After being closed for a couple of years with the inevitable looming threat of redevelopment, the Haymakers was rescued and refurbished by Milton brewery, reopening in April 2013. Much improved, it bucked the trend of ‘opening out’ pub interiors, instead turning one large room into two and adding a new snug. There’s a distinct Milton style seen in their other Cambridge pubs the Devonshire Arms and the Queen Edith, with high-backed wooden bench seats, the work also uncovering an impressive beamed ceiling.
The Haymakers dates back to at least 1851 when Thomas Keath is listed as a beer retailer, although the pub isn’t named. By 1869 the Haymakers is named with Thomas Keath the publican and ‘hay dealer’, so it’s possible he gave the pub its name. In the 1850s the Haymakers would have stood opposite two other pubs – the Wheatsheaf on the east corner of Union Lane and the High Street, and the Bleeding Heart/Hart on the east corner of Chapel Street and the High Street. There have been many pubs on the High Street, but only the Haymakers has survived. In the late 1800s, the Haymakers publican Robert Green is listed as a “farmer and brewer”, followed in the early 1900s by Charles Green, also a “farmer and brewer”, so it’s possible they supplied their own beer for the pub, although by the 1930s the Haymakers was owned and supplied by Cambridge’s Star Brewery.
Though I’ve covered the history of the Haymakers before, I think these anecdotes are worth repeating. An 83 year old former resident of Chesterton told me:
“The Haymakers was the centre of entertainment in Chesterton. There was music and dancing. Jack Mays would be thumping it out on his accordian, there’d be shouting and balling. It was a rough and rowdy pub. If women were seen going in there, people would turn their noses up at them! It was more gentlemanly in the Wheatsheaf opposite. There was a little island outside the Haymakers at the entrance to Chapel Street, which used to have a Police Box on it.
During the war, it was the hangout of the American Servicemen from G23 Camp (where the Science/Business Parks now stand). There’d often be fights between black and white Americans – they had separate nights for a time. The Military Police would go in and sort them out when there was trouble and they’d ban them. After D-Day, the Americans vanished overnight. When I was in the Army Cadet Forces, we’d come out of the drill hall on East Road on Wednesday evenings and walk home past the Haymakers. Sometimes one of us would open the door and throw in a thunderflash. Then there’d be a commotion!”
“It was a rough pub in the sixties too!” another former resident of Chesterton said. “We hardly came in here, we used to go to the Prince Albert just along the road” (the Prince Albert stood on the same side of the High Street, the next pub west of the Haymakers, it was demolished in the 1970s).
The roughest thing about the Haymakers now is the improvised Medusa pump clip.
From the choice of 6 real ales – 5 from Milton plus Isle of Purbeck IPA – I took a half of the Milton Apollo, a strong blonde previously encountered at last year’s Cambridge Beer Festival, and Milton’s craft keg offshoot Beach Brewery Waikiki, which sits alongside Moravka’s fine keg lager, out to the ‘real grass’ beer garden – and there aren’t many of those left in Cambridge.
The Haymakers is by far the best pub in this area (Chesterton) of Cambridge, and would no doubt make my top ten Cambridge pubs (I’m bracing myself, having just been asked by the local rag) if I lived nearby. I don’t, so I’ll just have to appreciate these too infrequent visits, and accept I’m missing out.