Hop Presshops Hop Press Issue 43 front cover

Issue 43 – May 1997


A rough OCR of the original leaving out adverts & some sections such as the Crossword

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EDITORIAL Hop Press index

Journalists are traditionally supposed to abhor good news, a decent earthquake or a prodigious flood will always make a better headline than, say, "Everyone had a nice day today." This editorial is totally good news stories, so I hope that you will all "have a nice day."

The first story is a bit parochial to the Campaign for Real Ale itself, but we are proud of it. At the end of March our membership reached an historic landmark – 50,000 individual members! Over the last twelve months, membership grew by 8%, and it has trebled over a ten year period. CAMRA, like many organisations, is run on a branch basis; there are about 150 branches throughout the country. Hop Press is the magazine of the Southern Hampshire Branch – our area covers, in the main, Southampton, Eastleigh, Winchester, Romsey and the New Forest. Locally, we had an above average annual growth of 10% during the year to a branch membership that is now well over 600 – one of CAMRA's bigger branches.

Our continued growth, to this highest ever figure and over a quarter of century since our formation, reflects not only our past successes – more people want to join a winning side – but also a realisation that there is still very much more to achieve in many areas of campaigning.

Only a few moments thought on some of these areas should be enough to make any right thinking pub user stump up a few pounds membership fee to get stuck into the battle. Witness the philistine, irreversible destruction of fine old pubs into mock Irish shebeens or nightmarish distortions of some supposed Victorian ale houses. Witness the continuing scandal of serving short measure, a Government sanctioned swindle unique to alcoholic drinks. Witness the continuing concentration of power in the pub industry into ever fewer hands, completely contrary to the expressed intentions of the Monopolies Commission. Plenty more could be offered, but I detect a tilt towards the bad news area! Back firmly in the good news camp for our second subject, the success, recently and for the second time, of our guest beer campaign.

The Monopolies and Mergers Commission, after their 1989 study of the brewing industry, recommended the "guest beer law" and this was introduced on May 1st, 1990. The law allows a tenant of one of the three remaining national brewers to stock a guest real ale from any independent brewer. The wording and spirit of the law came directly from CAMRA's submissions to the MMC.

Recently, a lager importing Company challenged the law in Brussels, arguing that it was contrary to EU policy on "constraint of trade" because it limited the choice to cask-conditioned beers (real ales). The European Commission were initially in favour of this view and declared that they would take action against Britain unless the Government could justify the restriction to real ales. CAMRA knew that removing the restriction would simply result in a few well known lagers swamping the guest market, hundreds of small brewers would lose business, some enough to put them out of business. The Society of Independent Brewers claimed that it was "a life and death" issue.

CAMRA launched a massive campaign, bringing together MPs, MEPs, British brewers, Continental brewers and other "sister" beer enthusiasts' organisations throughout Europe. We argued that the beer market in the UK offered the best choice of beers of any EU country. We were able to demonstrate that there are many cask-conditioned beers made in other European countries, we named suppliers.

After consultation, the British Government offered to extend the law by allowing the tenant also to choose the supplier of one bottle-conditioned beer. The Commission in Brussels accepted that with this extension, and after considering all the submissions, then they would not now take any further action. They announced this last month. For British drinkers the result could hardly be better, not only have we saved the guest beer law but it has been improved in the process! We look forward to big three tenants trying some rare speciality beers, both British and Continental.

As remarked, the original guest beer law came into force on Mayday 1990. Exactly seven years on, Mayday 1997 has brought us all another good news story! Perhaps not quite every reader will agree, and as the Campaign for Real Ale is, by its Constitution and Articles of Association, a non-political body (at least with a capital P) we will not generalise further. However, it is perfectly legitimate to speculate as to why the election result should specifically be good news for pub-goers.

Most obvious is the outrageous situation in which the previous Government left the pint measure. During their campaign, the Labour Party pledged to re-instate section 43 of the Weights and Measures Act (which says that a pint should be a pint of liquid, disregarding any head) and to legislate for lined glasses to make this operable. CAMRA has long campaigned for exactly this and we will be watching the new Government very closely. We remember that at the 1992 election the Conservative Party made somewhat similar pledges and then cynically reneged on them within weeks of winning, under pressure from the brewing lobby.

This lobby of the big brewing companies should, we hope, have less effect on the new administration. This hope then is that takeover and merger policy will be more even handed. In the short term we will be making new representations to Government in an attempt to head off the impending Bass/Allied-Domecq deal.

From many statements – the possible splitting of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the plans for the introduction of a Freedom of Information Act – we should be justified in expecting a more consumer friendly, open régime. Maybe, at long last, we can have some of the little things that we have so often asked for – ingredients listing, better rules on price lists, display of hours etc. etc.

Finally, a last piece of good news. D-Day, June 6th will see a CAMRA landing at the Southampton Guildhall when we will offer over sixty beers for a summer beer festival. See the inside front cover for the details.

See you all there.

FREE BUT NOT SO EASY Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

When real ale drinkers see the words "Free House" we like to think that on entering the pub we will greeted by a real selection of beers. Perhaps a local favourite, a classic from a distant regional brewer and a beer from a micro brewery. The reality is far too often a limited selection of bland beers from one national brewer. Does this mean that it not a free house? Or are our perceptions of what constitutes a free house misplaced?

Only a few years ago there was merely a handful of free houses in the city of Southampton. The situation in the surrounding towns and villages was little different. Since the MMC's "Beer Orders" forced the big brewers to sell thousands of their tied houses, the words "Free House" have been appearing increasingly outside of our local pubs. But what do they really signify?

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a free house thus: "Inn or public house that may sell any brewer's liquor." Chambers Dictionary has it as: "A public house that is not tied to a particular supplier." The OED traces the phrase back to 1858 when Simmonds Directory of Trade defined a free house as: "One not belonging to a brewer; the landlord has therefore free liberty to brew his own beer, or purchase where he chooses." Not much room for confusion there!

In CAMRA we believe that these definitions should be strictly upheld, backed if necessary by legislation. A pub should only be able to put out such a sign if the owner or licensee can really choose a supplier without any constraint whatsoever.

The two main factors that determine the choice of beers that are on offer in a free house are: who makes the decisions on which beers to sell and, as importantly, what period of time is covered by the decision.

If the pub is individually owned, as most free houses were until recently, then the responsibility for the beers on offer is clear. But if the pub is part of a large pub chain, a concept more or less resulting from the Beer Orders, then the situation is very much less clear. The licensee may have a list of beers from which to choose, but much more likely will have no choice at all. The chain's beers will have been negotiated centrally, probably with a major brewer able to offer big volume discounts.

Many individual pub owners finance their operation with a loan from a brewery in return for an agreement to sell that brewery's beer for a certain period of time. They are as tied as any brewery owned pub but still display those magic words "Free House." Through such agreements, especially with the very big chains, national brewers have managed to keep their beers on sale in at least as many pubs as before the "reforms" of the Beer Orders.

Clubs should be a much better bet for the drinker looking for a truly freely chosen list of beers. The Licensing Acts specifically say that the choice of drinks to be sold by a registered members club (most social clubs) must be made by an elected committee. However the law is silent on the matter of such committees agreeing loans and discount deals; many such a club ends up deeply in hock to a national brewer.

Currently then, there are very few supposed "Free Houses" that have a totally free hand on what beers are on sale. Many of the big pub chains, run by non-brewing companies and formed from the bulk pub disposals of the big brewers, often have the same beers on sale as before they were sold. Although quite contrary to the spirit of the Beer Orders, the courts seem to have little interest limiting these tie agreements. Not every big chain is this bad of course, for example, Wetherspoons, although with a major financial agreement with Scottish Courage, have a policy of also selling beers from small independent breweries.

In the normal tied trade, big brewers Bass offer only their own, rather limited, range of beers. Scottish Courage tenants can choose from a fairly wide range of beers from regional brewers but few find their way onto local bars beside the Theakston and Courage brands. The other member of the "big three," Whitbread, are the star performers in offering customers choice. Although Whitbread pubs usually sell Flowers Original it is often accompanied on the bar by the likes of Pedigree, 6X or London Pride. The Hogshead theme pubs offer a wide range of interesting beers and there are a number of managed houses that have beers not brewed by Whitbread. Many Whitbread tenants make use of the "Guest Beer Law" to offer more choice – Ringwood beers appear in many Whitbread tenancies in the New Forest.

Recently we have seen a sinister new trend for regional independent brewers to buy up successful free houses. Both Gales and Wadworth have purchased a number of long standing genuinely free houses over the past couple of years and now Marstons have also started (They have just bought the Dever Arms at Micheldever). Although some of the pubs may offer beers of other brewers, the customer is losing potential choice.

The whole question of the brewery tie is currently subject to an EU "derogation" and is due to be re-defined by negotiations in Brussels before December 31st, 1999. It would be a nice millennium present if the bureaucrats can come up with some regulations that can produce a useful definition for a real free house. Although, rather than finding a new definition, the following reforms might give more benefit:

• Restrictions on loan ties and the huge discounts that enable the big brewers to tie up so much of the trade.
• Price and product lists outside of pubs so that customers can see what is on offer before entering the pub. Restaurants have to do this, so why not pubs?
• More prominent and informative display of pub ownership

But the crucial step is to increase consumer demand for a wide choice of decent beers. If customers demand a wide range of tasty beers then both free and tied houses will have to increase choice and quality to survive. If this happens then it will not matter whether you are entering a free house or a tied house.

Of course, the widest range of real ales on offer in Southampton will be at our Guildhall Beer Festival on June 6th and 7th.


Stephen Treglown
(Condensed from a longer article on Strong's history)

I doubt if there are a dozen people still within the Whitbread Group who can recall earlier days with Strong & Co. of Romsey. It is with nostalgia, and some sadness, that I pen these words as the last references to the Company, the "Strong Country" and its bitter finally vanish from the handpumps in our houses. Something I would not have envisaged when I joined Strongs thirty-five years ago.

Although founded in the 18th century, the brewery was leased to Thomas Strong in 1858 and he subsequently bought it in 1883. After his death, very soon after, in 1886, the business was acquired by David Faber. He soon started buying other local breweries: Cressys and Bell Street in Romsey and breweries at Weyhill, Andover and Christchurch were added quickly and then, in the early part of this century, came Marston's Dolphin Brewery in Poole and several, principally Scrases, in Southampton. David Faber had established a sizeable, reputable brewery.

Following the war, Strongs expanded to the east buying Stranges of Aldermaston, Wethereds at Marlow and Higgs in Reading. The Isle of Wight followed in 1965 when Mew Langton was purchased, by this time the tied estate was over 960 houses. At this time it was possible to drink a pint of

Strongs from the seaside at Weymouth to the Great West Road on the capital's outskirts. There were then around 800 employees in what was a leading regional brewer. Strongs were at their peak in the '60s, even indulging in the then novel notion of television advertising. The annual Strong Country £1000 Golf Tournament attracted leading professionals with Peter Alliss and John Stirling amongst the winners. Darts teams from all over the south converged on Romsey's Crossfield Hall for the finals of the Strongs Coronation Challenge Cup and every June a ten coach special train would steam out of Romsey station for the Company's annual seaside outing. Even though going as far as Tenby or Torquay the train always managed to be back at Romsey by about ten for a last quick pint before glasses were removed at ten-thirty sharp! (No drinking-up time then).

Whitbread had long had a substantial shareholding in Strongs under what was always known as the "Whitbread Umbrella" and in 1969 bought the Company outright. A year later they also bought Strong's Portsmouth rivals, Brickwoods, and Whitbread Wessex was formed.

Most people can be forgiven for thinking that the term the "Strong Country" referred just to the brewery name but Thomas Hardy in his Wessex novels always identified his Wessex – Hampshire and Dorset – as "The strong country" so the brewery picked up these resonances. They used them to good effect. In the first half of the century, no traveller could have come down from the Midlands or from London without knowing that they were entering the Strong Country!

Strong Country Bitter is a relatively new name, generated by Whitbread. In the 1930s Strongs ordinary bitter was PA (Pale Ale) then available for 130/- (£6.50) a barrel!

PA probably had its finest hour during the Normandy landings of 1944. Adapters were made for some Spitfire under-wing bomb racks to enable two casks (wooden, at that time of course) per aeroplane to be flown directly to the beach heads.

By peacetime in the 1950s PA had become BPA (Best Pale Ale), which remained the main cask ale up to the 1969 Whitbread buyout. To tie in with Whitbread's national advertising campaigns BPA was renamed Trophy, however with Trophy then being made available in both a cask and a keg form, customers became confused. It was felt appropriate to return to a more traditional style of name and Strong Country Bitter was born with the pump clips and other advertising making use of the attractive pastoral scenes so familiar years before as the road and line-side hoardings.

The apparently unstoppable lager boom of the 1970s made all brewers rethink their strategies [a Whitbread report from this era predicted that by now lager's share of the beer market would be well over 90% – Ed.]. This, coupled with the fact that much of the Romsey plant was getting old (some of the vessels had been brought, already well used, from the Scrases Southampton brewery) led to the regrettable but necessary decision to cease brewing at Romsey. 1979 saw the end of five centuries of brewing in the town.

Strong Country Bitter continued as a brand, being brewed at Whitbread's Cheltenham Brewery for a few years and then under contract by regional breweries. Now, although we will miss the familiar Strongs name on the handpump, it is heartening to know that the resurgence of cask beer will mean that the industry generally will continue to provide a wide choice of cask ales to the discerning beer drinker.

My earliest association with, or liking for, if that is the better phrase, Strong's beers dates from 1962 when I started employment at the old Bournemouth Depot. Apart from delivering beer to the local pubs my other task as a trainee was to receive into stock each week some three to four hundred casks and then to "fine" them before delivery to the customers.

A copper tube, about 1½" in diameter and 18" long was used for this purpose. Placing one end in one's mouth, the other carefully through the shive hole, then carefully siphoning off the required amount of beer (about two pints for a barrel) to be replaced with finings. The withdrawals were poured into the empty casks that had previously held the linings, for return to the brewery.

I remember once offering a rather feeble excuse that the discrepancy between finings received and withdrawals returned was probably due to evaporation and spillage! I do know that I gained a reputation with the Romsey draymen for always being able to quench their thirst with a very acceptable quart of Strong's Bitter, albeit that on particularly busy trading days in the summer, my eye on the snooker table, later in the evening, sometimes seemed more than a little adrift...

AN APPLE A DAY Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

Cider is normally associated with the West Country or Hereford and Worcester, the vast majority is still produced in these two areas. Yet, we have a local real cider maker in the heart of the New Forest. Barry Topp was born in Burley but spent much of his life in the West Country, where he got a taste for cider. Working for a fishing company, he was made redundant in the 1980's, the seven acre family smallholding in Burley was not large enough for a viable farm, so Barry came up with the idea of cider. In his 1989 application to Ringwood magistrates, he said: "The Campaign for Real Ale seems to have prompted the campaign for traditional cider."

This is not the first cider to be made in Burley. New Forest Cider's logo is based on a picture, from the early part of the century, of Eli Sim's cider press in Chapel Lane. Now 10,000 gallons are produced each year. Most is sold at events such as steam rallies and county shows, from a mobile, thatched van and trailer. These thatched vehicles must cause quite a stir on the motorways!

Barry and his wife Sue run the business. The cider is only made in autumn, after the apple harvest, when additional help is called in. The cider is produced in a modern hydraulic press. An antique Ratchet Twin Screw Press, salvaged from a farm in Somerset, is used occasionally. There was already at Littlemead, in Pound Lane, a small orchard with Bramleys, Cox and Worcesters. These apples make up 20% of the input, with the other 80% coming from traditional cider apple orchards that Barry works in Somerset. All apples are pressed at Burley. Some cider apple trees have been planted at Burley and the number may increase in the future.

All New Forest Cider is made from pure, undiluted apple juice, no apple concentrates are used. After fermentation it is blended in old whisky or rum casks. Dry, medium and sweet blends are made, along with a dry, single fruit variety, Kingston Black. Kingston Black is the most highly prized cider apple, reflected in its cost, 30% more than other cider apples. Kingston Black is around 7½% alcohol, with the other varieties coming in between 6½% and 7%.

New Forest Cider is sold at the farm shop throughout the year, normally open days, weekends and evenings, but it is worth ringing (01425-403589). From October to December visitors can see the cider presses in action during the day. As well as draught, straight from the 54 gallon hogsheads, the cider is also bottled under the name Snake-catcher Scrumpy. The farm is just 300 yards from the centre of Burley, a large wooden cask by the post office points the way.

New Forest Cider is not regularly available in local pubs, as Barry concentrates his time on the show trade. Things have come a long way since 1989 but Barry is full of future ideas, such as distilling calvados style spirit and adding more orchard. It is well worth a visit, but otherwise you can try the cider at June's Southampton Beer Festival.

EDITOR'S POSTBAG Hop Press index

The following letter was distributed to CAMRA newsletter editors and to the national press, it was published in the Times of April 22nd.


The time has come for a new liquor Licensing Act. The current legislation has been amended over more than three decades, but its defects are increasingly apparent. Licensing fails to address the needs and preferences of today's consumers. The Act looks back to the First World War and fear of drunken munitions workers, rather than forward to a new millennium. There is a patronising presumption that drinkers cannot be trusted to make their own decisions.

The licensing system is costly and cumbersome to administer. There is confusion and overlap between different functions and bodies. Everyone accepts the need for safeguards for the public. However, the current legislation does not approach this in a logical way. It is neither efficient nor effective in what it should be seeking to do. The police and magistrates support reform.

Consumer groups and those who own or run licensed premises urge the next Government, of whatever political persuasion, to act.

Yours faithfully,
Signatories for the following bodies: The Consumers Association.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).
The Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association.
The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers.
London and South-East Licensed Victuallers Association.
Licensed Victuallers Trade Association (Midlands).
Federation of Licensed Victuallers. British Hospitality Association.
British Institute of Innkeeping.
Business for Sport and Leisure.

Although one usually treat circular letters circumspectly, the election makes this one quite topical – Ed.

10 Years Ago Hop Press index

This time we look back at the Hop Press from the Summer of 1987.

The editorial took up a question of concern at the end of the '80s – variability in the quality of the beers then being produced by Gales at Horndean. In a more general feature, the present editor wrote on the lack of quality of many beers as they were served up to customers in the pub. Readers of our last issue would recognise that the same themes made up the editorial of that edition. Ten years have not solved this problem. It was dismal to note that the ten-year-old article demanded a decent pint as: "...the £1 pint is now well established..."

The White Horse at Ashton was the subject of a lengthy feature, whilst the pubs of Bursledon were given a more cursory review. Compared with many other areas, the pubs of the yachting village have changed very little over the past ten years. Only the then Swan (currently the Yachtsman, following a period as Mulligans) has changed name and the descriptions of the other pubs are still largely relevant today.

A centre-spread was written by an anonymous licensee, aggrieved that his brewery's insistence on "cask breathers" being applied to its real ale casks meant that his pub was not eligible for inclusion in the Good Beer Guide. The article made a number of points on other aspects of keeping a good pint that he thought were not always to be found in all of those pubs listed in our flagship publication! The brewery relaxed its policy some years ago and the pub is now firmly established in the Good Beer Guide.

An article re-printed from the May edition of CAMRA's monthly newspaper "What's Brewing" Hop Press index

'Pressure on regionals to quit brewing' by Ted Bruning

BRITAIN'S biggest regionals are coming under City pressure to follow Greenalls, Boddington and Devenish out of brewing.

A report from the analysts at stockbroker Merrill Lynch says that returns from brewing will be increasingly meagre at Marston's, Vaux, and Wolverhampton & Dudley, and they should concentrate on their tied estates, which is where the real money is.

The Merrill Lynch report follows hard on the heels of Eldridge Pope's decision to sell a majority stake in its former brewery – hived off into a stand alone division two years ago – to general manager Peter Ward for £2.4 million.

Under Mr Ward, the Thomas Hardy Brewery has become a highly efficient stripped-down contract brewer and packager with no distribution or marketing overheads.

Thomas Hardy's contracts include bottling Hooper's Hooch for Bass.

Merrill Lynch says that by 1999 just eight per cent of Marston's profits will come from brewing and 92 per cent from pubs. The same ratios for Vaux and W&D are 8:38 (with 54 per cent coming from hotels) and 14:86 respectively.

Merrill Lynch says that even the biggest regionals are too small to dictate prices, that the beer market is weak and the cask ale market even weaker, and that the growth areas are nitro-kegs and premium lagers where the nationals are strong and the regionals weak.

Where they are strong is in retailing, where their local base, strong cash flows, and under-gearing are advantages.

"Companies that try to survive in the middle ground of brewing will increasingly find the returns less and less attractive," says the report. "We would therefore put a question mark over the long term viability of Vaux's and Wolverhampton & Dudley's brewing operations.

"We believe Vaux should exit brewing in the short term, Marston's after the recovery in the cask ale market in a couple of years' time, and W&D in the medium term."

But W&D finance director Ralph Findlay said the analysts had failed to understand the strengths arising from vertical integration.

"Coming from the South, they ignore the importance of our beer brand in the Midlands," he said. "It's the cornerstone of our strength – Banks's beer in Banks's pubs.

"They have got some cost issues right and some wrong: it costs us more to brew but less to distribute, and there are all sorts of efficiency savings from being all on one site."

Exiting brewing would also mean losing control over the cost and quality of the company's beer supplies, he said.

And he added: "This issue has come up before.

"It makes us focus our attention on these basic questions, but it won't push us in a direction we don't want to go.

"As long as we believe in what we're doing, that's what matters."

PUB NEWS Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

The new pub boom in Eastleigh town centre continues unabated. Following the Litten Tree and Lucky Jim's, two more new pubs are to open in the High Street! The former Cranbury Carpets at 18-20 High Street is already under conversion to become a Whitbread Hogshead. It is due to open on May 21st under the simple Hogshead name. The pub is promised to be on truly traditional lines with no music, a "conversationalist's pub" [that is certainly something we could do with! – Ed., an Eastleigh resident]. More than a dozen cask beers and two cask ciders will be on offer and some will be rotated weekly – in the course of a year about 200 real ales will be served. Although not in our area, it is worth mentioning that Whitbread will soon be opening more Hogsheads in nearby towns: Newport (IOW) also in May, Portsmouth (Guildhall Walks) and Salisbury (the old Argus store) in June and then followed by one at Parkstone.

The other new Eastleigh pub, at 3 High Street, may not be getting a traditional name as it might be another of the ubiquitous fake Irish theme pubs, under the banner of Shamus O'Donnells. At least, this was the intention of Bristol based Discovery Inns who control almost 300 pubs, but at the very moment of writing we hear that Discovery has been bought by the Midlands company, Enterprise Inns. The combination will be a big chain, with over 1200 pubs and not surprisingly their PR department could not yet confirm any details of what effect the takeover will have on the Eastleigh venture. Watch this space, Pub News will try to give you the details first!

Another new name in Eastleigh is The Indigo Room. Not a new pub but the new name (and colour) for Felix Park, previously known as the Royal Mail, before that the Golden Eagle and, originally, the Crown. The pub is determinably for the "yoof' element – notwithstanding that they are wired, armoured glass we noticed that two of the windows were broken within a few weeks of reopening! Possibly by someone with taste objecting to the execrable outside violet/purple paint work. Where was the Eastleigh planning department when this monstrosity was born?

Southampton is also continuing to see new pubs opening. The former 1-lamiltons' Electronics shop in London Road is to become a café bar and underneath there will be a "German style" beer cellar. This beer cellar will stretch along the basements of four shops.

There is more activity in the docks area with plans for the Ferry House in Canute Road to become a pub. The Victorian grade II listed building was originally a Dock Board office and later the railway's docks office. Close by, the licensee of Henry's (formerly the Canute) is to open Grants beneath the road arches at 13-14 Terminus Terrace. In neither case do we yet know the style of pub to be expected.

The pub which hosted the founding meeting of the Southern Hampshire Branch of CAMRA, in 1974, has changed its name. The Bay Tree, in New Road, has become the Graduate. The Gales house is described as a "Fun Bar" in its advertisements for staff, who are required to be "young, talented and outrageous." The refurbishment of the pub has seen a vast improvement in decor, giving the pub a smarter, more airy appearance.

Also changing name have been Dixies in Bernard Street, which is now Zenbar (must presumably mean something to someone) and the Robin Hood in Sholing, which is now Micawbers. It is to be hoped that the licensees attain Mr. Micawber's recipe for happiness and make at least 6d in the pound.

Two other Southampton pubs undergoing refurbishment recently have been the Old Thatched House in Shirley and the Bassett in Burgess Road. Bass spent £220,000 on the former, which was re-thatched and had an extension added to the lounge bar. A more modest £75,000 was spent transforming the bar and dining areas at the Bassett.

One group of Southampton drinkers who are worried about possible changes to their pub are the customers of the Station in Bullar Road, Bitterne. A petition has been presented to the owners, Inntrepreneur, with the aim of keeping the pub as a true "local." Petitions do not usually have any effect on brewers, lets wish them luck with this one.

While new pubs are opening in the city, others are closing. The Wig and Pen, next to the former Echo offices in Above Bar, and mentioned as under threat in our last edition, has now served its last pint. It will be demolished during work on the West Quay shopping developments. The Robert Burns on South Front has closed and has already been demolished but the pub signs have been saved. Owners, Eldridge Pope, let Dennis Gilbert, a local enthusiast of the Scottish poet, have the two pub signs. Mr Gilbert will keep one himself but will present the other to the Edinburgh branch of the Robert Burns Association. Another former pub sign in the city is also being put to good use. The former Royal Oak at Millbrook now houses a Misslebrook and Weston store and a chip shop; the pub sign is still standing, advertising the store. Not closing, but an opportunity for an entrepreneur, is the Hobbit, which we understand is on the market for anyone with a fair bit of folding money.

Bass are projecting a massive £300 million spend on pub refurbishment this year, quite a bit of this seems to be going on local pubs. Following major work on the Cowherds and the Old Thatched House another £300,000 has been spent on the Anchor at Eling. The pub has been extended and an outside drinking area has been created. Some locals were not too happy about the changes and New Forest planners required changes to be made to the original application to alter the pub, which is in a conservation area.

More restrained changes have been made to the Compass Inn at Winsor, where an extra bar has been added. The Fox and Hounds in the middle of Lyndhurst is undergoing major alterations. The areas to be revamped were hit by fire in late February but swift action by the fire brigade meant damage was limited. Nearby, the Waterloo Arms at Pikes Hill is looking to have a ground floor extension as is the Hobler at Battramsley. The Bolton's Bench Inn has development plans under consideration but has already restyled itself as La Pergola restaurant and wine bar.

The Wheel Inn at Pennington has been acquired by Sally and Mario Tinge, who previously ran a pub in Swanage. Down at Lymington Yacht Haven a new bar-café, Harpers, has opened, with Ringwood beers on offer.

An opening of a rather different kind took place in Sway at the beginning of February when an art gallery was launched in the grounds of the Forest Heath Hotel. Another new outlet may appear in New Milton as modified plans for a new pub in Gore Road have been re-submitted. In the long term this addition may make up for the loss of the Speckled Trout, near the railway station. The outline planning permission for 34 flats to be built on its site is likely to be extended, though exactly when the pub will close depends on the vagaries of the housing market.

A little to the east, in Ashley, the Woodpecker has been extensively refurbished and re-named the Oak and Yaffle. Yaffle is a dialect word for the green woodpecker. At Nursling, the Four Horseshoes, formerly a Whitbread pub, has been bought by Wadworth

There has also been a name change in Fordingbridge where the Load of Hay has become the Augustus John. The artist died in the village in 1961 and was a regular in the pub for 35 years. The opening was performed by a modern local resident of note, motor racing commentator Murray Walker.

Plans to add some more accommodation (the building is too small to allow the owners any private sitting room) to the Royal Oak at Fritham and to erect nearby a multi-functional hail for function and community use have been re-submitted. The New Forest planners, all generosity, had originally said they would allow the hall if it was not used for any commercial event – a novel approach to economic reality!

Moving to the east of our area, The Fox and Hounds at Bursledon has re-opened after a £600,000 refurbishment, which took three months. Also re-opened is the Station Hotel at Netley, complete with something described as the 'Shaggy Dog Concept." The mind boggles. A former Marston house, the Fountain at Waltham Chase, is now a free house called the Chase Inn. One of those running the pub is Peter Hake, who has spent 17 years at the Prince of Wales, Shirrel Heath. Another name change has occurred at Horton Heath where new owners Wadworth have restored the sign of the Brigadier Gerard, which for three years had been called the Builder's Folly.

Another old name is being resurrected in Hedge End. The Maypole was closed and demolished some years ago. Now a new Maypole is to reopen on the site. Local residents hoping for an exiting new free house will be disappointed. The new Maypole is a Nursing Home.

Our last Pub News mentioned the opening of Barringtons at the bottom of Winchester's High Street (at what was once the Great Western, a probably soon-to-be-forgotten reminder that Winchester once had two stations served by two railway companies). The pub chain owners, Luminar Leisure, have done quite a good job on the interior in what is now the normal new pub style of lots of hardwood, seating alcoves and a scattering of "Victorian" brass and glass. A very fine feature is the enormous enamelled pub clock.

It is only a pity that Luminar then ruin it all by a concerted attempt to deceive the public. Throughout the bar there are constant references to the "Chelsea Brewing Company" and the bar's central handpump dispenses a 3.7% "Chelsea Brewery" beer. There is no such brewery.

There was, until 1900 (!), when it merged with Welch's in the Old Kent Road and was subsequently bought and closed by Watneys. When asked, on the opening day, the bar staff repeatedly claimed that the beer was brewed in Chelsea. A director of Luminar said that the origin of the beer was "Their secret and of no interest to the public." In fact the "Chelsea" beer (which is quite a palatable session bitter) is made by Bishop's Brewery, a new independent set up in 1993 in London's Borough Market. It is a mystery to us why Luminar does not just say this and give that brewer the credit he clearly deserves.

In Winchester's Jewry Street work is about to start on a J D Wetherspoon which will be in the old Habel's furniture store. The company expect the conversion to be complete before the end of July. The pub, which as yet has not had a name chosen, will have all of the usual Wetherspoon features – no music, value-for-money beer offers, food all day etc. Names are not decided until three or four weeks before opening so any good ideas should be sent to the Watford head office (WD1 1QH should be enough address to get there).

Just around the corner, in the Upper High Street, work is already under way on the Allied-Domecq Firkin pub. As a previous edition has reported, this will be in what was the old Gas Board showrooms (what would the big chains have done without the privatisations of our utilities...?) directly opposite the Southgate Street lights. Opening is scheduled for August. Although rumoured to be called the Fugue and Firkin, the brewery say that, as yet, the name has not been finally decided.

The site is not large enough to have a brewery as many other Firkins but the beer will be, we are told, specially brewed at another Firkin nearby, which one is again not yet decided. (The Southampton outlet gets its beer from Portsmouth but there are other Firkin brew-pubs in Oxford, Reading and many in London). The format will be standard "Firkin" – three ales of 3.5, 4.3 and 5.0% abv plus one or more "guest" beers, bare boards, lots of music, food all day etc. etc.

Just outside of Winchester, the Cricketers, at Easton has changed hands. The new owners of this free house are Ken Oxley and John Stuges. No drastic changes are planned, any small changes they do make will only be in the direction of making the pub "more traditional," the owners say.

Lastly we have to report that a once famous name has finally vanished from our local pubs. Strong Country Bitter is no more [See article above]. The beer, which recently has been contract brewed for Whitbread by Morrells of Oxford, has been removed from the Whitbread order list.

Although it is sad to see such a famous name disappear, the good news is that Whitbread are offering two other independent brewers' excellent session beers as replacements: Brains Bitter (3.7% abv) from Cardiff and King and Barnes Sussex Bitter (3.5% abv)

EFFY'S ROUND, a personal view Hop Press index

We may take pub names and signs for granted but they are used in every day conservation and are as much a part of our way of life as the pub itself. Yet, a pub name, which could be many hundreds of years old and may carry great historical interest could be changed at the whim of the owner. The famous Ambridge Bull could become, let's say, the Knickers and Codpiece without consultation with anyone. Even if the building is listed and you can't apply a paint brush without asking the planners, the name is yours to do with as you will.

This has been brought to light recently by the Firkin chain of pubs owned by AlliedDomecq. They plan to convert two 16th century pubs, both grade II listed, into Firkins and of course to rename them. The historic Barley Mow in Warrington they would prefer to be the Furrow & Firkin and the Running Horse in Leatherhead the Fetlock & Firkin. Despite opposition from the councils, MPs and much of the local public, Allied-Domecq are deaf to all entreaties. It is little solace that these names are not quite as crass as some, for example the Floozy & Firkin, which serves such beers as S lapper Ale. Although listed interiors and exteriors can be protected with planning controls, names and signs can get no such protection, it's time the planning laws were updated..

"Themeing" of pubs has never been greater. Apart from the Firkins we've seen the wave of fake lush style pubs (which no Irishman would be seen dead in) such as O'Neill's, Scruffy Murphy's, and even Beasty O'Shags. On top of these we have the Rats & Parrots, Slugs & Lettuces and many, many more. Owners will argue that they have been very successful, which, they will then say, is all that counts in business.

Could the next theme be Aussie? For example a crop of Kangaroo Joe's or Skippy's Bars (easy eh?) could soon be in every town, you wouldn't believe sometimes that you need a degree to be in marketing.

Pub names and styles have always changed, especially in town centres to catch the current "in" trends and to celebrate great events. And with banks and shops being converted into licensed outlets at a outstanding rate we need new names and themes, but to discard history and ride roughshod over local opinion for short term profit is finally causing a backlash.

Letters of objection to the press and to MP's have now started a campaign to protect pub names by putting name changes under the control of the licensing bench and/or the planners, especially for listed buildings. So write to your newly elected MP's as the brewers will certainly continue to kill history for market share. CAMRA will do its bit.

As a connected, side issue, a recent report stated that pictorial pub signs are too often being replaced by worded signs. More loss, the picture sign is important art in the community. I always knew that pubgoers are of an artistic nature, see you down at the Floozy for a pint of Slapper? Or should! say, mine's a pint down at the Bald Faced Stag? (Strange name!).

Hop Press issue number 43 – May 1997

Editor: Pat O'Neill
1 Surbiton Road
SO50 4HY
01703 642246

© CAMRA Ltd. 1997