I have just seen the news in the Citizen that Molly’s Bar in Westgate Street has found new landlords in the shape of Peter and Christine Sheehy and they plan to re-open it as a cider bar under a new name: The Sword. This is very good news for Gloucester’s pub scene.
Molly’s Bar has been closed since last November when landlady Jackie Nesbitt decided to call it a day. It is always a shame to see a pub close, but I must admit that I have always had my reservations about Molly’s Bar.
The cause of my reservations was two-fold. Firstly, when Jackie Nesbitt took over the Enterprise pub in March 2014 she declared that she was going to re-open it as an Irish pub. This is a concept that makes my blood run cold and one that I had hoped that we had seen the back of way back in the 1990s. As it happened, I’m not sure that it was noticeably Irish-themed, certainly not in the extreme, tacky, wacky way that was the fate of many a fine pub at the end of the twentieth century, but the very thought of it was bad enough.
Secondly, she decided that she would change its name from the Union, which dates back to 1847, because she thought her nickname would suit it better. And sound more Irish presumably.
Given this second concern you may imagine that I am unhappy about it being re-named once again, but not so.
Let me tell you a little history about the pub’s name.
Originally the pub was two separate buildings. The left hand building was the original pub which, as I mentioned, was called the Union from 1847 (although actually records of its name around that period are somewhat confusing). The name is thought to refer to the Acts of Union with Ireland, so ironically it would suit an Irish themed pub.
The two buildings were knocked together in 1990 when it was owned by Whitbread.
The right hand building has an interesting history. It was once the workshop of a tailor called John Pritchard. Toward the end of the nineteenth century there was a story being told about a waistcoat being mysteriously completed overnight in Pritchard’s workshop and Beatrix Potter, who was visiting the area in 1897, heard this and used it as the basis for her book, The Tailor of Gloucester.
On hearing this tale, Whitbread changed the pub’s name to the Tailor’s House. I can almost forgive that in the circumstances.
The name reverted to The Union in 2003, and so it remained until 2014.
So why am I so relaxed about it being renamed once again to the Sword? Well, the pub is older than 1847. In fact, it has been a pub since at least 1680, and at that time it was known as The Sword, a name that it kept until at least 1736. Now that’s what I call reverting to the original name!
And I’m pleased to say there seems to be a trend for this in Westgate Street lately: The Pig Inn the City reverted to The Lower George in 2013 and The Westgate re-opened under its original name The Lamprey last September.
So enough about the name; the other interesting fact is that it is re-opening as a cider bar.
It won’t be the first cider bar in the city; we already have the Cider Tree at the Coach and Horses in Kingsholm, where they also brew their own cider. There are also a number of other pubs who regularly offer a good range of ciders, notably the Pelican, Dick Whittington and Cafe Rene.
But a specialist cider bar in Westgate Street will add a nice bit of variety to the excellent pub scene there and hopefully encourage a wider range of drinkers to the area.
I certainly look forward to the opportunity to try it when it re-opens.