ALE Winter/Spring 2005 No. 316 : Next section

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Unique Pubs of East Anglia

Number 4: The Hand and Heart, Peterborough

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Since 1991, CAMRA has published its National Inventory of pubs with outstanding, unspoilt historic interiors. Over the years some pubs have been dropped from the list (either because they've been trashed or reassessment has proved them to be less authentic than first met the eye). On the plus side, interiors worthy of entry continue to be discovered; just recently an intrepid explorer stumbled across what he describes as "one of the most important historic pub interiors in the UK" at Carraghers, Camlough, County Down, Northern Ireland - if you've ever been to the magnificent Crown in Belfast, it's apparently nearly as good.

Here in Cambridgeshire, the tale is a sad one. Our pubs have either been significantly altered or closed altogether. Just a single pub in the County has made it onto the National Inventory, The Hand and Heart, 12 Highbury Street, Peterborough (in the north of the City, just off Lincoln Road).

At first sight, the pub looks nothing special: it's a small, box-like, back street local built in 1936 by Warwicks Brewery of Newark (whose name can still be seen on the windows). However, it's the very ordinariness of the pub which makes it special. Hardly anything has changed here since it opened before the war - a couple of dodgy new fireplaces, replacement upstairs windows and that's about it.

You enter into a corridor which contains an unusual small drinking lobby (just a couple of chairs) with a hatch to the bar. Before that, on the right, is the door to the gloriously straightforward public bar. This has a lino floor, formica-topped tables, bench seating round the walls, stools at the bar and a much used dart board. Over the door is a war memorial - a most unusual feature. Returning to the corridor you'll find, beyond the lobby, the door to the small lounge, which is almost as simply appointed as the public and has just a hatch for bar service.

If you want the gents, then you need to go outside, where there is also a surprisingly sizeable garden.

The pub has long been one of Peterborough's best real ale outlets and always has a good selection of guest beers in addition to the John Smiths Bitter and Caledonian Deuchars IPA which are fixtures. No food, though, apart from the most basic of snacks (and nor would food be appropriate here).

Should you be in the area, and have an interest in historic pubs, The Greyhound, 613 Lincoln Road, is another largely intact 1930s pub.

Paul Ainsworth

ALE Winter/Spring 2005 No. 316 : Next section
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