Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Award-winning Pub Company to open in Centre of Cardiff

Knife & Fork Food to open fifth location as they announce acquisition ofTwenty Nine Park Place

Award winning pub group Knife & Fork Food have announced plans to open their fifth venue, Twenty Nine Park Place, this July.

The pub, which is Knife & Fork Food’s most ambitious venue yet, follows on from the 2014 opening of The Discovery in Lakeside, and will join other venues in the group’s portfolio which incorporates The Conway in Pontcanna, The Pilot in Penarth and The Old Swan Inn in Llantwit Major.

Twenty Nine Park Place, which sits adjacent to the steps of the National Museum Wales, is currently undergoing an extensive £200,000 refurbishment, which will completely overhaul the interiors of the grand townhouse to bring it in line with the aesthetic of a refined, traditional pub for today, complete with bar area, open kitchen, restaurant and a small private dining room on the first floor.

The venue will be a visual step away from the much-loved interiors of the group’s more suburban and rural venues, however, hallmarks will remain that fans of the local pubs will know and appreciate.

The acquisition of Twenty Nine Park Place is the next step in an expansion strategy for the regional pub group that was established in 1999 with Woods Brasserie and has since gone on to experience great success, turning over £3.7 million in 2017, generating and maintaining strong local followings and being recognised by the acclaimed Michelin Pub Guide.

The move into Cardiff city centre has been largely self-funded by Knife & Fork Food, and is the result of several years of careful consideration regarding their next move. Speaking about the new venture, Sean Murphy, one of three partners who own the group, said: “Until now we’ve always considered ourselves to be a company that specialises in community pubs and to date we have been very successful at that, however, when we saw Twenty Nine Park Place we simply couldn’t resist such a magnificent opportunity”

“The venue is stunning and our move into town heralds the beginning of a whole new era for us. Our current customers will certainly feel at home when we open as it will very much have the Knife & Fork Food stamp on it, however, we’ve unquestionably scaled it up a notch, now that we’re in the city centre.

“We’re looking forward to opening our doors in July, but for now we’re very busy making it the very best city pub with food it can possibly be. And, in association with Wonder Company who have put together a contemporary yet comfortable design, it promises to be worth a visit! ”

The kitchen at Twenty Nine Park Place will be under the control of Head Chef Steffan Bonnifay, who is currently Head Chef at The Discovery in Lakeside. From the new ground floor open kitchen, Steffan and his team will be serving up a constantly evolving menu, loaded with fresh local produce. And fans of the group’s other venues will also be pleased to discover signature classic dishes, including the best-selling fish and chips and traditional pies.

And the drinks offering won’t disappoint. Under the stewardship of Managing Director, Sean Murphy, who also owns the Vale of Glamorgan Brewery, the bar will boast an impressive array of ales to entice and excite even the most jaded of ale aficionados.

Speaking about the plans for the bar, Sean says: “We’ll have a range of 14 keg and cask craft ales from Wales and all over the world. It’s something I’m really looking forward to curating.”

“Gin and rum will also be a big focus for us and like all of our other venues there will also be a whiskey corner.”

The extensive renovation schedule is currently underway and Twenty Nine Park Place is scheduled to open in late July.

Twenty Nine Park Place, Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3BA.
Folow the pub on Twitter and Instagram

Friday, 18 May 2018

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Raise a glass to Allan Leonard Lewis VC

Some twenty miles to the West of Hereford, the ancient Rhydspence Inn stands near the border with Wales. In fact the border here is marked by a stream that flows through the garden of the pub. Not too far away from Hay-on-Wye, the Rhydspence, was built, according to English Heritage, in the 16th Century, although the original timber-framed building was added to in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Wikipedia has more information on this Drovers' Inn.
The Rhydspence is featured in the book 'Historic Inns and Taverns of Wales and the Marches', written by Paul R Davis, an excellent book which features cut-away architectural drawings of historical pubs.
Anyway, the purpose of the visit in the snow the other night was not to delve into the history of this ancient hostelry but to raise money for a statue to Herefordshire's only native-born holder of the Victoria Cross, Allan Leonard Lewis.
Allan Leonard Lewis was born in 1895 in nearby Whitney-on-Wye, he was one of 9 children and his father worked as a jobbing carpenter.  Following the outbreak of WW1 he volunteered to join up and was initially enlisted into the Royal Army Service Corps where he maintained and drove transport. Wanting to do more Allan transferred to the infantry and was posted to the Northamptonshire Regiment. His soldierly disposition and character earned him promotion to Lance Corporal and he took part in the final allied push to break the German Hindenburg Line in late 1918. 
Lance Corporal Lewis demonstrated exceptional bravery on two occasions during these final battles. Both events were witnessed by others and showed his quiet confidence, spirit, determination and bravery under fire. He was killed on the 21st September 1918 a few weeks before the war's end. The Victoria Cross was presented to his parents by H.M King George V at Buckingham Palace in April 1919.

Allan Leonard Lewis's name is commemorated on two war memorials in Herefordshire reflecting his parish of birth and his parish where he spent most of his life. The memorial on the side of the Whitney Church is in wood and was carved by his father. 
The A L Lewis VC Memorial Fund is working with the support of Herefordshire County Council to honour this brave local hero. It is intended to commission a life-size bronze statue of him to stand in a prominent position in Hereford. 
The group's chosen artist is Jemma Pearson, who sculpted the wonderful statue of Elgar which stands in the Cathedral grounds. 
As part of the fundraising efforts, the Herefordshire-based Swan Brewery have brewed a special Hero's Ale to help with the fundraising. This chestnut-coloured ale is brewed with Fuggles and Goldings hop varieties, which were the dominant hop varieties in this area of Herefordshire a century ago. The low ABV of 3.9% is also in keeping with the First World War as Government restrictions meant the alcoholic strength of beer was reduced. As well as being served in pubs throughout Herefordshire, the beer will also be on tap at the Amber Taverns pub, the Allan Leonard Lewis in Neath.

Next month will see the launch of a special bottled cider made by Gwatkin's of Abbeydore

BBC Hereford & Worcester coverage of the night is here 

Monday, 5 February 2018

Mochyn Ddu to reopen as Brewhouse & Kitchen

UK Brewpub business to open in Cardiff in February

Nationwide brewpub business Brewhouse & Kitchen has announced plans to open its first Welsh location in Cardiff next month.

Brewhouse & Kitchen Cardiff will be the eighteenth venue in the company’s countrywide portfolio, which has an annualised turnover of over £25m.

Following an extensive £550k refurbishment project, Brewhouse & Kitchen Cardiff will be opening within the former premises of the Mochyn Du public house, just off Cathedral Road near Cardiff city centre.

The Cardiff launch follows recent 2017 openings for the ambitious brewpub group in Nottingham, Lichfield and Bournemouth. The new Cardiff venue represents the first Welsh location for the brand, whose CEO Kris Gumbrell was born and bred in the Welsh capital.

The interiors of the brewpub have been overhauled in keeping with the Brewhouse & Kitchen style, featuring large barrel tables, bottle lights and an impressive copper microbrewery, which takes centre stage, alongside an open kitchen where patrons will be able to watch the chefs at work.

The pub will also enjoy the benefit of having a dedicated in-house brewer. And like its other locations across the UK, Cardiff’s new brewpub will produce a range of its own unique craft beers, including four cask and three keg core beers, available throughout the year, and an additional four seasonally-changing kegs, plus an ever changing brewer’s choice tap.

Core beers will include Y Mochyn Du (Session Bitter), Tiger Bay (Oatmeal Stout), and Haka’ed Off (Traditional IPA). While seasonal variations include Whitchurch Boys (Wheat beer), Gohebydd (Belgian style ale) and Marvellous Medicine (Black IPA).

In addition to the craft beers brewed on site, the drinks list boasts an impressive selection of draught and bottled craft beers and ciders from breweries across the world, as well as an extensive food menu and range of on-site Academy experiences, including a day long ‘Brewery Experience Day’, on which you can learn how to brew beer; an insight into the wonderful world of beer with a two hour ‘Beer Masterclass’ and a ‘Beer & Food Matching Experience’.

Speaking about the launch of Brewhouse & Kitchen Cardiff, Kris Gumbrell said: “I’m a proud Welshman and grew up in Cardiff and so it has always been a long held ambition of mine to open a location in Wales.

“We’ve been consistently searching for the right location and the right opportunity – we just had to wait until the right site came on the market – so when this pub became available on the outskirts of the city centre - we wasted no time.

“Renovations are well underway and we’re excited to open our doors in February and bring our Brewhouse & Kitchen concept to Cardiff and to Wales.”

Brewhouse & Kitchen Cardiff will open to the public on Monday 12th February.
Sophia Close, Pontcanna, CF11 9HW
The building that became the Mochyn Ddu was originally built as a lodge for Sophia Gardens, becoming a pub called the Poacher's Lodge in 1994 and was renamed the Black Pig/Mochyn Ddu in 2002. Brew Wales previously covered the pub in 2010 here

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Best Breweries in Wales 2018

Once again this blog comes out of retirement for the annual look at the best and worst that breweries in Wales have to offer. For those of you interested, Brew Wales moved to a Facebook platform some years ago, the blog is now only used occasionally for items that need it such as the Now & Then series or lists like this.

According to the geosocial networking service Untappd, the best breweries in Wales are:

  1. Crafty Devil Brewing Co   Unchanged since last year
  2. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co   Unchanged since last year
  3. Wild Horse Brewing Company   New Entry!
  4. Hopcraft Brewing     Up from #4
  5. Grey Trees Brewery   Up from #6
  6. Lines Brew Co.   New Entry!
  7. Tenby Brewing Company   Down from #3
  8. Gwynt y Ddraig   Unchanged since last year
  9. West By Three Brewing Co. New Entry!
  10. Heavy Industry Brewing    Down from #9
  11. Mad Dog Brewing Co  Down from #7
  12. Otley    Down from #11
  13. Purple Moose Brewery (Bragdy Mws Piws)   Down from #13
  14. Glamorgan Brewing Co  Down from #14
  15. Gower Brewery  Up from #16
  16. Untapped Brewing Company   Down from #15
  17. Mantle  Down from #14
  18. Harbwr Brewery  New Entry!
  19. Hallets Down from #12
  20. Cwrw Llŷn   New Entry!
  21. Cwrw Ial Community Brewing Company   Down from #18
  22. Big Hand Brewing Co   Down from #19
  23. Hafod Brewing Company  Down from #20
  24. Mumbles Brewery  Down from #17
  25. Bragdy Twt Lol  Down from #24
  26. VOG Brewery     Down from #21
  27. Kingstone Brewery   New Entry!
  28. Great Orme Brewery     Down from #23
  29. Tudor Brewery   Down from #28
  30. Conwy Brewery      Unchanged since last year
  31. Celt Brewing        Down from #27
  32. Tomos Watkin and Sons Ltd.    Down from #26
  33. Bluestone Brewing Co.    #Down from #22
  34. Brains Craft Brewery    Down from #29
  35. Boss Brewing Company    Down from #29
  36. Brains      Down from #32
  37. Facer's           Down from #36
  38. Rhymney Brewery    Down from #33
  39. Evan Evans      Down from #34
  40. Monty's Brewery    #Down from 35
  41. Brecon Brewing    #Down from #37
  42. Felinfoel Brewery Co Ltd    Down from #38
  43. Sandstone     New Entry!
According to Untappd "A brewery must have at least 1000 ratings and at least 5 different beers in their portfolio to qualify for this list. Their ratings explainer is here.

The best beers in Wales according to Untappd are:

  1. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co  Imperial Puft
  2. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Chocolate Stay Puft
  3. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Clwb Tropicana
  4. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Stay Puft
  5. Celt Brewing Ogham Ash - the votes for this appear to be for beers brewed before the brand was ruined by Evan Evans Brewery
  6. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Captain Insano
  7. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Bonsai
  8. Crafty Devil Brewing Co Tax Man
  9. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Hadouken
  10. Crafty Devil Brewing Co Not So Safe As Milk
  11. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co In & Around The Mouth
  12. The Waen Brewery Snowball
  13. Crafty Devil Brewing Co You Love Us
  14. Purple Moose Brewery (Bragdy Mws Piws) Chocolate Moose
  15. Crafty Devil Brewing Co Safe As Milk
  16. Crafty Devil Brewing Co The Devil We Know
  17. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Sugar Rush
  18. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Peaches And Cream IPA
  19. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Bass Drop
  20. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Sonic Boom
  21. Crafty Devil Brewing Co Fairy Tale Of Cardiff
  22. Celt Brewing Seven Flowers (Shapeshifter Series) the votes for this appear to be for beers brewed before the brand was ruined by Evan Evans Brewery
  23. Hopcraft Brewing Waen Snowball
  24. Hopcraft Brewing Citraic
  25. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Beer Money Inc.
  26. Mad Dog Brewing Co Petronius DIPA
  27. Crafty Devil Brewing Co I Am the Resurrection
  28. Wild Horse Brewing Company New England IPA Citra Mosaic
  29. Mad Dog Brewing Co Granola Stout
  30. Celt Brewing Ogham Willow the votes for this appear to be for beers brewed before the brand was ruined by Evan Evans Brewery
  31. Crafty Devil Brewing Co Rock N' Roll Star
  32. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Dutty
  33. The Waen Brewery Mousse Warning
  34. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Dirty Perle
  35. The Vader Shuffle Tiny Rebel Brewing Co
  36. Lines Brew Co. Double IPA Blend DIPA
  37. The Waen Brewery Pamplemousse (late 2016 see Hopcraft Pamplemousse)
  38. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Cali American Pale Ale
  39. Hopcraft Brewing Mate Spawn And Die
  40. Wild Horse Brewing Company Breakfast Cookies Milk Stout
  41. Hopcraft Brewing Citra Plus
  42. Heavy Industry Brewing Nos Smoked Porter
  43. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co XLPA
  44. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Lupulin Fiasco
  45. The Waen Brewery Chilli Plum Porter (2016 late brewed at Hopcraft)
  46. Hopcraft Brewing Sharks Against Surfers
  47. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Stupid Sexy Flanders
  48. Crafty Devil Brewing Co Mikey Rayer All Dayer

Over at Ratebeer the top 50 list is different again, dominated by Lines and Tiny Rebel
  1. Lines Line ACD - Farmhouse IPA Sour/Wild Ale
  2. Lines Line CD - Double Barrel Farm Blend (Burgundy / Pinot Barrels) 
  3.  Tiny Rebel Imperial Puft Imperial Porter                  
  4. Lines Line A - New Zealand New England Session IPA      5             
  5. Lines Line AD - Double IPA Blend (Nelson, Citra, Chinook & Amarillo) Imperial IPA            
  6. Tiny Rebel / Arbor Bonsai India Pale Ale (IPA)    
  7. Lines Line A - Pale Oats on Delta Resin Session IPA                          
  8. Lines Line A - Dry hopped IPA India Pale Ale (IPA)                            
  9. Tiny Rebel Sugar Rush Imperial Stout     
  10. Lines Line CA - Nelson Saison Saison       
  11. Tiny Rebel Clwb Tropicana India Pale Ale (IPA)   
  12. Tiny Rebel Captain Insano Imperial IPA 
  13. Tiny Rebel Loki Lite Session IPA 24          
  14. Tiny Rebel Hadouken India Pale Ale (IPA)                            
  15. Tiny Rebel / Dark Star Rebel Alliance Saison                        
  16. Lines Line FA - Primary Brett Imperial stout Imperial Stout                           
  17. Crafty Devil You Love Us India Pale Ale (IPA)                      
  18. Tiny Rebel Dirty Stop Out Stout 308                        
  19. Tiny Rebel Tiny Batch In and Around the Mouth India Pale Ale (IPA)        
  20. Hopcraft Sharks Against Surfers American Pale Ale                          
  21. Tiny Rebel Cereal Killer Session IPA                         
  22. Tiny Rebel The Vader Shuffle Porter                      
  23. Tiny Rebel / Weird Beard Dirty Perle Stout                          
  24. Otley Oxymoron Black IPA                          
  25. Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Porter                         
  26. Hopcraft A Good Rogering Black IPA                       
  27. Otley mOtley Brew Imperial IPA                                         
  28. Tiny Rebel Cali American Pale Ale            
  29. Lines / Fyne Ales Green Lines Saison Saison                        
  30. Hopcraft Devilfish Ink Black IPA 20          
  31. Tiny Rebel Bass Drop Imperial Stout       
  32. Hopcraft Citraic American Pale Ale                          
  33. Hopcraft Graveyard Eyes (5.3%) Porter                 
  34. Tiny Rebel / Dugges Pina Colada Pale Ale American Pale Ale                        
  35. Tiny Rebel Urban IPA India Pale Ale (IPA)                             
  36. Tiny Rebel Cwtch Amber Ale                      
  37. Tiny Rebel Loki Black IPA                              
  38. Tiny Rebel The Full Nelson American Pale Ale                    
  39. Tiny Rebel Frambuzi Sour/Wild Ale                         
  40. Hopcraft Citra Plus American Pale Ale                    
  41. Tiny Rebel Beer Money Inc. India Pale Ale (IPA)                
  42. Tiny Rebel Beat Box American Pale Ale 
  43. Waen Snowball Sweet Stout                      
  44. Tiny Rebel Sonic Boom India Pale Ale (IPA)                          
  45. Tiny Rebel Gin & Juice Spice/Herb/Vegetable                    
  46. Hopcraft Spanish Main Stout     
  47. Hopcraft Mate Spawn and Die American Pale Ale                             
  48. Heavy Industry 77 Amber Ale    
  49. Crafty Devil / BrewDog Cardiff No Ifs, No Buts, Just Coconuts Stout         
  50. Tiny Rebel Billabong American Pale Ale

Again no Welsh beers make the Beer Advocate UK & Ireland list

Once again, CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, decided not to publish their Champion Beers of Wales 2017, either on their national website or on their festival website or even issue a press release of the winning beers but the winners for their 2017 competition are below:
  1. Grey Trees Brewery Afghan Pale Ale
  2. Boss Black
  3. Untapped Ember

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Brains on the move in Cardiff

Press release from Brains Brewery:
S.A. Brain confirms new brewery location

S.A. Brain is delighted to announce the location of its new brewery and support centre as Courtney House, in the Pacific Business Park, Cardiff.

Contracts have now been exchanged on the property, 1.5 miles from Cardiff’s city centre, with production at the new site expected to begin in early 2019.

Brains’ head office and support centre functions are expected to move to Courtney House in May/June 2018, by which time Brains hopes to have completed most of the building works for its new brewery.

John Rhys, Chairman of Brains, commented: “We are delighted to have secured our new home, which represents an exciting new chapter in our 135-year history of brewing and hospitality retailing from our Cardiff base.”

Brains Chief Executive, Scott Waddington, added: “Courtney House offers us the ideal facility to construct a modern, fit-for-purpose new brewery, in addition to developing the first floor into a high-quality office space. With a contract now in place, our effort will turn to the interior design of the building, which we will enhance for our own purposes and use to establish the Brains culture in our new home.

“We are finalising our plans for the brewery, which presents a real opportunity for full modernisation and readying the business for the future.”

Plans for the development of the current Brains Brewery site on Crawshay Street in Central Cardiff are being led by property developer Rightacres and are well advanced. The site is likely to include a multi-storey car park, a 12-storey office block, a hotel and potentially a university campus.

John Rhys commented further: “To complement our proposed new brewery and head office in Pacific Business Park, we also envisage developing a new venue within the existing brewhouse building alongside the famous Brains chimney at Crawshay Street, which would encompass a pub, microbrewery and visitor attraction, to showcase our iconic Welsh brand in a prime city centre location.”

Rhys James, Head of Cushman & Wakefield’s office in Cardiff, advised Brains on their relocation.
 He commented: “Relocating Wales’ most recognised brewing and hospitality business from their historic HQ in Cardiff city centre presented quite a challenge, but also a great opportunity. After an extensive exercise scrutinising various existing properties and new-build schemes, we were able to secure Courtney House, which with some modest adaptations will be able to accommodate a new state-of-the-art brewery, whilst also providing modern offices for Brains’ HQ.”

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Now and Then, former Glastonbury Arms Hotel, Cardiff

The former Brains pub the Glastonbury Arms Hotel stood at 25 Bute Street in Cardiff and was demolished in the 1980s. The Radisson Blu stands on the site today.
More details of Cardiff pubs from the 1980s are available here

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Gwatkin Cider hosts Down on the Farm Music Festival

The 11th to the 13th of August will see the Golden Valley rocked once more as Gwatkin Cider hold their sixth annual music festival, Down on the Farm, at the family-run farm, Moorhampton Park Farm near Abbeydore in Herefordshire.
                                           The main stage and bar for Down on the Farm

The festival started as a one-day event but has now grown into a three-day festival, “The Glastonbury of the Golden Valley”, as it has become known as.

Gwatkin Cider has been producing award-winning ciders and perries for over 25 years now and owner Denis Gwatkin used to play on a few bands himself, previous Down on the Farm Festivals have seen Dr And The Medics headlining, this year Canvey Island rockers Dr Feelgood will be headlining on Saturday night. Full details of the bands playing Down on the Farm are available from the festival website as well as ticketing details and information as to how to find the venue as Moorhampton Park Farm is on the outskirts of Abbeydore. Other bands playing at the festival include The Navarones, a ska band from Cardiff and The BBC Acoustic Band from Grosmont in Monmouthshire. As well as the headlining bands there will be a range of other bands from across Herefordshire and South Wales including Raptor, a young psychedelic blues rock band.

Dr & The Medics playing last year

Down on The Farm Festival features two stages, with 26 bands playing between the Main Stage and the acoustic Garden Stage, both are undercover in case of rain. As soon as a band on the main stage stops, a band on the acoustic stage will start up, and visa versa, meaning that on Saturday and Sunday there will be twelve hours of music at Down on the Farm Festival.
The Delray Rockets playing last year

As well as the bands, the full range of Gwatkin ciders and perries will be available together with a selection of real ales from Wye Valley Brewery. All the food is kept in-house with home-made burgers and sausage alongside Ploughman's Lunches and other specialities such as home-made cakes. Parking and camping in the orchards and paddocks at the farm is included in the ticket price.

Ploughman's lunches served at the festival

Nineteen draught ciders and perries will be available at the Festival, all made by Gwatkin's, including a few new ciders that have not been seen before,

According to award-winning cidermaker, Denis Gwatkin, “We try to put on a festival with something for everybody, with great cider, fantastic food and a range of music to suit all tastes from ska to rock. We may only be a small festival but we are determined to make Down on the Farm a festival for everyone to enjoy.”

Camping in the orchard and paddock is included in the ticket price

A panoramic view of the farm and campsite

A few photos from previous years below, the full lineup for this year can be found here

Moorhampton Park Farm

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Now and Then, the former Tresillian Hotel, Cardiff

The former Tresillian Hotel, stood on the corner of Tresillian Terrace and Penarth Road, Cardiff, and has long-since been demolished for road-widening, with the Northern end of Tresillian Terrace being demolished to make way for Tresillian Way cutting across it at ninety degrees. In this Wales online article the position of the pub is said to be the site of the Lloyds Bank Group, however, looking at the old maps it is clear the pub was further to the North, as shown below, with a side-by-side comparison of OS six-inch 1888 to 1913 map from the National Library of Scotland collection. The foundations of the front wall of the hotel appear to match up with the grey bricks used to designate the pedestrian crossing.

This pub was an unusual Cardiff outlet for Newport-based brewers Phillips who were taken over by Symonds Brewery and eventually Courage.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Cider Festival at the Clytha

The multi-award winning Clytha Arms pub in Monmouthshire will be holding their annual cider festival over the Spring Bank Holiday. The original and, of course still the best Welsh Cider Festival in Monmouthshire, if not Wales!
Music, excellent food and of course some excellent ciders and perries!

The Clytha Arms
Near Abergavenny
South Wales
United Kingdom

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Now and Then, Gwyn Arms, Alltwen

 The old Rhymney Brewery pub, The Gwyn Arms, Gwyn's Place, Alltwen, Pontardawe as it was when it was a Whitbread pub. Now a free house according to What's Pub. The pub sign shows William Glyn, a local landowner and member of Parliament

Unusually we have a couple of interior shots from the 1970's as well, showing the high standard of decor rolled out in Whitbread pubs by the thousand.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Now and Then, former Ty-Du Hotel, Rogerstone

The old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Ty-Du Hotel,Tregwilym Road, Rogerstone. Built on the site of an older pub, The Rollers Arms which existed in 1883. Ty-du is Welsh for 'Black House' and is the Welsh name for the area. The advert on the left-hand side of the picture is for Webb's Brewery of Aberbeeg. a rival to Rhymney Brewery.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Now and Then, Skirrid Inn, Llanvihangel Crucorney

The Skirrid Inn claims to be the "Oldest pub in Wales" but only became licensed in the 1830s and the building dates back to the 1640s according to Pevsner. There are plenty of other pubs older than the Skirrid. The above photo shows the pub as it was when owned by Rhymney Brewery, in the 1920s it was a Hancocks pub. More recently it was owned by Ushers of Trowbridge but today it is a Punch Taverns pub.

So much rubbish has been published about this pub over the years it's difficult to know where to start debunking the rumours and myths so let's start chronologically.

Western Mail, Country Supplement 01.10.96. Reporter: Kate Smout.
“A building is believed to have been on this site since Roman times”.
FACT – no Roman artifacts have been recorded here. If they have been found then they found there way to Ebay before the local museum recorded them.
“Records show that courts were held in the main room of the pub, known as the Millbrook alehouse as early as 1110”.
FACT – no records exist from such a date. Every reference to these supposed records does not mention them by name, if they did then these supposed records could be read by everyone. Also the Skirrid pub is on a hill, if somewhere known as The Millbrook existed it is more likely to be on the river Honddu than higher up the hill.
“Local brothers James and John Crowther were tried and sentenced at the inn. James got nine months for robbery with violence. John's sheep stealing activities cost him his life”.
FACT Both have modern names for 1110 and in the days of branding and amputation for criminal activities, along with trial by ordeal, it seems a bit strange that James gets sentenced to nine months in an era where prisons did not exist for punishment but merely as holding places before trial, sentence and execution. Again there is not any documented evidence to support this pub myth, but in different accounts of this myth, sometimes it is James who was hung.
“The existing stone structure is Elizabethan”
FACT So having argued the point that the pub dates back to Norman times in 1110, the Western Mail now asserts that it only goes back as far as Elizabethan times. Let's reach for Pevsner, or in our case John Newman, the Buildings of Wales, who states, “It is a remarkably complete mid- to late 17th Century building”. That dates it 1640-1700. The myths are starting to break down.

“Owain Glyndwr rallied his troops from the mounting block in the courtyard”
FACT The stonework of the mounting block is contemporary with that of the inn, mid- to late 17th Century. Owain Glyndwr was long since dead and buried over the border in Herefordshire before the Skirrid was built.
The reporter, Kate Smout, continues to spout more rubbish about the pub such as “time-stained granite walls”.
FACT the walls are the local Devonian Old Red Sandstone, there is no granite in Monmouthshire and certainly none used in the building of this pub.
It's not just the National Newspaper of Wales that has published such rubbish that pertain to be facts about this pub. The pub itself has published a leaflet full of these myths.
This goes even further by saying that the mounting stone has been used by Princes of Wales and Kings of England!

FACT No evidence exists of Kings arriving or leaving from the pub on horseback, or even visiting the pub.

The leaflet claims the wood paneling and beams in the dinning room came from an Elizabethan ship.

FACT Why import wood 40 miles inland when there is a perfectly good forest nearby. Carpenters from either Abergavenny, Hereford or Monmouth would have been able to work this into the finished paneling we see today.
I'm indebted to an annoying, badly written and with even worse photographs, little book, Strangest Pubs in Britain, for claiming that 1800 people were hanged in the Skirrid over the years. Not even the booklet published by the pub claims this figure, they go for a modest 180, although they add the rider “no exact or positive records exist”.
FACT No proof is even offered for this myth but it is accepted as fact, one website even claims that the 180 were executed in the aftermath of the Monmouth Rebellion.
FACT The Monmouth Rebellion involved the Duke of Monmouth and the battle of Sedgemoor was in Somerset, as was the aftermath when Judge Jeffreys tried the conspirators.
Claims are made that the Skirrid was used as a courthouse.
FACT No records exist for any criminal courts being held here. Local Manorial courts which dealt with the day-to-day administration of the lands, boundary disputes and the election of the Ale-Taster may well have been held here as the pub was owned by the local landowners, the Neville family.
The booklet says that the marks on the stairwell are from the rope that was used to hang people.
FACT Since the pub dates from 1640 and there has not been one documented execution in the pub, the marks on the stairwell could easily be put down to scratches made whilst moving furniture.
One previous landlord went as far as to have a mannequin hanging from the stairwell. Popular with Ghost Tourists and the exceedingly camp ghost hunting TV programmes.
The booklet mentions that behind the Elizabethan plasterwork is the inscription JHT 1306.
FACT If the date is behind the Elizabethan plasterwork how does anyone know it's there and if it dates from that time it should be in Roman not Arabic numerals? If you are going to make a pub myth at least get the typeface right – clue it's MCCCVI
Quote from the pub pamphlet, “The Skirrid Inn is the oldest public house within the borders of the Principality of Wales and ranks among the foremost claimants to the title of the oldest public house in Great Britain”.
FACT The first mention of the Skirrid as a licensed house was in 1859, when it was described as a beer house. This meant it was not even a fully licensed pub and according to John Eisel and Frank Bennett in their book, the Pubs of Hay-on-Wye and the Golden Valley, it was unlikely to predate the 1830 Beer Act.
According to local historian Fred Hando, writing in 1958, “No relic survives which would date the present building to before 1640.”
So there we have it, the Skirrid Inn dates from the earliest 1640 and probably became a pub in 1830. Hardly the “oldest pub in Wales”.
Another book that reports these myths is "Ye Olde Good Inn Guide" 2013 by James Moore & Paul Nero who state, quite incorrectly that "nigh on 200 ne'r-do-wells have been strung from the oak beam over the stairwell on the first floor of the inn". Still it's easier to fill a book with lazy journalism than it is to do the research to debunk the myth.
A 1920's pamphlet from Hancock's brewery makes no mention of the supposed executions but does go on about the Norman staircase! The execution story appears to date only from the late 1960s!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Now and Then, the former Prince of Wales, Dowlais

The old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Prince of Wales, 105 High Street, Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil was demolished along with most of the bottom part of this street in the 1970s. South Street runs up to the right of the photo, the lower portion of it today is the footpath seen on Streetview.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Now and Then, Railway hotel, Caerphilly

The old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Railway Hotel, Station Terrace, Caerphilly, was rebranded some years ago as a Plastic Paddy Palace, the Irish Thymes. It has recently been rebranded as Caerphilly Cwtch. It is owned by Enterprise Inn's Craft Union Pub Company, a managed division of the Pubco. The Caerphilly Cwtch seems as if it is keeping it's bad reputation despite the rebranding.


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