CAMRA’s Pub Heritage Group maintains an inventory of historic pub interiors, to protect and promote the dwindling stock. There are two tiers in the pub preservation hierarchy; a national list of the most important interiors, and a regional list of pubs that despite the alterations to them still have significant value. Three Cambridge pubs are included in the second tier – the Champion of the Thames, the Free Press and the Portland Arms (which only has some regional importance apparently). I propose a third tier, of pubs with interiors that have ‘local’ importance. This would include pubs that might not have exceptional or significant historic value, but have nevertheless either avoided the most severe refurbishments, or still retain features that distinguish the pub amongst the local stock, features that would be a loss locally if they were destroyed. Like the national and regional inventories, it would also be a way to track those that do get removed or destroyed.
A few examples:
Dobblers Inn – What might be regarded as one of Cambridge’s few remaining ‘classic backstreet boozers’ (I won’t define that, it just feels that way), with a piece of carpet I believe dates back to the late 80s. I mention that, not because it’s ‘dated’ – quite the opposite – but I do believe it’s important; if that piece of carpet goes, a potentially thirty year old piece of pub history is lost!
Eagle – Yes, I know its been much altered and extended and refurbished, and it’s already a grade II listed building, but I’m not sure that protects the RAF bar ceiling, covered in the ‘graffiti’ of British and American WWII pilots. The listing might protect the timber framing and the open gallery, but no mention is made of that ceiling, which would be a considerable loss.
Radegund – A pub that should be recorded as having lost one of its distinguishing features; its ceiling also had graffiti on it, this time the names of staff and regulars, including members of college rowing teams, but all were removed when the ceiling was raised during a refurbishment in 2015.
So, here’s the start of a list of Cambridge pubs that don’t make the national or regional inventory, but I think have interiors or features of local importance, each with a short sentence justifying its inclusion. Pubs whose features are protected by their listed building status aren’t included; this means, for example, the Pickerel doesn’t make this list as its ancient beams are already protected. I’ll update the list with others I remember and any suggested inclusions, and as and when interiors are lost.
|Alma||Although much altered, still retains the feel of a classic backstreet boozer|
|Carpenters Arms||Plaque with Lacons brewery falcon set into wall|
|Dobblers Inn||One of the few other remaining ‘classic backstreet boozers’ in Cambridge, with a piece of carpet I think dates back to a 1987 refurb(?)|
|Eagle||RAF bar ceiling is covered in the graffiti of British and American WWII pilots|
|Elm Tree||A rare wet pub, so has thankfully escaped gastro refurbishment|
|Flying Pig||“Organic and haphazard poster museum and art gallery, among its many other irreplaceable qualities” (see comments)|
|King Street Run||Still retains some features from its ‘fun pub’ refurb of the mid-90s which gave it a rope bridge (since gone) to the ladies toilets, upside down tables on the ceiling and doors that opened the wrong way (such fun!). Went from being considered fun to tacky and now, I suggest, should be considered worth cherishing. A unique interior.|
|Live and Let Live||Relatively ‘untouched’ as Cambridge pubs go, despite refurbishments. Although the gas lighting no longer works, it’s been there for decades|
|Panton Arms||In one room beer is served from a recessed hatch (I can think of only one other pub, the Free Press, with a similar feature), while outside the former brewery gates are still present|
|Salisbury Arms||Has early Cambridge Beer Festival posters. These reappeared after going into storage during a recent refurb, but it would be good to keep an eye on their whereabouts in the event of another refurb|
|Six Bells||Okay, another classic backstreet boozer, but I maintain the number of these is dwindling, and that the interior of this pub is a good example of one left to develop character|
|Snug (East Road)||If a pub like the Fountain can have its leaded windows ripped out, then the row of arched windows of the former Boat Race/Waggon and Horses, should be regarded as worthy of protection|
|Snug (Lensfield Road)||The statue of the eagle, from its time as the Spread Eagle pub, still stands above the door|
|Travellers Rest||The weathered brick arches and dark wood beams (apparently from an old mill in Lancashire) were added when it was refitted in 1982. I think it would be a loss if they were removed|
And here are some pubs that have relatively recently lost some features of interest (not intended to be a list of closed pubs, just ‘lost’ features)
|Former Cambridge Arms (now D’arrys)||A refurbishment years ago trashed the interior of this pub which had kept many features and memorabilia from the fomer brewery (the present owners have done a good job of trying to uncover some remains of the brewery)|
|Cambridge Blue||Refurbishments lost “the snug, the open fireplaces in both bars, and real grass in the garden” (see comments)|
|Fort St George||After a 2008 refurb it was noted “the biggest crime is the wrecking of the snug, formerly one of the most characterful pub rooms in the area with its old panelling, high-backed settle-benches and ring-the-bull” (see comments)|
|Fountain (now Novi)||Leaded windows and the interior were ripped out under previous refurb|
|Green Dragon||A refurbishment a few years ago shamefully threw away a wooden case containing some personal items of a local who some years ago left the pub to row home in his boat and was found drowned the following morning|
|Radegund||A ceiling featuring graffiti (names, jokes etc) from locals and staff was removed during refurb in 2015|
|Former Swan||The former Swan pub at 77 Norfolk Street, now a residential house, still had a swan signboard on the wall until a couple of years ago when it was removed and the building repainted|
|Tram Depot||The mezzanine level, with furniture including repurposed cast iron Singer sewing machine tables, was removed during refurb in 2000|
|Waterman||An interior that might have been considered ‘dated’, but was unusual for having escaped a gastro refurb, has now succumed. No doubt it will be much improved when it reopens later this year, but it still feels like the loss of an interior of local interest (fortunately the Star Brewery logo on the front gable has survived)|
What other features of pub interiors have been lost recently, and what others deserve a mention as being of current local importance?