The Cambridge Blue was originally a beerhouse called the Dew Drop Inn, thanks to those hilarious punning Victorians (do drop in), then one of a handful of pubs on the street, built in the early 1870s as Gwydir Street was being developed. Like most of the streets in this area, many of the residents worked on the nearby railway; in 1879 a railway servant and a carpenter lived either side of the pub. It’s one of the few mid-terrace pubs from that time to have survived. It gained a full license in 1950, as recorded in the Cambridge news:
“I feel that beerhouses are an anachronism” said the Cambridge chief constable at the Borough licensing meeting. “They were invented in the days when spirits were very cheap and was done to prevent people from imbibing too much gin. Nowadays people can’t afford too much spirits. I now see little difference between a full licence and a beer licence”. The committee considered an application for a full licence by the licensee of the “Dew Drop” beer house, Gwydir Street. He said members of visiting darts teams asked for “shorts”
The darts, and table football, have long gone, as have the “attractive gold wallpaper” of the lounge and “garish purple wallpaper” and “warm gas fire” of the public bar described in a 1970s guide.
It was only renamed as the Cambridge Blue relatively recently, in the mid 1980s, when a former Cambridge University rower became landlord; Cambridge Blue being the colour of Cambridge University sports teams. The sign then showed a Welsh Dragon and American Eagle, the nationalities of owners Chris and Debbie Lloyd – they left in 2007, and with them went the brief link to university colours.
Under their ownership the pub was leased first to Banks and Taylor and then Nethergate brewery. That was when I first started drinking here, when parliamentary candidate for the Monster Raving Looney Party Nick Winnington (previously at the Alma) and his wife were running the pub, there for ten years having taken over in 1989. Back then it was a two bar pub, a coal fire in each, with a snug, a conservatory, and a fine collection of hats which could be added to for a free pint. The large beer garden was one of its biggest draws, with chickens pecking about, a model railway running around the outside, and a pétanque pitch. The grass has since been replaced by astro-turf and paving (campaign for real grass beer gardens, anyone? There can’t be many Cambridge pubs that still have one) but it’s still one of the best outdoor pub spaces, backing onto the cemetery and so giving a large open view of trees and sky you wouldn’t expect to find in a terraced street.
It’s now almost ten years since Jethro and Terri took over, during which time they’ve turned it into one of the best all-rounders – always plenty of good real ales, some served by gravity from the tap room, ‘speciality keg’ (nice avoidance of the debated ‘craft’ term there), regular beer festivals, and hearty food to soak it up. There were further improvements when Ben & Becky joined them in 2014, after being coaxed away from the White Lion in Norwich, and although Becky has since moved to the Old Bicycle Shop, they’ve played a part in its recent successes – current CURAS Pub of the Year, last year branch Cider PotY.
The pub was dramatically altered and extended in 2011 to accommodate the growing trade – it’s so well known and popular it can still be hard to find a seat at times, especially during the frequent beer festivals – on the plus side you can now choose to sit where the gents urinal used to be! It’s generally a mixed crowd, from old regulars in their favourite seats, to first-timers bewildered by the choice of beer. It’s also packed with breweriana, including old Cambridge Beer Festival posters, and signs from former Cambridge breweries, including Dale’s which once brewed further along the street. Simply, still one of Cambridge’s finest pubs.
Lawrence, J. (1988), Best Inns and Pubs in East Anglia
Petty, M. (1997-2015) Looking Back, Cambridge Evening News