The Flying Pig stands next to the former Osborne Arms on Hills Road. Both pubs date from the 1830s but the Osborne Arms closed earlier this year and will soon be demolished to make way for more development.
This fate also threatens the Flying Pig – Punch Taverns sold both pubs to Pace Investments who want to ‘build flats above and a basement below, so one idea is to dismantle the pub brick by brick and then reinstate the exterior and interior, surrounded by new development’ (Cambridge News).
Whether it is demolished or dismantled and rebuilt, it’s hard to see how it won’t feel altered and overshadowed by the 150+ flats and several shops that are set to join the large new office block recently built next door. With this in mind, we decided to pay another visit to enjoy the ambience before it changes.
And the ambience inside is what makes this pub. The wooden floors, poster covered walls and ceiling, yellowed from the years as a smoky bar, and rows of bottles are dimly lit by red lights, and in the evening, candles. The music is just at the volume where it improves the conversation, and few conversations aren’t improved with a background of Al Green, Muddy Waters and Canned Heat. Certainly the ambience is better than that described in a guide from 1975 when ‘the public bar suffered from the same piped music as the lounge’.
The back room is just about large enough for a few people around the pool table. It feels like the kind of place where smoking should still be allowed.
In the nineteenth century patrons of the two pubs probably included workers on the nearby railway and station, opened in 1845, and later those from the cattle market, opened in 1885 – a row of cattle pens are shown behind the Osborne Arms on a map from the 1880s. In 1975 a pub guide says custom of the Osborne Arms was then mainly drawn from an adjacent bus depot, no longer there.
When we visited we enjoyed a fine couple of pints of Moonshine Once In A Blue Moon. Also on were Crouch Vale Brewers Gold, Elgoods Beach Collieball and Black Sheep Best Bitter.
Maybe the Osborne Arms didn’t deserve to stay open. The place had seemed unloved for years, the ‘arm’ having fallen off a while ago, and prior to closing it served only uninspiring lagers. The same can’t be said of the Flying Pig. It deserves to stay open – needs to stay open – a laid back, characterful retreat from the encroaching modern development.