Yesterday I undertook the sixth, and penultimate, research pub crawl on my mission to revisit all of the pubs in Gloucester. This time, the mission was the North of the city. I did the original tour of these pubs as research for my book, The Story of Gloucester’s Pubs, on 14 November 2009.
Our research began at The York on London Road. This is quite a good walk from the centre but, if like me you use the No 10 bus to get into town, it is very handy to the bus route with a stop almost outside. Back in 2009 the pub was closed: it re-opened in August 2010 after being closed for two years.
When I arrived at 7:30pm the front bar was packed with people watching the rugby, so I got my pint and moved to the back of the pub to meet up with the first of my research team, Scott, who was one of the members of the original North pub crawl back in 2009. The York is laid out as a bar for drinkers at the front, with a dining area at the back. No food was being served at this time of the day, so back here it was quiet and a bit out of the way, a contrast to the lively, friendly atmosphere at the front.
Being a cider drinker these days I am getting out of the habit of checking for real ales, but the York definitely has a least a couple on, which change regularly and are generally reported to be very good. Cider of choice was keg Thatchers Gold.
We moved on a little after 8.00pm, by which time the match was finished, with Gloucester having been beaten 26-10. Many of the faithful had already left to drown their sorrows elsewhere: a Gloucester win is probably much better for pub business!
Our next stop is almost next door: The England’s Glory, where we met up with the second of our group of dedicated researchers, Steve. Once again it was quite busy in the pub. The Lounge bar at the front is laid out more to cater for those eating, and indeed many of the customers seemed to be people who were still lingering having eaten there. The public bar at the back was closed for a private function. Like the York it was a relaxed, pleasant, unthreatening atmosphere. Being a Wadworth’s house there was a good range of their beers on offer.
Already behind schedule we headed off for the long walk to our next pub. Back in 2009 this was The Vaults, formerly the Northend Vaults. Despite being a fine Grade II listed building, at this time it was distinctly shabby with a very rough clientele. It has now been closed for some time and, despite reports of owners Enterprise Inns planning to re-open it earlier this year, there is no sign yet.
We moved on instead to the Imperial in Northgate Street, arriving around 9.00pm to meet up with the final group of drinkers: Kate, Dave and Nick, who had hot-footed it into town once the rugby had finished.
The Imperial is a very basic pub: no food and no frills, just an old-fashioned drinking pub, which is what I like about it. Originally a Mitchell and Butlers pub, it has their typical glazed tile exterior. Inside it has been knocked through into one large bar, but retains an old-fashioned feel. It has been run by Tom and his wife Karen for 24 years: it is this long-standing ownership which imbues a pub with character and it is increasingly rare these days.
The Imperial has two well kept real ales, which change regularly, and was the first pub of the evening to offer me a real cider: Thatchers Heritage.
Next we moved on to The Abbey, just a short distance away on the corner of Hare Lane and Northgate Street. In 2009 this was known as the Varsity, the latest in a long line of different names for a pub that I still think of as the Tabard.
The Abbey is very different to the previous pubs we had visited: it is loud and lively, appealing to a younger crowd. It is a very large single bar, although the layout provides several compartmented areas which feel like different rooms. It sells a good range of ales, although on this occasion only two of them were on. Sadly back to the keg cider.
Often on these research trips there is a pub which comes as a pleasant surprise (this is why I set out to re-visit them all, because otherwise I would never know!). On this occasion, this was our next pub: Chambers, on the corner of St Aldate Street and Market Parade.
Chambers is a modern pub with a large, bright, airy bar that mainly appeals to young drinkers before they head off into the club land of Eastgate Street. When we arrived it was approaching 11.00pm and the pub was quiet: the rugby crowd had long since gone home and the clubbers had moved on.
My expectation was that this was not the type of pub that would sell real ale, and indeed back in 2009 that was the case. However, the new landlady, Emily, is keen to change all of that and has a real ale on and, to my delight, a real cider. On this occasion the ale was Doom Bar, but this rotates round a small selection and recently included Gloucester Gold. The cider was Westons Rosie’s Pig. Emily is planning a second handpump for ale and is looking for ideas for other ciders to put on rotation.
And so we moved on to our final pub of the evening: The Regal. Formerly the ABC cinema, the Regal is a vast open space. It is noisy and lively and on Friday and Saturday nights appeals mainly to a young crowd. By the time we arrived it was after 11:30pm, so it had thinned out quite a lot, with the club crowd again moving on into Eastgate Street, although because the Regal stays open late, some stay here to finish their evening and there were still a few people on the dance floor.
Being a Wetherspoon’s pub, the Regal has the typical wide range of beers on offer and I had a probably ill-advised pint of Old Rosie. We spent most of our time here outside in the pleasant decked courtyard garden, despite the fact that the heavens opened with a monumental storm causing us to huddle under a thankfully large umbrella.
Finally it was time to head for home: The Regal is conveniently situated for the bus stop, where we caught the night bus. All in all a very pleasant evening and a bunch of pubs much better than I expected.
Previous ‘Research’ trips