Friday 14 December 2012

A visit to Gloucester

Gloucester Victorian Market was the other weekend and it gave me the perfect opportunity to visit some of the pubs in this historic City. Gloucester is a place I had not been to for about 15 or so years so I was looking forward to discovering some of the old pubs here. Only 45 minutes by train from Newport as well!

My first visit was to the New Inn, one of the oldest pubs in the UK. A medieval galleried inn, built between 1430-1450 on the site of an older inn. A remarkable survivor, this Grade I listed building fell on bad times in the 1990s but was later bought by a local pub group, the Chapman Group, who have been restoring the building. Blackened oak beams and angled doors add to the atmosphere of this pub.

Unfortunately there was scaffolding up in the inner courtyard on my visit so will have to visit again for better photographs. The beer range was a bit disappointing with 5 national brands on and nothing local.

On Southgate Street there was a pub that I walked past a couple of times as I had not realised it was a pub! It had a sign but no brewery logo on it and I could not see a bar through the windows so thought it might be a restaurant rather than pub. This was Robert Raike's House, a stunning Sam Smith's refurbishment that reopened in 2008 after a reported refurbishment cost of £4.5 million. The building dates back to 1560 but only became a pub, the Golden Cross, in 1975. Sam's could have easily done a cheap refurbishment on this building but instead have restored it to much of its original layout with separate rooms and wooden panels restored. The new wooden beams are a different colour to the old so the distinction between the old and the new is clearly visible. The history of the building and cutaway architects drawings mounted on the walls illustrate the story of this pub. The rear of the building features a Georgian brick fa├žade. A stunning pub, although no real ale as the only pub South of here they supply real ale to is the Murenger in Newport. No website for the pub as its Sam's but Rob has been there on his travels so check out the photos on his site.

The docks area, where the Victorian Market was held is a mix of retail, marina, museum and residential, an odd mix made even more weird by featuring a brewery at the site, the Gloucester brewery, housed in an old industrial building behind the engine shed. The last time I visited Gloucester Docks, the area was in a state of dereliction so it was a refreshing change to see this bustling conversion. The brewery is a 10 barrel-plant with a shop attached and the friendly and knowledgeable staff were very keen to show us around and answer our questions. Just a shame their beers were not available in more pubs in the centre of the City.

Whilst in the Docks area I paid a visit to the Whitesmith's Arms, a pub I used to frequent some years ago, this pub has since expanded into the next-door premises and the fifteenth-century ceiling of this building can be seen. The pub is owned by Swindon brewers Arkells but only one of their beers was on when I visited.

Back into the City Centre and finally found a locally-brewed beer on in the Dick Whittington, another building with fifteenth-century origins, although it only became a pub in 1982. Also owned by the Chapman Group this was the first pub where I found a beer from Gloucester Brewery on the bar. A shame their beers are not widely available throughout the City as they are very good. Also on the bar was a 9.3% beer from Three Tuns brewery which was surprisingly drinkable, dangerously though.

A short walk northwards towards the Cathedral and I came across the Pelican, a pub Denis Gwatkin had recommended to me as it is owned by Wye Valley Brewery and stocks his cider. Dating from 1679 this two-room pub stocks a range of beers from Wye Valley Brewery, the roaring wood fire was very welcome on a wet Gloucester night! Only opened earlier this year, the Pelican did have the best beer quality during my 3-day visit to the City.

I also found a new book (2012 reprint) on Gloucester pubs whilst visiting, “The Story of Gloucester's Pubs” by Darrel Kirby is a well-researched and interesting book, packed full of maps as well as contemporary and vintage photographs, its the type of book that should be on sale in all these pubs, unfortunately rather like the local brewery it was rather difficult to find!

1 comment:

William Avery said...

As a former resident of Gloucester I'm intrigued by the changes at the Golden Cross. I must go back and have a look some time.

What you see now in Gloucester is only a remnant of its former pub stock. I remember old timers in the 80s mourning the number of boozers that had bitten the dust since the 50s. It was mainly down to redevelopment and the loss of industry near the city centre, such as the Carriage Works and the Bryant & May factory.


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