Category Archives: Pub Troubles

The End of the Two Pigs

TWO PIGSThe news that another pub has closed for good comes as little surprise these days, so inured have we become to the steady erosion of community facilities by property developers and their ilk. Such things are now commonplace in a land where bonanzas for the few, austerity for the many and the rapid deterioration of the public realm are the order of the day.

Occasionally, though, a pub closure comes along that makes you sit up and take notice. The Two Pigs at Corsham was just such a pub, a proper traditional locals’ pub that didn’t serve food, but whose choice of real ales saw it awarded the coveted title of Pub of the Year by the local CAMRA branch a few years back. It’s still in this year’s Good Beer Guide, but anyone who turns up in search of a pint now will be disappointed, because as of 30 January 2017 Wiltshire Council granted the owners permission to convert it to a private house.

They applied for change of use back in November when the pub was still open, and it closed in December. Astonishingly, given the campaigns to save other popular hostelries when similar threats have occurred, protest seems – with the honourable exceptions of two strongly worded objections from regulars – to have been absent. And so the long, glorious (and occasionally inglorious) history of the Two Pigs has come ignominiously to an end.

It started out as a beerhouse in the 1830s, and was known as the Spread Eagle until the present owners took it on, changing its name, restoring its reputation, and drawing punters in not only for its beer and bonhomie but also for the Monday night blues sessions, which really could be something special – as I can confirm.

There are several other pubs in Corsham, including one a few yards away, but none of them was like the Two Pigs – which is why it made the Good Beer Guide, and why it was the boozer of choice not only for many locals but also for discerning drinkers from farther away. There seems no reason why it could not have continued in much the same way for years to come, especially as around 700 new homes are due to be built nearby over the next few years.

Given the Two Pigs’ continued success and clear fulfilment of a social need, you might have thought the very least the planning authority would have asked for is evidence that no one else was prepared to buy and run the pub. But they didn’t – and the Two Pigs is now history – or should that be bacon?

And, of course, with change of use confirmed, the former Two Pigs is almost certainly worth a good deal more than it was as a pub.

More on the Two Pigs at

The Spread Eagle in the 1950s, before it became the Two Pigs
The Spread Eagle in the 1950s, before it became the Two Pigs


Launching Devon Pubs.

One reason we were too occupied to attend to this blog in 2014 was the final push to complete our book on Devon Pubs, finally published in 2015. We’d entered into this enterprise in a light-hearted manner ten years previously. Researching them seemed like fun then, but as the years went on, the book often seemed like a lament. Over and over again, we came across pubs that had been recently closed or converted to other uses. Perhaps the saddest was at the Woodpecker Inn, South Brent. It was closed when we were investigating it, and to our alarm we saw men in suits with clipboards drive up. They did not seem pleased to see us. Although it is likely that parts of the building were quite old, it was demolished in 2007 by the developers. It was all for nothing. A planning application for a business park was turned down in 2014, and the appeal was rejected. The site is now completely derelict.

Equally sad is the tale of the Toby Jug at Bickington. When we brought out the book, its fate still hung in the balance, but a month after the book came out, Teignbridge Council finally put corporate interests before those of the community and granted permission for change of use to residential. To be fair, they had done their best, but it had become an eyesore.

So our trips down to Devon were often tinged with sadness. Two landlords who keep two of the country’s best pubs, constantly encouraged us and jollied us out of our despondency. When we finally launched the book, it was lovely to have both of them there. It was a joy for them too, for they had never met.

Who are these two stalwarts and which are their pubs? Buy the book and you’ll find their pubs on the cover. Gracing the front cover is a reproduction of an old painting of The Bridge at Topsham run by the indomitable Caroline Cheffers-Heard. It’s the only pub the Queen has ever visited by request. It’s not known how old the building is – parts may go back to the 14th century, when Exeter Cathedral was being rebuilt. Beer is from the wood and an ever changing menu of beers – often local – can be found on their Facebook page.

From L to R Andrew swift, Islay the Westie, Roger Cudlip, Caroline Cheffers-Heard, Kirsten Elliott
From L to R Andrew Swift holding Islay the Westie, Roger Cudlip, Caroline Cheffers-Heard, Kirsten Elliott

On the back cover, you will find what was once known as the White Hart at Spreyton, but it now called the Tom Cobley. Yes, the very same Tom Cobley who went off to Widecombe Fair with … well, you know the rest. To the delight of the landlord, we found a newspaper report that showed that the Tom Cobley buried in Spreyton churchyard, after which the pub is named, was indeed known as Uncle Tom Cobley. There had been those who had pooh-poohed the theory that he was the one in the song.

And it was the landlord – the redoubtable Roger Cudlip – and his family who kindly agreed to have the launch at their pub.

We’ll be putting up some excerpts at various times but if you haven’t visited either of these pubs, you should. The Tom Cobley has a string of awards, including National Pub of the Year, and a huge range of beers and ciders. The Bridge menu is limited – lunch times only, simple but local, reasonably priced and tasty. The Tom Cobley has an extensive menu, the food is all home–cooked by Roger’s wife Carol, and served by their daughter Lucy. A warning – make sure you’re hungry before you go. The portions are ample. As Roger was once a butcher, you may get his homemade sausages for breakfast if you stay there in one of their lovely B&B rooms.


Did South Stoke save the Packhorse? Here’s the answer.

As writers on the subject of pubs, we so often find now that we are describing the demise of yet another well- loved watering-hole. In 2012, when Punch sold the Packhorse at South Stoke, it was, after some toing and froing, sold to a buyer who declared he intended to turn it into a private house. It seemed that an all too familiar story was about to be repeated.

Punch’s excuse was that the pub was failing. This was partly due to the fact that they had put an inexperienced person in as landlord. It’s a favourite ploy by pubcos – it helps to run the place down. It’s very sad for the landlord and also sad for the village when that happens. But to say it could never be a pub was clearly nonsense – several experienced publicans who were far from starry-eyed about the place expressed an interest and offered over the asking price.

The village was incensed and started a campaign. The first move was to have the pub declared an asset of community value. But the owner refused the offer that the community made to buy it. He then submitted a planning application. Like many others, your esteemed bloggers were aghast at the condition the building had been allowed to fall into, and wrote a fairly pungent objection. Without warning, after three months the application was withdrawn.

The owner then notified the village he intended to sell the building on. The village asked for time to raise the money to buy it. They had to raise £525,000 to buy it as well as more to refurbish it with planning consent.  The deadline was Saturday 10th September.

With a few hours to go, they were tantalisingly close. With five days to go, they had raised £498,000. Could they do it?

An excited crowd gathered at the pub on Saturday 10th to hear the announcement. This is what they were told.

The crowd gathers for the announcement of success or failure.


We’re delighted to report that our share issue has been a huge success! At 7pm yesterday, after a late flood of money, over 200 investors had contributed a total of £601,000 – and there are more share applications in the pipeline. We now have the capital both to buy the Packhorse for the community and to begin to develop detailed plans for the refurbishment!

We are thrilled, relieved and hugely grateful for the generosity of supporters of the Packhorse. Thank you so much! And to the two hundred or so people who assembled in the pub garden yesterday evening to hear the news – we hope you enjoyed the occasion as much as we did.

We’re not quite there yet – we still have to raise around £265,000 for refurbishment and working capital. But the money invested so far will not only buy the pub but also buy us time to raise money for building work in early 2017 with a view to reopening early Summer next year.

They are leaving the share issue open for the time being, so there is still time for others to join this special project – just look for the prospectus and share application form on the Save the Packhorse web site.

Meanwhile, we now have time to be more creative in our fundraising. We’ll have details in due course but we expect this to involve grant applications (we have our eye on the Heritage Lottery Fund), accepting smaller donations and, among other things, events.

One such event will be an illustrated talk on “A History of Bath Pubs” by Dr Andrew Swift (yes, that’s one half of the Awash with Ale blog team) at 7:30pm on Wednesday 21st September in South Stoke Village Hall. Entrance is free but arms may be twisted for a donation to the Packhorse fund! Refreshments will be available and all are welcome. So do come along. The strange history of the Packhorse Inn is sure to feature.


The End of Ye Old Farmhouse?

A sad day indeed for Bath drinkers, this, and for anyone who cares even a jot about Bath’s historic pubs. After months of being boarded up and with rumours flying thick and fast, a notice has been posted saying that someone called Miranda Matthews wants to turn Ye Old Farmhouse into a health clinic (shouldn’t that be health farm? – ed).

If permission to convert it from a pub is not granted, however, then there will have to be a rethink. The more people object to the proposal, the more likely the council will be take the loss of this community asset seriously. The B&NES planning website is at The application reference is 14/00512/FUL. Comments have to be in by 20 March.

For those who weren’t lucky enough to visit the Farmhouse in its glory days, it was a seriously good pub not that long ago and could be so again. Long-time landlord John Bradshaw was a jazz fan and top-class jazz played on most nights of the week, with some first-rate performers turning up. What follows are some cuttings from newspaper articles and adverts relating to the Old Farmhouse, followed by a gallery of random shots taken in the pub over the years. Let us hope that, even at the eleventh hour, it is not only memories of Ye Old Farmhouse that are left.

An advert from 1857
An advert from 1857
An 1892 article from the Bath Chronicle
An 1892 article from the Bath Chronicle
Ye Old Farmhouse advertised for sale in 1895
Ye Old Farmhouse advertised for sale in 1895

PUB farmhouse little sign

PUB farmhouse bradshaw pic

Minolta DSC







The Sorry End of Another Bristol Pub

Nothing illustrates more graphically the plight of so many of our pubs than the sad fate of the Kings Arms on Little Paul Street in Kingsdown. Not that well known a boozer perhaps, set as it was off the beaten track in the middle of a housing estate. Many people – even dedicated pub crawlers – may not have come across it. But, if you are struggled to locate it, It lies roughly midway between two of the best-known pubs in Bristol – the Highbury Vaults on St Michael’s Hill (now with Bath Ales Beerd across the road) and the Green Man on Alfred Place, the Dawkins’ Ales pub known until about five years ago as the Bell. The Kings Arms had been there since the 1820s and could, given the right level of support, been as successful and popular as either of those aforementioned pubs. It was certainly a handsome and commodious building, with plenty of space to host all manner of events – but in this case ‘was’ is the appropriate word, for, after closing in 2010, an application to convert it to student accommodation was submitted. An initial refusal was overturned on appeal, and within the last week, the building – all except for its facade – was bulldozed to create ‘student cluster flats with an office and letting agency’. The first two pictures show it as it looked in June this year, the last three were taken yesterday (7 January). Not perhaps the more cheerful note to start the New Year on, but have a good one anyway.

kings arms kingsdown facade 3 kings arms kingsdown facade 2 kings arms kingsdown facade 1


In 2003 we published Bath Pubs, the history of the city’s surviving pubs – all 108 of them. Since then 21 have closed. Many others have been renamed, while many have changed from being traditional boozers to gastropubs. The list of the 21 that have closed not only makes depressing reading, but indicates what we may have to look forward to in the years to come.



2004: HAT & FEATHER, London Street.                                   This old inn, rebuilt around 1903, was long one of the city’s liveliest music venues. Now converted to the Hudson Bar & Steakhouse.NEW BURNT HOUSE

2006: NEW BURNT HOUSE, Wellsway.                                                                                                                   An eighteenth-century farmhouse, opened as a beerhouse around 1870. Demolished and replaced by flats.


2006: ROUNDHOUSE, Stall Street. Opened as a wine merchants in 1809 but converted to a pub by the mid-nineteenth century and rebuilt in 1897. Now a Pret a Manger.












2007: DARK HORSE, Northampton Street. Opened in the 1830s, occupying the ground floor of a very desirable Georgian townhouse, which it has now reverted to.


2008: ENGLISHCOMBE INN, Englishcombe Lane.  Massive pub opened in 1934 to serve new suburbs. Now converted to a care home.


2008: JUBILEE, Whiteway Hill, Twerton.                                                                                                   Opened in 1888, incorporating a small beerhouse called the Whiteway House, and renamed in honour of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Demolished and replaced by housing.


2009: BRAINS SURGERY, Dafford Street, Larkhall. Opened as a beerhouse called the Royal Oak c1841; rebuilt c1898; renamed the Brains Surgery after being acquired by Brains Brewery. Now converted to student accommodation.


2009: CASTLE, Forester Road, Bathwick.                                                                                                Opened before 1841, rebuilt in 1898. Now converted to housing.


2009: FILOS, Beaufort West, London Road.                                                                                           Opened as the First Inn Last Out c1900, having previously been a beerhouse. Now a restaurant called 1 Beaufort.



2009: PORTER BUTT, London Road. An eighteenth-century coaching inn, and latterly home to the ‘Walcot Palais’, one of the city’s most popular music venues. After closure it was occupied by squatters who set up the Black Cat Centre and held gigs there. It is now a Richer Sounds store.








2009: RUMMER, Newmarket Row. Eighteenth century tavern, now converted to an Italian bar and restaurant.


2010: HORSESHOE, North Road, Combe Down.                                                                                 Opened as a beerhouse, probably in the 1840s. Originally had a smithy at the back, hence its name. Despite an offer being made from a company wanting to run it as a pub, it has been converted to housing.


2010: LONGACRE TAVERN, London Road.                                                                                               Opened in the 1840s, rebuilt in the 1960s and now a branch of Domino’s Pizza.


2010: ROSE & LAUREL, Rush Hill.                                                                                                                  Opened around 1880 in a row of old cottages. Permission granted for conversion to housing.


2011: PARK TAVERN, Park Lane. Eighteenth-century tavern originally known as the Blue Lodge. Application lodged for conversion to housing.











2012: BATH TAP, St James’s Parade.  Originally opened as the Devonshire Arms in 1849, the Bath Tap was one of the city’s top gay pubs. It was briefly renamed the 19th House before reverting to the Bath Tap in December 2011, but closed four months later. It is now being converted to housing.


2012: BELVEDERE WINE VAULTS, Belvedere.                                                                                                      An eighteenth-century inn now converted to bed & breakfast accommodation.




2012: RISING SUN, Lymore Avenue. An application has been made to convert this nineteenth-century beerhouse to five flats.


2013: GREEN PARK TAVERN, Lower Bristol Road.                                                                                 Opened in the 1840s, closed suddenly in August 2013. A busy, popular pub, and one of the city’s most popular music venues, reopening seems likely.


2013: KING’S ARMS, Monmouth Place.                                                                                                                An eighteenth-century coaching inn, and another top music venue, it closed suddenly in May 2013.


2013: YE OLD FARMHOUSE, Lansdown Road.                                                                                               The seventeenth-century farmhouse that housed the pub was rebuilt in 1892. Long famed for jazz sessions most nights of the week, opening hours were cut in April 2013 and it is now reported closed.

The last three may well reopen, but the others are almost certainly gone forever. (Although to be fair, three of them – the Hat & Feather, Filos and the Rummer – have survived as licensed premises.) To set against all this doom and gloom, three new pubs have opened – the Royal Oak, closed in 1999, reopened in 2005; Hall & Woodhouse opened a pub in an old auction house in 2010; and in 2013 Bath Ales opened a bar-cum-brewery called Graze in a new retail complex at the railway station.

It is a similar story across the country. The pub scene is in turmoil, with pubs closing at a faster rate than ever before. It is not just the future of our pubs that is at stake, serious though that is; it is the future of our communities, of community values, of tradition, of heritage – and of a unique institution in danger of disappearing forever.

Save Our Pubs

Welcome to our new pub blog. In future, we’ll bring all sorts of news and views about pubs that we like, and that we hope you will like too. But what if pubs ceased to exist? Don’t laugh. It’s a real threat. Pubs are closing at a faster rate than they have ever done before. Throughout history, the numbers have always fluctuated – often through Government interference.

In 1830, for example, MPs voted in the Beer Act. This made it very easy to open a beer house, to encourage the public to drink beer rather than gin. It worked beyond the Government’s wildest dreams. So successful was it that the powers-that-be started to look for ways to close them again. During World War I, David Lloyd George declared: ‘We are fighting Germany, Austria and drink; and as far as I can see, the greatest of these deadly foes is drink!’The conflict was used as an excuse to crack down on pubs and beer.  It was even an offence to buy someone a round or lend a friend money to buy his own pint.

Today, the situation is different. It is often the owners of the pub – it may be a pubco or a private individual – who want to sell their property – but as a house, not a pub. It’s worth much more like that. But there’s a little snag. To get change of use, they have to show that the pub is not viable. The local community has a nasty habit of rising up and saying it is, so the owners employ some little tricks.

Here are a few to watch out for.

  1. Frequent change of manager – especially if a manager starts to turn the place around and make it viable again. He or she will smartly be moved on.
  2. Putting in incompetent and/or inexperienced tenants.
  3. If privately owned, the formerly friendly landlord will start to be rude and unhelpful.
  4. It stops doing food when food was very popular.
  5. Most dangerous of all, the pub starts opening and closing at unpredictable hours. This deters customers very neatly.

If your local starts showing any of these symptoms – get on to your local councillor. If alarm bells sound and enough of the community support you, you can ask the council to declare the pub a community asset. The best place to find the information about this is on a website called Briefly, being a community asset means that if it goes up for sale, the vendor can discuss a sale with whom he or she chooses, but they cannot exchange contracts within a six month period except with a community interest group. It does not give the right of first refusal to the group after six months, but the delay may be an incentive. And the fact that it has been declared a community asset means that, even if not sold to the community, the local planning authority should take a long hard look at any future application. It may not sound like much, but it has resulted in some success stories.

If you doubt that a well-run pub is at the heart of a community, let me tell you about two estates in South Croydon, both built in the late 1960s and next to each other. One is just a collection of houses, but the other is a community. Why? Because the developer of the second one built a community centre, with a bar and function rooms.  It acts like the local pub. You might say: ‘But I hardly ever go down the pub.’ Maybe not, but at the moment it’s there for you to visit. What if it closed? As the song says, ‘Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?’ And once a pub has gone, it’s a lot of effort to get it back.

From village local like the Tom Cobley at Spreyton to town corner boozer like the Pride of Spitalfields, the English pub is a great institution, but today it really is a case of use it or lose it. We must save our pubs.

The long lost Chequers in Box whose owner got rid of customers by opening at odd hours.
The long lost Chequers in Box whose owner got rid of customers by opening at odd hours.
The Packhorse at Southstoke, sold in mysterious circumstances by Punch.
The Packhorse at Southstoke, sold in mysterious circumstances by Punch.
Despite bids by experienced pub landlords, and a vigorous campaign by locals which resulted in it being made a community asset, the new owner has left it empty and refuses to contmpelate it being a pub again. It is slowly deteriorating.
Despite bids by experienced pub landlords, and a vigorous campaign by locals which resulted in it being made a community asset, the new owner has left it empty and refuses to contemplate it being a pub again. It is slowly deteriorating.
The Beehive at Bradford on Avon, run down by the pubco to the point where what could have been a successful canalside pub closed for lack of investment. Again, there were offers from pub lnadlords to buy it, but it was sold to a man who was determined to turn it into a house and who protested it could not be viable.  Despite evidence to the contrary, the planning officers believed him and it is now a house.
The Beehive at Bradford on Avon, run down by the pubco to the point where what could have been a successful canalside pub closed for lack of investment. Again, there were offers from pub landlords to buy it, but it was sold to a man who was determined to turn it into a house and who protested it could not be viable. Despite evidence to the contrary, the planning officers believed him and it is now a house.
The Horseshoe in Combe Down in happier days.  It went up for sale after the pubco concerned had put in a series of managers who had run it into the ground.  A pub owner made a bid and paid the deposit which was accepted.  A day later it was returned. The pubco sold it instead to a developer. It is now flats.  It could have been a top real ale pub.
The Horseshoe in Combe Down in happier days. It went up for sale after the pubco concerned had put in a series of managers who had run it into the ground. A pub owner made a bid and paid the deposit which was accepted. A day later it was returned. The pubco sold it instead to a developer. It is now flats. It could have been a top real ale pub.