Tuesday 27th July saw the opening of a new Cambridge pub in a wonderful 1920s building, The Tivoli on Chesterton Road, now a Wetherspoons pub.
When we visited, there were a few guest ales to choose from including Old Hooky but I went for Nethergate Essex Border (4%), a golden coloured best bitter in great shape that I stuck with for a few enjoyable pints. Brewsters Hophead had already run out when we arrived.
The interior has undergone a tasteful renovation with plenty of Cambridge history around the walls. The building was once The Tivoli cinema and has also previously been a pub, so here’s a bit of history.
Links with beer go back to at least 1855 when the Spring Brewery stood on this site. It closed in 1896 and the Tivoli now occupies part of that site. The Boathouse pub next door was once called the New Spring and nearby still exist a Springfield Road and the Old Spring pub.
The Tivoli cinema opened in 1925 and was Cambridge’s sixth cinema. It closed over 30 years later in 1956. It could seat over 600 people and an 80 year old former Cambridge resident told me that the river Cam occasionaly flooded the area of cheap seats at the bottom which were known as the pit.
In 1988 it reopened as The Exchange bar and nightclub, later called Levels, with a roof garden, but did not remain open for long.
1995 saw the return of brewing to the site with the opening of the Fresher and Firkin brewpub, at the time the largest pub in Cambridge. The Fresher and Firkin as I remember it was a decent pub brewing decent beers when it opened. It was impressive to see the brewery itself from inside the pub and welcome to have another brewpub in Cambridge. At the time only one other brewpub, The Ancient Druids (closed 1996) by the Grafton Centre, also brewed beer on adjoining premises. Around 1880, there were forty breweries in Cambridge, many of them supplying an adjoining pub, according to the Cambridge Street-names book.
The Fresher Firkin closed in August 2000. At the time of writing there are no longer any pubs brewing beer onsite in Cambridge.
It reopened in October 2000 to become The Graduate, a Scream pub and Barfly venue (Richmond Fontaine were listed to play April 21st 2008 – did the gig take place?). It closed again in June 2008 and sat empty until it’s new life as the Tivoli.