Saturday, 11 June 2016
Punch Bowl, Worcester
Of all the many pubs that have been lost in recent years, it's perhaps the untimely closure of so many village locals that has been most keenly felt by pub-goers. For the locals it can represent a devastating 'social' loss, particularly where there are no convenient alternatives, but even less regular users and visitors from further afield are likely to mourn the passing of a favourite 'destination' watering hole. Such is the special place we hold in our hearts for that uniquely gregarious institution, the village pub.
I've made a point of visiting just about every kind of pub in the pursuit of our traditional pub games heritage, and this includes numerous late 20th century estate pubs, many of which represent a last refuge for gaming traditions which have been pushed out of the ever-changing town centre drinking circuit. In the course of this investigation I may have been forced to drink Guinness a little too often it's true, but I've also found that by and large, estate pubs can be just as welcoming and well run as the attractive rural village pubs we hold so dear.
A surprising addition some might say, but heritage isn't just about historic buildings and relics of a bygone age. It also encompasses important cultural survivors. Pubs like the Punch Bowl are important because they represent a rare connection with a post-war 'near-past', still clearly remembered by many, but fast disappearing from everyday life. Of course the most important aspect of pubs like the Punch Bowl is that they remain open, and continue to serve the local communities they were built for.
Chatting with the locals gave me a good insight into the pubs current position in the community. Popular and busy at weekends, less so during the week, particularly during the daytime which is my experience of practically every pub in the current climate. Trade is probably not helped at the moment by the ongoing development of a large green space at the front of the pub. These grassy areas were considered essential to the original design of estates like the Ronkswood, but are now just another opportunity to squeeze in a few more houses. Perhaps the new residents will become regulars at the pub.
In common with pretty-much all community locals, the public bar of the Punch Bowl would have been alive with game play in its heyday. League Darts and Pool are still played at the pub, the Dartboard occupying its own alcove off the public bar, but Dominoes and Cribbage are now played on a more casual and occasional basis. Indeed the public bar is furnished throughout with tables designed for games play (left), the shelf below designed to hold pints, leaving the upper deck free for the shuffle and deal of Dominoes and Cards. Sadly the pubs traditional Quoits Board is long gone from its position under the Dartboard, as is the Shove Ha'penny board that once resided on a table in the bar.
To the rear of the pub is a large function room, a common feature of pubs and clubs from this era where entertainment was so important to the working class social scene. Adjacent to the function room is a Skittle Alley, a later addition to the pub which several teams play from in the local Winter League.