Blog Surfer

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

#030 Catherine O'Donovan, Highgate, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021 (RIP)

 This will be a relatively short entry, mainly because of the lack of concrete information. Here's what I wrote in 2011: -

"Back in 1998 when I took this photo the pub was called the Pig & Whistle.
Catherine O'Donovan
It is a pub I'd not been in then...and I still haven't in 2011!

I was somewhat surprised to see that it was still open thirteen years later, seemingly thriving under the new name of the Catherine O'Donovan.
It is quite remarkable that it has changed so little from the outside. I assume that it has been redecorated since 1998, but the owners/tenants have kept to the same colour scheme."
I did pass by in 2018 and took this photo from the other angle.
Largely unchanged in the intervening seven years (redecorated, no hanging sign), but, from what I can gather from t'internet, it was already closed by then.

Moving on to 2021 and the Catherine O'Donovan is still in the same state as previously!
If it is closed, it's very strange not to see it boarded up, I can only assume that the premises are still occupied (but I'm guessing!).

 In the modern era (pre-pandemic) it's not too surprising that it had closed down, being the only pub on a street exclusively made up of industrial premises, but it is nice to see it preserved (museum-like) showing a fine example of a back-street boozer in a purely industrial setting.
Postscript: as I was researching the rather sparse details on the Catherine O'Donovan, I did come across a little bit of it's earlier histroy and it was once called The Beehive Inn - picture here.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

#062 Town Crier, Digbeth, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021

The Town Crier is still a pub that I've never been inside, but despite that, it seems to be surviving OK! Here's what I wrote back in 2011: -

"This is a pub I've never been inside although I've passed by on many occasions. This is how it looked in 1998.

A rather unprepossessing appearance, but surprisingly it has survived into 2011!

Quite a few external changes have occurred in the intervening thirteen years. Most notably, it was an M&B pub and now it is Banks's. The Off Licence (or 'outdoor' as we Brummies call it!) is closed and boarded up and the windows have been replaced. Apart from that, there have been signage and other changes as well.
Apart from that I don't have much more information.

This is the twenty-ninth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series."
One reason for its continuing success, that i didn't know in 2011, is that the interior of the Town Crier is on the Regional CAMRA Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.
I revisited (for photographic purposes) in January 2018 and this was the scene.
Some superficial changes have taken place over the years...seemingly an equal split between design choices and general decay. On our Proper Pubs Day Out later in 2018, the Town Crier wasn't on our itinerary, but one of our party did take a detour to pay a visit. Sheffield Hatter's review can be found here on the Pubs Galore website. This was when I found out about the heritage of the Town Crier.

So, we move on to early 2021 and this is how the pub looks at the moment.
It is difficult to discern whether the Town Crier is still a going concern or whether it will reopen when the current lockdown is over. I suspect that it will as it has proven to be a survivor over the past few years (but I can find no confirmation either way!)

Sunday, 28 March 2021

#052 The Kerryman, Digbeth, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021

 We'll stay in the heart of Digbeth for the next pub, The Kerryman opposite the Birmingham Coach Station along the main drag. This is what I wrote in 2011: -

"When I first took this photo this was The Roscommon Bar, a small unprepossessing Irish pub along the main road in Digbeth. At the time I hadn't been inside, but I'd walked by on numerous occasions.
Roscommon Bar (aka Fitzy's)
It also seems to have the name 'Fitzy's Bar'.

In the intervening years  I did visit one Saturday evening and, inside it is quite a bit bigger than it looks from the outside. As it was fairly early (about 10 pm) there weren't too many people inside, but the disco had started already!

I don't know when it changed to The Kerryman, but it has been this for a number of years now.
From the outside it has had a complete makeover and now looks much more appealing. Looking at the website for The Kerryman shows that it is also a B&B and puts on music like many of the pubs in this part of Birmingham. Also, I notice that the opening hours are from 8am most days and on Fridays and Saturdays closing time is 4am! That would be one hell of a session!

To me, this is a great example of what I was hoping to find when I embarked on this project showing how pubs evolve over the years to keep up with the changing times and stay popular with their clientele. 

This is the twenty-fourth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series."
Since 2011, very little appears to have changed although the Friday and Saturday opening hours have been curtailed a bit...they now open at 10 am (still close at 4am!)
This is from 2018 and the exterior has been redecorated and the upstairs signs painted over, but otherwise unchanged.

And finally, into 2021 and the scene is still pretty much the same.
The Kerryman still stands out on Digbeth High Street, albeit in yet another shade of green. Although their main website has no indication, it would appear from the Facebook page that The Kerryman will reopen on 17th May, all being well (not sure about the B&B part, maybe that will be the same?)

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

#038 Big Bull's Head, Digbeth, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021

For our latest foray into the Digbeth pub scene we're on the main drag and closer to town. This is what I wrote about the Big Bull's Head in 2011: -

"I'm not sure if I've ever been in the Big Bull's Head in Digbeth. Certainly in 1998 when I took this photo I'd never set foot inside the pub.

It looks like a typical street corner boozer and, although I've done a few pub crawls around Digbeth, I seem to recall that whenever we passed by it was always busy and so we kept on walking.

As the Big Bulls Head is on the main drag through Digbeth I wasn't surprised to see it is still thriving in 2011.
From a physical point of view it has hardly changed in 13 years, but it has obviously been painted and well maintained. The Big Bulls Head has its own website extolling the virtues of its pub food (looks good - proper pub food!!) and their Bed & Breakfast facilities.
This is the seventeenth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series."
In the ten years since I wrote that I'm pleased to report that I have actually been inside the Big Bull's Head! However, before that, this is what it looked like in January 2018.
A new blue colour scheme was evident, but other than that, it looked largely unchanged. I was back in July 2018 with fellow enthusiasts for the Proper Pub Day Out in Digbeth when we visited the Big Bull's Head for our lunchtime stop.
Some of our group were disappointed that there was no cask ale available, but my pint of Carling was delightful! The only other things I remember is that it lived up to it's billing as a 'proper pub' and the food was proper pub grub!
Finally, we move onto the present day and this is how the Big Bull's Head looks in 2021.
It still has the blue colour scheme as previously, but the downstairs section has been repainted in a darker shade and upstairs left in the paler hue of blue.

I'm reasonably confident that it will reopen in the coming weeks (probably May), but if you want to spend half-an-hour on the history of the Big Bull's Head, this page will give you all the information you might want.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

#014 The Lamp Tavern, Highgate, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021

 Still ploughing through the Birmingham Eastside pub catch-up (in no particular order) and we've got to The Lamp Tavern which was the 2019 Birmingham Pub of the Year according to CAMRA. And a lovely little pub it is too!

Here's 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 fifth in my 'Eastside' series.
At the time of taking this picture in 1998 I'd never been in The Lamp Tavern, in fact I didn't know of its existence! However, a couple of years later I was in the audience for a gig by Mean Old World. They were a Birmingham band who had incorporated a visiting American colleague of mine as the lead vocalist. I was amazed how small The Lamp Tavern is inside, but we had a great night. The lead singer, Dan Bode, can be seen here, back in the States, fronting his band Moko Bovo. Dan is a great singer and it was a pleasure to see him perform at several venues around Birmingham! 
Thirteen years later and remarkably little has changed on the outside, although the upper windows have been replaced! The Lamp Tavern is the only pub in Birmingham that sells beer made by the Stanway Brewery from Cheltenham."
I've made no more visits to the inside of The Lamp Tavern, but I was back in 2018 with my camera.
The exterior signage had been renewed, this time with a more Gaelic feel to it. Also, note the new satellite dish on the roof...seemingly a replacement for the standard TV aerial that was there in 1998!
So, a year later it was Birmingham CAMRA Pub of the Year, but what is the view like now, in 2021?
The Lamp Tavern itself appears to be completely unchanged, but next door is now a fast food café which is a good indicator that there is business around there for both food and drink.
I have no idea when/if it will open after the pandemic (I'm assuming May) as their Facebook page hasn't been updated for a year!

Sunday, 14 March 2021

#060 The Moseley Arms, Digbeth, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021

 The Moseley Arms is one of the survivors and looks like it will return after the pandemic (fingers crossed) and here's what I wrote in 2011 and 2018:-

"The Moseley Arms is a pub I'd never been inside when I took this picture in 1998. In fact, I hadn't really noticed it even though I must have driven past it on numerous occasions on the way to work (one of my alternate routes when the main one was blocked)!
A typical street corner M&B pub, but a bit off the beaten track for Digbeth pubs.

As we move to 2011, I still haven't been inside the pub, but I was pleased to see that it was still standing.
It is not now an M&B pub and the outside has been extensively redecorated and re-signed, but essentially it is unchanged. It appears to be thriving and has its own website (now broken), although this is still a little spartan at the moment. The Moseley Arms is, like many Digbeth pubs, a music venue.

So, now we're in 2018 and I'm pleased to report that The Moseley Arms is going strong, but has now transformed itself into a 38 room hotel.
The signage looks to be unchanged, but the rest has been redecorated and the hotel rooms added to the left of the original pub building.

Interestingly, the website describes it as both a pub and as a hotel - yet another survival model that seems to work here for what was once a simple back-street boozer." 
Now we're in 2021, the website is still up and it looks like The Moseley Arms will be reopening soon.
Little has changed in the last three years apart from another repainting of the exterior.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

#036 Cleary's, Highgate, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021

This pub is something of an outlier as it stands isolated away from the main centre of Digbeth, but, nonetheless, Cleary's appears to be successful to date (pre-pandemic). This is what I wrote in 2011: -

"Back in 1998 this pub was called the Brewer's Arms. It's not a place I'd ever visited, but looked typical of the many back street pubs in Birmingham.

Fast forward to 2011 and it has been transformed into the Yellow and Green establishment that is now Cleary's! (2021 edit - for a period sometime between 1998 and 2011 this was the Hen & Chickens!)

Unfortunately, beacuse of the building works behind me, I wasn't able to get far enough back to give the same view as in 1998. I've still not been in the building and I'm assuming that it is run by the same people who ran the Cleary's that took over from the Pall Mall which was #011 in this series.

It would appear that it is a successful establishment by the number of friends on their Facebook page. This is the sixteenth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series."
My next tour around the area was in 2018 and very little appeared to have changed.
The hanging baskets of flowers have been replaced by the window boxes above...I'm assuming that they're less trouble with merry revellers!
And so, finally to Cleary's still there...or...has it succumbed to the major developments that are taking place in the vicinity?
Good news! Cleary's has survived and has been redecorated in a more vivid shade of green since my last visit! Unfortunately, it faces an uncertain future, not from pandemic related issues, but because of the large residential development to the right hand side of the pub. (Details here)
I still haven't set foot inside Cleary's, but I hope to be able to in the coming year. Their Facebook page will have more details in the coming weeks.