Monday, 12 November 2012

A fascinating but dwindling list

Good evening,

     I spotted an interesting post on Paul Bailey's blog here about the resignation from the CAMRA (you've seen the CAMRA) of legendary unspoilt pub hunter Rodney Wolfe Coe.

It struck me that not only does the list he is renowned for compiling, the Classic, basic, unspoilt pubs of Great Britain, link together through its possession a wide range of unspoilt pub lovers over a huge area, but also that of those who have a copy, very few have thought to reprint them online. I think we (sic) are missing a trick.

Of course, there is the issue of whether RWC would mind. Given that his denouncement of CAMRA's dedication to the modern at the expense of the traditional, as its claimed he stated in a letter to Whats Brewing, it seems unlikely that he would have considered making his list an online tool, or that he would stumble across it via Google on a quiet evening. Its still his list though, irrespective of the level of perceived assistance he had in compiling it.

I picked my copy up in the Duke of York in Elton (above) years ago, and have carefully, erm, misplaced it since. I remember there were plenty of pubs I had never visited, but a version I discovered online last year lists plenty I had never even heard of, testimonies to the existence of which linger on only by virtue of the scantest of references in disparate bodies of text across the worldwide web.  

More frustratingly, having found a copy of the 1994 list online, the address 
no longer works.  Having been known to me for a long time its particularly frustrating that I never thought to copy it.

A quick look around the Tinterweb shows a copy of Worcestershire CAMRA's Pint Taken magazine, which, on Page 13 of the Winter 2005 edition mentions a final 11th edition of the list, now featuring just 12 pubs! Since I don't have Word and this is a PDf I have saved what I hope is a "picture" of page 13 which, with any luck, will be shown below. Apologies to Worcester CAMRA if it does work. Apologies to everyone if it doesn't... (there is also a link here )
I don't know how to make the text larger, sorry!
It's noticeable that there are a few pubs that I know are on one of the lists that I have never been to, and now never will. The Welcome Stranger at Herstmonceaux, Eagle at Skerne, Fir Tree at Cornsay Colliery, and, having to do this from memory, I think the Dun Cow at Billy Row in County Durham are all pubs I've either only stood outside, or didn't know about the existence of in time to visit. Frustrating as this information is, the comparison between just two of the lists is a fascinating study.

I wonder therefore, given that the leaflet allegedly started out with over 160 pubs, if anyone would be willing to dig out the editions in their possession and copy them into the blog comments (or better still blog or host them and post the link), or, whether anyone out there knows RWC and would ask for his thoughts on such an idea? It would be fantastic, whatever the route taken, to arrive at having this invaluable picture of our fast disappearing pub heritage in one place.

It would certainly be interesting to find out whether potential inclusions that I also never got to, such as the Lodge at Shirland and Queen Adelaide on Snelston Common, both in Derbyshire, ever made the mark.

Finally, in response to the question posed at the end of Paul Bailey's blog :

of the pubs listed, the Welcome Stranger, Eagle at Skerne, Red Lion at Llandovery, Red Lion at Stoke Talmage, Horse and Trumpet at Medbourne and Seven Stars at Halfway House no longer trade, and the Bath in Cheltenham, Three Tuns in Hay on Wye (now a pub and restaurant, shudder...)  and even the Sun at Leintwardine, have had varying levels of change that would or might disbar them from a 2012 list. Hope that helps.

Wee Beefy.



  1. Hi wee beefy, I stumbled upon your excellent blog whilst carrying out research about RWC's list. Like yourself I found a complete dearth of information online about The Classic Basic Unspoilt Pubs of Great Britain, but perhaps this is not surprising given the author's now publicly stated dislike of all types of electronic communication.

    I have never met Rodney Coe, even though I understand he lives in the Ashford area of Kent, whilst I live in Tonbridge, which isn't a million miles away. However, a few years ago, on a visit to the Red Lion at Snargate, there was a rather eccentric character chatting at the bar who may well have been said gentleman. (He certainly fited the bill!). It's difficult to say whether RWC would mind his list being published online, but whether he does or doesn't I think it's important that this sort of information is recorded somewhere, and where better these days than on the internet?

    It's a shame that the link to the 1994 list no longer works, but I did find one from 1995 that I have copied into Word. It lists 32 pubs, as opposed to the 21 on the 1998 list that I published. Unfortunately I didn't make a noet of the link, but hope to publish the list as a follow up on my blog.

    Finally, I am pleased to have found your blog, and will enjoy browsing back through some of your previous postings that record your own experiences in this area.

    Best Wishes

    Paul Bailey

  2. Hello Paul.

    thanks for getting in touch and for your kind words. I suspect that the reality of this may be far less noble than I intended! Nevermind RWC's distaste for the medium, I think his list is a treasure that people across the UK have, in fact, filed away somewhere, much as I have.

    There are a dispirate few who have looked in detail at aspects of the list but I honestly think a more likely outcome is that pics could be posted on Flickr. I discussed this idea with Pub Curmudgeon a bit back and to be honest I admit I never really got the idea off the ground. However, in the likely absence of any lists, I at least have some pics of the Hop Pole in Risbury for example.

    That said, it will be a long process digging them out and scanning them!



  3. Martin, Cambridge20 November 2012 at 22:31

    Hi - The list in 1997 (4th Ed) was as follows (batched in ascending order of greatness), with acknowledgement to Mr Coe:-

    Duke of York - Elton, Square & Compass - Worth Matravers, Eagle - Skerne, Welcome Stranger - Herstmonceux, Red Lion - Snargate, North Star - Steventon, Three Tuns - Hay, Cock - Brent Eleigh, Turf Tavern - Bloxwich

    Olde Tavern - Kington, Horse & Trumpet - Medbourne,Peyton Arms - Peyton, Red Lion - Stoke Talmage

    Red Lion - Llandovery, Red Lion - Ampney St Peters, Hop Pole -Risbury, Star - Netherton, Dyffryn Arms - Pontfaen

    Luppitt - Luppitt, Queens Arms - Cowden Pound, Seven Stars - Halfway House

    Sun - Leintwardine

    I have Edition 5 somewhere; there were certainly no new entries and the lesser entries had dropped off the list.

    I've visited 18 of these plus an irritating number of recently closed ones. The Hop Pole left an impact, not altogether pleasant, that only death will shake off. Beer quality ranged from great (Horse & Trumpet, Red Lion at Ampney) to poor (Sun unfortunately). If not blasphemous, I'd say a few have been successfully modernised (the Sun, the North Star, Three Tuns).

    The Anchor at High Offley would have a case for inclusion on any list of this sort.


    1. Hello there, I hoped you might have some gen, having seen your name on Curmudgeon's related posts in the past.

      From the above it seems the list that I am kicking myself for not copying may have been earlier - since it included the Fir Tree at Cornsay Colliery, but also The New Inn at Hadlow Down, and yet not the Hop Pole. Nice to see the Cock at Brent Eligh on there.

      I managed to get to Risbury in 1995. Didn't seem too apocalyptic then but I can see how it could have become so. Asked 3 people in different gardens in Risbury where it was - all didn't know for sure and thought it was closed - a good 4 or 5 years before it did.

      Thanks for posting the list aswell, every modified version provides a talking point and its interesting to consider why some pubs seem to be missing, only to be added later.

      Finally, it may be of interest, I am currently in my own cack handed foggy fashion, researching The Lodge near Stretton in Derbyshire (below, not above it, as my early 2012 post states). Its proving incredibly difficult, not least beacuse I only went once, but as a non beer drinking teenager, during the day. At least most of the pubs on the RWC lists so far can be traced as such. Perhaps The Lodge wasn't supposed to sell beer! I hope to have an update soon.


    2. Martin, Cambridge21 November 2012 at 12:15

      Re: the Lodge (which I've never heard of), there's a interesting looking building set back from the road just south of Stretton, now a beauty salon called Zest, that looks like a former pub. I'm in Alfreton for football next month so will try to explore !

      Good blog, by the way

    3. Sounds great! Am hoping to head out myself but would warmly appreciate any news. Quite happy to knock on the door if required....


  4. You can still find that BT Internet website if you look at it with the marvellous Wayback Machine -

    1. Cheers! That's brilliant. And just in case the Wayback machine expires or something, here is the list again :
      "The Classic Basic Unspoilt Pubs of Great Britain"

      This list comes from a copy of a single sheet list identified as "No 46 of a limited edition of 100 RWC/ASHFORD/APRIL 1994", which I was given in a pub in Wales a couple of years ago. So it stands to reason that some these pubs might have disappeared - try ringing them before trekking out... Meanwhile, my apologies to "RWC" for breaching his copyright. I've repeated his original introduction below the list.

      One star

      Derbyshire Kirk Ireton Barley Mow
      Dorset Worth Matravers Square & Compass
      Dyfed Llandovery Red Lion
      East Sussex Hadlow Down New
      Herstmonceux Welcome Stranger
      Hampshire Fritham Royal Oak
      Hertfordshire High Wych Rising Sun
      Kent Snargate Red Lion
      Oxfordshire Checkendon Black Horse
      Steventon North Star
      Stoke Talmage Red Lion
      Somerset Faulkland Tuckers Grave
      Witham Friary Seymour Arms
      Suffolk Brent Eleigh Cock

      Two stars

      Durham Cornsay Colliery Fir Tree
      Gloucestershire Cheltenham Bath Tavern
      Hereford & Worcestershire Kington Olde Tavern
      Humberside Skerne Eagle
      Norfolk Burnham Thorpe Lord Nelson
      Northumberland Netherton Star

      Three stars

      Devonshire Drewsteington Drewe Arms
      Dyfed Meidrim Maenllwyd
      Ponfaen Dyffryn Arms
      Gloucestershire Ampney St Peter Red Lion
      Hereford & Worcestershire Risbury Hop Pole
      Kent Cowden Queens Arms
      North Yorkshire Beck Hole Birch Hall
      Powys Llanfihnangel-Yng-Ngwfyna Goat

      Four stars

      Devonshire Luppitt Luppitt
      Gloucestershire Duntisbourne Abbots Five Mile House
      Shropshire Halfway House Seven Stars

      Five stars (and, thus, probably the best pub in Great Britain)

      Hereford & Worcestershire Leintwardine Sun


      RWC's original introduction:

      This is not just another list of the Classic British pubs. Many existing lists rely totally on other people's findings. This list is different in that the compiler has personally visited over 80 pubs that possibly warranted inclusion in a definitive list.

      Apart from the obvious criteria of being Basic and Unspoilt, all pubs in this list sell Real Ale. Many of the 80+ visited have been "improved" or found to be just not worthy of the description "Basic and Unspoilt". Some, unfortunately, did not sell Real Ale. Sadly, others considered for the list have closed since "inspections" began in May 1993.

      The compiler therefore feels that this list could arguably be regarded as the definitive list of the "Classic Basic Unspoilt Pubs of Great Britain". Others may well disagree - especially with the star ratings - which can be only one person's opinion.

      In producing this list, the compiler acknowledges the recommendations given by MC, RLC, RD, CJE, JH, TH, DL, RAM and JW.