It’s those low, dark wood, upholstered stools again, the ones you only get in a proper pub. A pub with a pool table, dart board, table football and a cribbage league. A pub with sports memorabilia and photos of the locals framed on the wall. A pub with three pump handles all displaying the same Eagle IPA pump clip, KitKats behind the bar, well trod floorboards, a fireplace, and a Staffie pub dog that announces each local’s appearance with a bark and an excited tail wag. Everyone knows everyone else here (well, except me). There aren’t many traditional backstreet boozers like this left in Cambridge. A “community pub with real characters from all walks of life socialising here… loud, lively and friendly… A proper local’s pub”. The carpet and curtains are probably older than most millennials. This is a good thing. It means it’s one of the few Cambridge pubs yet to be gentrified or gastrofied, one that’s just been left alone to get on with being a proper pub.
It started out as the City Arms; the date on the front says 1878, which might just refer to an extension of the pub, as its origins are a few years older – one Joseph Freestone was recorded here in 1871, when Sturton Street was first laid out. It was owned in the 1920s by Gwydir Street’s defunct Dales Brewery, and later became one of three Cambridge pubs taken on by CAMRA Investments in 1982, but like the Alma, another proper pub, was in the hands of Midsummer Inns by 1984 when it was renovated and reopened as Dobblers Inn. It got its new name after the Cambridge News ran a competition, the winning suggestion referring to “a colourful and eccentric character called Dobbler” who kept a “a rubbish strewn rag-and-bone yard” called Dobbler’s Hole (which the pub narrowly avoided being named!) down lower York Street.
It was refurbished again in 1988 when it was given “brand new carpets”. The landlord at the time, 21 year old Paul Freeman, said “we just want to keep this place as a traditional pub”. If he saw it now, no doubt he’d be happy, and I’ll bet he’d recognise the carpets.
There’s a table with two middle-aged couples who’re talking to the landlord, who’s sat at on a stool at the bar recounting the day’s events, presumably about the misfortunes of a member of the kitchen staff:
“He poured a kettle of boiling water over himself this morning, the prat. He’s down the hospital now.
I said to him, it could’ve been worse – it could’ve been me!”
Charles Wells Eagle IPA, Young’s Bitter, Robinsons Trooper