Friday, 25 September 2015

Bulls Head, Cosby, Leicestershire

The south Leicestershire village of Cosby was little more than half an hours walk for me when I lived in nearby Littlethorpe. At that time there were three decent pubs in the village centre, the Blacksmiths Arms, Huntsman, and Bulls Head, and I made the walk to Cosby quite often as a result. Today the village is down to just one pub and the Working Mens Club.

Despite strong opposition from locals and villagers the Huntsman is now a Co-op store, and the Blacksmiths has been an Indian restaurant for several years now. The one remaining pub in the village, the Bulls Head, is an Everards Brewery house, and thankfully for those locals still interested in such things, a very good one at that.

Everards continue to support pubs like the Bulls Head where others (such as serial pub-closers Marston's, the previous owners of the Huntsman) show little or no such commitment. They also have a good track record when it comes to maintaining their pub estate, and even if the current 'vintage' makeovers, which are being rolled-out across the estate, might not be to everyone's taste (it works very well at the Bulls Head), their pubs remain attractive and inviting as a result.

Just as importantly in the context of this blog, Everards are also custodians of more traditional Skittle Alleys in the Leicestershire area than any other brewer or pubco. This part of South Leicestershire, close as it is to Everards Castle Acres brewery site, is one of the hotbeds of Long Alley Skittles play, with Everards pubs in Broughton Astley, Croft, Enderby, Huncote, Littlethorpe, and Whetstone all boasting good indoor skittle alleys.

The alley at the Bulls Head would probably have been a separate building at one time, though now accessed directly from a central corridor of the pub. I think this is why the throwing end of this, and other similar alleys, are laid with deep transverse lines around the foot hole or 'Mott' (below). Winter journeys from bar to skittle alley meant that players shoes would often be wet, and these grooves would have provided a non-slip surface as players launched themselves down the alley.

A modern conservatory at the rear of the pub houses the Skittles Table, set here with plastic 'Northamptonshire' style pins, but this is actually a Leicester Skittles Table. The Leicester variant of the game is very similar to the more common 'Northants' version, but uses thinner pins shaped like miniature Long Alley skittles. The cheeses are proportionately smaller and usually made from a very dense hardwood such as Laburnum or Lignum Vitae, though I've also seen plastic examples.

Tables like this are the norm in  and around Leicester city, but can also be found in an area broadly defined as South-West Leicestershire, as well as the Soar Valley area of North Leicestershire. This seems to coincide with those areas which have the strongest remaining Long Alley tradition, perhaps suggesting that this version arose as a Winter alternative to the alley game, somewhat independent of the similar Northamptonshire game.

To complete the picture of this excellent village local, Darts is very popular, as evidenced by the number of trophies littering the bar, including the impressive Ladies Knockout Cup shown below. The Bulls Head was also an early-adopter of the food franchise concept, with the popular Winley's Chinese Restaurant operating successfully from a separate room at the pub.

1 comment:

Wal said...

Good to hear the Bulls is still going, and seemingly, improving. It's been a while since I was last in there, and that was during its very much 'bright and bland' phase. Excellent that Everards are trying to put a bit more character back into their refurbishments.