Sunday, 16 August 2015

Top House, Thurmaston, Leicester

Until the recent reopening of the Top House, pub-going in the north Leicestershire village of Thurmaston had appeared to be in freefall, such were the number of pub closures in recent years. From a choice of around half a dozen pubs in the 80's/90's, the village was down to just one survivor on the main street, former Shipstones Brewery pub the Harrow, with the Prince of Wales, Generous Britain, Manor, Lonsdale, and White Hart, all closed for good within the last two decades. Only the Everards owned Willow on the outskirts of the village offered a choice in the immediate area. The closure of the Top House was particularly sad given that it was such a busy community pub in its day, and a very fine example of a Victorian corner local.

The demise of so many of Thurmaston's pubs is perhaps hard to explain given its largely residential make-up, though being effectively isolated from much of the populace by the busy A607 probably doesn't help. One factor that will almost certainly have affected the viability of some of Thurmastons pubs is the number of thriving social clubs in the village. I've noticed on several occasions that when a community pub like the Top House closes, trade doesn't always gravitate, as you might expect, to the nearest alternative pub venue. It's often the local social, trades, and political clubs, with their cheaper drinks and strong social/gaming traditions which benefit most from the displaced custom.

The Top House has thankfully now reopened, and done so in very fine style. In fact it's a delight to the eye for pub enthusiasts like myself, as I hope you can see from the images reproduced here. I do hope it has a brighter future than many of its near neighbours, pubs like the Top House are precious survivors, and have features which when they've gone, they're gone forever.

This former Shipstones house was originally named the Unicorn & Star, but for many years was known locally as the Top House, presumably due to its location at the top of the main street through the village. It assumed this name officially in 2003 following a refurbishment.

Both the Harrow and the Top House were always firm favourites with local CAMRA members back in the day when folk seemed to appreciate traditional boozers like this a great deal more than its predominantly beer-obsessed membership do now! The pub was much as it is now, a two-room locals pub, albeit furnished in a more basic and functional style befitting the time.

CAMRA's late 70's pub guide to the county describes the Unicorn & Star as being a '...popular darting and dominoes pub', and the sizeable public bar to the left of the entrance certainly lends itself well to this kind of games play. I don't know whether the Domino players have returned yet, pub closures, however short, result in disruption to league play that can take a season or two to resolve, but Darts and Pool are played in local leagues.

To the rear of the pub is the Skittle Alley, where Long Alley and the unique Leicester version of Table Skittles is played. The Top House was an active participant in the Syston & District League right up until the recent temporary closure, and now field a team in the second division.

Cheeses for Long Alley, and a box of pins for Leicester Table Skittles below the scoreboard

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