Blog Surfer

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.  

Thursday, 4 March 2021

#070 The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021 (RIP?)

 Another Digbeth pub that's had a chequered recent history is The Rainbow which, most recently, was resurrected as Finders Keepers. Here's what I wrote in 2012: -

"How fitting that The Rainbow is the thirty-third and FINAL installment in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series. Back in 1998 when I started this project I expected there to be some closures, but I thought it was going to be because of great new developments in the area, not just as part of the general demise of the British pub.

The Rainbow is a survivor, though. In 1998 I'd never been inside, but it looked like a typical street corner pub.
As we move on to 2011, I was surprised to find that The Rainbow had survived and is thriving. However, it's success is mostly down to it now being a prominent Digbeth music venue as well as being a pub. This success hasn't been easy; there has been a constant battle in recent years with the 'johnny-come-lately' residents who have moved into the newly built flats nearby and don't like the noise!
The outside has been completely redecorated, but the original sign remains on the first floor on the corner. And, as I write, now in 2012, I've still not been inside The Rainbow! For the Jubilee weekend it will host several music events." 
For quite a few years The Rainbow was a successful entertainment venue, but closed in 2017 because of various issues. This is how it looked in 2018.
The only overt change was the removal of The Rainbow signage. At this stage (Jan 2018) unbeknownst to me, plans were afoot to reopen and rebrand as Finders Keepers.
However in the intervening years, The Rainbow did indeed become Finders Keepers which then had to close in 2019 because of noise complaints! (What goes around, comes around!) This was the scene in 2021.
The Rainbow aka
As far as I can ascertain, this closure is permanent...but once the pandemic is over, I suspect that someone will want to have a go at making it a popular venue again. It is listed on the Star Pubs website (Heineken), but there are no substantial details. 

Monday, 1 March 2021

#042 The Spotted Dog, Digbeth, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021

As the last post was about the former Spotted Dog pub, it seems only fitting that this should be about the surviving Spotted Dog pub. Here's what I wrote in 2011: -

"There were two Spotted Dog pubs in Digbeth and I've been in both of them. This one is on the corner of Alcester Street and Warwick Street...and is still open.

This is how it looked in 1998, but at that time I'd never been inside.

However, in 2007 I had the opportunity to visit some pubs that we'd never been in on any of our canal trips before. So we did a mini pub crawl through Digbeth and started at The Spotted Dog. This photo was taken on the evening of 24th August 2007.

In the intervening 9 years there are few changes apart from a lick of paint and some greenery added to the outside. Inside I remember it as being a nice, cosy Irish pub with a friendly atmosphere. Our friends were already there and had stationed themselves in the quite substantial garden/patio area. 
Inside the pub was a fantastic map of Digbeth from the 1800's that showed all of the pubs within about a quarter of a mile. Out of the approximately 20 pubs shown, only 3 or 4 were still in existence! The only downside was that the only lager available was Carlsberg which, in those days, was almost undrinkable (but that didn't stop me!!)

And here we are in 2011! Another lick of paint and the greenery on the corner appears to have grown unchecked! Like many pubs in the area, The Spotted Dog is also a venue for live music. It is also one of the establishments at the forefront of the campaign to keep live music in Digbeth. Over the past few years, more and more people now live nearby in the new developments and some of them don't like the sound of music at night. So they complain and the council have to investigate, resulting in the potential for any of these venues to be closed down. Very frustrating for the pubs that were there and playing music long before the influx of new residents. So far the resistance has been successful.

This is the nineteenth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series."
So, we move on to 2018 and, to all intents and purposes, the pub has remained unchanged (virtually) for 20 years. A bit of paint, varying amounts of ivy and over the last few years the hanging sign has gone.
I'm unable to comment on the interior because, although it was on the itinerary of our crawl through Digbeth in July, it never opened and sadly we couldn't sample its delights.
Finally we get to 2021 and you'll see little external change.
 Apart from the rampant ivy...and the hanging sign is back!
However, will it survive the pandemic? Only time will tell and a £10,000 fine for a breach of the regulations in November surely won't help (Details here)
 In an ever changing world it is to be hoped that an 'unspoilt by progress' establishment such as The Spotted Dog will survive!