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Monday, 25 January 2021

#032 Eagle & Tun, Digbeth, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021 (RIP)

 This will be my third and final report on the fate of the Eagle & Tun pub. This is from my 2016 write up: -

"When I first took a picture of this pub back in 1998 it was called the Cauliflower Ear and I'd never seen nor heard of it before.

Eagle & Tun pub

Then we stopped in Birmingham on the penultimate night of our trip that was to have taken us to Chester, but ended up with us visiting Leek. In my quest to venture into pubs that we'd not previously visited on our canal trips, we took a stroll into Digbeth and the Eagle & Tun was one of our stops. It was the evening of Thursday 19th September 2002 and as I recall, we had a great time in there and the place was packed. Notice how it has changed from being an Ansell's pub to a Free House, but inside it was beautifully tiled.

Next time I visited was a few years later, but it was very quiet even though it was a Saturday night. So now we move on to Monday 15th August 2011 and it is closed. Apparently it shut its doors in 2008 and there's no real sign of it reopening.

If you panned back from this picture you'd see that there is very little left standing around here. About 100 yards behind me is the Woodman pub which is still open. I think the best bet for the Eagle & Tun is the new High Speed (HS2) Rail project which is planned to terminate at Curzon Street Station which is to the right of where I'm standing in this shot.

You can get a flavour for the interior of the Eagle & Tun here in the video for UB40's "Red Red Wine" which was shot in the pub in the early 1980's. Hopefully it won't be demolished, but I'm not holding my breath.
That's what I wrote back in 2011, but late last year I got a comment on the blog that the Eagle & Tun was back in business. Well, it's taken me a few weeks to get around to it, but here's the picture from Friday 5th February 2016!

I didn't go inside, but with smokers outside the door, it seemed to be doing OK. Hopefully this will be a long term going concern and survive into the 'brave new' era of HS2."
Since then I made one more visit to the Eagle & Tun, on the afternoon of Wednesday 11th July 2018, as part of one of the Proper Pubs Days Out - report here 

In the original plans for HS2, this pub was going to be preserved and become part of the new entranceway to the station. Unfortunately, as often seems to happen with modern developments, the preservation of old older architecture seems to fall by the wayside as plans get revised.
So, now we're in 2021, this is the scene that I found on the afternoon of Saturday 16th January 2021.
The Eagle & Tun was finally demolished in October 2020...another sad loss amongst so many others!

Friday, 22 January 2021

#023 O'Neills, Curzon Street, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021 (RIP)

 This is another pub that was demolished long before my 2011 revisit, but this shows the final resting place of O'Neills (previously the Old Railway). But first, this is what I wrote back in 2011: -

"When I toured around the Digbeth area of Birmingham, O'Neills was a completely new place to me and, to be honest didn't look too appealing. This is the tenth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series.

 However, as I've been doing some background research I've discovered that, in a previous life, this was the Old Railway, a popular music venue. More information is to be found here.

Moving on to 2011, and the title gives it away somewhat, this was the scene that presented itself to me

Gone completely, yet the Give Way and street signs remain in exactly the same places! This was the sort of scene I expected to find when I set out on this project, but it is still quite a shock to find no trace of the pub. The building on the left, in the distance, is Moby Dick's which will feature later on in this series.

What the future holds for this area is still unsure. To the right of where the picture was taken is the Thinktank and behind me is the now defunct Curzon Street Station. If the HS2 High Speed Rail ever gets built, the Birmingham branch will terminate at Curzon Street, so maybe there will be more pubs opened/reopened in the environs. Well, we can hope!"

Before I move on to 2021; Moby Dick's is still there, resurrected as the Eagle & Ball (see my write up - here); HS2 has got the go-ahead and work is ongoing on that project; my optimism that more pubs might reopen in the future seems sadly misplaced!

Back in 2011, I was unaware as to what was going to fill this large empty space, but I can now reveal the vista that now presents itself.

Curzon Building, Birmingham City University 2021

This is the quite spectacular Curzon Building of Birmingham City University which also included the refurbishment of the Eagle & Ball pub - details here.

So, 23 years on and everything has changed, the pub has gone forever, the road signs replaced and even the road junction has been remodelled for the modern era.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

#011 Pall Mall, Cheapside, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021 (RIP)

I know what you're thinking - no entries for over a month and then three come along in quick succession - what is going on? Well, with lockdown ongoing, I thought it was time to catch up on some of my previous Birmingham pubs. As there are quite a few to get through I need to increase my output! 

Just down the road from The Fountain (on the next street corner), the fate of the Pall Mall will come as no surprise, as it had already been demolished by the time I reported on it back in 2011. Ten years later and you can see what has been done to the site. Firstly, though, here is what I wrote in 2011: -

"Back in 1998 I went around the Digbeth/Deritend/Highgate area of Birmingham taking photos of all the pubs I could find. It was my intention to return in 10 years to see how the Birmingham Eastside development had affected these pubs. I didn't find the time in 2008 and so, finally, I revisited the area this year with my camera and these are the results. 
This is the second in my 'Eastside' series.

As I toured the streets of Digbeth in 1998 I came across a few pubs that I never knew existed; the Pall Mall was one of them. I don't think I've been in it, but I've done one or two pub crawls around the area, so I might have!

Here we are in 2011 and I'll never have the chance to drink here! This is the sort of shot I was envisaging in 1998 when I started out on this project, but it is still depressing to be confronted with the reality. Interestingly, the street sign, street light, junction box and road sign are untouched!"
I did return in 2018 and this was the extent of the development.
Hardly a startling amount of progress in seven years, still there were some signs of activity! (but the junction box and controlled parking sign both remain.)

Moving on to 2021 and this was the visage. At least the controlled parking sign is still present even though the road is closed!
Finally, almost TEN years after the Pall Mall had been demolished the replacement building is almost finished. This reinforces a question about property development that has bugged me for years - why are developers so quick to knock old buildings down and then so slow to construct the replacements? 
(Answers in the comments section below!)

Sunday, 17 January 2021

#054 The Fountain, Cheapside, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021 (RIP)

 During the first lockdown in 2020 I brought you fine bright pictures of Stirchley, Selly Oak and Harborne. For this new, winter lockdown I'm going to update my Birmingham Eastside (mostly Digbeth) pubs to show how they have fared since my first foray into the area in 1998.

We start with The Fountain and this is what I wrote back in 2011: -

"The Fountain is a small street corner pub in Digbeth that in 1998 I'd never been in, but was on my route home from work so I passed it almost every day.

This is not to be confused with The Fountain Inn which is a gay pub in Highgate less than a mile away.

Since taking this picture in 1998 I've visited the pub a couple of times on pub crawls through Digbeth. Inside it is pretty much as you'd expect; a small basic bar with friendly locals and staff. In short, a proper pub!

As I went around the area in 2011 I was pleased to see that The Fountain was still there and largely unchanged.
Obviously, it has been repainted, but the M&B sign remains! The pub continues, I assume, as it is part of the strong Irish community in this part of Digbeth and because there is still industry here. I'm not sure whether the new residential developments nearby are a positive factor - do the people that live in these new apartments go to the local pub? I don't know, but I suspect not.

This is the twenty-fifth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series."
As part of my periodic reviews of the area I took this photo in 2018.
It was pleasing to see that it was still open and, presumably, thriving.

Unfortunately, my optimism was soon crushed as, some weeks ago, I first noticed that it had become boarded up and surrounded by scaffolding. This is how it looks in early 2021.
The site is going to be converted into 40+ flats with the pub building being kept and extra building work added on either side - details here.

The Fountain is not a victim of the pandemic as it was failing back in 2018 when the first steps in this conversion took place. Sadly, there appears to be no need for basic, street corner boozers in the 21st Century in this part of Birmingham.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

#283 Boat Inn, Birdingbury Wharf, Warwickshire : 1998 to 2020

In these dark days of a winter lockdown it is hard to remain optimistic and upbeat about pubs in the knowledge/expectation that many will not survive into the post apocalyptic pandemic future.

However, I still have a few new pubs left to report on, so I'll start off the new year with the Boat Inn on the Grand Union Canal. It is a pub we'd passed on many occasions until lunchtime on Thursday 25th June 1998.

I have little recollection about the interior except that I vaguely remember it being quite cosy and having part of a narrowboat hull as the bar counter.

Our next stop was almost two years later on the evening of Sunday 28th May 2000.

Although it was only a couple of years, the Bass sign had disappeared, no doubt as part of the exterior redecoration.

Another nine years had gone by before I took this photo of the Boat Inn as we cruised by on the afternoon of Sunday 24th May 2009 on our way to Braunston for our evening stop.

This was post the 2007 Smoking Ban so there were many more tables outside. Also the pub name had reappeared on the signage.

Another couple of years drifted by and we passed the Boat Inn, again, on the afternoon of Sunday 29th May 2011, headed for Napton (having lunched at the Two Boats in Long Itchington!)

Fewer outdoor tables and the pub sign had changed to just The Boat in a style evocative of the Bass sign that was previously there.

Along this stretch of the Grand Union Canal, our preferred stop is at the Two Boats in Long Itchington, leaving both the Blue Lias and Boat Inn as under visited establishments.

Our next cruise by was on the morning of Wednesday 12th June 2019 being too early to stop for lunch having left Wigrams Turn Marina only 90 minutes earlier.

Yet again the main sign has changed, reverting back to the Boat Inn and there are now gazebos above the outdoor seating.

Our final vist was, in fact, an actual stop at the pub at lunchtime on Saturday 22nd August 2020. This time we'd been a little later leaving the marina!

The signage was unaltered and we had a pleasant lunch despite not having booked in advance, they managed to squeeze us in after other customers had finished.
As a pub with little natural footfall, it will be interesting to see whether it survives the pandemic.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

#282 The Hampstall Inn, Astley Burf, Stourport-on-Severn : 1997 to 2020

This will only be a short entry for a pub that I've visited only once. 

The mighty River Severn is not a waterway that we visit too often as we prefer the canals - the river can be boring...or...capriciously exciting when the flow is too great for boating (two of our last three visits to this great river have resulted in time lost because the flow was too great!).

Our only visit was at lunchtime on Tuesday 27th May 1997 after a 4½ hour slog up the river from Worcester.

I have absolutely no recollection what it was like inside, but I expect that it was typically country pub...ish!

We've been past The Hampstall Inn on a few occasions since, but the only photo I took was this one on the morning of Saturday August 29th 2020 immediately following our 36 hour sojourn at Holt Lock.

It looks as though the 'lean-to' frontage has been removed, but is now definitely in the Country Pub and Restaurant category.

According to their website, the pub is under new management and, hopefully, they will have the resources to last out the current crisis (and the vagaries of the River Severn).

Sunday, 29 November 2020

#155 Eagle & Sun, Hanbury Wharf, Worcestershire : 1997 to 2020 (revisited)

Whilst the world of pubs enters a period of seeming decimation, I'm going to carry on with views of yesteryear in order to keep spirits up!

Considering how close the Eagle & Sun is to where we cruise most regularly you'd imagine that we'd visited a lot more often than we actually have done! Unfortunately, it sits alongside the Worcester & Birmingham Canal along a stretch that we don't visit quite as often as you'd expect...and when we do the Eagle & Sun is often between regular stopping points!

Our first visit to the Eagle & Sun was at lunchtime on Monday 26th May 1997 after an unexpectedly difficult morning cruise.

Tibberton had been our intended lunchtime destination, but the throttle cable on Emma Jane snapped and driving the boat became a two-man operation. I was winding locks and I wondered what the delay was; and then Emma Jane appeared with the steerer shouting orders down to the engine room for more (or less) power to allow the boat to keep on moving!

To add to the complications it was a Bank Holiday Monday so we were expecting to be delayed quite a while. However, we were in luck (as we so often have been throughout the years!). That stretch of canal is home to one of the Black Prince Narrowboats hire bases, so we pulled in to see if they could help. Just fifty minutes later we were on our way again with a newly fitted throttle cable for the princely sum of £22.30p!

I remember little about the pub other than it was well geared up for serving food and was on a busy road into Droitwich as well as being canalside.

Our next visit was a lunchtime stop on Thursday 29th May 2003 travelling up from Worcester.

This view is from the car park, but is enough to see that it had been completely redecorated externally and was, seemingly, no longer a Banks's pub. I think that it had been extended to make more restaurant room.

The next picture is from the canal as we cruised by on the afternoon of Sunday 15th May 2013, again on the way up from Worcester.

From here the 'new' extension is clearly visible and (with extreme magnification) the blue sign says that it was being run by the (now defunct) Number Works Pub Company.

Our most recent visit was at lunchtime on Wednesday 26th August 2020.

Fortunately it was a nice day as, with the new COVID-19 rules, there was no room inside the pub, but there was plenty of table space in the garden. I'm not 100% sure who runs the pub now, but all of the warning signs were similar in style to the Marston's ones we'd seen before (and the beer range was consistent with it being a Marston's pub).

At the time we were there, they hadn't really come up with a user friendly way of operating under the new restrictions. We had to wait outside before being allowed in (or directed to the garden if not having booked in advance). There was also a one way system in place which meant that once I'd been served our three pints I had to walk the long way round (through the rest of the pub and car park) to get back to the garden. (It would have made much more sense to have the route reversed!)

Despite the minor irritations, we had a pleasant lunch in the garden of the Eagle & Sun setting us up nicely for an afternoon's cruise into Droitwich for the first time for all of us!