My next port of call back in the day was the Black Horse, a tiny Tolly pub on the way into the village centre, selling just the Bitter on handpull. The customers included a chap dressed as a cowboy complete with holster and gun! Pubs of this size are always vulnerable when times get hard and the building is now a private house.
Into the village centre and a third Tolly pub, the Boot. This was in the process of renovation and the splendid fireplace which adorns the front bar had only just been rediscovered behind the plywood. Original and Bitter were the real ales. Like the Railway Vue, the Boot now belongs to the Punch Taverns mega pub company which does at least offer its licensees a decent choice of beers. On my recent visit these comprised Adnams Bitter and Broadside, Greene King IPA and Wychwood Hobgoblin as the guest. As well as the pleasant front bar there's a bare-boarded back bar largely open to a post-1983 extension from which glass doors lead to a sheltered patio. The fireplace displays a large collection of porcelain boots and the "Tolly Cobbold Cellar Services" plaque above a doorway is a reminder of former ownership. Food is again popular here, with Mexican offerings a speciality.
Next door in the High Street is, then as now, the village's only Greene King pub, the Barley Mow. On visit one the ale was from Greene King's brewery in Biggleswade, now long-closed, including the rare KK Light Mild as well as IPA and Abbot. Just the last two are now on handpull. The interior has been much altered since 1983 and there's now a single dog-leg bar, tastefully decorated and comfortably appointed. One end has a pin-ball, games machine and telly screen, the other has tables set for food (Thai being the speciality) and a long bar occupies the middle. A wine menu was placed on every table though it doesn't have the feel of a big wine-supping pub. The Abbot though was in excellent form.
The Red Lion, a bit further along, has long been the village's premier real ale pub, especially in the last 14 years under the stewardship of Marc Donachy. The glory days had begun by 1983 though it had only converted to real ale a couple of years earlier. Seven real ales were being served (Adnams Bitter, Everards Tiger, Flowers Original, Greene King IPA, Marstons Pedigree, Batemans XXXB and Ruddles County) plus a real cider. The same applies today except that the real cider has been replaced by a perry. Of the beers, only Tiger remains as a permanent, the others being Elgoods Black Dog, Everards Beacon, Oakham Bishops Farewell, Tring Blonde and two changing guests. Special mention must be made of the Tring beer, a sublime ale placed somewhere between Oakham JHB and Tim Taylor Landlord (a wonderful place to be).
Marc has transformed the interior of the Lion into a shrine to all things beery, both bars displaying his magnificent collection of breweriana - bottles, jugs, mirrors, signs, pumpclips, even a Watneys Red Barrel glowing malevolently from a beam. Supplementing the real ales in a range of 24 Belgian and German bottled beers plus three Belgians on draught. Lunchtime food is available every day. After a rest last year, the legendary September beer festival will be back for 2008.
Following the road round a couple of corners brings us to the King William IV, universally known as the King Bill. Physically this is probably the least changed of the pubs over the 25 years (can't recall when the lounge extension was done). The low-ceilinged lounge has lots of half timbering and on my recent visit fires were blazing at both ends with an electric heater in the middle (it was a cold day). Steps take you down through a mind-your-head door to a public bar with pool table and telly. There was a better selection of real ales here in 1983 - Ruddles Bitter and County (brewed by Ruddles themselves in those days), Sam Smiths OBB, Adnams Bitter and Greene King IPA. The last, almost inevitably, is still there along with Abbot and a guest, which was Batemans Rosie Nosie. Reasonably priced food is available. I got the impression though that the King Bill was in need of some tender loving care; it didn't feel like the thriving establishment of yesteryear.
My 1983 route took us back into the village, past the previous three pubs, to what was then The Brook, a food-oriented free house with just Greene King IPA. In the article I used a quote by the landlord featured in the local beer guide - "I don't like beer-swilling men in my establishment". The landlord later rang me up denying ever having said this but as he hadn't challenged what was in the guide I declined to print an apology. Anyway, there's certainly no beer-swilling in there now as it's a Chinese restaurant called the Phoenix (though when I visited a few years ago, it unexpectedly sold Marstons Pedigree on handpump).
Our final stop, this time as last, is the Rose and Crown
on the main road.
In 1983 it was a Whitbread pub, serving the late-lamented Wethereds Bitter from
Marlow and Flowers Original, and had a place in the
What are the main changes then over 25 years? Real ale choice is better as I
found 18 different beers, 5 of them changing guests, against 13 in 1983.
Quality of beer was generally excellent (I didn't comment on this in the
previous article though, to be honest, I never liked the old Tolly beers much).
The national trend towards fewer but larger pubs has been followed with a
25% decline in numbers but extensions at three of the pubs. Two others have
followed another common inclination and gone "open plan". The good people
of Histon are however still blessed with a splendid variety of interesting pubs
selling quality real ales.
What are the main changes then over 25 years? Real ale choice is better as I found 18 different beers, 5 of them changing guests, against 13 in 1983. Quality of beer was generally excellent (I didn't comment on this in the previous article though, to be honest, I never liked the old Tolly beers much). The national trend towards fewer but larger pubs has been followed with a 25% decline in numbers but extensions at three of the pubs. Two others have followed another common inclination and gone "open plan". The good people of Histon are however still blessed with a splendid variety of interesting pubs selling quality real ales.