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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

#012 Forge Tavern, Digbeth : 1998 to 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 third in my 'Eastside' series.

 Back in 1998 this was a pub I'd driven past on many occasions (to and from work) but had never ventured inside.

Then in 2000 we made an unscheduled detour through the less salubrious areas of Birmingham on our narrowboat. This photo was taken at about 9 pm on 1st June 2000 (same day as the 2nd photo of the Dog & Doublet - Pub #002 in this series). Earlier in the trip we'd visited the centre of Coventry on my recommendation that we had enough time to do that and get back to our moorings by Friday evening - I'd miscalculated slightly! We'd moored at Bordesley Junction and were concerned that it wasn't the most secure of moorings. This was after finding that our first choice was actually private property and we couldn't access the road! Fortunately the boat was safe and we had a quick pint here before venturing into Birmingham to find food...and more drink! As I recall it was a fairly basic Marston's pub and we got a friendly welcome - pretty much all you want from a pub!

Good news! It is still there and been redecorated at least twice since 2000!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

#011 Pall Mall, Digbeth : 1998 to 2011 (RIP)

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!

During my research I found a picture of Cleary's which is what I would have captured if I'd actually revisited in 2008 as I originally planned. Sad to say it was closed even then!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

#010 Market Tavern, Digbeth : 1998 to 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 first in my 'Eastside' series.

 This is a 'classic' style of Birmingham pub built by James & Lister Lea and there are several more to be seen in this series. I've never actually been in this pub.

Here we are in 2011 and it's still there! Almost completely unchanged even though many of the nearby buildings have disappeared. It is a Grade II listed building, but I'm not sure if it is still open as a pub; the CAMRA website seems to indicate that it is closed. Another picture can be seen here.

Having discovered the Wikipedia page for James & Lister Lea, it would appear that the British Oak in Stirchley (#007 on my list) is also one of theirs and is a Grade II listed building!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

#009 Country Girl, Selly Oak : 1996 to 2011

This is the pub which, over the years, I've spent most drinking time in! My first visit to the Country Girl was back in my student days when it was a proper pub, but it was a bit off my 'beaten track' so I was never a regular in those days.
Following my move to Stirchley in 1983 I became a more regular visitor to the Country Girl as it is only a 15 minute walk away. However, in those days I would go out on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, often into Birmingham, but going 'local' was an infrequent occurrence! 

As I've grown older, the number of nights I go out drinking has dwindled (now just Friday and Saturday!), and I've become less adventurous and so the Country Girl has become, by default, my local!

It has undergone several expansions and refurbishments and when these first two pictures were taken it was still a proper pub with a Bar and a Lounge.
This photo is from 1996 and is the earliest picture that I've taken of the Country Girl.

Now it is 1998 and very little has changed. I do remember watching the second half of the 1999 Champions League Final in the Bar. Just over a year later and the Country Girl was changed beyond all recognition. Whilst the refurbishment was going on we had to visit several other establishments and became regulars at the Bell in Harborne for a while.

Then the Country Girl reopened as an Ember Inn...and I was there on opening night. As with all Ember Inns it became a one room pub done out more like a wine bar than a proper pub, but still an acceptable place to drink and chat. I don't have any photos from the early Ember days, but more recently I've taken some.

This is from 2009. The distinctive Country Girl sign has gone and the M&B sign has disappeared from the pub. Other than those changes, the outside seems to be largely untouched. Unfortunately, because of its position, it is difficult to get a good shot of the pub from the front.

Now it is 2011 and the place is still pretty much the same as before. Shortly it is due to become an Ember Pub and Dining establishment. I'll reserve judgement until I've been into one, but from a drinkers perspective I don't think this is such a good move. However, as a quiz master (not at the Country Girl) I'm thankful that the new re-branded pubs will still be including quiz nights as part of their strategy. Watch this space!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

#008 Navigation Inn, Lapworth : 1986 to 2011

The Navigation Inn at Lapworth (or is it Rowington?) is the pub I have photographed most over the years. Outside it has changed quite a bit over the years, but inside it is pretty much the same - a welcoming local with a proper bar (complete with uneven stone floor) and serving excellent food.
 This photo was taken at lunchtime on 19th July 1986 at the start of a canal trip that would take us to Leicester and Nottingham. We paused to take in the delights of the Navigation (not for the first time, I might add) to await the arrival of Martin to complete our five man crew for the trip. Difficult to believe that we managed with five of us on board a 35 ft narrowboat for a fortnight...and we cooked breakfast plus evening meals on most days! Nowadays, being older and wider, three is plenty for a long trip.

Eleven years later (27th March 1997) and the pub still looks pretty much the same, but if you look closely you'll notice that all of the signs are different. This was at the start of our first ever Easter trip to Stratford-upon-Avon.

This visit was on 20th April 2000 and again the signage has changed. Now it is 'The Navigation Lapworth', despite the fact that we always walk past the sign saying Rowington on our way to the pub!

Now it is 18th April 2003 and the old mock Tudor look has gone to be replaced by the more modern approach of cream and natural timber. Inside, no change!

Moving forward to 21st March 2008 and probably the best photo I've managed to take of The Navigation. The pub sign is back and the plants have started to grow.

And's 25 years since the first picture...29th April 2011 - Royal Wedding Day! The plants are now well grown and the hanging sign has disappeared (again!). Inside there is still no change, but the pub is under new management. The menu is still excellent, but the Jumbo Cod isn't quite as large as it used to be! (But, is anything?). This is still the best pub in Lapworth (or is it in Rowington or even Kingswood as in Google Maps?) and well worth a visit.

In 2009 I discovered (on t'internet) a picture of the Navigation from 1915 and attempted to produce a contemporary shot showing it from the same angle. This meant that I had to take the photo from the middle of the road, but the results are visible here on The Navigation Inn website.

One final, final observation - notice how the street light hasn't changed at all in 25 years!!

Monday, 15 August 2011

#007 British Oak, Stirchley : 1995 to 2011

This pub really should be my local as it is the closest to me and is one of the best pubs in Birmingham, but I'm only an infrequent visitor.

My first visit to the British Oak was back in 1983 when I first moved to Stirchley and, for a while, it was my local. In those days, when you walked in the right hand door there was a small lounge ahead (through some more doors) and a small room to the left (through another door also). This room felt like the front room of someone's house, but with a hatch to the bar and was my preferred part of the pub.

The small back lounge was also welcoming, but often too full to get a seat. Further on was a function room that was generally not in use, except when booked for meetings, etc.

If you entered through the middle doors there was a large bar which I hardly ever ventured into. From 1988 to 1991 I lived in Australia and when I came back, the British Oak had gone downhill and was nowhere near as popular as before. The first picture I took of the pub was in 1995, below.
At this time it was still a Mitchells & Butlers establishment, but it was still going downhill! Moving on to 2003 and the decline is not so evident from the outside (apart from the wonky 'H' on the sign!).
The only other noticeable difference is that there is only one bus stop now - another sign of the times! It was round about this time that it was taken over by new owners (but they might just be tenants!) who started to invest a lot of money into the business.

Now it is 2011 and from the outside, little has changed apart from the removal of Mitchells & Butlers from the pub. Inside it is both transformed and largely the same as in 1983! The small lounge and little room on the right hand side are still there as is the large bar at the front...but now the rear function room is open as a restaurant area (often has private parties on a Saturday) and to the left of the bar is another small room similar to the one on the right. The décor is tasteful and the menu looks good. There is also a good selection of beers, including real ales and it is listed on the Birmingham CAMRA website. I popped in on Saturday night for a pint whilst waiting for my takeaway curry and it was busy as usual.

Hopefully, once Stirchley has been redeveloped with the building of a new Tesco next door, the British Oak will become more widely known as a great pub! It even hosts a comedy club, The Laughing Sole.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

#006 Mason's Arms, Wilmcote : 1996 to 2011

Since we moved our narrowboat Emma Jane back onto the Stratford Canal we have taken an annual trip to Stratford-upon-Avon over the Easter weekend apart from 1998 when floods got the better of us. We stop at Wilmcote (home of Mary Arden's House) every year now (since 2001) and I have pictures from each year showing that the Mason's Arms has hardly changed over the 15 years that we've been visiting.

In a departure from my previous posts I'm going to show you pictures of the Mason's Arms going back over 100 years to demonstrate that even over that period it has hardly changed.
This shows the Mason's Arms in 1891 and I took this photo of the picture that was hanging in the pub on our last visit.

Now we've moved on to 1908 and the pub has been changed and appears pretty much as it is now (see below). Another photo of a picture in the pub.

This is what it looked like in 1930 - I got this photo from the internet.

This was our first canal related visit and the photo was taken on the evening of Saturday 6th April 1996. In those days it was a traditional village/country pub that served very good food. It also has a restaurant area at the back.

This photo is from Saturday 30th March 2002 and was a lunchtime stop. The only visible changes are the signage. Inside all exactly the same.

And now it's lunchtime on Saturday 7th April 2007. After we'd been doing this trip for a few years we fell into a consistent routine that sees us stopping at Wilmcote for lunch on the second day of our journey. The Mason's Arms has consistently provided us with excellent wholesome food (and if you order a full meal you will get way too many vegetables!)

Finally to 2011. This year, we delayed our trip by a week so that we could miss the royal wedding! This was taken at lunchtime on Saturday 30th April 2011. The only noticeable change from the outside is that the pub sign has been replaced by a floodlight. Inside...still the same décor/atmosphere...and still the same landlord after all these years of our visits. This is how pubs should be - cosy, welcoming and serving good, unpretentious food at a reasonable price!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

#005 Bristol Pear, Selly Oak : 1996 to 2011

I first visited The Station in the late 70's when I was a student. My vague recollection is that it was a pub for locals and full of 'old' people (at a guess, about the age I am now!) so I wasn't a frequent visitor.

As I lived in the area, over the years I visited a few more times and it was completely refurbished some years later. During this period, The Station was a regular stop off for a pint whilst our Chinese takeaway was being prepared on a Saturday evening. During this phase of its existence it was reasonably welcoming and catered for all ages. 

The picture below is from 1996 when I was visiting close to the end of our canal trip to Llangollen and Chester on the evening of Thursday 5th September 1996.

Not many years after this the pub was completely revamped into an 'It's a Scream' pub and renamed the Bristol Pear. This was Mitchells & Butlers way of making student friendly pubs, which seemed to work. On the odd occasions we visited it was full and loud, but strangely the layout was the same as before! The picture below is from the evening of Thursday 3rd June 2004 at the end of a short trip exploring some of the hidden canals in Birmingham.

Finally we come to the afternoon of Thursday 21st July 2011. I'm still an infrequent visitor, but it survives by being apparently what the students want, so who am I to argue?

It's a funny thing; when I was young this pub was full of old people, but now I'm 'old' it's full of young people so it has never been one of my favourite pubs...oh for a time machine.

I'm not sure if The Station was one of The Pub Curmudgeon's haunts when he too was a student in Brum, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his help and encouragement with this blog and I'll finish with a story that will not help his blood pressure!

The last time I was in the Bristol Pear was on a Saturday evening and we were served our lager in plastic pints. We were told that this rule had come in after some trouble (unspecified at that time) and plastics must be used for beer after 7pm in all pubs in Selly Oak! The next pub we went to was The Soak (a new establishment) where again we were served our pints in plastics. This time we found out the cause - in separate incidents someone had been glassed and someone had been badly cut after falling onto a broken glass. So maybe the precautions were warranted...except...the person had been glassed with a Coke glass and the person who'd fallen fell onto a wine glass. Neither of these types of glass had been banned!
I don't know if these restrictions are still in place as I've no real desire to go back and drink out of plastic!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

#004 The Boot Inn, Lapworth : 1991 to 2011

I don't remember exactly when I first visited The Boot Inn in Lapworth, but it was probably in the early 1980's. At that time the narrowboat I holidayed on was moored on the Stratford Canal just behind the Boot. In those days it was a very cosy country pub and was a popular watering hole that many people drove there for a trip out.

My first picture of the pub dates from lunchtime on Saturday 3rd August 1991 (below). The narrowboat had been moored near Wigan on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and we were moving it down South to Cowley Peachey on the Grand Union Canal. On the day this photo was taken we were due to swap over crew for the second half of the journey. This was complicated, on the day, by the fact that Lock 11 was broken and so we left the boat above Lock 10 and went to the pub for lunch! We did still hand over to the new crew who managed to get under way at 5:30 pm!
We didn't move the boat back up to the Midlands until 1996. By this time I had become a joint owner of Emma Jane and we were back at Briar Cottage Moorings behind The Boot Inn! This was on the evening of Saturday 6th September 1996.

I'm not sure when The Boot was converted into a 'Country Pub & Restaurant", but it was round about this time. The main body of the pub was largely unchanged, but the building on the right was converted into the restaurant. The picture below is from 2000.
Moving on to 2008 and the scene is largely the same except that it is no longer a Whibread pub and the quality of cars parked outside is now much higher.
Although it isn't a 'proper' pub any more you can still visit and just have a pint (or three!) in the bar area and it has a very pleasant garden for use on warm evenings. The food is very good and the place is always busy, so despite the loss of its original character it is still a thriving concern which includes former Aston Villa footballer and former Sky pundit Andy Gray amongst it's regular clientèle.
This photo was taken on the evening of Friday 3rd June 2011. The cars have become even more expensive!! The Boot Inn is part (and was the first one) of a collection of Country Pubs & Restaurants which operate on similar lines. To learn more about The Boot Inn and the others in this group follow this link.