Trumpington Pubs

The village of Trumpington is subsumed by the Cambridge city boundary, and therefore has three pubs that are included in the list of every pub and bar in Cambridge. We walked there from the centre of Cambridge, via the meadows to Grantchester, where in retrospect we should have done our drinking, continuing to Trumpington, a four mile jaunt. There’s a much more straightforward, 2.5 mile route along Trumpington Road, but that was too obvious.

Lord Byron Inn

Trumpington Lord Byron

Formerly the Unicorn, the youngest of Trumpington’s remaining pubs, it was renamed the Lord Byron in 2012; the pub is about half a mile from Byron’s Pool, the former millpond of Trumpington Mill, where said Lord used to swim in what was presumably a more picturesque place before the concrete weir and metal railings were added in the 1940s. With a pub in neighbouring Grantchester renamed after another renowned author, Rupert Brooke, it’s surely only a matter of time before one is called the Lord Archer.

Reaching the first pub at lunchtime I boldly ordered a pint of real ale and returned it after one sip, it tasting distinctly on the turn. A cautious taster of TT Landlord was equally unpalatable, so I ended up with a Corrs Light, which was at least drinkable, but not as flavoursome as the bottle of mineral water I’d carried with me. Perhaps it was a slow Sunday; the kitchen is currently undergoing refurbishment so there were no diners, just a group of chaps playing dominoes in a side room, and I’ve no idea what they were drinking but the ale didn’t seem to have had much throughput.

Trumpington Lord Byron

It’s a nice enough pub inside with plenty of rooms to explore, but doesn’t seem to make best use of its character; in the main bar one fireplace bizarrely screened from view by white armchairs. The large ‘real grass’ beer garden is in good shape, overlooked on one side by the extended accommodation block, on the other the large conservatory extension, but we were the only ones out there too. The car park, as large as the garden, was another empty space, except for one car which had made best use of the space by parking directly in front of one of the pub’s windows.

Lord Byron

Reasoning we’d caught the pub on a bad day, we moved on, though with such reliably good pubs just down the road in Grantchester, I’m not sure when we’re likely to return.

Green Man

Green Man Trumpington

A 15th-century timber framed building recorded as an inn by the late 18th century, but again one that largely conceals its character, save for the low ceilings and a few exposed beams in the front bar. Even the pub sign, which used to stand roadside as one would expect, has been removed and affixed to one side of the building.

Green Man Trumpington

Ignoring the ubiquitous Abbot Ale and Doom Bar, alongside Marstons 61 Deep, I had a pint of keg Adnams Mosaic and wandered outside, passing the room at the rear of the pub which is very much a restaurant, but seemed nice enough for that purpose, and was busy with diners.

Green Man Trumpington

Outside is a large outdoor patio overlooking the busy Trumpington Road, to the other side a massive car park at the back of the pub, this one full of cars unlike the Lord Byron’s. Nevertheless a rural feel had been achieved by the thoughtful positioning of two bales of hay.

Green Man Trumpington

Getting hungry, and ignoring the Wok ‘n’ Grill in what was formerly the Coach & Horses, a wonderful old coaching inn we’d had the pleasure of visiting several times before its closure as a pub, we held out for the final pub, Hudson’s Ale House, about which we’d heard good reports since its refurbishment a couple of years ago.

Hudson’s Ale House

Hudsons Ale House

Formerly the Tally Ho, an uninspiring pub we visited a couple of times a few years ago to see live music. Back then even the keg lager was in poor shape, let alone the real ale, but it closed and reopened under new ownership after a significant refurbishment. The pub is much improved and is clearly being taken care of, the new layout creating a lot more space, the bar lined with 7 real ales and accompanying jars showing their respective colours – Woodfordes Reed Lighter, Tydd Steam American Eagle, Cotleigh, Lymestone, and so on, as well as a Hudson’s labelled beer, no doubt Greene King IPA or similar in disguise (it’s a Greene King pub with the Local Hero agreement, allowing for half the cask ale choice to be free-of-tie). There was a queue at the bar when we arrived, but we were immediately acknowledged while coffees were being prepared for someone, which is all it takes really; I don’t mind waiting if I know I’ll get served in turn.

The two real ales we had weren’t at their best, and I can’t help thinking it would be better having fewer pumps getting better throughput; it seemed a lot more coffee and keg lager was being served this particular lunchtime. I’ve no doubt they’d have been replaced without a fuss had we asked, I was just feeling jaded at this point.

Hudsons Ale House

For some reason, despite the Trumpington Local History Group publishing well researched information about the past and present pubs of Trumpington, the pub’s website mistakenly says it was “first opened in 1840 under the name of ‘Hudson’s Noted Ales & Stouts’”, only becoming the Tally Ho in the 2000s. I’ve trawled through the directories myself and can confirm it clearly opened as the Tally Ho by 1840 and carried that name until the current owners changed it a couple of years ago; old photos show the “Hudson’s” name painted on the outside because it was owned and supplied by Hudson’s Cambridge & Pampisford Breweries.

Despite these observations, the veggie Sunday roast was excellent, the service was welcoming and attentive, and Hudson’s Ale House was the best, and most improved, pub in Trumpington. It deserves another visit…

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Cambridge Pubs – Snug Bar, East Road

Snug East Road

The Snug was originally called the Waggon and Horses, in a wonderful red brick building with narrow arched windows that dates back to 1827, two years before the first Boat Race after which it was later named, the date helpfully inscribed on the front of the building. Later its name changed to the Falcon, a “strong darts centre” with an expansive saloon featuring an impressive array of trophies, a smaller lounge, and a “minute and bare” smoke room – an “extremely grotty” pub according to a guide of the time. By the mid-eighties it was refurbished as the Boat Race, and became “not so much a pub, more a music venue” through the 90s when there was live music every night of the week and a free blues jam on Sunday afternoons. For a time this was run by the Shebeen Arts & Music worker’s co-operative, who provided a remarkable number of now-famous bands people claim to have seen at the Boat Race – Oasis, Blur, Stereophonics, Pulp, Franz Ferdinand, Placebo, Super Furry Animals, Snow Patrol, Kasabian, Travis, The Libertines and Babyshambles, The Darkness, Groove Armarda, Cornershop, and so on. It was also the venue where Cambridge band Ezio made early appearances, with videos for their songs including clips of their performances at the Boat Race.

Sadly the Boat Race was closed by Enterprise Inns in January 2004. It was ‘refurbished’, which included the reinstatement of the original corner entrance into the building, and reopened that August as the Vine, a bar-kitchen that did at least still serve a few real ales. In 2009 it closed and was refurbished again, reopening as part of what’s now a chain of pubs called the Snug (another can be found on Lensfield Road). It served Adnams Bitter for a time, then occasionally GK IPA, but real ale became irregular and eventually the last pump was removed. It had only the usual suspects until last month when new founts appeared.

Snug East Road

I’d not tried either of these before, and although the Pils wasn’t to my taste, the IPA was actually quite enjoyable, probably the best beer I’ve had from Caledonian, the brewery I later discovered it was brewed at, though it’s branded as Maltsmiths and Heineken are behind it. According to the press release the beers are designed to “appeal to the beer-curious that for whatever reason have yet to experiment”. I’m guessing they mean retailers rather than drinkers.

Snug East Road

It is much altered inside from its time as the Boat Race; the bar used to be at the end facing East Road, the stage at the opposite end. Nevertheless, the row of windows give it a lighter, airier feel these days, although It’s aimed more at serving cocktails and food now. We took our drinks out to the courtyard at the rear, a space much improved from when it was occupied by a neglected Triumph Spitfire during its Boat Race days.

Snug East Road

There is another Snug Bar in Cambridge, on Lensfield Road, the first of what became a chain of 10, but at the time of writing that leasehold is up for sale, and follows the recent closure of their Bedford bar. It would be nice to think the Lensfield Road building could revert to the Spread Eagle pub it once was, but as it’s tied to Ei Group PLC, with provision for only one free of tie guest ale, that seems unlikely. Meanwhile, this Snug on East Road does at least have a couple of beers that aren’t the usual suspects.

Cambridge Pubs – Queen Edith

Fifteen minutes walk from the Med is another estate pub serving part of the same catchment area. The original Queen Edith opened in December 1961, two years after the Med, but closed just 50 years later in December 2011. The present building is built on what was the car park of the previous pub, and was the first new build pub in Cambridge in over 30 years when it opened in April 2015.

Queen Edith

It’s the third pub in the city run by Milton Brewery, following their reopening of the Devonshire Arms in 2010, and the Haymakers in 2013. It’s already established in the Good Beer Guide, and the pint of Milton Justinian I had, from a choice of 5 of their own and 2 or 3 guests, was worthy of the accolades. The wooden booth seating in the right hand bar is typical of their interiors, but this time I sat in the larger left hand bar. Looking out to the street, the pub is so well screened by the tree planting that the surrounding estate isn’t visible. It’s a handsome Georgian style building, a model for redeveloped estate pubs that hopefully the Jenny Wren, currently closed and awaiting redevelopment, will take inspiration from if the development incorporates a new build pub.

Queen Edith

Accompanied by a soundtrack including The Black Keys and The Growlers amongst others, conversation at the bar was about closed pubs. It was interesting overhearing and noting how even pubs that had closed relatively recently were being confused with others at different locations.

“What was that pub near the old Evening News offices?”
“That was the Bird In Hand”
“No it wasn’t, the Bird In Hand was over the bridge, opposite the petrol station”
“No, you’re thinking of the Fleur De Lys”
“Oh yeah, I think you might be right”

The name of the Queen Edith itself may be a case of mistaken identity; rather than the wife of Edward the Confessor, it may be the more appropriately named Edith Swan-Neck that the pub and surrounding area should commemorate.

Cambridge Pubs – The Med

Med

1959 was a good year for Cambridge estate pubs. First the Weathervane opened in November that year. A few weeks later, across the other side of town in Arbury, the Snowcat opened, followed just twelve days later by the Carlton Arms. The site for the Weathervane had actually been purchased by Tollemache Breweries in 1937, proposing a pub to serve the new housing estates laid out around the new Perne Road. It would be over twenty years later that the pub eventually opened, designed as a place one could bring a family for a pleasant drink, serving around 2,500 new houses that had gone up in the middle class area that had developed since; objections at the time suggested some had moved to the area specifically to be away from pubs, that pupils at a nearby institution might be degraded, and that people who drank were more likely to catch disease than those who did not.

Weathervane

“You may ask why the name ‘Weathervane’ was chosen, but I cannot give you any reason at all”, Lord Tollemache apparently told guests at the opening. Nevertheless, a compass was erected as its inn sign, set accurately so that it gave a true wind direction. In 1983 It was refurbished and renamed the Master Mariner to commemorate Captain Ian North, then depicted on the inn sign, and the crew of the Atlantic Conveyor, the first British merchant vessel lost at sea to enemy fire since World War II, when it was sunk during the Falklands War. In 2011 it was refurbished and renamed again, becoming the Med, presumably after its food offering, a Mediterranean Bar & Grill. The more-pink-than-terracotta colour scheme on the exterior has thankfully since been toned down to grey.

Med

It became a short-lived brewpub for a while when Turpin’s Brewery opened there, and although that’s since moved to larger premises in Pampisford, the inn sign, and the posters dotted about the pub advertising forthcoming events, still refer to the pub as the Med Brewery. A couple of their beers were on cask, but I had a pint of keg Turpin’s Black, a beer I’ve only encountered on cask before, and which proved to be superb on keg. Not only that, but although I’d already made my mind up to have it, I was first offered a generous taster, and my pint was even topped up before I got my hands on it. I got the impression it’s a welcoming place.

Med

The pub itself, like many Cambridge estate pubs, is large and spacious, and the dining area and function room appeared empty on a Sunday afternoon. The bar area felt lively though, locals gathered around one end in animated conversation, with topics including tales of an inebriated friend impersonating Tarzan and swinging from light fittings, with predictable results. There’s a rare ‘real grass’ beer garden at the rear, and a large car park at the front, again typical of estate pubs, which must have developers waiting in the bushes to claim it for flats.

Med

The lifespan of Cambridge estate pubs does seem worryingly short – the Snowcat closed and became home to the Cambridge Gurdwara in 2013, while the Jenny Wren was claimed for redevelopment this year, although there is promise it will incorporate a new build pub, much as the Queen Edith lasted just 50 years before it was redeveloped, with a new pub built alongside a block of 12 flats. That’s a nearby estate pub I’ll be coming to shortly…

Sources:

Mike Petty – Looking Back
Cambridge News
Cambridge CAMRA

Cambridge Pubs – White Swan

The White Swan, or ‘the Swimmer’ as it’s known locally, has just reopened after a refurb so I thought a Sunday afternoon would be a good time to go for a quiet pint and have a look at the interior while it was still shiny. Unfortunately I chose an afternoon during a rugby* match, the whole pub packed out with people staring at the multiple screens. I couldn’t really see any of the refurbished interior apart from the bar, although the layout seems unchanged from previous visits.

White Swan

I took a pint of Bootleg Twisted Groove (also on – GK IPA, Belhaven/Orkney Kittiwake) out to the beer garden and admired the covered, heated smoking shelter, noticing another screen attached to the exterior of the building, facing out into the garden.

White Swan

The White Swan is the only surviving pub on this stretch of Mill Road before the bridge. The Locomotive, likely the first pub on Mill Road, closed in 2008, the Durham Ox/Chariots of Fire closed in 2002, while others such as the Windmill and the Crystal Palace closed earlier last century. No doubt the late license (2am most nights) and multiple screens for rugby are key to its continued success, despite the cluster of nearby pubs offering a wider choice of beer. Nevertheless, it was a nice enough beer, and a pleasant enough place to enjoy it, and the refurb can only have helped prolong the Swan’s life. Long may it swim.

* Apparently it was hurling on Sunday afternoon, which shows how much attention I paid to the screens. I never knew it drew such crowds to the pub

Cambridge Pubs – Earl of Derby

Earl of Derby

With the price of Greene King IPA falling through the floor at the Milton Arms, from £2.39 a pint at 4pm to £1 at 5pm, I headed to another Greene King pub, the Earl of Derby, where in this volatile market it had trebled to over £3, so I cautiously invested in a more expensive but steadfast Speckled Hen.

Earl of Derby

The pub is named after the 14th Earl, who seemingly found being Prime Minister hard to give up, serving three times, eventually succeeded by Disraeli, after which another Cambridge pub, the Earl of Beaconsfield is named, neatly dating them; the Earl of Derby being the older of the two.

In the 1970s it had a separate games room with skittles, bar billiards and darts, and was the HQ for many clubs, including pigeon fanciers and model makers. There are still some items dotted about the pub which point to this tradition – a list of Golf Society chairmen which has no updates after 2012, a poster advertising the pub’s sponsorship of Gaelic Football in the 90s, along with plenty of pictures of greyhounds and horse racing. Its nod to sport now is a number of screens showing Sky/BT. While others chatted at the bar, I walked across the worn wooden floorboards to a quiet corner, where I could appreciate this uncelebrated, unpretentious pub.

Earl of Derby

The pub’s accommodation, and breakfast menu from 7:30am, seems to draw local workman here, and plenty of high-vis vests were in evidence outside. There’s also a rare strip of real grass beer garden at the back of the car park, and rows of tables down each side, including a covered area. I took another pint outside to a seat at one of these tables, behind a couple of graduates I was surprised to find this far from the University, as they discussed drinking feats.

“They took initiation seriously at my college; you’d see freshers doing naked press-ups on the table. They had this thing called the bucket. It was basically a bucket of booze. You had to drink it all then throw up in it. If you went to the toilet, they’d fill it up again while you were gone.”

Not to be outdone, the other replied “Well I was ‘Captain of Beer’ at my college – I actually put that on my CV.”

Cambridge Pubs – Maypole

Maypole

“16 real ales” might ring alarm bells if it were any other pub, but in practice that’s prefaced by “up to…”, the number sensibly reduced in the early pre-hump days of the week. So on a Monday evening we had a choice of a superb Lacons Highlight, Grain Coriander Pale, Phipps Cobblers, White Horse Wayland Smithy, Tring Ridgeway, Crafty Brewery Carpenters Cask, and Milton Marcus Aurelius. And then there’s the keg; the mighty Buxton King Slayer the most enjoyable beer of the evening, also on Redwell Rose IPA, several from Nene Valley, and so on. The Maypole have just announced they’re adding another 5 lines, which they say takes the total number of beers to 32. The students better hurry up back.

All this from what was a Tolly pub with electric pumps in the 70s. Back then there were horse brasses on the lounge walls, and the print of a maypole scene, which is still there, the public bar including a dart range, bar billiards and table football. It was taken over by the Castiglione family in 1982, and every pub guide that followed seemed to mention the improved food and the landlord Mario’s award winning cocktails.

Maypole

Obviously a large beer choice isn’t always a good thing, but the Maypole seems to manage it well and is a regular in the Good Beer Guide. It’s one of the best pubs in Cambridge, and has a pleasant outdoor courtyard, managing to disguise it’s location next to a 1960s multi-storey car park building, with murals, fairy lights, an assortment of tables and seats including sofas, and plenty of heaters for those like me that insist on having some pints outdoors throughout the eight months of winter.

It’s one of a handful of pubs I visit often but hadn’t yet got around to writing about. That said, it had been a few weeks between visits, during which time it had a mini-refurb, and managed to get even better. The most impressive thing about it is the new display of the pub’s history, a detailed timeline stretching the length of each room’s ceiling beam, on the walls collages of newspaper articles, old photographs, and maps showing other points of local interest. As someone who spends an unhealthy amount of time in libraries, painstakingly transferring street directory entries into spreadsheets, and scouring old books and newspapers for clues, it’s obvious these displays are the result of a huge amount of research.

Maypole

I’ve previously posted a brief history of the Maypole; there’s been a beerhouse on this street since at least 1851. In the 19th century there was another pub, the Feathers (or Plume of Feathers) three doors down on the corner of Park Street. The Feathers was demolished in 1953, and in the 1960s the multistorey car park was built and the road widened. Part of the present Maypole building appears to be 20th century, probably rebuilt sometime between the wars; some buildings in Portugal Place suffered bomb damage during the Second World War.

However, I take my hat off to Anastasia Castiglione, who I’m told carried out the research into the pub, as there was plenty to see that I didn’t know, and it’s very well presented. I wish more pubs would do this, but then again it has to be done well, lest every pub repeats the same claims to be the oldest pub in England and a haunted hangout of highwaymen.

Maypole

To accompany it all we get the almost unrivalled pleasure of Al Green’s greatest hits. In another pub, I once spontaneously high-fived the hesitant guy sitting next to me when ‘Belle’ came on, to his bewilderment and the apparent disgust of another customer who witnessed it; he even offered the barman an award if he’d turn it off, but this was declined – probably the first barman to turn down a no Belle peace prize.