|The Bridge Inn c.1972|
One of the reasons I started documenting these games and pubs in the first place was the current and continuing turbulence in the licensed trade. I wanted to highlight what is often an under-promoted and largely unappreciated aspect of pub-going, but also provide a snapshot of where we are now, a lasting record of what continues to be lost on an almost daily basis.
Whilst I understand that pubs have always had to change and adapt to the market, and the priority should always be to keep pubs open wherever possible, and however that might be achieved, it still saddens me when I arrive at a pub and find the skittle alley closed, the Dartboard removed, the pub re-invented for a different, often less inclusive clientele where the age-old traditions of social game play are no longer part of the business model.
Just occasionally though, I find that the opposite is true, as is the case at the Bridge Inn, an historic pub close to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Lowesmoor in Worcester. I featured the Bridge in a blog post on Worcester Skittles not more than 18 months ago, photographing the sadly neglected skittle alley as a kind of final record, given that everyone I spoke to that day claimed the pub was closing for good and the alley likely to be demolished. I'm delighted to say that the predicted demise the pub and its skittle alley has proved to be premature.
Around a year after I first visited, the Bridge Inn reopened under new, enthusiastic ownership, and has quickly re-established itself as the locals pub it's always been. The pub was in a pretty poor state of repair when I visited last year, a handful of locals polishing off the beer ahead of a final closing party scheduled for that evening. The main bar area was all dark wood and tatty furnishings, not at all inviting it must be said, but even then I could see there was an attractive pub waiting to be rediscovered underneath the years of neglect. It's this bright and attractive space that the current licensees have revealed following an extensive refurbishment (above). An historic pub on the verge of being lost forever is now spruced-up and fit for purpose again.
The separate Skittle Alley (above) at the rear of the pub had fallen into disuse and disrepair under the previous tenants (left), littered with equipment from band practices and parties. The alley surface has now been fully restored to the standard required for league matches, though like most alleys of this type it will still be used for functions from time to time. Sadly the unique 'House Champions' wall plaque that decorated the end of the alley (see previous post) had gone missing before the current licensees arrived.
Two men's and a ladies team are now playing from the pub, and it's hoped that more teams will eventually follow from one or other of the Worcester leagues now that the pub is in safe hands and its future secured.
The unique indoor version of Quoits shown above would have been quite common in the Worcester area at one time, but has now almost entirely disappeared from its pubs. Nearby Evesham was a real hotbed of the game and an active Quoits league still exists over the border in Hereford, so it's probably safe to say that Worcester would have been at the very heart of a Quoiting tradition which covered most of the West Midlands and Welsh Border area. But if the distinctive boards still exist in pubs hereabouts they're not on show, and competitive play of any kind has long since ceased. Which makes the board shown above at the Bridge Inn something of a rarity, and probably the only one of its kind that can be played in a Worcester pub (correction: I forgot about the board at the Brunswick in St Johns). The Board, which originally belonged to a Bridge Inn local, gets regular use for afternoon friendlies.
Games and sport are at the very heart of the revived Bridge Inn, with Pool and Darts teams back again, Poker evenings, and a trusty Shut The Box available to play from behind the bar.