Monday, 14 December 2015

General Elliott, Willoughby Waterleys, Leicestershire

I would guess that most people remember the occasion of their first pint in a pub. Often underage, probably buoyed by the company of friends, and something of a right of passage for many. For me it was a case of 'in at the deep end', a true novice amongst experienced drinkers, and a tentative introduction to what was then an alien and unfamiliar adult world.

As a boy, my only direct experience of the pub was on errands for cigarettes and chocolate, peering through the 'Off Sales' hatch of what would eventually become my local, the Black Horse in Aylestone. From there you could see the blokes propping up the bar, smoking, chatting, sinking pints. Couldn't miss the fug of stale beer and tobacco smoke. A strange and frankly uninviting environment it must be said.

I don't recall ever being taken inside a pub as a youngster, so when I started work as an apprentice at the tender age of 15, the regular work-time 'liquid lunches' in the company of adults were a new experience for me. I guess that's why that very first occasion, a long lunchtime boozing session with the men, the 3.5 tonner parked discreetly round the corner, sticks in my mind so clearly.

The General Elliott was the pub, Draught Bass the beer, and the tiny snug to the right of the front door the venue for two or three hours of solid afternoon drinking. A risky, dangerous, and quite probably sackable offence, and yet a common and regular occurrence at the time. Needless to say, I look back on those days with a mixture of horror (there was no designated driver!), and huge affection for what was probably a golden era of pub-going, the like of which we will undoubtedly never see again.

I recall visiting the General Elliott several years later as part of some cycling adventure or other. I can't remember whether the little snug still existed then, but apparently it's been gone for a good while. The pub now consists of a single L-shaped room. A snug-like area remains to the right of the entrance where the original separate room once was, the pubs traditional Skittles Table and Dart Board located at the other end. Though it's certainly changed a fair bit since my first visit, the General Elliot is still very much a traditional village local, and revitalised in the hands of enthusiastic new licensees when I visited in the summer.

A typically short entry in CAMRA's 1979 guide to Real Ale in Leicestershire & Rutland confirms the two room layout, as well as the existence of Table Skittles. The Northampton made W T Black & Son skittles table is probably in much the same location as it was back then, though whether the legs had been modified with a set of wheels as it is now, I couldn't say. It definitely didn't live in the smaller snug, and we didn't play a game back then in the early 80's.

The General Elliott currently fields two teams in the Dunton Bassett Skittles League, and a more general Games Night is held on Tuesdays.

In recent years the pub had kept somewhat limited 'rural' opening hours, but weekday lunchtime opening has now been restored by the current licensees, and an improved beer range to match. I'm pleased to say that the Draught Bass is still popular with the locals, and this lovely traditional village pub is a great destination for food, drink, maybe even a game of skittles.

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