Blog Surfer

Monday, 28 April 2014

#145 The Swan, Kidderminster, Worcestershire : 2008 to 2013

Kidderminster isn't a place we often stop at on our canal trips being too close to Stourport. However, on both occasions that we did stop there we visited The Swan in the centre of the town.
This first visit was on the evening of Monday 26th May 2008. As I recall it was a reasonably lively, typically town centre pub where we had a pint and resumed our pub crawl.

Upon our return to Kidderminster, there was quite a change in the exterior appearance of The Swan.
This was at lunchtime on Thursday 16th May 2013 - what a transformation! Inside, the layout was pretty much the same, but I assume it had also been refurbished. There was quite an extensive menu of 'proper' pub food (including a 'build your own' sandwich feature), so we stayed and had lunch there. Although it looks to be an independent pub, it is part of Punch Taverns, a detail which is buried deep within The Swan website.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

#144 The Bell, Stourbridge, Worcestershire : 1996 to 2013

This is going to be a relatively short entry as I've only ever been in this pub once and that was back in 1996!
 This was on the evening of Monday 27th May 1996 and was our first canal trip into Stourbridge having moored at the end of the Stourbridge Arm. As I recall, we weren't overly impressed with what Stourbridge had to offer the casual tourist. The pubs were functional, but none of them offered food in the evening and I'm fairly sure we ended up with a Chinese takeaway that we ate on the boat.

I've no recollection of what The Bell was like inside, probably typical of the large Banks's town pubs that were around at that time.

We revisited the Stourbridge Arm seventeen years later and surprisingly The Bell was still there, although not open at lunchtime.
 This was on Wednesday 15th May 2013 and at first glance The Bell has hardly changed over the years. On closer inspection, it is no longer a Banks's pub, but from this distance it isn't easy to work out what is going on...if anything.

Having found The Bell's website it became apparent that it is now a music venue/nightclub. Similar to Digbeth in Birmingham, as I've reported in the past, it appears that converting pubs into music venues in towns is a good way of reinventing themselves.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

#143 Samson & Lion, Wordsley, West Midlands : 1997 to 2013

The Samson & Lion in Wordsley near Stourbridge is a pub with plenty of history, going back to at least 1840. I'm not sure when this picture was taken, but I've acquired it from the pub's website to show what it was like in the 19th Century (at a guess!)
I don't normally use other peoples photos, but in this instance it is interesting to see how little the pub has changed through the decades.

My first visit wasn't until the evening of Wednesday 28th May 1997, but that wasn't the first visit of our boat Emma Jane nor my fellow crew members! The Samson & Lion had hosted Emma Jane's crew in October 1985 and again in July 1989 on trips that I hadn't been able to make. We had planned to take a trip up the Stourbridge Canal in the Summer of 1991, but a serious pollution incident put paid to that trip!
What is quite remarkable is that the basic outer structure is almost exactly as it was in the previous century with the two storey lean to replaced with a single storey toilet block (and most of the chimneys have gone!). As I recall, it was quite a lively, friendly place and we had a pleasant evening there.

We were back again just two years later on a repeat of the 1997 journey, except that we'd spent the previous night in Stourbridge itself and so we found ourselves at the Samson & Lion at lunchtime on Thursday 3rd June 1999.
Quite a comprehensive redecoration of the outside, but as I recall, the inside was still as cosy and welcoming as ever.

We were back again on the evening of Sunday 27th May 2001, this time on a trip that didn't take us to Worcester!
This was the canalside view and we actually moored up outside the pub for the first time (in my experience). Although the pub was unchanged from our last visit, we weren't able to get any food as it was a Sunday and they didn't serve food in the evening...and it was a Bank Holiday! In those pre internet phone days, we were advised that Merry Hill was our best bet for food and drink on a Sunday night, so we left in a taxi for the rest of the evening.

Our next visit was a few years later on the evening of Sunday 25th May 2008.
Some minor changes to the exterior, but largely the same inside. Although still cosy inside, by this time the Samson & Lion was showing signs of decline. At least this time we were forewarned and so after a couple of pints we headed off into Wordsley in search of food and drink...we found both and a quiz as well!

Our final visit was on the evening of Tuesday 14th May 2013 on our way to Stourport-on-Severn.
Again largely unchanged, but still with the air of neglect that we'd sensed on our previous visit. We were there quite early and it was a very wet evening which didn't help with the atmosphere, so we only had one pint before heading out to find the nearest Bathams pub and a place to eat.

Since our last visit, it would appear that the Samson & Lion is under new management and, from the website, it would appear that the required revitalisation has been injected into the pub. This is good news as it has a lovely location by 'The Sixteen' locks on the Stourbridge Canal and inside it retains the character of a proper pub. Hopefully, when we're next passing it will have regained some of its former glory.