Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Romany, Northampton

The 80's vogue for knocking through multi-room pubs into a single, large, easy to manage space, signalled the death-knell for many separate Bars, Snugs, and Games Rooms. It's certainly not just nostalgia which leads me to mourn the loss of this traditional multi-room layout. Different spaces serve different needs in a pub, and losing the separate bar/lounge/snug/games room layout can often remove at a stroke the pubs ability to appeal to a truly diverse customer base. It's true that fewer rooms mean less staff are required to run a pub, but I can't help feeling that the loss of flexibility and 'inclusiveness' which can result from this 'knocking-through' is just one more reason why some people have fallen out of love with the pub, let alone the loss of 'character' that almost inevitably comes with it.

Of course dull and unimaginative refurbishments of traditional pubs continue apace, but thankfully the wholesale removal of interior walls seems to be much less prevalent now. Sadly the damage has already been done in far too many traditional pubs, and there seems to be little or no desire on the part of brewers and pub owning companies to reinstate what has been lost.

The Romany in Northampton has certainly seen a number of changes to its internal layout over the years, but crucially two large separate bars have been maintained. This has undoubtedly helped in the success of the pub, where the games room concept has been taken to its logical conclusion by devoting almost half of the pubs trading area to the numerous gaming activities which take place. Gaming can be a noisy business, and a dedicated games room like the one at the Romany often makes sense, particularly with games such as Northants Skittles which can be both noisy, and occasionally hazardous in play.

So, if it's a quiet pint you're after (or perhaps a band in the evening), simply turn left at the main entrance, but if it's games you're looking for, the right-hand door will lead you to the Romany's excellent and well appointed Games Bar.

As you can see in the image above, gaming truly is the lifeblood of the Romany. League play includes everything from Darts and Pool, to the local speciality of Northamptonshire Table Skittles.

This table is one of only a handful which can now be found in what is the home town of the game. As far as I'm aware, Northamptons town centre pubs are now entirely devoid of skittles tables, though there may be a few clubs where the game can still be found. It's in traditional community pubs like the Romany, located on the edge of town and further out into the suburbs, that the game can still be found. Perhaps unusually for one of the more physical pub games, it's a Ladies League which still hold the torch for skittles play in the Northampton. It's hard to say why this might have come about, but perhaps the ladies make more of a social event of skittling than the men.

Darts and Pool are the main events at the Romany, with much of the silverware on display in the trophy cabinet coming from the Darts and Pool leagues.

There's also a very good quality open-top Football Table. The game of Table Football (or Foosball as it's now known) has dipped in popularity somewhat since the days when many pubs, and every student union bar had a table, but there are still a few about, with even league play in certain parts of the country. The British Foosball Association has a good interactive map which shows venues throughout the UK, with some limited coverage of Europe where the game is still very popular.

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