If I remember one thing about each pub I’ve visited in Cambridge this year, then my memory of the Old Spring will be reduced to three words – six pound Punk. It cost £6 for a pint of Brewdog Punk IPA, the most I’ve been charged for it in Cambridge or anywhere (other Greene King pubs in Cambridge have it for between £4.50 and £5.25). But then it was after noon on April Fool’s Day, so the joke was clearly on me, especially as I almost went for the TT Landlord but the allure of cold keg on a warm(‘ish) day was too tempting, regretfully.
There were 7 pumps featuring the inevitable Greene King IPA, Abbot and a presumably GK house bitter, along with a couple of guests including the TT Landlord, with Punk IPA and Camden Hells on keg, and one of those Hoegaarden white draught fonts that were everywhere for a time but I don’t seem to see so much these days.
The roughly T-shaped interior is painted mostly beige, with low ceilings, wooden floorboards, and an open fire and a wood stove which clearly get some use in the colder months – theres a good store of wood outside. A conservatory extension with a tiled floor leads to a large, decked outdoor seating area by the car park at the rear, which was busy and had some fairly loud chatter coming mostly from a large group of Americans (I wish I’d asked how they ended up at this pub – it’s a question I’ve often wished I’d asked of various people during these pub visits, how people choose or end up at one pub or bar over the other 90 or so, I’m always curious to know). There’s an assortment of seating and tables; this pub is primarily focussed on food – I’ve had lunch here several times with work colleagues and although it’s expensive, it’s always been good and served swiftly.
The pub was built on Ferry Path in 1868 – prior to that the present No. 4 had been a beerhouse and was later occupied by the Northfields, first landlords of the Old Spring (Heron, 1974). It was the Old Spring Inn by the early 1890s when the publican was Henry Curtis, still there in 1913 when it was the “Headquarters of the New Chesterton Cycle and Motor Social Club”. It sounds like it had an identity crisis in the 1970s, with the Public Bar’s formica-topped tables and electric blue wallpaper reminiscent of a cafeteria, the spacious Lounge like an airport departure lounge, the decor completed with Scottish tea-towels and tartan drapery courtesy of the Scottish proprietors (it was leased to Scottish & Newcastle breweries at one point too). By the early 80s attempts had been made to return a more traditional character to the pub, the 1984 Good Beer Guide describing it as an “extensively de-modernised pub, complete with sawdust on the floor”, with gas lighting, and cobwebs sprayed on from aerosol apparently, although they’d been removed by the late 80s when it’s Victorian look interior was described as “essentially a fake, but an exceptionally good one” (Protz, 1989). At the time there were casks behind the bar, with Abbot served under gravity. Had I visited then, the three words I’d have remembered the pub by might have been “Abbot under gravity”, or “spit and sawdust” even, but as it is, it’ll now be “six pound Punk”.
Hanson, N. ed., (1984) Good Beer Guide
Heron, M., (1974) Ferry Path
Protz, R., (1989) The Best Pubs in East Anglia