Category Archives: Pubs

Heritage Pubs – Kings Arms, Blakeney

Wherever we go, we try and find some pubs with historic interiors to visit, especially as many are now marked as permanently closed, or “the interior has been ruined”. Planning a trip to North Norfolk, we were alarmed to find a pub with an historic interior we’ve previously visited, the Three Horseshoes at Warham, closed for refurbishment – though we’ve since been told this will be some TLC rather than a complete refurb, and the pub will reopen in July, operating in a similar manner as previously.

Blakeney Kings Arms

So to the Kings Arms in Blakeney, a large, white-washed flint building, with six separate areas inside pointing to its origins as three fisherman’s cottages, the public and lounge bars the most interesting. Apparently the building is much older than the 1760 date, which refers to the year the roof was replaced and possibly when it became an inn.

The bar fittings appear to be those installed following the 1953 flood. The public bar on the left has a red quarry tiled floor, a 1950s style lapped wood counter… the large brick fireplace could have some 50s changes as it contains both hand made and machine-made bricks, but the dado panelling is much older as could be the two long benches. To the right the lounge bar has another lapped wood counter.
(From CAMRA Pub Heritage)

Blakeney Kings Arms

The pub was packed, too busy to get decent photos of the interior, which in any case wouldn’t have been better than those on the CARMA website. Of the beers, two were served by gravity from casks behind the bar – Bullards Pale and Woodfordes Nelsons Revenge (replacing Wherry), both excellent – as was the food, served on a dish larger than Alan Partridge’s big plate. A couple came in to the pub looking for a table and spotted an old man perched on the edge of his seat, readying himself to try and stand up. “I think he’s on his way out” said the husband. “Not literally I hope” replied his wife, at which everyone within earshot burst out laughing, to her surprise. The old man survived long enough to get up and leave the room, that much I can happily confirm.

Ship and White Horse, Blakeney

Former Ship Inn (middle) next to the White Horse (right)

Besides two hotels, there is another pub in Blakeney, the Adnams owned White Horse. A picture in the bar shows it once had another pub as its neighbour, the Ship Inn, which traded as a public house until 1967 and is now a holiday cottage. Opposite the White Horse stood another pub, the Anchor. Pub crawls were easy back then.

Audit Ale in the Red Lion, Histon – Pub of the Year and a once-a-year beer

Red Lion

Photo from 2013

The Red Lion in Histon is a fitting place for Lacons brewery to hold a talk and tutored tasting of their Audit ale, led by beer writer Roger Protz. This 1830s beer house was acquired by Lacons in the 1890s, becoming an inn with “well-aired beds” according to the painted signs on the building’s exterior. After a time as a Whitbread house from the 1960s to the 80s, it was eventually purchased as a free house by current landlord Mark Donachy in 1994, and is now a regular in the Good Beer Guide, edited by the venerable Roger Protz. The guide describes the bars “adorned with breweriana and historic photos”, with nine handpumps of which three have Lacons beers for the occasion, and it’s these ingredients which helped it win branch Pub of the Year 2017.

Red Lion

Roger gave a brief history of Audit ale, one that has its origins as a strong ale specially brewed in October for the annual Audit Feast in January or February, following the inspection of the accounts at Oxbridge colleges, where the Fellows handed it around in a large silver drinking cup. According to the short history of Audit ale, from at least the sixteenth century onwards some colleges brewed their own audit ale, but it was mostly produced by commercial breweries, including Dale’s of Cambridge.

Dales Audit Ale

By the 1920s Lacons won the contract to supply audit ale to the Cambridge colleges, and it’s this recipe that Lacons sought to recreate. Head Brewer Wil Wood talked about the challenges of recreating historic recipes, sourcing authentic ingredients such as Bramling Cross and Cluster hops, and trying to arrive at a beer of the right strength, colour and flavour – they even raided the brewery museum and cracked open a bottle of the ale from the 1960s just to check, and noted how the ale had darkened over the years of cellaring.

Roger Protz and Wil Wood

Roger discovers how quickly Audit Ale goes to the head

We were all generously given a tasting, with Roger talking through the berry fruit flavours the Bramling Cross hops impart, and the sweet, butterscotch of the Maris Otter barley – there were plenty of comments around the room about the beer going down far too easy and belying its strength.

Lacons Old Nogg

But it was a beer not sampled on the evening that stole the show. Wil talked with excitement about Old Nogg, another from the heritage range, an old ale he first brewed last year and which from the first tasting became current favourite of his beers. A warming ale, hopped with Sorachi Ace and aged over three months, this is another beer Wil believes will improve from cellaring, so I’m looking forward to trying the bottle he kindly gave me, and which he agreed would be a good one to bring out on Christmas Day, if I have the willpower to leave it that long…

Roger Protz and Wil Wood

Wil learns what Roger meant when he said he’d give him a hand behind the bar

Compton-Davey, J., A Short History of Audit Ale, Brewery History Society
Histon and Impington Village Society (2013), The History of the Pubs of Hinton and Impington

Pubs in Milton

Milton, a village sliced away from Cambridge by the A14, is home to four pubs (one currently closed), and has had at least two breweries; most recently Milton Brewery, who had to move to bigger premises in nearby Waterbeach when they needed to expand their trophy cabinet. The pubs are all close together, about a 300 metre walk to visit all of them, so last night we had a pint or more in each of the open ones* and lamented the closed Waggon and Horses.

White Horse

White Horse

The local CAMRA branch’s Community Pub of the Year in 2016, and in this year’s Good Beer Guide, where in 1985 it was described as a “fine old village pub, interesting lounge fireplace”, then serving Tolly Mild, Bitter, Original and Strong. A pub since at least the 1760s apparently, owned by the “old established and extensive brewery of Messrs Steward, Cotton and Co” from Cambridge in the early 1800s. There’s a large garden, I think used to be a bowling green, with a children’s play area including the aforenamed white horse.

White Horse

The pub was bustling, plenty of people and chatter in both bars, a womens darts match in progress in the public bar, and beer good enough to merit the GBG entry – the Ghost Ship and Nobby’s Plum Porter in fine form, and when I asked to try a half of the Theakston Hogshead I was poured a pint anyway – no half measures here! Apart from the guest beers, there was also a terrific guest pub dog who knew his way around the place and wowed us by jumping up at the back door and letting himself out to drop a stone at the feet of the smokers so they’d throw it for him to retrieve. I was more stunned than wowed when I went to the gents and in burst guest pub dog, just happy to be hanging out with the lads – I half expected he’d cock a leg up and join us!

White Horse

Guest pub dog in a rare moment of calm

Lion and Lamb

Lion and Lamb

Another lovely old pub doing lively trade, plenty of locals at the bar and early starters for the Ladies Gin Night. Open by 1841, a 17th-century house, where the Turnpike Keeper’s cottage was located according to the local history society, with low beamed ceilings and inglenook hearth. We sat in the snug-like area and enjoyed the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale we were surprised to see on keg, alongside Fuller’s Frontier Lager, with cask Pride, Adnams Lighthouse and Gales Seafarer.

Lion and Lamb

The quiet lounge, everyone preferring the busy public bar

No pub dog in the gents here but the BRIGHTEST, CLEANEST TOILETS EVER – I’d have taken a photo if that wouldn’t have seemed weird in the company of strangers. Tidy beer garden too.

Lion and Lamb

Jolly Brewers

Jolly Brewers

Just off the High Street and Fen Lane, a late seventeenth century timber-framed inn, which had a brewery from at least the 1830s, William Essex the brewer and publican, his son Thomas taking over in the 1870s and continuing to c.1925. In the 1991 GBG for its Tolly Bitter and Original, now a freehouse, I had a pint of Milton Minerva (when in Milton…); also on Church End Vicar’s Ruin, TT Boltmaker, Elgoods Cambridge Bitter, and Greene King IPA served ‘North or South’ – I haven’t seen that dispense in years, I didn’t know it was still a thing.

Greene King IPA

There was even a bottle of gluten-free GK IPA available for celiacs, tickers and masochists. Noticeably quieter in here than the other pubs, but a handful of locals at the bar, a few people eating in the lounge, with a pleasant interior including old photos of Milton on the wall, some exposed timber frames, two brick hearths and a snug like area in the lounge.

Jolly Brewers

Closed for a couple of years but reopened in 2012 by a consortium of locals, I’d seen the Jolly Brewers was on the market again recently so asked if it was still for sale. “Erm, no… not anymore” I was told, in a “nothing to see here, move along” kind of way. Well, I’m pleased to hear it’s not about to close again, and note there is a 5th Birthday Bash on 9th June.

Waggon and Horses

Waggon and Horses

A ‘brewer’s tudor’ pub, built in the early 1930s, replacing an older pub of the same name which burnt down. It appeared in the GBG as far back as the 70s, and in 1990 was described as having an “incredible ever-changing selection of guest beers” (which I imagine might not seem so incredible in the ‘craft’ age) alongside Nethergate Bitter. Elgoods owned since 1999 when it was taken on by Nick and Mandy Winnington, formerly of the Cambridge Blue, picking up branch PotY in 2007, and fondly remembered for the display of the eccentric landlord’s hat collection, and a great beer garden which appears to have gone to seed. In 2014 it was turned into an Italian restaurant called Osteria that still served cask Elgoods Cambridge Bitter. After a particularly bland vegetarian pasta dish there, I nevertheless asked if I could return for a drink, and was told in no uncertain terms drinkers weren’t welcome. That venture didn’t last and it’s currently closed and seeking tenants – hopefully it will return to being a decent pub, if the village can still sustain four of them.

The local history society says that Queen Anne Lodge on Fen Road, across the road from the Jolly Brewers, was once a pub called the Greyhound.

Former Greyhound

There’s plenty of pargeting on the building, including an attractive likeness of the good Queen herself.

Former Greyhound

There was apparently another inn, the Three Tuns, established by 1765, closed after 1910, but I couldn’t locate it (but as you’ll see from the comments, it turns out it was No. 42 High St, which is currently the offices for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices).

Former Three Tuns, Milton

Former Three Tuns

Still, that’s enough pubs for one night. Definitely worth a trip from Cambridge to the Milton Pubs, even if the bus service is lousy and it required a taxi home, though when I consider how my night was spent** that was probably for the best.

* For a more candid account of the same pubs in February this year, read Milton – Paradise via West Berkshire
** Inevitable literary Milton reference

Dates for the diary:
May 25th – 29th: Lion and Lamb 6th Annual Beer Festival
June 9th: Jolly Brewers 5th Birthday Bash
July 5th – 9th: White Horse Beer Festival

Grantchester Pubs

One of the most pleasant walks in Cambridgeshire is the ramble upriver from Cambridge to the “lovely hamlet Grantchester“, a leisurely stroll of less than an hour, crossing the “lazy water meadow“, with four pubs to visit (well, three pubs and a restaurant-in-a-former-pub).

150 years ago the village had a population of about 550 supporting four pubs, and remarkably the same numbers are true today, although it’s often been in the balance. In 1924 objections to the renewal of the Blue Ball’s licence raised concerns that there were four licensed houses in the village and the population had fallen to 489, making 122 persons per pub, although the license was renewed. It was noted that pub trade in the village had decreased due to the decreased spending power of the agricultural labourer – the terrace of which the Blue Ball forms part was “probably occupied entirely by agricultural workers”. In addition to managing the house, the tennant John Wilson was a brick-layer’s labourer. The landlord of the Rose & Crown had not been so fortunate in the previous century – by 1840 Thomas Ellis, publican and carpenter, was recorded as insolvent and in the Gaol of Cambridge. In 1955 a Grantchester landlord told the bankruptcy court that some days there were no takings at all. The pubs, along with the Orchard Tea Rooms, are kept viable today by the large numbers of tourists who are drawn here to the tea rooms and meadows, mostly owing to the links with Rupert Brooke, Pink Floyd, and more recently the TV drama – parts of ‘Grantchester’ series 1 were filmed in the Green Man, and series 2 includes the Red Lion.

The path across the meadows from Cambridge leads eventually to the foot of the Green Man beer garden, but you can leave the main path earlier at a right angle to cut across to arrive first at the Blue Ball instead – if taking the No.18 bus from Cambridge, the bus stops right outside the Blue Ball. It’s less than 500 metres distance to visit all four pubs.


Blue Ball Grantchester

The oldest purpose built pub in the village, listed on CAMRA’s National Inventory as an historic pub interior of regional importance, with a two-bar, open-plan layout, an open fire and the traditional pub game of Ring the Bull. In May 2014 it was bought from Punch Taverns by local resident Toby Joseph who wanted to “protect and cherish” the pub he had been using for over 30 years. It closed briefly for redecoration but reopened again in October this year. There are thankfully few visible changes apart from a lick of paint, but hot food and sandwiches are now available, and lager is served again for the first time since 2002.

Toby is only the 24th landlord since it opened in 1767 – the village church during this period has had 17 vicars (with the post for the 18th currently vacant), amongst them a Noel Brewster and a John Beer. The original pub dates from 1767, but it burnt down and was rebuilt in 1893, retaining the original cellar – a photograph in the bar shows the original pub and above the door the name of licensee Wilfred Bard, who must have overseen its transition from the old to the present building. There was a small brewery behind the inn in the 19th century, probably Samuel John Heffer’s Grantchester Brewery. Nowadays, at the rear of the pub is a small beer garden featuring one of the most comfortable smoking ‘shelters’ I’ve seen – a heated pavilion complete with cricketing memorabilia and a piano!

Under the new ownership this is the first time it has been a free house, having been owned by Hudson’s Cambridge and Pampisford Brewery for a period in the early 20th century, followed by Greene King and Punch Taverns. The pub gets its name from a hot air balloon said to have flown near here, or even landed opposite, in 1785.

On the bar:
Cask – Adnams Bitter, Woodforde’s Wherry
Keg – Adnams Dry Hopped Lager (although this was temporarily unavailable when we visited, having sold out on Boxing Day – not surprising as the pub was celebrating victory in both the men’s and women’s barrel race!)

RUPERT BROOKE | @therupertbrooke

Rupert Brooke Grantchester

Formerly the Rose and Crown, in the 1970s the name was changed to the Rupert Brooke. In the 1950s it was the landlord of the Rose & Crown who introduced the Boxing Day barrel rolling contest between teams from the four pubs, an event revived 12 years ago and which still takes place annually. The Rupert Brooke remained as a pub until it was purchased in April 2014 by Chestnut Inns who also run the Packhorse Inn in Moulton near Newmarket, reopening in October 2014 as more of a restaurant than a pub after being extensively renovated and altered. The interior is unrecognisable from the former pub, with the beams removed and the layout completely changed, the addition of a conservatory dining room, a roof terrace, and a large copper-topped bar replacing the previous bar which had been constructed from timber rescued from an old barn.

I lived almost opposite the pub one year over a decade ago when it was still primarily a pub, and its best selling regular beer was Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter. It’s no longer really a pub (as we overheard a customer being told as they walked in hoping to get food, not realising it had become a fully booked restaurant), but there are bar stools and sofas for those just wanting a drink – I had a surprisingly good half of Woodforde’s Nog (£2); also on cask was Woodforde’s Wherry (£3.60 pint), with Pilsner Urquell, Carlsberg, Estralla Damm and Guinness on keg. I’ve not yet eaten here, mainly because for me the Green Man has a more appealing choice of vegetarian food, but if you want your meal accompanied by “caviar crème frâiche” or “fois gras yoghurt” then evidently this is the place.

I tend to agree with a pub guide from the 1970’s that even then “found it somewhat lacking in character” compared to the other pubs, while E. N. Willmer (Old Grantchester, 1976) called it a “public house of no great antiquity but one notorious for a fire in 1867”.

GREEN MAN | @GMGrantchester7

Green Man Grantchester

Of the four pubs in Grantchester, the Green Man is the oldest building, originally a 17th century house. Willmer (1976) suggests the building may be 16th century, and the Green Man was first recorded as a public house in 1847, the stables and outhouses at the back pointing to its function as a coaching inn. A wonderful old timber-framed place, with a low oak beamed ceiling and an open fire. A long beer garden at the rear stretches down to the meadows, and there is also seating at the front on the verandah next to an Elm tree believed to be over 500 years old, which features on the pub sign – in 1974 gail force winds split the tree in two, although it still survives with its hollow trunk.

The Green Man closed for over a year from December 2008, before being rescued by Josh Vargo, the current landlord. Josh has improved the beer selection with 5 handpumps for cask ales on the bar, usually including one from the excellent Buntingford Brewery, and several beer festivals which have seen over 50 beers at a time, with the likes of Redemption, Summer Wine and Thornbridge alongside Cambridgeshire breweries such as Moonshine, Blackbar and Bexar County.

Gingerbread Green Man

Photo by kind permission of the Green Man

During this most recent visit we enjoyed excellent pints of Backyard Brewhouse ‘Winter’ and Buntingford ‘Chinook’ while snacking on chunky chips and admiring the gingerbread replica of the pub, made by one of the talented regulars apparently.

Again I couldn’t agree more with the 1970s pub guide which says the Green Man is “we frankly admit, our favourite pub in Grantchester… there is something indefinable in the friendly atmosphere of this tavern which appeals to our tastes, and which we suggest that you go and sample for yourself”.

On the bar:
Cask – Backyard Brewhouse Winter, Buntingford Chinook, Oakham Citra, Tydd Steam Barn Ale, Adnams Bitter
Keg – Adnams Mosaic, Leffe Blonde, Budvar, Amstel, Guinness


Red Lion Grantchester

The Red Lion’s foundations date back to 1777 when it was the Axe and Saw (Willmer, 1976), although the present Red Lion dates from 1936 and was designed for Greene King by the architect Basil Oliver, who also designed the Portland Arms in Cambridge. It replaced a smaller Victorian pub owned by Banks & Taylor which had a tea garden and bowling green.

It’s a pleasant enough pub, nicely decorated for Christmas when visited, and surprisingly for a pub owned by Greene King under the ‘Metropolitan’ brand, it has a decent choice of beer, with 5 cask ales and changing Redwell beers on keg.

On the bar:
Cask – Trumans Gunboat Smith Black IPA, Black Eagle (presumably brewed at Trumans) Project X Stout, Jo C’s Norfolk Kiwi, Nene Vally Bitter, Greene King IPA
Keg- Redwell Steam Lager, Amstel, Estrella Damm, Guinness

There is an hourly bus service to Grantchester from Cambridge Mon-Sat, but that misses the walk across the meadows, after which the beer always seems more rewarding.

The Royal Standard, Mill Road

The Royal Standard on Mill Road finally reopened on October 22nd, almost a decade since it last operated as a pub. Landlord Jethro, who also runs the Cambridge Blue and the Blue Moon with his wife Terri, has revived the pub and brought good beer to an area where it was in short supply.

Royal Standard

A fine Victorian two bar pub built in 1881, when Mill Road was suddenly expanding over the railway bridge and across the open fields to the east, it stands on the corner of Malta Road, a side street which like many off that end of Mill Road had not yet been completed when the pub was built.

Royal StandardIt has now been opened out into a one bar pub, with a grand, brown tiled bar as the centrepiece, with 6 real ales and 10 keg lines serving the likes of Nene Valley Bible Black, Adnams Blackshore Stout and Hardknott Lux Borealis, all of which we enjoyed when we visited. There is also a fridge full of Belgian beer, food is available, including Sunday roasts, and there is plenty of seating.

Royal Standard Indian Restaurant

Menu from the Royal Standard’s time as an Indian Restaurant

It’s good to see another Cambridge pub reopen, especially one that was neglected and looked lost for good when it was converted to an Indian Restaurant in 2007, and when that closed in 2011, served as a charity shop while awaiting its likely fate of redevelopment for housing.

There was opposition to the loss of another pub in Romsey*, an area of Cambridge covering the far end of Mill Road and the back streets between Mill Road and Coldham’s Lane, following the closure of the Grasshopper in 1999, the Duke of Argyle and the Jubilee in 2009, all demolished and replaced by housing, and the Romsey Labour Club in 2014. *The Greyhound on Coldham’s Lane, which closed in 2008, was also in the Romsey Ward, but not in close proximity to the other pubs. This left only two pubs – the Brook and the Earl of Beaconsfield – bookending the stretch of Mill Road east of the bridge, and the Empress as the only remaining backstreet pub. Eventually plans which retained the Royal Standard alongside the residential development were approved, an agreement similar to that which enabled the recent reopening of the Queen Edith, although in this case the original building has thankfully been retained.

The Royal Standard is open every day from 11-11 at 292 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 3NL

The Plough, Shepreth

The Plough is a pub in the South Cambridgeshire village of Shepreth, less than ten miles from Cambridge.

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Queen Edith, Cambridge

The Queen Edith, the first new build pub in Cambridge in over 30 years, opened on Wulfstan Way on 24th April.

Queen Edith

This is the third pub in the city run by Milton Brewery, following their reopening of the Devonshire Arms in 2010, and the Haymakers in 2013. We visited on the opening weekend and there were five Milton beers on handpump, alongside three or four guests including B&T Edwin Taylor’s Extra Stout and Star Brewing Meteor. As with the other Milton pubs in the city, the excellent Moravka lager, brewed in the Peak District, is on keg. Likewise, the interior furnishings will be familiar to anybody who has set foot in their other pubs, especially in the snug bar with its dark wood, high-backed seats. The lounge is a larger, lighter room and features the main bar. We enjoyed a couple of pints of Milton’s Justinian in the snug and a good vegetarian nut loaf Sunday roast.

Queen Edith

The Queen Edith is built on what was the car park of the previous pub of that name that opened in December 1961, around the time the nearby Addenbrookes Hospital began admitting patients on its new site. Originally a Lacon house, the first licensees were Mr & Mrs Coop.

It closed 50 years later in December 2011; the last to run the pub was Paul St John-Campbell, who was there for over two years before he was made redundant. In any case, the previous year owners Punch Taverns had applied to have the pub demolished and replaced by 8 houses, arguing the pub was unviable. These plans were rejected but the pub was sold, and in the hands of developers Danescroft new plans were approved that allowed the pub to be demolished last year and the new pub built, alongside a block of 12 flats. It’s a nice building, the first new build pub in the city since the Ancient Druids in 1984 (closed in 1996 and now a Chinese restaurant) with a large catchment area and few other pubs nearby. Tantalisingly, Milton brewery said they see this as a potential template for the development of other redundant pub sites.