As we’re sadly behind schedule on 100pubs, we’ve had a concerted effort of late, and now we’re getting close to the halfway point, with an epic effort yesterday in Walsall. You can see the individual pubs here. Yesterday’s exercise had a few guests joining us, a tactical avoidance of the Walsall nazi fuckwit march, and a mere sociable gallon of beer, something I’ve not managed for some time. There’s still enough pubs in town for at least one more trip though…
Archive for the 'Pubs' Category
I was greeted by the sad news yesterday that the Four Crosses in Shelfield has been boarded up, and, if rumour is to be believed, the landlord kicked out at short notice.
As my review linked above is quite old, I need to point out this was the only pub in Shelfield, the Spring Cottage now being a Co-op store, so now there’s no pubs in the area, the nearest now being The Horse & Jockey in Walsall Wood.
Apparently local councillors are going to enquire:
but I have a bad feeling about this, and it’s going to be another sad loss. The pub was multi-roomed, quiet in one, louder in the bar, and always serverd good (and varied) beer, plus made a very handy stop off from the 89 bus route…
The 80s Tears for Fears song Shout contains the line
These are the things I can do without
and that came true last Friday. Warning: middle-aged whinge content approaching.
I’d already arranged to meet a friend in a local pub, when my neighbours suggested a meal out. I’d got plenty of time, so we trotted (well, walked) off to a local pub. The food and beer was fine, but one thing *really* grated: the volume.
The music wasn’t the problem. What was the problem was a group of people, clustered around the bar (Grrr!) seemingly unable to conduct a conversation at normal volume: even the act of moving out of my way so I could get to the PDQ machine was accompanied by a needless cacophony of shouts (to which I muttered “for fucks sake” under my breath (hopefully)), and something about the acoustics of the room made it impossible to hold a conversation ourselves (though, as we’re all distinctly middle-aged, it could be the start of our hearing deteriorating in a noisy environment).
This was repeated later when I met my friend in another pub, but also with a band playing. Loud.
I really don’t mind music in pubs; or indeed bands in pubs. In fact, I love music in pubs, if it’s decent, but why always so loud? The loud music, of course, then creates the shouting if it wasn’t there already.
This thing really feeds into my perfect pub post: and it’s worth noting that the pubs I really like often have no music, like this one, this one or this one, or music you can converse over, like this one and this one and, again referring to my critera, the old model of multi-room pubs (before they all got knocked into one space) really helps here: it may have been an answer to the smoking issue too (as many pubs had a smoke room back in the day).
This is starting to sound like a grumpy old man’s desire for quiet pubs with no life to them (last Sunday, I visibly winced when one heavily refreshed customer suggested my local needed loud music on the jukebox to “liven it up” (on a Sunday evening, FFS)), but I’ll address that in two ways. First of all, I know I’m not alone, and secondly, having been in this place at work-chucking-out on a Friday, with it rammed to the point of standing room only, and felt the buzz in the place, which, frankly, was infectious, but still been able to talk to my companion, because people were talking, I can honestly say that at times I crave a bit of life to a pub.
So then: am I just getting old (though, in truth, I’ve hated over-loud pubs since my teens), or getting (even more) boring? I know Andy will agree here, but he’s older than me (and possibly, if the two of us are present, this post may become hypocritical…), and others may not, and I suppose here there’s a point to be made that pubs are, well, public spaces, so have to accommodate different tastes.
I’ve been (again) thinking of pub closures lately; this has mostly been prompted by the reports from Andy that the Pyle Cock is to close next year (as reported here) and picked up by WV11 here. The Pyle Cock has long been one of my favourite pubs, one that I don’t visit enough, because it’s 2 bus rides away.
There’s an interesting post here (and the comments are worth a read too) from The Pub Curmudgeon. My view don’t entirely align with his (or the linked report) (he’s of the view that the smoking ban has had a large effect, and the linked article dismisses PubCo behaviour to some degree), but it does make the point that pub closures are a complex matter: it is not just beer pricing (via taxation), competition (from supermarkets) or the smoking ban: all of these factors have a role to play, as does social change- as the comments point out, increased car commuting (and greater distances to commute), and a change in working patterns also play a part. It’s noticeable in large cities with more people travelling by public transport, pubs continue to thrive, but again, it’s not that simple.
Good pubs thrive, and taking the Pyle Cock as an example, it’s difficult to see why it is closing: it was for sale for a time, and has now been sold to a developer. That suggests a PubCo taking the option to cash in on real estate, but anecdotal reports suggest the pub was not busy in general, though the current landlord has been given notice, rather than quitting himself, it would seem, so perhaps it was making *enough* money: the beer was always good and the atmosphere was fantastic, old traditional pub.
Oddly, just up the road, the ever lovely Vine
is thriving and busy, with a new, young landlord and fantastic beer, and I’m told the nearby Dog and Partridge is fine too. It’s hard to see, though, what is so very different that makes the Pyle Cock unsustainable. It remains a fact that good pubs, even those not serving food can do well, and I’ve recently been in a very traditional backstreet pub with no real ale or food that seemed to be very busy (including with smokers, outside on a cold day), which makes me wonder exactly what the factors are that close pubs?
I wasn’t at work last week, but the weather put paid to most of the outdoor tasks, as while it wasn’t universally wet, things were too changeable to commit to much. When a friend mentioned that she wanted to sell some gold, but wanted company (was I a bodyguard? maybe), it seemed like a pleasant diversion: The Jewellery Quarter has nice architecture, and decent pubs (more of the pubs later). I wanted to suggest CatsforGold
, but didn’t feel I’d get taken seriously.
We’d arranged to meet by the Chamberlain Clock, but I had something magnificent, but sad to look in on first, on my walk past Snow Hill:
The Gothic was built around 1869-1870. It closed in 1991, and seems to have been rotting since: two of the nice gables have gone (see the c1950 photo here and another here), nasty modern shopfittings have been added, and the roof looks very dodgy in places. Thus is despite it being Grade II listed since 1982, though I suppose we should be grateful the arson contractors haven’t moved south from Walsall.
Anyway, onwards. We met up, and commenced the tour of the gold dealers: let this be a warning: prices varied by at least 10%, and this was not insignificant given the value in this case. After a tour of 5 or 6, we settled on one place, sold the gold, and got the bulk of the cash paid in to Barclays, handily back by the clock, and just in view of the lovely Warstone Lane Cemetery lodge:
Now the nice bit: as a reward for standing about looking large, lunch, with some of the proceeds. A walk round the corner back onto Great Hampton St, passing the Rose Villa Tavern and the Jewellers Arms and on to The Lord Clifden
which turned out nicer than expected.
As is traditional, I went to Walsall Beer Festival. Unusually, I went in the day on Saturday, hoping to avoid some of the beers running out, and have it not so busy.
It worked, to some degree, but there were still a few notable beers that had run out: Backyard Brewhouse‘s Chinook IPA had gone, so we had to take a post-festival visit to The Fountain for that (well worth the trip). In all we found 5 or 6 beers no longer available: it seems everyone likes the same sort of beer (pale, hoppy ales and IPAs) as us.
Beyond that, it was great. There was still a good choice of great beer, decent food on offer from the town hall restaurant, and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, so a big thanks and kudos to Walsall CAMRA for a great job. My one slight complaint? More seats required- us poor middle-aged types with kanckered legs and backs can’t stand for long. We did find seats, but they were in short supply.
Next year, I reckon, it’ll have to be a day off and visit on Thursday afternoon.
Local brewery and nice chaps The Backyard Brewhouse have bought the pub. I’ve not visited yet, but when I do, it will get a PubBlog revisit entry. It’s nice to see another good local pub re-opened, since The Swan has done so well.
Work is progressing on the Avion. The section that appeared to be getting demolished actually seems to be mostly retained, there’s a new roof in progress (rather than what looked like asbestos sheets), and some impressive windows at the rear, presumably where the original screen was, so a similar treatment to The Imperial, where it works quite well. It surely can’t be long until the building will be watertight again.
Looks like the visit to the Avion by some urbexers was well-timed: over the Easter break my bother-in-law emailed me:
Just thought I’d let you know that they’re demolishing it ……we went to Morrisons today & the back half has already gone.
I’m pleased to say that it’s not actually being demolished, or at least not all of it: the planning documents (PDF, 80kB) on Walsall MBC’s site don’t go into detail (and I can’t find anything more detailed), but they do say:
Part demolition and alterations and change of use to Class A4 (drinking establishment) with external seating area, extension of adjacent car park, new boundary fences and pedestrian access.
which pretty much confirms the Wetherspoons story.
They’re not mucking about though: I called in at Morrisons on Monday, and you get a good view at what’s going on, and they’re demolishing a good part of the large auditorium behind. At least there’s nothing architecturely significant about it- pretty basic 1930s construction, brick, steel girders, and a sheet roof.
From the side, it’s clear how much has been demolished:
What I’m not sure about is how much is going to be demolished, or how much is original: it’s a big old shed of a building, so clearly they won’t need all of it. Can’t help but think that the top of the frontage, on the other side, would make a nice roof terrace…
I first got the heads-up from a neighbour, but this was also featured in the Express and Star tonight, though not online. I’ll try to scan the page.
There’s plans afoot for the Four Crosses, one of my favourite pubs, and now the only pub in Shelfield, as the Spring Cottage is (still) undergoing conversion to a Co-op store.
It’s an odd one. Unlike most planning applications involving pubs these days, the pub is to stay, but it’s beer garden, car park, and surrounding land is to be taken over by a care home, which will spread into the first floor of the pub, with the pub business continuing below. A very odd arrangment.
There’s full details on Walsall MBC’s fairly ropey planning site: I can’t easily link the application as a page, so here’s the most interesting documents. For the full application, go to here and search for 12/0221/FL.
There’s a few things I don’t like here: I’m not keen on the new building for a start, and it clashes somewhat with the nice old pub, and I also rather like a pint in the beer garden, but more of a concern is that the care home will apparently create 40 jobs, but the new car park will have only 17 car spaces (less than currently!) despite having to support the pub and the care home. Admittedly, it’s not the kind of pub many drive to, but a 30-bed home with 40 potential staff (who admittedly won’t all work at the same time) and a pub having 17 parking spaces, when the surrounding roads are either unsuitable to park in or already crowded by residents? Seems like a bad idea, despite what the Transport Statement says (PDF, 1.3MB). I also wonder where all the pub customers will smoke…
The only thing in favour is that the pub will get a bit of a refurb, and the owners will make some money, which might be the difference between closing and not, but it just seems so odd, and just doesn’t quite fit: I’d be concerned that the pub would get swallowed up. Still, I suppose better it stays standing?
Like I say, an odd one. Anyone have any comments?