Located on East Road and named after Prince William who was granted the title in 2011 after it had been extinct for over a hundred years following the death of Prince George in 1904. The pub dates back to at least 1850 when it was the Bakers Arms, one of more than ten pubs on East Road – the only other survivor is the Snug (originally the Waggon and Horses).
Once a two bar pub, with a public bar and a small saloon bar with a bar-billiards table, successive refurbs have opened it out to one large extended room on two levels, leading to an outdoor courtyard at the rear. The exterior has suffered unnecessary vandalism to accommodate full length windows, alter the entrance, and ‘contemporise’ its appearance.
It lost its arms when it changed to the Bakers Yard in 1998 and then closed for a complete refit and rebranding in 2006, reopening in mid-2007 as the Noble Art, a boxing-themed “bar and kitchen” with a stark exterior and a “large covered, heated & carpeted smoking area, with speakers throughout”. Yes, a carpeted outdoor smoking area. There was no real ale but you could find keg Old Speckled Hen amongst the lagers. The interior had boxing pictures and memorabilia, and opposite corners of the pub were painted as the red and blue corners of a boxing ring. This bizarre venture was perhaps the most short-lived Cambridge pub, counted out just months later, reopening in December the same year as the yard-less ‘Bakers’. After yet another refurb in 2014, one of Greene King’s “sparkle” refurbs, it assumed its present name (it was going to be named the Prince George “with an association to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge”). There’s nothing left of the traditional interior – even the bar has been moved from one side of the pub to the other. Despite living in the immediate area for much of the past twenty years, this is easily the pub I’ve visited least in the ‘Kite’ during that time, and I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about visiting again. Still, needs must.
Last year the windows displayed a large sign shouting “we’ve gone craft crazy!”. This wild enthusiasm obviously diminished quickly because the signs have gone and the line up now is three cask ales from Greene King (a few days from February and Rudolph is still rocking) and the usual suspects on keg – Stella, Carlsberg, Fosters, Budweiser, Guinness Extra Cold – the only trace of the abandoned craft craze is keg GK East Coast IPA and some bottles of Punk IPA and Sierra Nevada Pale in the fridge. Once again I played it safe with a Guinness – this is becoming a default choice in pubs like this. It’s flagged as ‘family friendly’ in Whatpub, but then so is the Ship in Arbury. I’m not suggesting it isn’t, but I have no idea what makes this any more family friendly than any other pub (perhaps the bouncers who stand outside on matchdays know). I also have no idea why I’d ever come here again. The beer range is too dull, the piped R&B too loud, the lighting too bright – I can’t find anything characterful about the place at all, and as for the exterior, only the former Fountain has been more disfigured.
But, Duke – it’s not you, it’s me. You’ve lasted over a century and a half without my custom and I hope you last another century and more without it. I hope over that time you get more makeovers as ridiculous as the Noble Art, try to jump on the next beery bandwagon, miss it, then pretend you meant to. You may not be my ‘Moon Under Water‘, but you might be someone’s.