Cambridge Pubs – Carlton Arms

With wind in our sails, triumphant after splicing the mainbrace at the Ship, myself and able seaman fellow pubman Martin headed for the calmer waters of Arbury – specifically, the safe haven of “South Arbury” as the sign notes; no borders with King’s Hedges here!

Carlton Arms sign

Again, there are the obligatory three-old-boys-at-the-bar one finds in a lunchtime estate pub, impeccably observing the etiquette of gathering at one end so others can order drinks. We take pints of Oakham JHB, served from the tap room, to a high table by the front windows, and agree the beer is worthy of NBSS 4 – and for someone well-versed in lunchtime tipples, Martin’s opinion carries weight with me. I think I’ve had JHB each time I’ve visited since the pub was taken on by Jethro and Terri in 2003, and they have of course been at the Cambridge Blue for the last ten years, so it’s interesting to note the beer’s sustained popularity under successive owners. ‘Taken on’ is a significant phrase too – the pub was regarded as troublesome until they tackled the clientele and gave the pub the reputation as the welcoming place for real ale it still has under the present ownership. So marked was the improvement, it won branch POtY in 2004. It has since won cider POtY in 2014, and we note the large selection on the chalkboard.

Carlton Arms

Before long the bar is busy with lunchtime trade, more so than I’ve generally witnessed on a Monday, and at one point an elderly gent approaches us with a fresh pint of JHB – “I ordered this by mistake, but I notice you’re both drinking it” he says as he places it on our table. We gratefully top up our glasses and continue drinking, pausing to acknowledge The Spinners ‘It’s A Shame’ as it’s piped over the speakers, before Martin proves his pub quiz credentials by naming the precise year and UK chart placing of Jocelyn Brown’s ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ as it plays.

An estate pub from 1959, when it was owned and run by two breweries, Wells and Winch and Whitbread’s, surviving despite a fire in 2011. The public bar has separate areas for pool and darts, and although the Northamptonshire Skittles table isn’t visible, the locals are quick to point out it’s still brought out when visiting teams come for games, the league starting again in October. They even offer to go and get it if we want to play, and then ask if we want to join the team. It’s that kind of a welcoming place.

All too soon we depart, stepping outside but then briefly sticking our heads in the lounge bar, for which there seems no passage from within the pub, but which was originally separated from the public bar by a Bolton Gate. There’s no food on Monday’s so the room is empty – “this is where I serve my Sunday roasts” says the landlady, encouraging a return visit.

We leave, passing a fine wooden whisky barrel by the door…

“I only got that this morning”, she says.
“You should put it in the bar – I’d happily pull a stool up and rest my drink on that” I comment.
“I just might do that” she replies.
“Me too”, I think to myself.

Carlton Arms

* The Carlton Arms is, so far as I know, the only pub in the branch to retain its skittles table, but the following clubs are also in the league and must also have tables – Bar Hill Social Club, Fulbourn SSC, Girton SSC, Newnham Croft, Rathmore Club. Previous teams that are no longer in the league include the now demolished Osborne Arms, and the Romsey labour club, currently closed with redevelopment looming – I wonder if their tables were passed on to the current league teams?

Cambridge News – various articles
Cambridge CAMRA


5 responses to “Cambridge Pubs – Carlton Arms

  1. Had my first drink (Trophy bitter 27p a pint) used it for many years when I was troublesome and left before being tackled by Terri or Jethro!!

    • So you’re the one who gave it that reputation! Trophy Bitter – I never had the pleasure, but I gather it was in the same league as Watney’s Red Barrel

      • Back in the days (early seventies) when I first ventured into pubs Trophy was available both on keg and as “real ale”. It was my very first encounter with the term. As a *****teen year old I thought it tasted just fine!

  2. Great write-up of the sort of short session that reminds me why I love pubs, If the Carlton keep quality that high it ought to be back in the GBG !

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