Last Saturday evening, five of us set out on the alternative pub crawl around old Poole. The rationale is to visit hostelries that are not normally frequented by any of our number. For example, although The Queen Mary, our starting point, is just around the corner from my son’s house, none of us had ever been inside previously.
I don’t know why it’s been disregarded; maybe because it’s away from the Quay, isolated amongst traffic lights and junctions. It wasn’t always that way: before the so-called town regeneration of the 1960s, there were many more pubs along West Road and up to Towngate. The Queen Mary is the last survivor and, as such, the excellent Town Centre Heritage Report notes, quite rightly, that this Victorian pub, wearing original Carter’s tiles on it’s façade, should be cherished.
It’s really nice inside with quite a few interesting artefacts. This photo is a copy of the framed picture that Palmer’s brewery gave to Lizzie, the landlady. She also has very old photographs of Poole and a map of the harbour with all the named buoys – I didn’t even know buoys had names. You can tell this was our first port of call as all the photos are sensible. Into this tiny space, 35 folk were expected for Sunday lunch the following day so, clearly, we weren’t quite the pioneers we might have thought.
Next, we’re off to The Blue Boar which is in Market Close and not, as you might’ve thought, in Blue Boar Lane. Actually, I’m having trouble locating the latter so perhaps the owners did too. The Blue Boar pub is housed within the former building owned by the Adey wine merchant family and was re-opened in 1996.
In truth, we shouldn’t really be here: we’ve all been before, some of them on many occasions, so it doesn’t fall within our remit. They like it, however, and it has very good reviews so I’m on my own in finding it all a bit soulless. It boasts a bunch of diving memorabilia and is famous (or infamous) for being the venue for the post-New Year’s Day bath tub race on the Quay. You can see we’re slightly more organised as now someone’s remembered to record our visit. You can also see that the joint is not exactly jumping.
And now for something completely different. We’re definitely in the High Street and most probably in a pub called The Brewhouse. Finding reviews is tricky as Poole also has a hostelry called Brewhouse and Kitchen. This isn’t it. This is Pub of the Season, Spring 2017. No comment.
This converted shop looks like a long, narrow mock Tudor joint. Others in our party claim it reminds them of Disney, whilst the one in the new leopard-skin coat (also mock) says it’s like a place they visited in Bratislavia or some such place. No matter, we’ve a couple under our belt and this pub, compared with the previous two looks like a pub ought to on a Saturday night. Sort of. Mine host seems a jolly salt.
Conversely, Christy, landlord of The Butler and Hops, seems a bit down in the dumps. He’s only been in the job a week and is currently surveying his vast emporium which is largely empty. Maybe folk have never heard of the place as it changes names for a pastime. And maybe he doesn’t know it’s history which is more than a tad interesting.
John Butler built the pub in 1761 when it was called The Angel. Within five years, due to the trade with Newfoundland, it was one of the most valuable properties in the High Street and, for reasons unknown, he changed the name to The French Horn and Trumpet. By 1777, it had become The London Tavern, a staging post for coaches between Southampton and Weymouth. In 1936, it was demolished and rebuilt in the art deco style, decorated with the friezes that are now on display in our wonderful museum. Bombed in WW2, it subsequently opened in 1961 as The Old Harry, and finally as the Globe Café. Too late: it had gone right downhill and gained notoriety.
Poole is a Royal Marines’ base and the headquarters of the Special Boat Service. This fact is reflected in many of the town’s pubs, not least the Foundry Arms in Lagland Street. It regularly wins awards in the ‘pub of the year’ contest specifically in the ‘knowing your community’ section. It’s a pub run by and for marines.
This is me, your adventurous reporter, trying to get the low-down from landlord, Moz. I’m standing next to another former marine who we previously met in The Blue Boar. What I’m trying to discover is where the foundry, whose name the pub takes, was sited. It’s tricky: I’ve had quite a few of those little glasses of Guinness you can see but at least I’m still standing. The rest of my party has fallen over.
Moz reckons the foundry was sited where Sainsburys is now located. The bloke from The Blue Boar says it was on Baiter. Well, maybe there was more than one but my subsequent research shows that the Dorset Iron Foundry was initially located in the early nineteenth century on West Quay Road, directly opposite my son’s house. I should’ve asked him. The goods railway actually ran past his house and down onto the Quay to where the foundry expanded and subsequently became Hamworthy Engineering.
I didn’t particularly want to go to The Foundry and I still think we hit the joint at the right time. The place was exceptionally busy with a coach party of men dressed as hippies on a day tour. This was their eleventh stop so they made our lot look pretty sober. There’s a veritable shed-load of Royal Marine memorabilia proudly displayed in this pub so it’s not a joint for pacifists: it’s a place for objective observers who don’t mind a television showing a screen of constant scenes of instruments of war. Nonetheless, with my woozy academic head on, Moz is interesting and welcoming and eager to speak about his establishment.
And so to my very favourite pub in Poole: The Cockleshell, which, in times past, used to be The New London Tavern. presumably after the old one became The Old Harry. The cockleshell heroes were, of course, the first small group of the now SBS force that went to occupied Bordeaux in WW2 with the aim of destroying the German fleet. Six of them were executed and two died of hypothermia.
I love this pub. Walking through the door is like stepping into a time warp. There’s no fancy dress but everyone is dressed from the eighties. As my son says, ‘are we in a scene from ‘Life on Mars?’ The smoking laws haven’t yet arrived: the landlady has a cigarette and the DJ is smoking. Our party, now quite the worse for wear, are drawn easily into the fray.
Some of them attempt the karaoke. At 10.50. last orders is called. At 11pm, there’s a change of plan and there’s an announcement stating that the bar will stay open, followed by a loud cheer. At 11.20, I’ve decided that, if I want to see another day, I should find a taxi. It’s been a great way to discover some history of our beloved town.