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.

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.

Monday 1 May 2017

Now and Then, former Red Bull Inn, Caeharris

The former Red Bull Inn, High Street, Caeharris, Merthyr Tydfil, has been demolished and housing is on the site today

Sunday 30 April 2017

Now and Then, former White Horse Inn, Abergavenny

The old Rhymney Brewery pub, the White Horse Inn, 14 Frogmore Street, Abergavenny, dated back to at least 1787 and was demolished in 1965. Rhymney Brewery had owned the pub from 1914. The name is still remembered in the alleyway that still runs off Frogmore Street alongside the present day buildings.

Saturday 29 April 2017

Gwatkin Cider wins Bronze Award in National Competition

Captain Gwatkin's Famous Old Rum Cask Cider today won the Bronze Award in the UK National Champion Cider of Britain Competition, run by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. The annual award, held at Reading Beer & Cider Festival, features ciders and perries from across Britain which are judged in blind tastings to find the winner.
This Herefordshire Cider, made by Denis Gwatkin at his family farm in Abbeydore, is matured in Jamaican Rum Barrels and is only available o draught at the farm and a few select outlets as only a limited amount is made every year due to the difficulty in sourcing good quality rum barrels.

The other winners were:

GOLD  – Countryman, Medium (Devon)

SILVER – Salt Hill, Autumn Gold (Berkshire)

BRONZE – Gwatkin’s, Captain Gwatkin’s Rum Cask (Herefordshire)


GOLD – Nempnett, Piglet’s Perry (Somerset)

SILVER - Waulkmill, Mooseheid Perry (Dumfrieshire)

BRONZE – Hartland, Perry (Gloucestershire)

So who was Captain Gwatkin then?
Captain Gwatkin, who in 1722 challenged the 'pyrates' who attacked his ship, the Amy, as it sailed from Carolina to England. He and his crew killed about 30 pirates and forced the pirate sloop ashore, then attempted prevent the pirates from attacking other ships by sailing to land to burn the sloop. Unfortunately, a shot from the shore killed him. His rather pragmatic crew decided it would be sensible to carry on sailing to England rather than pursue the pirates further! (Information in several newspapers from 1722, including the London-based Post Boy)
Gwatkin Cider
Moorhampton Park Farm

Now and Then, Farmer's Arms, Abergavenny

The former Rhymney Brewery pub, The Farmers Arms, 34  Lion Street, on the corner with Market Street, Abergavenny. The oldest part of the pub is the smaller, left-hand side building which dates back to 1865 at least. Was owned by the Charles Edwards Brewery of Llanfoist until their takeover by Rhymney Brewery and the above photo was taken when the pub was owned by Whitbread. In 1996 the pub changed it's name to the Market Tarfarn. The cattle market once stood opposite the pub.

Friday 28 April 2017

Now and Then, former Prince of Wales Inn, Merthyr Tydfil

The old Rhymney pub, the Prince of Wales Inn, Nantygwenith Street, Georgetown, Merthyr Tydfil has been demolished along with the rest of the street. The Cyfarthfa Brewery once stood to the rear of the pub. More photos of the street here

Thursday 27 April 2017

Now and Then, former Clarence Hotel, Maesteg

The former old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Clarence Hotel, Commercial Street, has been demolished together with the surrounding buildings and Clarence Court flats now stands in their places

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Now and Then, Goytre Arms, Penperlleni

The old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Goytre Arms, Star Road/School Lane/Usk Road, Penperlleni is still open as a pub today and is owned by Ei Group, formerly known as Enterprise Inns

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Now and then, former Cross Keys, Tonypandy

The old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Cross Keys Hotel, Dunraven Street, Tonypandy has partly been demolished and is used for retail now

Monday 24 April 2017

Now and Then, former Bridgend Hotel, Tonypandy

The old Rhymney Brewery pub, The Bridgend Hotel, Dunraven Street, Tonypandy, has been demolished with a bus stop and the war memorial on the site today. Note the unusual logo 'Brewers Own Stands Alone' on the wall of the pub

Sunday 23 April 2017

Now and Then, former Thistle Hotel, Tonypandy

The former old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Thistle Hotel, Llwynpia Road, Tonypandy has been demolished to make way for a car park

Saturday 22 April 2017

Now and Then, Ffaldcaiach Inn, Trelewis

The Ffaldcaiach Inn, High Street, Trelewis, Mid Glamorgan is still trading as a pub

Friday 21 April 2017

Now and Then, former Railway Bar, Treherbert

The former old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Railway Bar Inn, Station Street, Treherbert has now been demolished

Thursday 20 April 2017

Now and Then, The Crown, Nant-y-bwch

The former old Rhymney Brewery pub, The Crown, Merthyr Road, Nant-y-bwch, Tredegar. Not sure if this pub is still open as there's no mention of it on Google and the last Streetview picture is 2009 when it appears punch Taverns were selling the pub?

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Now and Then, former Prince Llewellyn Inn, Sirhowy, Tredegar

The former old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Prince Llewellyn Inn, St Luke's Road, Sirhowy, Tredegar has been converted into three terraced houses

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Now & Then, former North Western Hotel, Tredegar

The former old Rhymney Brewery pub, the North Western Hotel, Church Street, Tredegar was demolished in the 1970s and a scrapyard appears to be on the site now.

Monday 17 April 2017

Now and then, former Greyhound Inn, Tredegar

The former old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Greyhound Inn, Tredegar was situated just off The Circle on the corner of Lower Coronation Street and Iron Street.

Sunday 16 April 2017

Now and Then, former Globe Inn, Tredegar

The former old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Globe Inn, stood on the corner of Church Street and Stockton Way. Demolished for road improvements. Another photo of the pub here and also a lot of information about old Tredegar pubs.

Saturday 15 April 2017

Now and Then, former Britannia, Tredegar

The former old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Britannia, Market Street, Tredegar, now converted to residential and known as 'Hen Tafern' or 'Old Tavern'

Friday 14 April 2017

Now and Then, former Clarence Inn, Rhymney

The former old Rhymney Brewery, the Clarence Inn, Clarence Row, Rhymney, has been demolished for housing

Thursday 13 April 2017

Now and Then, former Three Horse Shoes pub, Maesteg

The former old Rhymney Brewery pub, the Three Horse Shoes, Bethania Street, Maesteg has been demolished for road widening

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Now and Then, former New Hearts of Oak Hotel, Nantyffyllon, Maesteg

The former Rhymney Brewery pub, the New Hearts of Oak Hotel, Nantyffyllon, Maesteg. The front of the hotel was on the now demolished section of Coegnant Road, the rear of the hotel originally overlooked a railway line where the main road, Heol Tywith now runs. The name of the pub is still remembered as the bus stop to the right of the Streetview image is known as 'Hearts of Oak'.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Now and then, former New Inn, Llanfoist

The former Rhymney Brewery pub, the New Inn, The Cutting, Llanfoist, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire. Llanfoist was had a number of pubs, the New Inn, the Waterloo (situated by the railway line a few hundred yards away from the New Inn, the Llanfoist Inn (now the Spice Lounge Indian restaurant) and the Bridge Inn which is still open as a pub. The village was also home to Charles Edwards Brewery that was situated near the church on the junction of Merthyr Road and Lanellen Road. The brewery was taken over by Rhymney Brewery and houses are on the site today.

Monday 10 April 2017

Now and Then, former Wheatsheaf Inn, Merthyr Tydfil

The former Rhymney Brewery pub, the Wheatsheaf Inn, stood on the corner of Glebeland Street and Wheatsheaf Lane. Demolished to build the 1970s monstrosity below which backs onto the bus station

Sunday 9 April 2017

Now and Then, former New Inn, Fleur-de-lis, Blackwood

The former Rhymney Brewery pub, the New Inn, Victoria Road, Fleur-de-lis, Blackwood is now a private residence known as New Inn Cottage

Saturday 8 April 2017

Now and Then, former Somerset Arms, Aberkenfig

The former Rhymney Brewery pub, the Somerset Arms, Dunraven Street, Aberkenfig


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