The Jenny Wren is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker… this is an ex-wren. And so on.
Well, as of Sunday 15th January, anyway. This estate pub in the North of Cambridge will be the latest to close. Its days have been numbered for a while, the freehold was up for £360,000 and it was sold last year with “possible change of use STPP” – Greene King have now confirmed it will close this week. When I visited I was told it had been bought by a developer and rumour has it that it’ll be demolished to make way for flats. I have yet to see planning permission applied for, but it seems plausible, and I doubt there is much that could save it now. With its patio garden and car park it provides a large surface area for redevelopment.
It opened in 1965, so only lasted just over 50 years. Located on St Kilda Avenue in a North Arbury estate, its name is a reference to the sub-species of wren found on the Scottish Island of St Kilda – sadly the pub sign depicting this bird was replaced a few years ago with one showing the pub’s name in text only, as is the trend with Greene King. The former two-bar layout was opened out into one single L-shaped room in the late 90s. Skittles, bar billiards, darts and pool were all played here, but more recently it was turned into a “Meet and Eat” “Pub and Grill”. In 2007 the handpumps were removed, prompting the local CAMRA branch to note it was probably the first keg-only Greene King bar in the area. The pumps obviously returned, although there were no real ales on when I visited, certainly none of the XX Mild it once served, and the pumps didn’t look like they’d seen much use recently. I surveyed the various lagers before deciding on another Guinness Extra Cold. As I was waiting for the pour, I noticed with a wry smile that the piped music was playing “The Final Countdown” – I pointed this out to the girl serving me who replied “it is… it’s the end of an era for this place”.
It was busy at 3:30pm, with a wide age range including some families. Lots of people were greeting each other as they entered and saying goodbye as they left – it really is a community pub and I wonder where the focal point of this community will be when it closes. I got chatting to a nice old chap at the bar who was only too happy to talk about past and present Cambridge Pubs. He ranked the present pubs on how good the smoking areas are – apparently he frequented the Baron of Beef (nice covered smoking area at the rear), the Portland (ditto), but although he liked the Regal, the wind was liable to gather speed as it travelled along Downing Place at the rear, resulting in an unwelcome buffeting in the smoking area! “Where will you go when this closes?” I asked, “the Ship?” “No! Beer’s to expensive there”. “The Golden Hind?”, “I already go there regularly – good covered smoking area you see.”