The Haymakers in Chesterton reopened on Friday. Closed for the past couple of years, it seemed like it would be lost to housing or become a restaurant, but is now under the ownership of Milton Brewery. The refurbishment has added interest to what was previously a large open space with a stage at the end during its time as a music venue. A new snug now separates the space into two rooms, with wooden bench seats and tables fixed to the walls. The work has also uncovered an impressive beamed ceiling. Eight real ales were on when visited, the Milton Nike particularly good.
History in the Haymaking
The Haymakers may date back to at least 1851 when Thomas Keath is listed as a beer retailer, although the pub is not 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.
The Bleeding Heart may have dated back to at least 1786, possibly becoming the Maltsters Arms (a large malthouse and kiln stood behind the pub, in the area now named Maltsters Way) by the late 1800s, before being converted into a Co-operative store by the 1920s, demolished in the 1970s. The Wheatsheaf has also been demolished and replaced by modern housing.
Prior to the First World War:
“Parish meetings, dances (like the St Patrick’s Night dance) and childrens Christmas parties were held… on occasions, in… the Haymakers public house in the High Street… mass had been celebrated in a room attached to the Co-operative Stores in High Street, Chesterton. This room formerly belonged to an inn known as the bleeding Hart” (Catholics in Cambridge, Nicholas Rogers 2003)
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 seems possible they supplied their own beer for the pub, although by the 1930s the Haymakers was owned and supplied by the Star Brewery.
Haymakers during WWII
An 83 year old former resident of Chesterton, Peter 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 Park now stands). 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 told us. “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 refurbished Haymakers is certainly not that ‘rough pub’ anymore, but it was ‘the centre of entertainment in Chesterton’ when it reopened this weekend. Long may it reap the rewards.