Part 5 - 12 closed pubs
Some of the pubs the Brew Wales editor has been in over the years that are no longer there.
- Cupid's Hill Inn, Grosmont. The legendary Cupid's Hill and equally legendary landlord and undertaker Joe take equal precedence for this once in a lifetime pub. For that I mean you only had to visit this place once for it to be etched into your mind. The pub was a timewarp with settles and table skittles and some really old bottles of an obscure Whitbread beer on the counter. But no one went there for the beer. Cupid's Hill Inn was a cider house with bottles of Westons and one year a wooden cask of perry on the bar, made with pears from the back garden and pressed by Denis Gwatkin. Another year some American tourists turned up at the
Innand asked to see the 'cockpit', Joe took them outside and showed them a hole in the ground, at which the Americans asked where the rest of the aircraft was! Obviously tourists are not familiar with some of the more traditional pub games played on the Monmouthshire/Herefordshire border. When the ancient locals, all sitting around the fireplace on a cold Saturday lunchtime, recanted this story to me, I pointed out that cockfighting had been illegal since the 1820s, “Nay we used to have it 'round 'ere up to the 1950s, in fact we tried the other night to get the cockerels to fight in the pub but they weren't having none of it!” The thought of the police and RSPCA raiding this pub in the early hours of the morning to find the cider-sodden regulars arranging an animal fight sprung to mind. What did close the Inn was the death of the landlord Joe and the former Innis now a private house.
- Purple Dragon,
ButeTerrace. . Having aged 10 years since running this establishment, along with 'Chopper' Charlie, the memory of this bar is still fresh. Decorated in 1970s colours and posters, the Purple Dragon even featured a smoke breathing dragon above the front door. 3 real ales were on – Brains SA, Fullers London Pride and a guest, all served in unique over-sized pint glasses. The Purple Dragon was a rare free house for the centre of Cardiff and featured occasional bands and barbecues. All the food served was guaranteed GM free – well it was all bought in from Cardiff across the road! But what really made this pub stand out was that it was a pioneer for less strict licensing laws. It was not unusual to see customers leaving during daylight hours, having enjoyed the interesting guest beers throughout the night. The Brew Wales editor even left the pub early one morning, went to Cardiff airport to fly to Reykjavik for a day trip (sweet & sour haddock in the local Chinese is recommended) and was back behind the bar for 2230! Entertainment in the bar was provided by the sadly short-lived Live TV, broadcast from the Daily Mirror offices in Iceland . With high-class programmes such as Topless Darts, the Weather in Norwegian and the unforgettable News Bunny, the Purple Dragon did manage to acquire a certain class of customer who now frequent the chav-palaces of central Canary Wharf . Some customers even fished in the Dock Feeder that ran alongside the pub, one staff member even barbecued an unfortunate fish caught in that watercourse and suffered the effects the next day. On the bright side, it is quicker to park and open the front door of a bubble car when driving around Cardiff with food poisoning than another car door! Anyway the Purple Dragon was sold together with the hotel above and Mr Malkovich and his partners did not like the idea of a pub and changed it to a hotel bar without the real ale. Recently the Big Sleep Hotel has even got rid of its ground floor bar. A sad loss to a short-lived but fun bar. Cardiff
St John'sWood, . One of the first places the Brew Wales editor tried Fullers beers, the Rossetti was primarily a restaurant but was owned by the London brewers. Seem to remember it was a bit of an odd design for a pub – sort of Frank Lloyd Wright meets a gastropub. The pub was very popular with members of North London CAMRA and the landlord, who was Italian, insisted on showing the branch members around the cellar after a Pub of the Year or similar award. The cellar was the cleanest and most immaculate I have ever seen, it was also large, the 1960s building had been built with a cellar fitted with a lift for casks and had plenty of headroom. The only complaint from the landlord was that Fullers had stopped supplying ESB in 36-gallon barrels! He had to do with 18-gallon kils instead and they made twice as much work. The Rossetti was sold for redevelopment and flats were built on the site. London
- Ale House,
. Steve 'Skinnner' Davidson, from the Hornblower, took over the Sovereign Bar in Newport John Frost Squareand changed it into the Alehouse installing real ales on gravity and handpump. Unfortunately the first manager put into the pub was not that good and the beer quality dropped off with a resulting loss in customers. Another manager and a replacement of the beer lines that the previous manager had been unable/unwilling to clean resulted in an improvement but the siting of the pub did not help, at the entrance to the Kingsway shopping centre. At one CAMRA meeting, held in the troglodytical basement of the pub, the attendees from across the UK had problems finding the Ale House as it was in a corner of John Frost Square, Tourist Information were unable to help as the teutonic teetoatal matriarch who ruled the Newport office refused to tell anyone where a pub was! Still the Alehouse had a good following of regulars and the downstairs bar (there was also an upstairs one) became popular due to the restrictions of the licensing laws. Unfortunately the Ale House shut shortly after Skinner was divorced and never reopened as a pub, converting to a retail unit, a DVD shop, before finally being demolished in the attempted redevelopment of Newport City Centre. At the time of writing the building plot is empty.
6.Railway Inn, Pontlottyn. Pontlottyn was built as a temperance town with no pubs in the village. However the teetotal local landowner did not own the land beneath the Rhymney Railway viaduct and an enterprising brewery in the 19th Century built this unique pub underneath the arches. Unique as it was built out of corrugated iron and featured 3 bars, one underneath each arch, all linked by a long corridor. The pub was closed by the later-day inheritors of the Temperance Movement, Whitbread plc and today the arches stand empty.
7. Royal Albert,
11. Brew House,
12. Westlakes Arms, Cwmavon, Torfaen. Originally known as the Railway, this pub changed its name to commemorate the former Westlakes Brewery, the buildings of which still stand in the base of the valley near the pub. The Westlakes Arms was an early winner of the Regional CAMRA Pub of the Year Award and had a good reputation for food and beer. Unfortunately the small size of the car park meant that they could not expand further and the beer range dwindled, along with the choice and variety available, with only HB on in the later years. The former pub is now private accommodation.