Bath & Borders Cider Pub of the Year award 2020
In the dimly remembered days before the first lockdown last year, we agreed to make Tucker’s Grave our branch’s Cider Pub of the Year. Finally, sixteen months later and on one of our first social events since the current easing of lockdown, we were able to the present the award to landlady Jo Watts. Much has changed at the pub in the intervening period, including the construction of an entire new separate bar to the rear of the original building. The new bar could not be more different from the three unmodernised snug-like small rooms and bay-window serving area for which Tucker’s Grave is so well-known, and which qualifies it for listing in the national inventory of historic pub interiors. The new bar has a modern, light, airy, almost sort of social-club-like feel. It was here, on the evening of Wednesday 28 July, that branch chairman James Honey made the presentation to landlady Jo. The pub is a well-known cider destination. Among its range of around ten ciders are traditional Somerset brands such as Rich’s Farmhouse and Weston’s Old Rosie alongside more modern, exotic varieties. Tucker’s Grave seems to be doing well. The beer garden has been further opened-up, whilst the on-site camping side of the business seems to be going from strength to strength. So, congratulations to Jo and her staff for a belated, but well-deserved accolade.
Kettlesmith Brewery opening two local outlets
Bradford-on-Avon based Kettlesmith brewery has opened a pop-up bar alongside a free-range café in Trowbridge Town Hall. Here customers can enjoy a pint, refill their growlers, or buy Kettlesmith beers in cans. The canned range include a second run of Jester Hazy Pale, named after the predominant hop in the recipe. And going outside the branch area completely, the brewery is well under way with the conversion of a shop in Corsham, North Wiltshire, into a micro pub.
Kingsmead Street Bottle, a new craft beer micro pub in Bath
A new micro pub has opened recently in Kingsmead Square in Bath. It’s a sister business to the Palmer Street Bottle Shop in Frome. During a recent visit a local member found nine craft beers on tap, which included three from Bristol brewers such as Left-handed Giant and Lost and Grounded and other beers from all over. The range constantly changes and have included beers from local brewers such as Twisted and Kettlesmith. The new venue has been doing well since opening, especially as they have outside, as well as inside seating. Within it is light airy with big windows; a good place to watch life going by in Kingsmead Square. Although closed Monday and Tuesday, the rest of the week the opening times are from between 11 and noon to between 10 and midnight. More information at https://whatpub.com/pubs/BAT/518/kingsmead-street-bottle-bath
Brewdog comes to Bath
Bath’s first Brewdog bar opened in the Southgate shopping centre in the summer.
A night club to become a pub?
A variation in an existing planning permission is being sought to turn a long-closed night club, the Nest, at 7 Bladud Buildings on the Paragon, to the northeast of the city centre, into a pub. The pub company behind this is the City Pub Group, who also own and manage the Bath Brew House. The Grade II listed building shut its doors as a night club in 2019. There is a 12-month renewal limit on the use of the garden which, so long as it remains in force, makes it impractical to make the change to a pub within the existing planning consent viable. The condition does allow the external area to be used, but permission to do so has to be renewed each year. The variation seeks to make this permission unnecessary.
And another two possible new pubs in central Bath
Two licensing applications have been made for the ground floor of the former Empire Hotel in central Bath. One is by current operators The Restaurant Group, who are proposing to re-licence and “re-energise” the existing Garfunkels restaurant, whilst the other is by pub chain Brunning & Price to open a licensed bar. Both have been granted, despite the objections of the residents of the age-restricted flats on the floors above. Brunning & Price is proposing to open 8am until 11:30pm on Sundays to Wednesdays and from 8:30am to 12:30am Thursdays to Saturdays. Meanwhile Sam Smith’s continues to pursue its aim of converting the old King Edward’s school building on Broad Street into a pub.
Planning application to convert Weston into flats
We were concerned, but not surprised, to learn of a planning application to Bath & Northeast Somerset Council to convert the long-closed and boarded-up Weston at Newbridge, on the western outskirts of Bath, into eight apartments (application ref. 21/03690/FUL).
Prince of Wales, Peasedown St John
A planning application has been made to convert the closed Prince of Wales on Dunkerton Hill into three private dwellings (applications ref. 21/04882/FUL)
Crown Inn at Clapton under threat of permanent closure
A planning application has been made to Mendip District Council to convert this village pub to the southeast of Midsomer Norton into three private dwellings with the erection of two further homes in the grounds. The application (no. 2021/1138/FUL) was received on 19 May and the period for objections ended on 22 June. An earlier application made in March 2018 to demolish the pub buildings and the building of six houses on the site was withdrawn in October 2019. A factor here was that the building was believed to be a Non-Designated Heritage Asset. In the light of this the new application aims to convert rather than demolish the building. The local authority also asked for marketing strategy and report to be carried out to demonstrate that the Crown was no longer commercially viable as a public house. The marketing exercise was carried out with a quoting freehold price set at £595,000 in the summer of last year, at a time when the pub industry was in its most fragile state for years. This pub is clearly worth saving. The Crown is not only the only pub in the village, but in the whole of the surrounding rural area, with the next nearest pubs being in Midsomer Norton itself.
Planning consent to close the Panborough Inn quashed by judicial review and the Mermaid Inn, Wells, to re-open as a pub after years of closure
Remarkably a planning application to convert the Panborough Inn on the Somerset Levels west of Wells into a private house, which had been granted by Sedgemoor District Council, despite around 50 objections from members of the public and the local parish council, has been quashed by the courts. The Panborough Inn was an attractive, food-orientated, and well-used pub, however, it closed in 2014 and was bought by the present owners in 2016. An earlier application for change of use to a private dwelling was made in August 2019 but later withdrawn due to concerns by the planning authority about the lack of marketing that had taken place to sell the premises as a going concern. The pub was re-marketed in late 2019 with a guide price of £485,000 but only a attracted a small number of viewings.
Heavily involved in the action to challenge the planning permission was the current owner of the Mermaid in Wells, which itself is currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment and which, after years of closure, is to be re-opened as a pub with letting rooms in the upstairs accommodation and former skittle alley. Alongside a business partner he has also recently bought and refurbished the Queen’s at Chew Magna, which, having been closed for the previous 18 months, re-opened on 22 June and has been trading successfully since then, despite Covid restrictions. He believes passionately in the social and community importance of pubs, and that pub owners should behave as custodians for future generations. He has successfully taken councils to court by Judicial Review in respect of two other pubs, the Yew Tree at Chew Stoke and the Windmill Inn in south Bristol.
Reading all the objections against the proposed conversion of the Panborugh Inn that had been posed on to the council’s planning portal, he saw the strength of feeling in favour of saving the pub. The Judicial Review was brought under several grounds, all of which the judge agreed with, and one of which was that the applicant did not adequately canvass the community on their views about the pub and its potential future use as required by Policy D35 of the Sedgemoor District Council Local Plan.
New owners at the Sheppey Inn at Lower Godney
Mark Hey and his partner Liz Chamberlain, who have owned the Sheppey Inn since 2010, have sold the pub to local freelance photographer Ben Costigan. This large and unique pub is situated in a remote spot on the Somerset Levels around half-way between Panborough and Glastonbury. Formally a 17th century cider house on the banks of the river Sheppey, the pub was in a dilapidated state when Mark and Liz bought the property. Since then they have renovated and extended the building into a fascinating, multi-roomed, environmentally friendly pub, which caters for a wide range of customers, showcases local producers and hosts music nights with artists from near and far. New owner Ben and partner Tamsin have pledged to keep the Sheppey the same pub that its regular customers have come to know and love.
Major revamp of the Duke of Cumberland at Holcombe
A major refurbishment of the Duke of Cumberland on the Edford Hill road south of the of Holcombe, around mid-way between Radstock and Shepton Mallet, has been completed. Toby Brett, who has owned the pub for the last ten years, has remodelled the large, country pub into a combination of pub, farm shop and café to reflect the more modern needs of customers. The work was completed in around July and the pub appears to be doing good business on all fronts.
Seven Stars at Timsbury to be refurbished
This Punch Taverns owned village pub is to close for refurbishment in the run up to Christmas. The pub had been under temporary management, but that contract ended recently.
Planning application for the Regional Inventory listed Crown in Frome
A planning application has been made to Mendip District Council to internally refurbish the ground floor, install rooflights in a single-storey rear extension and to re-instate the first floor as bed and breakfast accommodation and a function room. The Crown is included in CAMRA’s Regional Inventory of historic pub interiors. We feared that these changes might threaten its Regional Inventory status, and our Pub Preservation Officer has been in touch with locals after hearing that some of the 1960s décor has gone. On the other hand, an inglenook has been uncovered, and two extra rooms look as they are likely to be opened to the pub. In the opinion of one local it could be that a much earlier version of the pub is being opened-up.
Concerns about the Horse & Groom, East Woodlands
The Horse & Groom is an attractive, idyllically situated and once very popular pub to the southwest of Frome, a mile or so off the Frome bypass. There are concerns about the future of this 17th century free house. Currently closed, the pub sign has been taken down and the condition of the building, seen from the outside, seems to be deteriorating. East Woodlands is a small village, and, in the past, the pub has relied heavily on clientele from nearby Frome. Use of the pub, however, declined in the period before the first lockdown. The pub is owned by the Longleat Estate. Our pubs officer is trying to get in contact Longleat Property Office to find out its plans for the future of the pub.
Castle in Bradford-on-Avon re-opens
It’s good to see that the Castle at the top of Masons Lane in Bradford-on-Avon has re-opened. It had closed during the first lockdown and did not re-open during the easing of lockdown in the summer of last year. Recently it has re-opened under new management but with many of the original staff and with up to four cask beers on handpump. Internally the layout of the pub is the same as it was before, but it has been smartened up and given a polish. The garden is magnificent.
In and around Trowbridge
Steeple Ashton is an attractive, architecturally historic village around three or four miles to the east of Trowbridge which, sadly for the time being, is without its one and only pub, the Longs Arms. But the good news, according to its website and FaceBook page, is that it should re-open and be “bringing you a new experience” from this autumn. To the northeast of the town is the Old Bear at Staverton, a very successful former Wadworth’s pub, locally well-known for its food. We have recently learned that the freehold for this pub is up for sale. Bath based firm James A Baker is the selling agent. The Old Bear has always been popular with villagers and townies alike. It’s in a good location and should have a financially lucrative future as a pub.
In mid-July scaffolding started going up outside the long-closed and Crown Hotel on Timbrell Street. This large pub, just to the east of the town centre, closed many years ago. Sadly, it will not re-open as a pub. It gained planning permission to be converted into several private apartments a couple of years ago.
In and around Westbury
Two hotels in Westbury, both of which have been closed for some time, look set to close as the result of planning applications. A planning application convert the long-closed historic Lopes Arms in the Market Place has been agreed with conditions, whilst a more recent application seeks change of use of the vacant Chalford House Hotel, formerly known as the Cedars Hotel, on the A350 on southern edge of the town to part-day and part-residential education use. Meanwhile the Royal Oak in Hawkeridge, a small village slightly to the north of Westbury, has closed. The future of this pub is uncertain.
At the currently closed Prince of Wales, Dilton Marsh, internal refurbishment work is underway. The whole of the downstairs accommodation has been almost stripped bare, the bar removed, and a fireplace might have been taken apart, judging by the large pile of neatly stacked bricks by the nearby window. We gather that it is the intention of the new owners, the nearby Fairfield Farm College, to re-open the Prince, which has been closed since May of last year, as a pub. It was registered as an Asset of Community Value in early 2019. Unfortunately, this did not protect the pub’s car park, where a new detached house, which gained planning permission only on appeal, is nearing completion. There’s still just under half the old car park left for use by the pub, but it was not a particularly large car park in the first place.
Three Horseshoes at Chapmanslade to expand its customer base
Planning permission is being sought to adapt The Three Horseshoes, a popular food-orientated pub near Frome, in such a way to increase its appeal and attract more business. This is very along similar lines as the Duke of Cumberland at Holcombe (see above), which is another of Toby Brett’s pubs. The application is for a single-storey side extension to create a lobby leading off into a farm-shop area, and for rear two-level decking enclosing a single-storey pergola with bi-fold doors and a retractable roof. The application also includes internal alterations for theatre dining and a kitchen line and the creation of a cellar-store area.
George & Dragon, Erlestoke, re-opened
Slightly outside the Bath & Borders area, this former Wadworth’s pub had been recently acquired by the Chaffinch Pub Company. Erlestoke is on A3098, which weaves its way out of Westbury under the escarpment of Salisbury Plain in a roughly north-easterly direction, with the George & Dragon the only pub in the village. It has re-opened following an extensive refurbishment, following a period of around six to eight years of closure. The new owners and landlords are adopting a policy of stocking only local beers, though the pub will be mainly food orientated, with the aim of creating a “London style” experience.
King William IV, Combe Down, Bath, has been closed for a while
Britannia Inn, Wells, temporarily closed
Dandy Lion, Bradford-on-Avon, re-opened 9 September, for drinks only so far
Bunch of Grapes, Bradford-on-Avon, re-opened following staff holidays on 23 September
Old Bath Arms, Frome, re-opened in early October