ALE Spring 1998 No. 290

Protecting Our Pubs

Elsewhere in this issue we report on the corporate vandalism visited on the Baron of Beef in Cambridge by Greene King. This serves to remind us that our pub heritage is under constant threat from those who think profit first and nothing second.

Planning legislation and statutory listing offer a certain amount of protection but clearly not enough. CAMRA already has a National Inventory, listing 180 pubs whose interiors are of outstanding heritage importance. It examines pubs dating up to 1939, looking for examples of excellence of design and workmanship which have stood the test of time.

CAMRA in East Anglia has therefore begun compiling a Regional Inventory of pubs which we believe should either be left alone or subjected to only the most sensitive of changes. The list covers pubs which, whilst not meeting the strict National criteria should nevertheless be kept essentially as they are. As well as the building and internal architectural features, specific pub features worthy of preservation (even if the pub as a whole is not) must be protected.

The draft Inventory contains four pubs in the Cambridge Branch area - there were five, but the Baron of Beef must now be deleted:

Champion of the Thames (Greene King) - small, largely intact, late nineteenth century town pub interior with many typical features. The building itself is a century older. The etched windows are notable but not original, having been smashed many times.

Free Press (Greene King) - a pub certainly by 1872, the building was gutted prior to demolition but subsequently reprieved and restored in the mid-70s. One bar, with the small snug and the bar counter, faithfully reproduces the destroyed original, the other less so. The interior, though essentially a Fake, is important as a pretty accurate representation of what a late 19th century pub interior would have looked like.

Portland Arms (Greene King) - rebuilt in 1930 to a design by Basil Oliver, it closely resembles externally the severely mucked-about Rose and Crown on Newmarket Road. The Portland though is virtually unaltered as an example of a 1930s improved public house. It retains separate lounge and public bars, a bottle & jug (no longer used) and a meeting room. The opulent panelling and bar counter in the lounge are almost certainly original as are the fixtures and fittings in the public.

Queen's Head, Newton (Free) - an early 18th century building (though some parts are older) and a pub since at least 1729. A surprising amount of alteration was carried out in the fifties when the lounge was extended backwards and the serving area changed about. The toilets and games room were added in 1963, though you can't see the join. The public bar is the real gem here, basically unchanged since 1845, though questions have been raised about the position and length of the bar counter.

Some of the other pubs which we have considered but are not yet convinced about include the Blue Ball at Grantchester, the Anchor at Sutton Gault and the Tickell Arms at Whittlesford.

The purpose of the Inventory is to lend the listed pubs a degree of protection they don't currently enjoy. Where a pub on the list is threatened with unsympathetic alteration or worse, we hope that its selection will be recognised by the authorities involved and will influence their decisions.

Are there other pubs in this area which also deserve this kind of protection? If you think so, please contact Bob Flood, 01954-260720. Details should include those features which have stood the test of time with dates and anything known of the history of the pub. It is not enough just to say a pub is worthy of preservation, it has to be proved, so dig deep and let that information flow.

ALE Spring 1998 No. 290 : Next section
Cambridge & District CAMRA