Issue 74 – May 2013
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Hop Press is not, in the capital 'P' sense, a political organ; so it comes as something of a surprise to find the name of George Osborne appearing in any article. But what is a matter of utter astonishment is that the name George Osborne appears here in a favourable light!
Of course we must start this issue with the chancellor's almost complete acceptance of CAMRA's campaigning and lobbying on the perfidious 'beer tax escalator.' Since its introduction in 2008 this vicious tax has added an incredible 42% to the tax on beer and would have added almost another 5% this year (with a similar amount again next year) had Osborne not seen the sense of our arguments.
As readers of our last issue will know, in late 2012, CAMRA successfully used the Government's electronic petition system to collect over 100,000 names calling for the escalator concept to be abandoned. This was followed on December 12th by a mass lobby of MPs by their CAMRA member constituents. The petition and lobbying prompted a full-scale parliamentary debate during which 58 MPs spoke out against the hated escalator – result, now even the obdurate Osborne seems to have got the message!
MP Greg Mulholland, chairman of the all-party Save the Pub group, speaking after the budget said:
"Following all the hard work by so many groups, including CAMRA, to see the beer duty escalator scrapped in the 2013 budget, I am absolutely delighted that the Chancellor, George Osborne has today listened to the arguments against this unfair tax and brought it to an early end and reduced beer duty by 1p. This will be a boost to claims of being a pro pub Government.
"It has been evident to see that as a result of the reduced duty under the Small Breweries Relief we now have a thriving brewing industry, with over 1,000 breweries in the UK, the most the UK has seen for over 70 years. This clearly shows that lower duty leads to growth, investment and jobs in the brewing sector and I am delighted that the chancellor has today made a vote of confidence in Britain's breweries.
"It is also good news for pubs, as supermarkets were able to absorb the increase in the price of beer, pubs were simply not able to and this was further increasing the difference between a can in the supermarket and a pint in the pub, which is a controlled and sociable environment. So I am delighted that it has today being brought to an end.
"It is now essential that the benefit of scrapping the escalator are passed on to pubs, so we now want to hear from all the large pub owning companies that they pass this on to licensees by looking at their own prices lists which will help publicans and help pub customers".
The 'Pubs Minister' Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, said of CAMRA's efforts before the budget:
"Congratulations on the work your members put in to make the case."
Although we can justifiably indulge for a moment in a slight sense of euphoria at a job well done, this should not obscure the fact that we still have, by a long margin, the second highest beer duty in the entire EU (only Finland is higher). A decade of 1p reductions would be needed to bring us even within reach of the bulk of European nations. And we should remember that the escalator is still there – it is still applying to all other alcoholic drinks including draught ciders.
Furthermore, Osborne's triumphant announcement of the penny reduction is very unlikely to appear as a price reduction over many bars we might use – publicans have been absorbing cost increase after cost increase on top of constantly falling beer sales so the single penny on each pint will only come, in many cases, as the lifeline that might keep the bailiffs at bay!
Our cover illustration for this issue is a pub on the far north-western edge of our branch area – the Black Horse at West Tytherley. This traditional country pub, a free house, is this year's winner of CAMRA's Southern Hampshire Branch's annual 'Pub of the Year' vote.
Each year branch members vote to select the pub they think has most met CAMRA's ideals – good beer, friendly and welcoming atmosphere and the hard to define virtue of being an essential community asset. Simply by population dynamics, country pubs in sparsely populated areas will have a tougher task in garnering votes than city ones so it is real pleasure to welcome the Black Horse to the list of winners. For the record, the runner-up this year was the Wheatsheaf at Shedfield (last year's winner) and third place was Southampton's Guide Dog, a previous winner in a number of years.
This year's Great British Beer Festival will take place between the13th and 17th of August at London Olympia.
With over 800 real ales, ciders, perries and foreign beers to choose from we are sure there will be plenty of choice to suit everybody's taste buds!
It is not all about the beer though. There is also plenty of food, live music and pub games to enjoy. Tickets can be bought by calling 0844 412 4640 or visiting: www.gbbf.org.uk/tickets
If you are feeling lucky then visit: www.gbbf.org.uk/competitions
where there are plenty of great prizes to win.
If the wait until August is just more than you can endure then locally we will be holding the seventeenth Southampton Guildhall Beer Festival on the 6th, 7th and 8th of June. Over ninety brews totalling some 14000 pints will be on offer. Tickets and other information for this festival can be obtained from:
Regular attendees should note that this year the 'free entry' session will be the Thursday preview evening rather than the Friday lunchtime as in previous years.
In the last edition of Hop Press we featured the many pubs that had been converted into convenience stores. Unfortunately this trend has continued. The Prince of Wales in Bishopstoke has now reopened as a Tesco Express.
Continuing the theme, Enterprise Inns closed the Castle at Midanbury and it is also due to open as a Tesco Express. Local residents who fought against the closure were less than impressed by Tesco's application to sell alcohol at the store from 6am to midnight, seven days a week.
Also under threat is the Bittern in Thornhill Park Road. It has been put on the market by Punch Taverns and there are rumours that it could become a McDonald's fast-food outlet. Unusually, the situation came to light while the pub was still trading.
Customers, supported by local politicians, have set up a group to keep the Bittern trading as a pub. As part of the campaign they are hoping to get the pub listed as an 'Asset of Community Value.' This would mean that under the Community Right to Bid, the group would be able to bid to buy the pub. This new provision is one of the few positive measures in the wholesale destruction of the planning laws being inflicted on us by the Government as part of the Localism Act. It came into effect in September last year and has already been used in bids to save pubs in Somerset and London. Details of the London case can be found at:
CAMRA nationally is urging more pubs to be registered in this way and has held meetings with the Department for Communities and Local Government on the subject. There is, though, better news elsewhere in Bitterne as the Station has reopened after a £200,000 refurbishment.
The leaseholder of one city venue that was rumoured to be under threat of closure has acted swiftly to reassure customers. Guy Benfield reopened Talking Heads last year and has built on its reputation as a music venue while at the same time ensuring that an interesting selection of real ales is available. The building is owned by Bajar Estates Ltd who submitted a planning application to build 18 flats on the site. Mr Benfield has said that he was aware of this planning application but as long as the pub continues to trade successfully it will remain open.
There have been a number of name changes in the city centre. Wahoo (ex-Walkabout) has become Elements, while Mavericks has become the Strand. This is the name of the small street off Hanover Buildings on which it stands. This pub has had numerous names in the past, including the Grog and Sausage, Hampshire Ram and Jones Wine Bar. It had also previously been called the Strand for a short period. For many years there was a Strand pub in the city centre but this was in nearby Canal Walk. Meanwhile, in Bedford Place the Red Lion has lost its colour and is now simply the Lion.
Flats are being built above a city centre Marston's bar. The offices above Que Pasa are being converted to more than 100 studio flats for students. Further south The Lounge Bar and Restaurant has opened in place of an Indian restaurant at 56 High Street, next to the Red Lion. In Queensway, 44 homes are to be built on the site of New York nightclub and McClusky's bar.
Over in Shirley work has finally begun on converting the former Blacksmiths Arms into flats. The Park Hotel in Shirley Road may also be converted into 11 flats. The site is up for sale following the granting of planning permission, which included the condition that the exterior of the building is retained. It closed in 2010.
Plans were submitted to demolish the Oak and Yaffle in Ashley and build eight houses on the site. Despite the support of many local residents, the scheme was rejected by New Forest planners as being too cramped. The pub has been closed since early 2012.
Following much controversy, the Six Bells in Lymington opened in February. The first Wetherspoon pub in the town, they spent £1.4m on converting the former C. Ford and Co shop in St Thomas Street. So far there have been no reports of plagues of frogs, malign comets or other manifestations of the devil!
In the High Street, the Angel has reopened as the Angel and Blue Pig 'pub and rooms' following an extensive refurbishment.
The Tollhouse is trading again after being closed following a fire. Former landlord Dean Thomas and his wife Melynda were jailed for arson following a trial in January.
The windows of the Fox and Hounds in the centre of Lyndhurst are now in keeping with the rest of the grade II listed building. In 2010 five first floor, timber framed windows were replaced with UPVC frames. The New Forest National Park Authority was not happy and, following a fine, the windows have now been replaced with something more in line with the building and surrounding area.
Nearby, the Chef and Brewer outlet the White Rabbit (formerly the Mill) underwent a substantial refurbishment late last year.
The former Legends Cue and Sports Club in Ringwood has reopened as the Metro Lounge and Piano Bar. There was a battle to open the revamped Market Place venue as the previous operation had been linked with violent incidents and damage. The bar's website features a previously unseen view of Ringwood.
Back to problems with pubs that are listed buildings, an appeal has been submitted against the refusal by New Forest planners to allow a smoking shelter and a 1.8 metre high boundary fence at the White Horse.
Staying on Waterside, in yet another example of supermarket buying power, permission has been granted to Sainsbury's to open a convenience store at the Hampshire Yeoman in Blackfield. It was previously owned by Punch Taverns.
Also falling to the onward march of the supermarket chains is the Croft in Hythe. It was closed by owners the Spirit Pub Company in November and is due to become another Tesco Express. The situation is complicated however by an application to build 10 dwellings on another part of the site. A previous application for a 3-storey block of 15 flats on the same site was refused planning permission in 2009 and a subsequent appeal was dismissed.
We mentioned in the last Pub News that owners Greene King had appealed against a decision to refuse alterations that had been made at the Testwood without planning permission. A planning inspector allowed most of the changes to remain, including a building that houses an office. Permission for a 'jumberella' was refused.
There is still no final decision on the proposed plans for a drive through McDonald's on the site of the Red Lion in Commercial Road.
The future of the Prince of Wales at Shirrell Heath is still uncertain. It has been up for sale since October last year and developers made an application to build three houses on the site. It was not clear what would happen to the pub itself. The plans were rejected by Winchester planners.
When pubs close items associated with the pub, such as the pub sign, are often lost forever. An item from the now demolished Crow's Nest in Bursledon was saved for posterity. The ship from the children's play area was purchased by Clare Kapma. It is now proudly positioned in her back garden and following refurbishment has now been entered into a "Shed of the Year" competition!
A name familiar to Eastleigh residents will be making a return in the coming months. The owner of JKS Wine Bar is planning to open an 'upmarket late night venue' to be named JKS Club Regal. Older readers will not be surprised to read that it will be located at the former Martine's nightclub, which was previously home to the Regal cinema.
Let's hope this new venture lasts longer than the Break Bar and Loft at the Swan Centre. It only opened in 2010 but has now been replaced by a Mexican restaurant called Chimichanga.
To the south of the Swan Centre, open again after a short closure for a £100,000 refurbishment is the Chamberlayne Arms . The layout of the pub has been altered and the décor is lighter. The garden has also been refurnished.
Also reopened, after an extensive refurbishment, is the White Swan on the river bank at Mansbridge. It is part of the Great British Carvery chain.
While the Black Horse at West Tytherley celebrates becoming the CAMRA Southern Hampshire branch's pub of the year, the nearby Star at East Tytherley has a new owner, Fay Woods. She previously ran the Winterbourne Arms at Winterbourne Dauntsey near Salisbury. The bar, dining area and three bedrooms at the Star have all been refurbished.
Staying in the Test Valley, there are new leaseholders at the John o' Gaunt in, Horsebridge. The pub, which reopened last year following a campaign by locals, is now being run by Tracey Haines and her partner Steve Kemp. Tracey is a former barmaid at the pub, which this year celebrates its 150th anniversary as a hostelry.
Also sporting a new look is the Horse and Groom in Alresford. New owners Fullers spent £400,000 on the pub, which is being run by Kate and Richard Williams.
We noted in the last Hop Press that there were plans to open a shop in the car park of the Chestnut Horse in Easton. Objections from a few local residents delayed the project but it eventually went ahead and opened in December.
Another venture that has been given the go ahead is the nine-bed hotel on the junction of Chesil Street and Wharf Hill, Winchester. It will be called the Black Hole and is owned by David Nicholson, who also owns and runs both the adjacent Black Boy pub and Black Rat restaurant.
A little further towards the M3, the Heart in Hand has been put out of its lingering misery and has now been demolished to make way for nine flats and a community-based shop/commercial unit.
Still standing, but probably not for long, is the New Queens Head in lower Stanmore. Various proposals for housing have been rejected by planners and the City Council is now trying to buy the pub and replace it with a community centre as part of a regeneration plan for Stanmore. The regeneration plans have met with some opposition, especially by those who discovered that their homes could be demolished as one of the options.
Finally we recognise the achievement of Mike and Lynne Sinker who in July will have run the Baker's Arms, off the High Street, for 40 years. As well as pulling pints, the couple have also been active members of the Licensed Victuallers' Association.
I started visiting pubs in the early 1970s (my parents used to buy me a shandy), by the mid '70s I was visiting with friends (Heineken was the in drink as it was seemingly advertised on TV in every commercial break). We felt then that all pubs were about the same, with at least two bars to choose from and no food beyond crisps and maybe a cheese and onion roll; and, living in eastern Southampton, all seemed to belong to Whitbread. The main consideration was the friendliness of the landlord and customers. At this time we had just two TV channels, no supermarket sold alcohol and a home computer was a sci-fi fantasy.
Forty years on, the pub scene is barely recognisable. Along with a total cultural change in home entertainment, every corner shop and supermarket now sells alcohol at all hours and virtually no pub is now owned by a brewer. With the collapse of some big brewing groups, the globalisation of others and the diversion of yet more into different lines of business the pubs were abandoned and transferred to pub companies. These 'PubCos' grew greatly, borrowing huge amounts of money to buy ever more pubs and backed the loans with the pubs' future rents, a process known as securitisation. With the cost of these loans now loaded into the pubs' rents along with an overall decrease in footfall many pubs are presently struggling desperately for viability.
So do pubs have a future? The first thing to consider is: what is a pub? The pub stock has changed much since the '70s. Many of the larger pubs with car parks and larger town centre venues have become managed eating houses (Beefeaters for example) others become disco pubs in the evening. I feel these venues will survive although some chains have come and gone as these pubs(?) need regular, expensive face-lifts to stay in fashion. This sector is very price conscious and breweries supplying them should not expect to make much profit. Also likely to last are the recent purpose-designed beer emporiums, usually in converted buildings such as the Wetherspoon empire.
Many of us idly dream about sitting in the garden of a county pub with the sun shining down on the perfect pub garden. The truth of the situation is that most of the time the rain-lashed garden is empty with the few customers huddled around the pub fire. I feel the number of true country pubs will continue to decline. One of the main problems is that these pubs, especially here in the south, are worth much more as private houses than as pubs so there is pressure for the owners to prove them not viable, de-licence them and reap the gain. Maybe some county pubs need to operate a reduced season as seaside hotels do, with reduced rents and business rates to allow for this, as it would be a shame to lose completely the dream of going to a country pub when (or if) the British summer arrives.
Under economic (staff cost) pressure and licensing policy pressure most community pubs were opened up into single bars in the 1980s. Since, more or less at the same time, passing to the pub companies many of the leaseholders are now responsible for the upkeep. With leaseholders struggling to make their pubs even pay at all, many are now visibly in need of a face-lift. Also this part of the pub stock seems to have split to go one of two ways, some as sports and games bars (public bar) the others with real ale and sometimes food (lounge bar) with only the few that managed to keep two bars being able to cover both choices. With the PubCos struggling to finance their loans the pressure is to sell under-performing pubs for development or as Tesco Expresses!
Do I believe pubs will survive into the future? Well yes, the large food led pubs look as if they are here to stay, but I do not feel these are real pubs and I always feel uncomfortable sitting down just for a pint when people are looking for a table to eat at.
As for true pubs, both rural and urban, I feel both will survive, but they will be fewer. Eventually the stock of pubs will find a level that proves economic to run and maintain. Although it would be nice to save every pub, a run down one with just a couple of customers is not very inviting, a pub needs a certain number of customers to have the atmosphere that people seek.
Family brewers (Wadworth, Fullers, Greene King etc), who have been slowly building up their estates buying one or two pubs at a time instead of the large blocks traded by pub companies, may offer hope to some. They also seem to have money to invest in refurbishing their new acquisitions. Also some of these brewers now seem inclined to let the new smaller real ale brewers onto their bars alongside their own beers.
An area that could lead to a growth in the pub stock is the number of closed shops, mostly too small to interest a Supermarket, but which could be converted into small pub/bars selling a couple of draught beers, bottled beers, coffee and snacks and would give a cheaper entry to the trade than taking on a lease from a pub company. Of course planning and licensing could be problems, but I am sure these could be overcome. By opening from 11am to 8pm it should be possible for a single trader to operate such an outlet in a shopping area six days a week with reasonable overheads.
Change will continue for the British pub in the coming years, and I will visit them as time and finances allow, to view these changes over a pint or two and to support them as a 'use it or lose it campaign.
The third very successful Winchester Real Ale and Cider Festival has just come and gone. For the benefit of those walking drinkers that couldn't get there, the walk that was part of the festival programme is reprinted here. It is based on a previous walk that appeared in Hop Press some years ago, but extended to include the recently reopened Hockley Viaduct, which now forms part of Sustrans Cycle Route 23.
The long defunct Hockley Viaduct, that runs parallel to the M3 at junction 11, was part of a direct north-south rail link between Southampton and the GWR network at Newbury. The link left the main line a Shawford, entered Winchester running east of Chesil street and to a station tucked away at the bottom of Magdalen Hill before heading north through a tunnel; it was closed in the 1960s. So here's a walk, somewhat similar to the walk in the earlier Hop Press but which takes you to the viaduct and back in a circular sort of way.
Starting from the Winchester Guildhall (or perhaps the bus station, opposite), walk towards the town centre . There on the first corner, part of the Guildhall building, is the Pitcher and Piano, a large smart modern bar, one of a national chain owned by Marstons, with a veritable forest of lager fonts, but only one lonely real ale pump (Hobgoblin, presumably in its new 'FastCask' form, was on when we passed by). Good to note though, the neatly carved legend over the entrance 'Public Reading Room'.
Continue up the High Street towards the town centre and into the pedestrianized area. Next to the Santander Bank,
turn left into a small alley leading directly to the Baker's Arms, a modest pub, but with a very
pleasant patio (usually Shepherd Neame beers – Spitfire and Master Brew when visited, it is a good place for
reasonably priced pub grub).
Turn right on leaving the pub past the ornate ironwork, right again into Market Lane, then immediately left into
Market Street. Ahead is the William Walker, originally the Olde Market Inn but recently re-named
after the diver who did so much work securing the foundations of Winchester Cathedral. The pub has been a
Fuller's pub for over a year now, though very surprisingly, there are no external signs to say so. (A range of
Fuller's beers are always available, plus Itchen Valley Godfathers as a guest when visited.)
Bend right around the pub into The Square. About 100 yards ahead is the Eclipse, a pub with as much history as any building in the city, though the non-vertical front is a 1920s pastiche. The unspoilt bars seem to have been smartened up recently (Brain's Bread of Heaven, Doom Bar, Flack Manor Double Drop and Ringwood XXXX Porter were on when visited).
Leaving, the next port of call can be seen to the right – the Old Vine, a comfortable pub with a good restaurant. (Ringwood Best plus three guest beers, which were Andwell Resolute, Hogs Back TEA and Bowman Swift One when visited).
After that flurry of pubs, time for a quiet walk through the Cathedral grounds. Leave the Old Vine and walk
across the green towards the west end of the Cathedral. Go round the Cathedral on the right side and follow signs
towards Winchester College. Look out for ancient yellow ochre half-timbered buildings, and leave the grounds
through an adjoining equally ancient gate. This brings you to the end of St Swithun's Street, there turn left
under a traffic-free archway into Kingsgate Street.
Ahead of you are the welcoming curved green doors of the long-established Wykeham Arms (another Fuller's pub, this one almost always has a Flowerpots beer on).
Leaving the Wykeham you now have the opportunity for some exercise. Retrace your route a few steps and turn right into College Street by a gift shop. Just after the traffic barriers turn right into College Walk, then right again into Winchester College's private car park. At the end, turn left onto a good but often muddy footpath. The waters of the River Itchen will dominate the scene for the next mile. Already there is a small stream flowing beside the path; then the main thread of the Itchen swings in on the left, and another stream merges on the right. Suddenly you are in open country. Continue along this good path, with Winchester College sports grounds on the right. Keats composed his Ode to Autumn – 'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' – walking hereabouts. Eventually turn right onto a small but fairly busy road; then immediately left along the Clarendon Way.
At the start of the path there are notices about tree removal, and indeed some of the views to the left from this path are much changed recently. The path is easy to follow, signs of extensive recent felling are evident on the left side of the path (how they are going to remove the timber I have no idea), with clear views now across to St. Catherine's Hill. After some allotments on the right, go through a gate and over a small bridge.
The imposing bulk of St. Cross Church lies ahead, but there is perhaps another pub to visit first. Head for a white gate next to a high stone wall; go through the gate and past the entrance to St. Cross Hospital. Ahead of you is the main St. Cross Road, and on the left is the Bell Inn. (Beers on when visited were two Greene King IPAs, Moreland Original and London Glory).
Leaving the Bell, retrace your route and curve right around St. Cross Hospital. A good path lies ahead leading towards an avenue of tall slender trees. The River Itchen is a few yards away on the left and a small stream immediately on your right. Follow this path to the next road, and there turn left.
This is Five Bridges Road. Many years ago this was a busy route to the original Winchester By-Pass. Now it is a cul-de-sac; providing free parking for walkers, including those wishing to walk into Winchester from the south. Continue along the road, crossing the braids and main stream of the Itchen. Hockley Viaduct can be seen across the fields on the right. At the end of the road (this was long ago the location of the notorious Hockley traffic lights on the By-Pass) turn right sharply and follow the Sustrans 23 cycle route onto the viaduct. Walk along as much of the viaduct as you wish, enjoying the views of the water meadows on one side and even the M3 on the other.
It is possible to follow Sustrans 23 off the western end of the viaduct, join St. Cross Road and return to the Bell Inn, but the road is busy and has little interest. It is better to turn round and retrace your steps to the end of Five Bridges Road, and then continue along Sustrans 23. The good tarmacked route follows the east bank of the Itchen Navigation, starting at river level, later climbing to use the track-bed of the old Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway.
After the gentle climb, the elevation of the route gives good views over the water meadows and of St. Cross; and on the right St. Catherine's Hill looms close. The walking here is easy, so you soon arrive at a small car park just before Garnier Road, next to the Navigation. Be careful here to follow the cycle route sign and turn right under a small bridge, then to spiral up onto the old track-bed again. Again the elevated position gives better views and drier walking.
As the path drops towards tennis courts, there are strange nets on the left, does anyone know what they are for? Follow the cycle route sign into a small lane, with just a single row of interesting houses between the route and the Navigation. Continue to the junction of Wharf Hill and College Walk. Here you leave the cycle route and eventually curve right uphill to the Black Boy. This is an idiosyncratic free house, possibly named after coal heavers working at the Navigation Wharf nearby. (Flowerpots Bitter, Ringwood Best Bitter and Summer Lightning are nearly always available, extras when visited included Barbury Castle from Three Castles and Cottage Concorde).
Bishop on the Bridge
On leaving the Black Boy go downhill, and around to the right of the bulk of Wharf Mill apartments. Cross over two exciting mill races, then turn right to follow the Itchen upstream. The river here is fast, which suggests an earlier weir or extra mill. Whatever, it makes for a great walk gently uphill into Winchester. Soon steps lead up to the main road. Turn left and there on your left is the Bishop On The Bridge, a pub that has had more names in recent years than can be good for it – the Great Western (a reminder of our long lost railway link), the Riverside and Louisiana are just some; now it is yet another Fuller's pub serving most of their range.
After the Bishop continue towards the centre , the fine statue of King Alfred is immediately ahead of you, and beyond that the imposing Winchester Guildhall. So you are back where you started, safe and sound. We (Ray Massey – text and Phil Rosenthal – photos) hope that you enjoy the walk, the sights, the pubs and the beers. And if you have any ideas for future walks in the area we would be delighted if you would write in with them.
Maps: No maps are necessary for this walk. Winchester is well signed.
Seasons: Town walks can be good at any time of year. Remember that Winchester is a popular tourist mecca in the summer and can get crowded, and it's easier to see through the trees in the winter.
Times: The walk is about 4 ½ miles long, so the walking part takes about 1½ – 2 hours.
Six Bells (Photo: John Canavan)
On 19th February 2013 the new Six Bells, J.D. Wetherspoon estate addition opened its doors in Lymington, the town dubbed 'the snootiest in Britain' by the national media. All manner of doom and gloom and antisocial behaviour was forecast before the event but the critics appear to have been totally silenced since the grand opening.
Pre-opening invitations were extended to local businesses and future customers to see the quality of the conversion of the premises and the vicar (of the church next door) and local dignitaries appear to have been taken aback when the true nature of the business was revealed. The interior design and sympathy for local history has been particularly praised.
Since opening day the trade has been considerable and families with young children, the disabled and elderly have particularly filled the Six Bells. The majority of the clientele have not been seen in other local pubs before which justifies this particular addition to the licensed trade. The size, in particular, has appealed to families as has the competitive pricing structure.
But what, most importantly for CAMRA, has the effect been on the local real ale scene? Fears that other real ale pubs would shut due to their customers flocking to the Six Bells and not returning have not materialised. There has been a reduction in trade generally in the town but this seems to be due to the economic situation rather than migration to the new venue.
The nearest pub to the Six Bells is the Kings Arms, also in St. Thomas Street. New licensees came in during January 2013 and the concentration has been on weekend live music as before but with more competitive pricing for the real ale. At the most recent visit Greene King IPA was selling at £2.20 a pint. There has also been the addition of a second hand-pump selling Ringwood Best. Soup and a roll beside the fireplace is offered as well as other food options, an improvement on service experienced before. Under 21s are not permitted on Friday and Saturday evenings and trade is brisk.
The Thomas Tripp in Queen Street also offers food. Giant, home-made, hand-stretched pizzas and tapas are the specialities and early bird evening meal and a pint offers are attractive. Flack Manor ales are regular and other Hampshire guests are also turned over regularly and of such good quality as to warrant a listing in our LocAle directory.
The Fusion Inn, also in Queen Street but not noted as a serious real ale outlet, caters mainly for the younger element. It will be interesting to see if thought is given here to widening the appeal to drinkers who appreciate quality ale in the future as the other pubs have done.
The Angel Hotel in Lymington High Street closed very shortly after the opening of the Six Bells and a tasteful refurbishment has brought about the Angel and Blue Pig. The porcine element is the renamed hotel bar now regularly stocking Marston's Blonde Angel, Wychwood Hobgoblin and Ringwood Best together with a guest ale, excellently kept Marston's Pacific Gem on my visit. The Angel has gone for an up-market change with plush seating, cushions and artwork. £3.95 for a pint of Pacific Gem will not appeal to the average Wetherspoon punter but certainly targets the yachting fraternity who generally do not venture far up the hill from the Town Quay.
The Good Beer Guide listed Borough Arms in East Hill has its loyal regular following and offers a pool table and juke box, not catered for by the Six Bells. Rapidly changing guest ales supplement the Ringwood Best and Fortyniner and Itchen Valley and Bowman ales are often present. Real cider is always available and the pub is small and intimate in the style of a traditional local, in complete contrast to the large, food orientated, Six Bells.
The manager of the new Six Bells, Duncan James, has a free choice of real ale selection. Hailing more recently from Dorset, his local ales of choice are from Wayland's Sixpenny and Sunny Republic, two breweries with which he is familiar.
Wetherspoon's recent national Real Ale Festival has introduced ales to Lymington never seen before and the offer of third-pint glasses complete with comprehensive tasting notes enabled a wide selection of beer styles and strengths to be tried. The glass sizes seemed to attract drinkers who had never tried real ale before and are an encouraging sign of the appeal real ale can have to drinkers once initial uncertainty has been overcome.
In 1994 there were none. The nearest was in Basingstoke. Today there are 18 Fuller's tied houses in the area covered by the Southern Hampshire Branch of CAMRA. In addition there are an increasing number of free trade accounts that leave little space for other brewers' products.
The implementation of the infamous Beer Orders in 1989 meant that the big brewers at the time such as Allied Lyons, Bass, and Scottish & Newcastle lost control of many of their tied houses. The maximum number of pubs that a brewery could own was 2,000. However the legislation contained a fundamental flaw, embodied in a single word, it did not say a business could only have 2000 pubs but only that a brewery could. Almost overnight the big brewers transferred their excess pubs into the control of property companies they themselves had spawned. This piece of the Beer Orders was dreamt up by Lord Young, Trade and Industry Secretary, many believe knowingly…
What CAMRA (and many others) had hoped would lead to a boom in free houses – pubs where the licensees were free to sell beers from any brewery that they wished – failed to materialise. What happened was that the big brewers, with most of their pubs now in big pub companies such as Punch Taverns, Enterprise Inns, and Admiral Taverns, simply made exclusive agreements with them to supply these pubs with their beers.
These major brewers then lifted their sights beyond our shores and either amalgamated with global brewery companies or disappeared altogether, giving the larger regional breweries the opportunity to expand. They did this in three ways:
1) They sold more of their beer to the new pub chains.
2) They expanded their trading areas by taking over smaller breweries, closing them and imposing their beers on the pubs of the brewery that they had closed.
3) They purchased free houses in their expanded trading areas.
This is how Fuller's, who now have nearly 400 pubs, became a major player in Southern Hampshire.
Even before the demise of the national breweries, Fuller's beers could be found in a high proportion of Whitbread pubs locally. Today London Pride is one of the most recognised beer brands following some major sponsorship and advertising at events such as major football matches. It is unusual to enter a Hampshire pub owned by a pub chain and not to find one or more of Fuller's London Pride, Marston's Ringwood Best, Coors' Doom Bar or Greene King's IPA on offer.
Fuller's also purchased Gales Brewery and its 130 or so pubs for £92m in November 2005. Nobody was surprised when Gales Horndean brewery was closed in March the following year. As a result Fuller's gained seven outlets in our local branch area including the Old House At Home, Romsey, the Horse and Jockey, Curbridge, the Newport Inn, Braishfield, the Wykeham Arms, Winchester and Ye Olde Whyte Harte, Hamble. They gained many more in south eastern Hampshire.
Fullers then continued to expand their local estate by purchasing additional pubs in Hampshire. Some, such as the Bear and Ragged Staff, Michelmersh and the Sir John Barleycorn, Cadnam, were at one time owned by Whitbread but in recent years had been owned by various pub companies. Their most recent acquisition in the area is the Horse and Groom, Alresford.
Many other purchases were genuine, successful, free houses. These include the Pilgrim, Marchwood and the Oak Inn at Bank, near Lyndhurst. Hampshire has for many years had a low proportion of genuine free houses compared with other areas, although the current position is better than it was in the 1970s. While we cannot blame the owners for getting the best price for their business, it is galling to see the number of free houses in our area reduced in this way.
It would be nice to think that companies such as Fuller's could purchase some of the less well trading pubs and through the quality of their beers and management make them successful. Fuller's make much on their website of their social responsibility and their business's impact on the community, it would be public spirited to see them join the struggle against the predatory supermarkets! Of course, Fuller's are not alone in this approach as other major regional brewers, for example, both Greene King and Wadworth, have acted in a similar way in recent years.
It could be argued that a wide range of beers from Fuller's portfolio offers a better choice to drinkers than that often offered in the pubs owned by the major pub chains. It's just a shame that we are losing genuine free houses to help Fuller's and others build their empires.
Although there were no Fuller's pubs in our area in 1994 there had been Fuller's pubs in the area prior to the takeover of Gales. There is a clue in the title of one such pub in Southampton. The Griffin in Anglesea Road, Shirley was originally known as the Forester's Arms. When it was acquired by Fuller, Smith and Turner (to give the company its full name) in 1898 it was renamed after the company's Chiswick based Griffin Brewery, where Fuller's beers (and now those badged as Gale's) are still brewed.
On March 7th Fullers were awarded the accolade of 'Company of the Year' an award sponsored by accountants Price Waterhouse. These awards are among the most prestigious in the city. The judging process is rigorous and includes votes from readers of the Financial Times as well as a panel of respected city executives.
In the words of the awarding panel, the judges were looking for a company whose success is clearly not a short-term phenomenon. To this end, they highlighted Fuller's consistent long term strategy of style over fashion and their shrewd additions to the pub estate as key factors in success. One analyst commentator added "They are picking up high quality assets because they are a high quality business." Which says it all.
The Brewery, Chiswick
QUETZALCOATL (printable pdf version here 28KB download)
Prizes to the first two correct entries drawn. Closing date: 17th August 2013.
The Editor, Hop Press, 1 Surbiton Road, Eastleigh, Hants. SO50 4HY
Issue 73 (October 2012) Solution & Winners
A great entry for this issue – twenty-nine in all. Unfortunately three had spelling errors so just twenty-six went into the hat.
Hop Press Issue number 74. May 2013
Editor: Pat O'Neill
© CAMRA Ltd. 2013