t threatened, just intimidated. Different strokes for different folks, and all that. But I’m guessing this is why the pub and the beer garden were half empty, with an air of aggression hanging over it, while just along the river the biergarten was packed with people happily chatting and enjoying the sun. I won’t be going back to the Green Dragon any time soon, and no doubt that will suit me, the pub and the locals just fine.

UPDATE: It seems I’m not the only one who has found it a less than welcoming place recently:

Cambridge Pubs – The Waterman (revisited)

Waterman

When I first visited the Waterman in January, I appreciated the unfussy, lived-in charm of the place, and wished I hadn’t waited so long to finally go for a drink there. It was the kind of pub I hoped I’d discover as I visited every pub in Cambridge this year, a simple boozer with a good atmosphere and, especially welcome on a cold January evening, an open fire. So it was a bit of a bombshell when the barman told me it was about to close, having been taken over by City Pub Co East. I had mixed feelings about that; on the one hand, they’ve done a fine job of refurbishing/upgrading the pubs they’ve been hoovering up at an increasing rate (the Mill in 2012, the former Bun Shop/Jolly Scholar, now the Brew House, in 2013, and so far this year the former White Hart, latterly the Backstreet Bistro, now the Petersfield, along with the Waterman, and the Red Lion in Histon, not to mention opening the Old Bicycle Shop and the Punt Yard last year in premises which hadn’t previously been pubs), some of which now rank amongst the best pubs in Cambridge and have a much improved choice of beer. On the other hand, City Pub Co is acquiring these pubs to build up a portfolio which will provide an attractive return for investors; from late 2020 they will consider an exit strategy which could include a trade sale, something Clive Watson and David Bruce, part of the management team, have previous experience of, selling former venture Capital Pub Company to Greene King for £93m (“Greene King is an excellent cultural fit and will be a good home for both the business and our staff”, said Clive Watson at the time). I think it’s fair to express concern at that, without taking anything away from the pubs as they are today, and the refurbished Waterman turns out to be another good addition.

Waterman

Almost six months after closing, the Waterman reopens under the new ownership tomorrow. I happened to be there last night because a friend had booked it for a birthday party, no doubt an opportunity for the business to ‘soft launch’ and stress-test the bar and kitchen. Disclosure – this being a private party, the food was free, but I will say the Padrón peppers (one of the best snacks to accompany a beer, in my humble opinion) and massive veggie burger (sweetcorn fritter style) were top nosh. The full beer range wasn’t on, but the likes of Cloudwater, Beavertown and Thornbridge for less than £6 a pint makes a mockery of nearby pub the Old Spring charging £6 for a pint of Punk IPA. The two other pubs nearby might also be bracing themselves; the Portland Arms opposite has picked an unfortunate time to give itself a refurb, closing from August 7th to the 22nd, giving the Waterman the opportunity to pull away and gain open water.

Waterman

As for the refurbishment, it’s similar to the Petersfield, one of its many sister pubs, with soft furnishings, art covering all available wall space, and a high density of wood – the bar is about the size of a cross section of giant redwood, and sticks its chest out into the room such that the room feels smaller than it did prior to the refurbishment. At the rear, the outdoor paved area has been extended, and the outbuildings will eventually get used for private functions, while there’s a row of picnic benches at the front for those who prefer a view of the Mitcham’s Corner gyratory system (I’m relieved to see the logo for the defunct Star Brewery, former owners of the pub, has been preserved on the front gable). Good to see the Waterman get a new lease of life, I only hope it has the same appeal beyond 2020…

Cambridge Pubs – Revolution

Revolution

Formerly the Rat & Parrot, which opened in December 1999 in what had been the Cambridge Building Society, in 2007 it was refurbished and reopened as Revolution bar. We’d been waiting for a suitably sunny day to visit and enjoy the roof terrace, refurbished last October and sensibly fitted with a retractable roof, and it turns out it’s a really nice space to enjoy a drink, even if the beer list is unexciting, and one of the few roof terraces for drinking in Cambridge; Novi and the River Bar/Varsity Hotel (no draught beer so not on list) are the only others I can think of.

It was 2-for-1 on cocktails when we arrived, so after some strawberry flavoured alcoholic drink, a spritz or a Woo Woo or something, that I knocked back like it was beer, I did the right thing and ordered an actual beer. Ordering a beer (table service) was, not for the first time (I’m looking at you, Architect), reminiscent of Monty Python’s Cheese Shop sketch:

Me: Can I have a pint of Honkers Ale please?
She: I’m afraid we’ve sold out of that.
Me: No problem, I’ll have a Budvar instead then.
She: Erm, it’s not tasting very nice at the moment. Can I recommend a bottle of Camden Pale; a lot of people really like that.
Me: Sure, I’ll have a bottle of that.
Disappears for a moment to retrieve bottle from downstairs bar
She: It turns out we don’t have any Camden Pale left…

Thankfully, there was at least one beer that hadn’t been eaten by the cat, and I ended up with a pint of Amstel, along with some halloumi fries, better described as halloumi chips, a top-notch bar snack.

Revoultion

I noted I could’ve combined the pleasures of beer and cocktails and had a boilermaker; at least one other Cambridge bar, Smokeworks, has these on the menu – is this the start of a trend?

The downstairs bar didn’t have quite the same appeal as the roof terrace, although it did have Air Con set to ‘walk-in fridge’ level, and the clubroom only “comes alive” at night apparently, although there was piped music on the terrace at almost club volume, with the likes of Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and Alicia Keys on repeat. Still, it was a friendly place, and I’d probably visit the roof terrace more often if they replaced one of the handful of lagers with something a bit more exciting (“Real Ale is NOT Available” says whatpub – you have been warned!)

Revolution

Pubs in St Ives, Cornwall

St Ives Boilers

We’ve spent a week in St Ives most summers the past 15 years, and over the last few years it’s become more interesting for beer drinkers, with the Hub Bar, Rum and Crab Shack, and Bird and Beer catering for the less traditional tastes, and the Spoons and Pilchard Press micro pub offering perhaps the best selections of real ales from local breweries. We’ve visited every open pub and bar, but each year have also located a few more of the closed pubs, until we’ve reached a point we’d have to live locally and conduct more intensive research to find any more. So here’s a round up of the pubs of St Ives, past and present.

Beer & Bird

Beer and Bird

The most recent addition to the beer scene in St Ives, next door to the Castle Inn, Beer and Bird is a restaurant and bar run by the owners of Johns off license further along Fore Street, and only opened a couple of months ago.

Beer and Bird

It has easily the most extensive bottle and can list of any of the St Ives pubs, but also a decent selection of draught, with three cask and five keg when visited – we had good pints of Firebrand Equinot and Black Flag Simcoe Amarillo Pale.

Beer and Bird

Castle Inn

Castle Inn
The Castle Inn is our favourite of the traditional pubs in St Ives and probably the one most often in the Good Beer Guide. Dimly lit, with a low ceiling, black beams, slate floor, barrels and maritime items dotted about, and tables with cast iron stands. On the most recent visit, beers were Skinner’s GTA, Sharp’s Own, Greene King Abbot Ale, and Brains SA on cask, with another from Brains served by gravity.

Castle Inn

While waiting at the bar, I observed an American order two halves of Fosters then leave a tip, a generous one judging by the pleasantly surprised look on the barman’s face. Three German women, seeing this exchange, ordered cream teas and then they too left a tip on the bar. I leaned forward to see what riches the barman had been gifted this time. Ten pence.

Golden Lion

Golden Lion
The Golden Lion is an 18th century pub, rebuilt c.1899. Old photos show the penthouse projecting from the front of the previous building, there for the benefit of fish-hawkers.

Golden Lion penthouse

In a directory for 1823, one Samuel May is listed at the Golden Lion. By 1830 he was at the Union Inn and by 1844 at the Castle Inn where he remained until at least 1856. In 1881 a John Reynolds was at the Golden Lion – a couple of years later he too had made the move along Fore Street to the Castle.

These days it’s a traditional two-bar pub, the front bar the much busier of the two, with a small but well kept courtyard garden at the rear. Skinner’s Betty Stogs and Wells Bombardier Gold seem to be regular, with Bath Gem and Young’s Special on guest.

Hain Line

Hain Line

The Hain Line is the first Wetherspoon pub in St Ives, opening in 2012 in what was formerly the location of Isobar (previously Elbow Room), a cocktail bar and club. Good selection from local breweries (Tintagel, Cornish Crown etc) alongside the obvious Spoons regulars. Small secluded courtyard at the back.

Hain Line

Hub

Hub Bar

The Hub bar has become the place we tend to visit first and most often for drinks in St Ives, and we’ve had some some of the best beers here from breweries like Black Flag and Wild Beer Co. On the most recent visit though, every beer was from Harbour Brewery, with the exception of one cask from St Austell’s small batch range. Now, we like Harbour’s beers, and the Hub’s house beers have always been brewed by Harbour, but it would be a shame if the choice was limited to only their beers (this may have been a one-off). The upstairs balcony offers some of the best views over the harbour, and the large portions of food (good veggie burgers and fries) have left us satisfyingly overfilled on each occasion.

Johns Wine & Spirits Specialists (off license)

Johns

Always a decent place for Cornish beer, over the past few years it has increased its range and embraced craft beers from all over the world. Still, most interesting are the range of cans from Cornwall’s more progressive breweries like Black Flag and Verdant.

Kettle N Wink

Kettle n Wink Bar

The Kettle N Wink is the bar of the Western Hotel, a building listed as C18-19, formerly the White Horse before becoming a St Austell Brewery hotel in the mid-19th century. St Austell brewery own another hotel in St Ives, the nearby Queen’s Head, but the Kettle & Wink feels more like a pub than a hotel bar, separated as it is from the main hotel, below street level. It has live music every night, and seems to always have Tribute and Proper Job plus another guest.

Kettle n Wink

Lifeboat Inn

Lifeboat Inn
The Lifeboat Inn is the largest of the pubs, and the one most geared towards serving food to families. Originally a fish cellar and salt house, it was converted into the Harbour Sale Auction Room in 1883 eventually becoming a pub when the lease was bought by St Austell Brewery in 1963. It was extended into an adjoining restaurant in 1998, a year after the brewery bought the freehold. Generally very busy, especially on Sunday lunchtimes or when sport is being shown on the big screens. Beers on were Tribute, Trelawny and HSD, with Korev on keg. Some of the tables at the front offer good views over the harbour, but failing that there are now a couple of seats outside the front door, although you have to have your beer in plastic to sit there.

Pilchard Press Alehouse

Pilchard Press

Opened in June last year, in what used to be a pilchard press but more recently was converted to office space. On opening it could claim to be Cornwall’s only micro-pub, but will have to settle for being Cornwall’s first micro-pub after others opened in Redruth and Newquay shortly after. It’s not easy to find – down a narrow alley renamed Alehouse Yard just along from the Lifeboat – and there’s not much room to sit, so it pays to get there early.

Pilchard Press

Initially with limited opening hours, it’s since extended them, but still sometimes closes “when the beer runs out” on Sundays. We visited on a Friday, a day after six new beers had been put on, but were disappointed the Black Flag Fang, one of my favourite beers, and the Harbour IPA had already run out. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the Cornish Crown Helter Skelter, and St Ives XPA and Harbourside, served from the cask on a stillage consisting of an old wooden beam running behind the length of the bar.

Queens Head

Queens
A granite faced, listed building, the Queen’s Head Hotel, or ‘Queens’ as it now seems to be named, has been owned by St Austell Brewery since 1966. It recently seems to have changed its name from the Queen’s Head Hotel to ‘Queens’, discarding the pictorial inn sign for something more bland, and claims to be “St Ives’s only gastropub”. I’ve not eaten here, so couldn’t comment on the food, but for a drinker this could be the dullest pub to spend time in as the bar is food oriented and lacks character, even if the beers, Tribute and HSD, are okay.

Rum & Crab Shack

Rum and Crab Shack

The Rum & Crab Shack opened in March 2013 above a shop that used to be the Copper Kettle cafe and Wimpy bar; the menu sign was salvaged and hangs in the gents, showing Wimpy’s classic Cornish dishes such as Shanty Salad and Cheese-egg Bender.

Rum and Crab Shack Wimpy

Most of the L-shaped room is a restaurant, but the bar area is a nice enough place, with good views and a small selection of cask and keg, on this occasion a decent Cornish Crown Helter Skelter and a Dortmunder Union pils. Unfortunately I was caught out by the Portland Craft Beer Co. American Ale, an insipid beer that turns out not to be brewed in Portland USA by an American brewery, but in Manchester by Molson Coors. Fortunately, there are some good cans in the fridge including Verdant and Cloudwater.

Sloop Inn

Sloop Inn
The Sloop Inn claims to be one of Cornwall’s oldest inns, dating from 1312, although I’ve yet to come across the source for that date, and the present building is listed as C17-18, with a date stone of 1645 incorporated into a late 19th century element of the building. Inside can be quite atmospheric on the rare occasions it’s not busy, with its low beamed ceiling and slate floor, always quite dark inside, with only small windows giving views out to the harbour. Despite the unexciting range of drinks – most of the bar given over to cider with Doom Bar and 2 guests, Ghost Ship and Dartmoor Jail Ale, the only real ales – it’s still the best place for sitting outside at the front and watching the world go by (where the ‘world’ mostly consists of a stream of cars inching their way along the harbour front, the narrow street packed with unsuspecting holidaymakers presenting pasties and ice creams to sustained attacks from the incessant Herring Gulls).

St Ives Brewery Cafe

St Ives brewery cafe

Opened in March 2016, the new home of the St Ives brewery has a cafe with panoramic views over St Ives Bay, and a brewery gift shop. It’s at the top of the long, steep hill that leads from the “1000 space” car park down to the seafront. No draught beer, but bottles can be enjoyed on the terrace area overlooking the town.

Three Ferrets

Three Ferrets
The Three Ferrets, formerly the ‘Grub Pub’, is often referred to as the local’s pub in St Ives, a rough & ready drinkers pub, but that’s its unique selling point. If visitors are looking for somewhere to take the family for a meal and some local beer, this isn’t the pub – it doesn’t serve food, although you can bring your own in, and it’s not most people’s idea of a family friendly pub, but also tellingly it’s the only one of the pubs where I’ve not seen Cornish beer served; for the past few years that I’ve made notes, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Fuller’s London Pride have been the two real ales.

Three Ferrets

We popped in at 6pm for a pint of TT Landlord, and sat on the upholstered bench seating around the edge, watching some of the already well oiled locals totter around the one-room bar in circuits, one showing off the flashing soles of her light-up trainers to anyone whose attention she could get, a chap attempting to play pool but missing sitters, another enthusiastically greeting his friends with the traditional Cornish welcome “Alright my lover”.

Union Inn

Union Inn
The Union Inn is listed as mid C19, while the street directories show a succession of members of the Johns family from at least 1831-1873 – John Johns, followed by Joseph Johns and finally Mrs. Mary Johns. Regular live music, and there are plenty of old photos of St Ives on the walls. Beer was Doom Bar and Betty Stogs.

St Ives Museum

The St Ives Museum at Wheal Dream has some photos of the old pubs, and a display case with bottles of Newquay Steam Beer.

Closed pubs:

A couple of pubs have closed in St Ives over the past few years. The Penbeagle Croft has been converted back into a house and there is a planning application to turn the Sheaf of Wheat into flats. Going further back, there is a long list of pubs and hotels that have existed in St Ives – West Penwith Resources has the most comprehensive list; I’ve only found mention of one former St Ives pub that isn’t on that list, the Old Bear Tavern:

At St Ives in October 1753, after John Stephens had been installed as mayor, an entertainment and handsome dinner were given at the Old Bear Tavern (Douch, 1966).

On the Wharf, The Sloop Inn was previously flanked by two other pubs – The Globe to the left and the White Hart to the right.

Globe

Globe

The former Globe was still a Wimpy until as recently as 15 years ago, but is now Pels café/takeaway. At the front is Doble’s Wall, erected in late C18 by Mr. Doble, then licensee of the Globe to protect the property from the sea, as it is partly below ground level. A watercolour by James Abbott Whistler, ‘Penthouse of the Public House, St Ives, Cornwall‘ c.1883/4 shows men on the wall outside the inn. It is still there, although a gap has been cut in it.

White Hart

White Hart

The White Hart Hotel, on the other side of the Sloop, existed into the early 20th century, and although the building, like the Globe, has been much altered, some of the ornate facade still remains.

Ship Aground

Ship Aground

Further along the Wharf, the Ship Aground, also known by the wonderful name ‘Sloop on the Firesands’, may have been one of the few pubs to refer to wrecking, “this desperate trade which rarely found any commemoration on inn-signs”, and a name which was “happily succeeded by that of the Lifeboat” in St Ives (Douch, 1966). The ground floor of the former pub is now the United Fishermens Co-operative Society shop, while the upper three storeys have been converted into a holiday cottage. We looked inside the shop but couldn’t see any evidence of its former life as an inn, although apparently an old fireplace and old beams still exist, hidden by chipboard.

Nearby, is a place Matthews (1892) suggests was a “ruinous tenement which has the reputation of being the oldest house in St Ives”, Carn Glaze, which used to be an inn. It apparently fell down at the end of the 19th century, but a house of that name still exists at Carnglaze Place, although it doesn’t look particularly old, so may be a new building on the site, rather than the old house rebuilt.

Labour in Vain

Until recently this former inn, now split into two properties, of which the present Labour in Vain is one, had a reproduction of its inn sign outside. This showed “a white woman with a black boy in a bath, attempting to scrub him white” (Coal, 1957; cited in Douch, 1966). Presumably this has been removed so as to not cause offence. The property, now holiday accommodation, can be found on Victoria Place, in the maze of back streets just up from the Wharf.

Victory

Victory

Apparently also known as the fighting Victory, “from the fights which frequently occurred both inside the house and in the street”. It is now holiday accommodation, and has a plaque of a ship on the wall; its inn sign showed “a man-of-war under sail on one side and at anchor on the other” (Couch, 1966).

Britannia Inn

Britannia Inn

Possibly the former Britannia Inn

Matthews (1892) says that “nearly opposite” John Knill’s House was the Britannia Inn, “now two dwelling-houses” This could refer to several properties, but numbers 57 and 59 look most likely, and 59 has a deep cellar visible from the street.

Royal Exchange

On Fore Street “on the corner of Court Cocking”, although it’s not clear which corner building was previously the beer house of this name. “Its landlord was fined in January 1874 for selling tobacco without a license” (Douch, 1966).

George and Dragon

George and Dragon / Golden Lion

Then and now – George and Dragon with Golden Lion in background

The George and Dragon, a 15th-century inn, formerly stood on the west side of the Market Place, facing the church tower, but was demolished in 1887 to make way for new shops. It seems it was a respectable place:

Its patrons (all respectable men with no nonsense about them) often asserted that the George was not a drinking house, and never would be a drinking house… the George and Dragon inn was an institution little inferior, in the public estimation, to the parish church, or the justice-room over the Market House.

The inn is associated with a grizzly story. In 1449 during the Catholic Rebellion, John Payne, the mayor of St Ives, was captain of the rebel army. After defeat, he retreated to St Ives, which was soon visited by one of the King’s representatives, who was entertained by the mayor at the George and Dragon (although Matthews has it as “the old house which was afterwards called the George and Dragon inn”).

The story runs that a little before dinner Sir Anthony Kingston took the Mayor aside and whispered to him in the ear that an execution must be done that day in the Town, and therefore required him that a pair of gallows should be made and erected against the time the dinner should end. The Mayor was diligent to fulfil this command, and no sooner was dinner ended than he demanded of the Mayor whether the work was finished. The Mayor answered that all was ready. “I pray you,” said the Provost, “bring me to the place.” The Mayor therewith took him friendly, and beholding the gallows he asked the Mayor whether he thought them to be strong enough. “Yes,” said the Mayor, “doubtless they are.” “Well,” said the Provost, “get up speedily, for they are prepared for you.” “I hope,” answered the Mayor, “you mean not as you speak.” “In faith,” said the Provost,“ there is no remedy, for you have been a busy rebel.” So presently the Mayor was hung up.

John Payne
In 1949 on the 400th anniversary, a bronze memorial plaque was fixed to the external wall of the the Sacred Heart and St Ia church on Tregenna Hill.

Red Lion

Also facing the Market Place was the Red Lion on the corner of St Andrew’s Street, which burned down at the end of the 19th century and is now the site of a memorial garden opposite the church. There were two other pubs on St Andrew’s Street – the Star and the Blue Bell.

Star

Star

The Star was just down from the Red Lion on St Andrew’s Street. It’s possible the first building on that side of the road was the former Star, at least it appears similar to the pub on an old photograph; if not, the present building must have adjoined the Star.

Blue Bell

Blue Bell

Matthews (1892) describes the building of the former Blue Bell: “The first-floor projects somewhat over the room beneath, and is upheld, on the side fronting to the street, by two slender stone pillars with circular mouldings round the capitals”. This has to be the building further along St Andrew’s Street shown in the photo above. A house two doors down is called Bluebell, so it’s possible that was the extent of the building.

Duke of York

Duke of York

The Duke of York was on “Fore Street (High Street), later Lloyd’s Bank” according to west-penwith.org.uk. Presumably this refers to the building which was still Lloyds until recently, but has closed and remains empty.

Sheaf of Wheat

Sheaf of Wheat

A former St Austell Pub on North Terrace that has been boarded up since closing early in 2015. A planning application to convert it to flats was posted in the window last year, but this year the building still remains empty and untouched, and looking ever shabbier. Whatpub described it as a “Welcoming 2-bar pub on the edge of the town centre, popular with locals and tourists alike, the roomy public bar features a pool table and TV screen, the tastefully refurbished lounge bar/restaurant retains its access to a small beer garden”. There’s really no chance this will ever be a pub again.

Sheaf of Wheat

Croft

A former freehouse further out of town, according to Whatpub, it was a “large well-appointed pub converted from a guest house, itself converted from two cottages by a pools winner.” Also known as the Penbeagle Croft, as it was apparently built on the site of a crofter’s property on Penbeagle Hill. It closed a couple of years ago and has been converted back into residential accommodation.

Mr Peggotty’s

Peggotty's

A club from the 60s, tucked away near the Island just off Porthmeor beach, it closed in 2008 and the building has now been converted into holiday flats with no visible clues as to its former life. Beer Talk remembers going to Pegg’s in the 80s and 90s, but not anything about the beer selection, which is probably a blessing.

Shire Horse Inn

Another club Beer Talk visited to see live bands, not a bar I know anything about but sounds like the kind of place I would have visited had I been to St Ives during the rave years. On the outskirts of St Ives, it was demolished c.2015, but there’s an amusing article about it in fermented news.com.

Sources:

Badcock, W. (1896) Historical sketch of St. Ives & district
Douch, H. L. (1966) Old Cornish Inns
Matthews, J.H. (1892) A history of the parishes of St. Ives, Lelant, Towednack and Zennor in the county of Cornwall

Boak and Bailey
Patrick Carroll’s History of the Queen’s Hotel
CSUS Report, 2005
West Penwith Resources