A few weeks ago I blogged about my intention to re-run the research pub crawls that I did around Gloucester whilst writing The Story of Gloucester’s Pubs. Last weekend I finally got around to doing the first of them, and I chose to start with Barton & Tredworth.
I last did this pub crawl on 18 April 2009 and it turned out to be one of my favourites – you can read the details on my website. The reason I liked it so much was because the pubs were all new to me and they were very different to the pubs that you get in the centre of town. They had a different vibe: they were a bit rough round the edges, but they had a good community feel to them.
Back in 2009 it was quite a pub crawl too, with eight pubs to get around. I knew that this number had diminished somewhat since then, but was depressed to find that there are now only four pubs open in the area.
So, let’s take things in order.
I was joined on the pub crawl by four friends: Ken, Paul, Reg and Deb and we were later joined by Ken’s neighbour, Béla, none of whom were on the original pub crawl back in 2009.
In 2009 we started at the Duke of Wellington on Tredworth Road, opposite the entrance to the High Street. On this occasion that wasn’t possible as it closed in 2011 and was converted to apartments or houses. We started instead at the Victory Hotel, better known as the Big Vic, in the High Street.
At first I was alarmed to think that this was also closed as there was a large notice covering the pub sign, advertising that the lease was for sale. Inside, however, it was very much alive. It was only 7:30pm, but the pub was bustling with people of all ages, including children. It was a nice friendly atmosphere, so we were off to a good start.
However, Ken came bearing bad news: the next pub on our list, The New Victory, a.k.a the Little Vic, was closed. I wasn’t aware of this. This is a great shame as it was a great, traditional boozer, like a throwback in time. I live in hope, but not expectation, of it re-opening as a pub.
We therefore had a long, dry, walk ahead of us as the next pub, the Golden Heart, is also closed. This was a fine Victorian pub with a large skittle alley which was home to a successful football team: Porky’s. Unfortunately it was closed down following a police raid in December 2011 and has been closed ever since.
As we walked past I couldn’t help noticing that several letters were missing from the pub name on the front wall, the distinctive paintwork was already flaking, and even the walls were damaged in places. I don’t hold out great hopes of this pub re-opening either.
Next up was The Plough in Upton Street, at the far end of the High Street. Thankfully this was open. It is a traditional two room pub with the bar in the middle. It was reasonably busy with what appeared to be regulars, but we were made to feel welcome.
There was a real ale hand pump in the back bar, but it proved a false hope as there was no real ale, at least on this occasion. Nonetheless we had a pleasant stay and were engaged in conversation as we were leaving by a group of chaps sat near the door: all very friendly.
The next pub on the list is, perhaps, the saddest news of all. In 2009 we headed to the India House, a distinctive and dominant landmark on Barton Street which stood there from at least 1780. When I was last there a very good band were playing and the place was packed. I almost got myself into trouble with some of the locals, but overall it was a great pub.
How disappointing, therefore, to see it demolished and a soulless modern structure being erected in its place to house a Sainsbury’s supermarket: cultural and social vandalism of the worst kind. How could such a wonderful building not be listed? Tragic.
Anyway, choking back the tears, we made our way on to what must be one of the best hidden gems in the city: the Great Western. It is a bit of a trek from the main road, up to the end of Alfred Street. The end of the road is truncated by a dystopian view of a large flyover, carrying Metz Way. In its shadow sits a large, traditional, Victorian pub whose name was changed from the Plough to the Great Western in 1985 to celebrate 150 years of the GWR, ironically just a short while before its view of the railway was obscured by the road.
Inside the pub is very traditional, again with 2 separate rooms and a bar in the middle. The real surprise, however, is outside: amidst the Victorian terrace and in the shadow of a major road it has the best pub garden in the city. Beautifully tended, it is a tranquil little grotto, ideal for a sunny summer’s day.
The pub has been run by Lynn Mann for over 25 years and, unusually, the pub company, Admiral Taverns, has left her to get on with it. However, this happy state of affairs can’t go on forever, and I struggle to see how it can stay as it is once Lyn decides to call it a day. It would be a tragedy to see this fine pub either closed or desecrated by being modernised by a less sympathetic landlord. My advice is to make the most of it and visit whilst you can.
And so we came to only the fourth, but final, pub on our mission: One Eyed Jacks. This is almost on the crossroads where Barton Street meets the Lower Eastgate Street ‘Strip’ and so it is louder and livelier than the other pubs on our route. My companions were cheered to see a hand pump advertising Doom Bar, and disappointed when, on ordering, it came in bottles. Never mind, still a perfectly good pub and once again quite busy.
Having only covered four pubs we couldn’t call it a day, so we ventured on to The Famous Pint Pot, where at last there was decent real ale on hand pump, and then to The Water Poet, where there was even more real ale and, for me, real cider, as we caught the end of their beer festival. Both of these pubs, however, belong in a different pub crawl, so will be revisited another day.