A whistle-stop history of breweries in Bath & Borders
The opening of our two latest breweries, Brotherhood in Westbury and Ralph’s Ruin at the Royal Oak in Twerton ,bring the total number of breweries currently in full-time or part-time production within Bath & Borders branch area to sixteen. The explosion of microbreweries across the whole area (across the whole country) is something that we would never have envisioned even as recently as five or six years ago, so perhaps now would be a good opportunity to share a brief history of the breweries that have graced the Bath & Borders area over the last 20 years.
It seems odd to reflect that the oldest brewery still going in our branch area now is Abbey Ales in Bath, which opened in 1997. (All the older establishments, Usher’s, Oakhill and Ash Vine, have all since closed.) Abbey Ales was soon followed by Milk Street in 1999, Wessex in 2001 and Blindman’s in 2002. Then came Box Steam in 2004, which started out in the wilds of north Wiltshire, before relocating to its current premises in Holt, whereupon it became operationally (I would think) the largest of our breweries. In the same year Westbury Ales opened in a tiny out-building at the Horse & Groom in Westbury, but closed after two years. Matthew’s opened in 2005 on an industrial estate in Timsbury. This is the brewery that was taken over by Glen Dawkins in 2010 and has since relocated to the Bristol area.
Plain Ales followed 2008, starting out small-scale in the village of Chitterne in the middle of Salisbury Plain, before expanding and relocating to an industrial estate near Sutton Veny, just south of Warminster. Next came Willy Good Ales at Hartley Farm, Winsley, to the north of Bradford-on-Avon, one of the first micros on our area to concentrate on bottled beer production, and which opened in 2010. Devilfish, which opened in 2011 in a cowshed on a farm near Hemington (not far from Tucker’s Grave) may well have had the shortest existence of any of our breweries, closing the following year, but its flame burned brightly while it lasted.
Since then there’s been an almost exponential increase in the number of breweries across our area. In 2012 Bath Ales opened the Graze Bar & Chophouse in a smart new development by Bath Spa station with a gleaming in-house brewery. The same model was followed in the following year when the James Street Brewery opened its Brewhouse at the Bath Brew House, whilst also in 2013 the Three Daggers was established in its own purpose-built brew house at the pub of the same name in Edington, north of Westbury. In the same year K&A started operations at Wessex Brewery and later moved out of area to its own premises at Melksham. Then in the following year Twisted Brewing started up on Westbury Trading Estate and has been flourishing ever since.
In 2015 Electric Bear began operation in an industrial unit on the west side of Bath, whilst 2016 saw the opening of three new brewing operations, the small scale, and rather secretive Silent Brewing, at an unknown location in in the Peasedown St John area, the more ambitious Kettlesmith in Bradford-on-Avon and the small-scale bottled beer producer Albion in Bath. Brotherhood and Ralph’s Ruin are the latest to join an increasingly long list. (But a slightly scary thought is there may be other breweries out there that have yet to come to our attention.)
There’s one brewery that I’ve yet to mention. It was in operation for only a year or so and I wonder if in anyone else can remember it. It was tiny but beautifully appointed and opened in an out-building at the Dove at Corton, south of Warminster, in 1996. It was called Wylye Valley Brewery.
News from the Bath pub scene
Planning applications in Bath
There are some interesting proposals on the Bath pub and club scene being considered by Bath & Northeast Somerset Council’s planning department. These include a rear ground-floor extension at the Bath Brew House to accommodate more internal seating, internal alterations to the Grapes in the city centre, which is due to re-open this summer, to create a new bar, seating areas and toilets, whilst in Twerton the redevelopment of the Bath City Football Club stand and some adjoining land to encompass a variety of uses, including potentially licensed premises.
Plans to convert the now-closed Garfunkel’s restaurant on the ground floor of the iconic former Empire Hotel on Grand Parade into a Brunning and Price pub have been refused planning permission following a multitude of complaints from the residents who live above. The Brunning and Price group, however, are hopeful that they will still be able to reopen the premises under its banner, though this is now looking a long way off.
At the time of writing the Grapes on Westgate Street looks set to re-open any day now. The city centre pub, which had closed around two years ago, is undergoing a major internal refurbishment. The building itself dates back to 1317 and has operated a pub since at latest 1831, having previously been a wine merchant’s. Listed building consent was needed and the new managers have been working closely with Bath & Northeast Somerset Council’s conservation department and local architect Mitchell Eley Gould to completely renovate the interior and open as much of the building to the public as possible. The downstairs bar area has been gutted, new woodwork and flooring installed, electrical work undertaken, drains unblocked and a gulley to the rear of the pub cleared. One of local members dropped by recently and spoke to the new landlady Ellie and learned that her partner John has chosen the beers. There were four handpumps installed on the bar, two of them already mounted with badges from Three Daggers brewery badges, which is based at the pub of the same name in Edington. near Westbury: Dagger’s Blonde and a house beer named “Nash Street Ale”. A third handpump carried a Honey’s Midford Cider badge whilst the fourth remained bare.
Goings on in Widcombe
The Royal Oak on Pulteney Road has a new landlord. Anthony Blake, formerly of the Saracen’s Head in the city centre, took over the large Enterprise Inns owned Widcombe pub around the end of June. The plan is to have three real ales on, doom Bar, Timothy Taylor Landlord and a guest. The pub is open from midday to eleven daily.
The Ram in Widcombe closed temporarily over the last weekend of June following a dispute over the rent review of this popular Enterprise Inn owned pub. The owners had been seeking in a rent increase from £37,000 per annum to £88,000 (and this, after 14 months of appeals, negotiations, arbitration and adjudications: the original proposal was an increase to £132,000 per year!). Loyal customers rushed to the support of landlords Mick and Liz Dempsey. Shortly before, on Tuesday 2 July, the Ring o’Bells, a gastro-pub almost directly opposite the Ram on Widcombe High Street, closed abruptly following the sudden departure of its previous landlord. Mick and Liz have agreed to rescue the pub. By early July the Ram had re-opened with Mick still at the bar and seemingly quite cheerful. Since then the Ring o’Bells has also re-opened under Mick and Liz’s management. During a recent visit by a local member the range was found to consists of four beers: Bass, Butcombe Original, Bath Ales Gem and St Austell Proper Job.
King’s Head, Weston, re-opens
The King’s Head on the western outskirts of Bath re-opened on Friday 9 August flowing a light refurbishment. The once popular pub on Weston High Street had closed in December 2018. Owners Punch Taverns have leased the pub to Paul Clifford and his business partner Peter James, both from Bristol, who are intent on bringing the King’s Arms back to life as a community led local. On the ground the new manager is Chris Lawrence from Pensford, who has had ten years’ experience of working in pubs, customer service and catering. The King’s Arms will be the first he has managed on his own. The pub has initially re-opened as a drinks-only establishment, but there are plans for extending to food in the future.
Older news from Spring ’19
Rising Sun at the top of Bath reopens as the Claremont.
The Rising Sun on Camden Row, which is halfway up the hill overlooking Bath city centre from the north, has reopened as the Claremont following a major investment by owners Punch Taverns/ Red Oak Taverns. The pub went through a soft opening over the course of around three weeks leading up a to a full reopening in mid-March. The building has undergone a huge transformation. The refurbishment includes new furnishing, seating booths and high tables, and a completely overhauled outside space that can be used in all weathers. The Claremont is the first of Punch’s ‘Urban Oasis Concept’ series of pubs. The design is intended to promote a community feel, with extended hours (11-11:30 during the week), no TV screens, so encouraging locals to make it a go-to spot. What had been the skittle alley is now a function room with a retractable roof to make it an attractive all-seasons space. The pub, which had been closed since April of last year, will be run by Daniel and Simona Matica, who previously have run their own American diner in Weymouth. They are planning to offer a wide variety of drinks, including cask and keg ales, whilst the food will include a stone-baked pizza selection available till 10pm, which customers can eat in or take away. And at the nearby Fairfield Arms There is a new landlord at this now Red Oak Taverns pub. Lessee Ashley, who previously ran a Good Beer Guide-listed pub in Polperro, has taken on the Fairfield with his father on a medium-term lease. The pub has been sympathetically refurbished and is now free of tie with four handpumps in action. Bath Ales Gem is a regular with beers from St Austell featuring regularly among the guests. The guests do also include more local beers such as Bristol Beer Factory’s Low Rider, which was sampled on a recent visit by a local member, and found to be excellent. Ashley is aiming to run a wet-led community local. He has installed a ‘cider wall’ with ten fed through a python from the cellar. Live music is featured regularly, there’s a monthly quiz, and there is television for the events such as the Six Nations. There is sawdust on the floor and peanuts on all the tables, a real fire in the left-hand room and a small south facing garden out at front. We wish Ashley and his father well in their new endeavour.
Plan to convert Victoria in Oldfield Park into a nursery
The Victoria Hotel in Millmead Road is under threat of permanent closure following the submission of a planning application to convert the pub and hotel in the Oldfield Park area of the city into a children’s day nursery. The pub currently lies empty. The planning application is for a change of use from category A4 drinking establishment to D1 children’s day nursery. The local CAMRA branch believes that the pub has not been marketed for a sufficient length of time under Bath & Northeast Somerset’s planning guidance and hopes that there will plenty of objections from locals. (The planning application reference is 19/01447/FUL and was received on 5 April. The deadline for consultation would have expired on 4 May and the target decision date is 5 June.)
New pubs opening in Bath (please see latest news, above)
We may have as many as three new pubs opening in Bath whilst we understand that the Grapes in the city centre is shortly to reopen. A £1 million refurbishment of the Bath restaurant Garfunkel’s on Grand Parade has been given the go-ahead to be converted into a Brunning and Price pub. The current restaurant and future ‘mega-bar’ is on the ground floor of the former Empire hotel, one of the most iconic buildings in Bath, and is below 43 flats mainly occupied by elderly residents, many of whom objected to the conversion. To the north of the city centre the Nest lounge-bar and nightclub, just off the Paragon, has been sold to a ‘big multi-national company’ and is to be turned into a pub and restaurant. The Nest, which under various names has been a nightclub of some sort for more than 50 years, held its last event on 6 April. There is a new pub that has recently opened in the Octagon in the city centre. The Botanist, which has a sister pub in Bristol, has been visited on separate occasions by local members but does not appear to be a real ale-focussed pub.
White Horse, Twerton – Syd Scott RIP
Some sad news from the White Horse in Twerton where the landlord, Syd Scott, died suddenly at his home in early April. Syd had a long association with Bath pubs, some years ago running the Grapes (with Clive Prescott – now landlord of the Cross Keys) and then with his partner Sue and Clive, the Weston. Syd and Sue returned to Bath and took on the White Horse in Summer 2018 and were revitalising this community pub with a focus on ever changing real ales, good value food and regular live music. Syd and Sue were great hosts for the branch charity presentation to the Royal British Legion back in January (see Pints West 121). His untimely death is such a shame; he was a great bloke and our thoughts are with Sue and family, who are continuing to run the pub.
News from Wiltshire and Somerset
(in no particular order…)
Faulkland Inn re-opens
We’re pleased to report that this rural gem, situated in the quiet village of Faulkland to the east of Radstock, re-opened in around early June. The pub has been bought and is set to be revived by highly experienced pub and hotel manager Tina Paradise and her husband Andy Machen. The Grade II listed Faulkland Inn, which has operated as a pub since the 1760s, closed in April 2017. The premises consist of a bar and a restaurant and has three en-suite guest rooms. In a recent local newspaper article Tina said that she wanted to re-create the typical village pub, with dart boards, shove-ha’penny, games and comfy sofas and to go back to doing traditional pub-grub lunches such as chicken in a basket and sausage and chips to tap into the local daytime trade, keeping the gastro-style cuisine for the evening times only. As at late June there was only beer on handpump, 6X, but Andy Machen has said that he is hoping to increase the range as custom picks up.
News from Westbury
We understand that the Angel, which has closed earlier this year, has been saved and looks to have a secure future. The town centre pub, situated between the historic swimming pool and the Morrison’s, has been taken over by the former landlord of the Duke of York in Salisbury, and is being given a much-needed internal refurbishment. Hopefully the Angel will have re-opened by the time this edition of Pints West is published.
Dilton Marsh Social Club hosts second beer festival
On Saturday 20 July Dilton Marsh Social Club hosted its second beer festival. (The club’s first beer festival was held in September 2018.) Stepping up in terms of ambition this second event was both a beer and gin festival. Held both inside and outside the club building over the course of the afternoon and evening of a cool summer’s day, there was a convivial and relaxed atmosphere to this small, but well attended event, designed to promote the club within the village. Eight beers were showcased, mostly from very local breweries such as Westbury-based Twisted, Plain Ales from Sutton Veny and Three Daggers from Edington.
Dilton Marsh Social Club opened on 14 February 1948 and was originally known as the Dilton Services Social Club. At the end of the Second World War a group of ex-servicemen and Home Guards from the village formed a committee and agreed to set up a social club on land just off Petticoat Lane donated by local Home Guard brigade leader Mr Shepherd. A Nissen Hut from an American army transit camp at the nearby hamlet of Hisomley was donated and the committee raised money to build the foundations to erect it. Finally the hut was transported in pieces from Hisomley to Dilton Marsh using various tractors and carts. Early activities included table tennis, snooker and skittles, and regular social events such as dances and an annual flower show. The flower-show was a well-attended and very competitive event with flower, vegetables and all sorts of handicraft on display, including a men’s cake competition! Over the years there have been many changes, but the most significant was the building of a new outer skin in the 1990s and the removal of the Nissen Hut from inside. This forms the building as it is seen today.
Twisted Brewing update
A few tweaks have been made to one of the brewery’s most long-standing regular beers, Rider (4.0%). The hop character has been amplified, without going to extremes, by using extra Chinook hops and shortening the final gravity. This gives the popular amber pale ale a little extra dryness to the palate.
Older news from Spring ’19
Fox & Hounds at Farleigh Wick under new ownership
This large roadside pub mid-way between Bath and Bradford-onAvon had until recently been under threat of permanent closure. The pub had been closed and on the market for around 18 months and in March a planning application was registered with Wiltshire Council to convert the Grade II-listed building into two private dwellings. In early May we learned that the planning application had been withdrawn by the applicants Ashford Homes. We now understand that the Fox & Hounds has been bought by a local business lady who intends to keep it going as a pub and plans to carry out a historically sympathetic refurbishment of the premises.
Royal Oak in Frome is saved and reopens
The Royal Oak in Frome has reopened following its acquisition by Chris and Marion Pitcher of the Fox & Hounds in Warminster. It has become the latest addition to their estate of six community pubs and an Indian restaurant. The pub, located on the western edge of town, had been under threat of permanent closure. Locals had embarked on a campaign to save the pub and had reached the stage of registering it as an Asset of Community Value when Chris and Marion made their successful bid to buy the pub, thus ensuring its future survival. The pub opened ‘experimentally’ for a single evening on Saturday 13 April before reopening fully from Thursday 18 April.
Cross Keys, Corsley, has new landlords
The community-owned Cross Keys has new landlords. For a while the attractive village pub, mid-way between Frome and Warminster and near to Longleat, was without landlord and being manned by its owners, but since 1 April the Cross Keys has been in the safe and dependable hands of its new landlords.
Full Moon at Rudge up for sale
The freehold of this large country pub, around a mile from the A36 between Warminster and the Beckington bypass, is once again up for sale. It was placed on the market in June 2017 and was bought by experienced new owners in December of that year. After a change of circumstances, however, the new owners decided to sell on the freehold in June 2018. The price tag has recently been reduced from £420,00 to £390,000. Parts of the pub date back to before the English Civil War. A massive expansion in 1990 saw the addition of a large function room, a skittle alley and five letting rooms. Around the back is a large garden. The pub does have potential but it is in need of investment.
Planning appeal for dwelling on pub car park
Members of Bath & Borders CAMRA were dismayed (indeed puzzled) to learn that a planning appeal for a new dwelling on the car park of the Prince of Wales in Dilton Marsh has been allowed. The pub, the only one in the village since the closure of the King’s Arms in 2002, is used by diners, and several visiting skittles and pool teams, so the effective loss of the car park could represent a potential serious disadvantage to its business. The Prince is situated on a blind bend, making parking on the street hazardous, whilst any new house would overshadow the nearby bungalows and be directly in front of the multi-occupancy housing behind the car park. There were numerous objections to the original planning application, which was rejected in early 2018 without even going to Wiltshire’s planning committee. Frankly, as far as this contributor is concerned – and I admit that I happen to be a local – the decision to allow this appeal seems completely irrational. In February the Prince was registered as an Asset of Community Value.
Twisted Brewing launch new beer
The Westbury based brewer has launched an American pale ale. Canteen Cowboy (4.5%) came out at the end of February and is a solid bronze-coloured beer built on a complex, sweet malt base and then hopped with ‘everything American’. Meanwhile the recipe of WTF (3.8%) – which we are told stands for Wiltshire’s Tipsy Farmers – has had a minor revamp. Extra hops have been added to round out the flavour and provide an improved aroma. This is the first revision made since the brewery got hold of some Motueka hops.
Tucker’s Grave set for business expansion
A new building is under construction at this nationally significant pub. The owner is seeking to expand the business of the pub into food whilst also improving the on-site camping facilities. The new structure will be in a modern style but is separate from the original building, which is to remain unchanged, apart from the toilets which are to be smartened up. Planning permission for the new building was granted in April 2018. A planning application to develop the campsite was submitted earlier this year with a deadline for comments of 7 May. The applications include provision to form a new vehicular access, change of use of land for camping purposes and the construction of an ancillary facilities building. All this is well and good and should help to enhance the viability of the pub.
Canal Tavern in Bradford-on-Avon
The Wadworth-owned Canal Tavern, which had been closed since the early autumn of last year, reopened in March under the management of the people who already have the Greyhound in Bromham and the George in Sandy Lane, near Chippenham.
Stallards in Trowbridge aims for younger clientele
The Stallards, one of the town’s oldest pubs, has undergone a £12,000 revamp to become a late-night venue with the aim of capturing a younger audience and, in a move that has been welcomed by the recently formed Trowbridge Pride, the LGBT+ community. Stallards manager Kevin Christodoulou has successfully extended the license and is aiming to rebrand the venue as ‘The Stallards Inn Bar and Club’. The interior has been given a new look and new signs to reflect the changes. Trading hours have been granted an extension until 4.30am on Fridays and Saturdays to attract new and younger customers. The bar, located on the corner of Newtown and Wingfield Road, provides regular entertainment, which includes open mic nights, quiz nights, charity evenings, karaoke and disco, and a wide range of live music on Saturday nights. The Stallards also provides freshly-cooked meals from Thursday to Saturday. All of this is to continue with the addition of a ‘Euphoria’ event for the LGBT+ community every third Thursday of the month, to which everyone is welcome. Fridays will feature karaoke whilst on Saturdays there will be live music with local bands, with each followed by DJs from 11pm. Kevin is aiming for the Stallards to become a thriving bar and nightclub. In a local newspaper article he said, ‘My hope is to provide a welcoming, fun-filled night, a place the locals can come to dance the night away without the worry of catching that last train, knowing they can leave their cars at home and walk to a nightclub in Trowbridge. We have enough boarded-up buildings, let’s stop any more from closing their doors and keep our community local pubs and clubs here.’.
Pub closure in Westbury
The Angel on the corner of Church Road and Edward Street shut its doors to business on or around Sunday 14 April. A sign states that this town-centre pub is closed until further notice. Hopefully this is a temporary closure.
Bell at Seend sold as private dwelling
The Bell Inn and its associated car park has sold at auction for £352,000. The former Wadworth pub, which had been closed for over two years, went under the hammer in February. The pub was granted planning permission to be converted into a five-bedroom private dwelling last year. There were few objections to the application by local residents. The pub itself, which had a guide price of £200,000, sold for £252,000. In January a car crashed into the front of the pub. The damage has since been boarded up. The Seend area is served by two other pubs, the Brewery Inn, a community-style pub in the nearby hamlet of Seend Cleeve, and the Barge, a Wadworth-owned food oriented pub, situated on the towpath of the Kennet & Avon canal. The Bell is the most recent pub in Wiltshire to have permanently closed.
The Mermaid in Wells
A planning application has been made to demolish the skittle alley at the back of the Mermaid, which has been closed for around a decade, to make way for three new three-bedroom dwellings. We understand that the intention is also to refurbish and reopen the pub, which can be found to the north of the city centre on Tucker Street, with its signage still intact. This is welcome news, although if it does reopen for business alongside the three new houses, the rear of the pub will only consist of a small courtyard. The planning application was lodged with Mendip District Council on 4 February. The planning reference is 2019/0236/FUL.