Well here’s another pleasant surprise. I haven’t been here in years, and my memory was of a nice courtyard but an interior that was too bright, and beer too bland for repeat visits. I was expecting to quickly down a Greene King IPA and then move on, but this pub is much improved. Dimly lit by a few lamps dotted about and some candles on the tables – so dimly lit I can’t make out the coins in my hand so pay with a note, then can’t distinguish what change I’m given. The public bar has a maroon painted wall which absorbs most of the available light (probably intentional – there’s a rolled up projector screen above it) but there is a fire in and it feels cosy enough, especially for those seated on the sofas facing the fire. In the public bar, beer is served from a recessed hatch (I can only think of one other Cambridge pub, the Free Press, that has a similar feature), so it’s to the larger saloon bar to view the beer range.
In the 1970s it was described as a three-roomed pub, which included a small “jug and bottle” bar with four seats, probably a remnant from its origins as the tap house for the defunct Panton Brewery. Now there are only two rooms, so presumably the jug and bottle bar was subsumed by a refurbishment at some point. The beer line up when visited included Moonshine Cambridge Pale, which I went straight for, Wadworth Bishop’s Tipple, and of course the ubiquitous GK IPA. On keg, Meantime Pale and Punk IPA add some interest, along with GK’s own Yardbird and the usual lagers.
It’s not currently the best weather to enjoy the large courtyard, even though there’s a wrought-iron shelter at one end, but it’s a very pleasant place in the summer, with a tree providing shade on the few days it’s needed. The courtyard used to be the site of the Panton brewery. Cambridge Breweries (R.J. Flood, 1987) says a brewery was founded here by 1869 when Charles Lloyd Davis moved from a brewery in Earl Street (yet their appear to be records of a Panton Brewery earlier that century). It was sold to Barnet Beales in 1887 – one of his daughters married Frederick Dale who went on to found Dale’s Brewery on Gwydir Street. Ten years later the brewery was acquired by Messrs. Harold Bailey, son of Frederick Bailey of the Star Brewery, and Herbert Tebbutt, who transferred his business from the Granta Brewery. With that rich brewing heritage, it become an award winning brewery, advertising its “Gold Medal Ales”. The brewery estate also owned many pubs in the city, including the Free Press, Granta, Green Dragon, Kingston Arms, White Swan, and of course the adjoining brewery tap, now the Panton Arms. In 1925, the brewery was taken over by Greene, King and sons – the large iron gates to the courtyard bear the name – and by 1958 brewing had ceased and the brewery was demolished less than ten years later. Thankfully, its tap house is still here to enjoy. But whatever happened to Greene and King?