Monday, 11 July 2016

A Compendium of Pub Games Images - Pt.27

Classic Victorian street-corner locals like the one shown here were once a common sight throughout the Midlands. The industrial decline of the late 20th century has done for a great many of these urban working-mens boozers, yet good examples still survive in one shape or another. Few it has to be said are as beautifully well preserved as the Dewdrop in Ilkeston though, most having had their interior knocked through to a single room, losing most of their former character and heritage in the process.

The Dewdrop today is a warm and welcoming local with a reputation for serving great beer, but also well-worth seeking out for the rare treat of a largely unspoilt multi-room interior featuring many of its original period fittings. Originally named the Middleton Hotel (the old lettering is still visible on the outside), the Dewdrop would have served the nearby rail station (currently closed but scheduled to reopen later this year) and a local populace working in the heavy industry of the area. The pub is similar in style to the nearby Gate Inn at Awsworth, itself a very fine heritage pub with a similar reputation for good beer. Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of both these pubs is the wide Lobby which usually functions as an additional drinking area served from a hatch off the central bar servery (below). Both pubs feature on CAMRA's Heritage Pubs list as having interiors of regional importance.

To the right of the lobby is a very cosy Lounge Bar dominated by a roaring fire in the winter months, and a small Snug which now acts as a children's room. To the left is a more basic Public Bar (below), and it's in here that the pubs Pool Table and Dartboard reside. In the yard to the rear of the pub can be found the pubs original outdoor Skittle Alley (left), though sadly no longer in regular use. The licensee informed me that skittles and balls are still kept at the pub, so perhaps a game can be had given a fine day and enough prior notice. Long Alley Skittles is the one truly distinctive regional pub game of Derbyshire (and Nottinghamshire), and the Ilkeston & District Long Alley Skittles League is still active with several venues for the game in the nearby town centre.

CAMRA's inventory of pubs with unspoilt heritage interiors lists 30 or so important survivors within the catchment of Birmingham, including several Victorian and Edwardian classics in the Digbeth area. The Anchor on Bradford Street is one of the very best, and a real feast for the eyes. One of several red brick and terracotta pubs in the area, the Anchor is fitted out internally with wood panelling rather than the elaborate tile work seen in near neighbours such as the Woodman. It also features beautiful Art Nouveau inspired windows, and a rare original glazed screen which divides the public bar into two separate areas.

The pub has a long-standing reputation as one of Birminghams best Ale Houses, and it's a lively, often very busy traditional boozer with a good local following. The public bar features a Pool Table, always in use whenever I've visited, and a Dartboard. The latter squeezed into a corner of the room, and features an unusual folding baffle on the adjacent bench seating (below), presumably designed to protect drinkers from stray arrows during a game.

The rise of the micropub continues apace, with these specialist ale and cider pubs opening at a rate that's proving difficult to keep track of. The way things are going it won't be long before just about every town or large village has at least one micropub to call its own. Welcome relief where local pubs offer little or no choice of beer, but still not a replacement for the very best of our established traditional pubs in my view.

The diminutive size of most micropubs means there's rarely space for games larger than those which are played at a table, and whilst few would regard the opening of another micropub as anything but a positive thing, if they are, as many seem to believe, the very future of pubgoing, games like skittles and even Darts could face an uncertain future.

I hope there's room for both micropubs and the older established 'macro' version. Meanwhile, I'm more than happy to celebrate a return to a more social form of pubgoing, which is undoubtedly where micropubs excel.

Shown above is the recently opened Gas Tap micropub in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. A typical single room beerhouse, casks of ale and a small bar servery at one end, a close formation of seating and tables occupying the front which is where we enjoyed a few games of Dominoes over a pint or two recently.

The Bull Baiters micropub had only been open a few days when I visited. So new in fact, that I only came across it by chance on a visit to a few old favourites in the St Johns area of Worcester.

Again, it follows the formula of a smallish single room with the bar servery and casks at one end, comfortable seating arranged to the front. I was pleased to see that the owner has taken the trouble to provide Cards, Dominoes and Cribbage Boards for customers to use, the ideal games for pubs like this.

Considering the many and obvious tourist attractions of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, including the impressive Abbey and a wide navigable stretch of the River Severn, most of the pubs in the town are still very much 'locals' pubs. As a tourist in the town myself, this is exactly what I like to see. I see little point in travelling far and wide to drink and dine in the kind of impersonal chain bars and tourist-traps you can find anywhere, and which by and large the locals tend to avoid. If I'm having a pint in Tewkesbury, I prefer to be drinking in the company of at least 'some' local Tewkesbury folk.

So I was delighted to find plenty of locals on a recent trawl around the towns pubs, and particularly pleased that the tradition of afternoon Cribbage play persists in at least one of them. The gentleman playing here meet up for regular Cribbage sessions at the Brittania, and I've found that Cribbage is still very popular in the Tewkesbury and Evesham area.

1 comment:

John Penny said...

Another interesting piece Mark. Somewhere I would probably never visit, and pleased to see games thriving. Whilst the alley at the Dewdrop is still in extant it means there will be a possibility of the game returning.