During our walk around Stratford-upon-Avon described in the two-part report Lazing Ambulatory Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon Part 1 and Part 2, we made note of the many pubs to visit in what is colloquially known as a “pub crawl”. This is a traditional British past time. We started where most tours start in Stratford – Bridgefoot – where the old bridge entered the town.
Tied Pub vs Free House
Before embarking on a pub crawl or tour, one must understand the difference between a tied pub and a free house. A tied pub belongs to a brewery and must serve the brewery’s beers and ales whereas a free house is free to serve any brand of beer. These days, a tied pub may have one or two “guest” beers from outside their chain.
Pen & Parchment (Greene King): Bridgefoot (Near Map No. 14)
Pen & Parchment is a Greene King “tied pub” and hotel on Bridgefoot, next to Stratford-upon-Avon Visitor Information Centre car park that serves as the terminus of the ‘City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off’ bus tour mentioned in the previous ‘Lazing Ambulatory Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon part 1’ article. Have a pint of Abbot Ale while waiting for the next bus….
The Pen & Parchment has been a well-known landmark in Stratford Upon Avon since the 16th century. Even the wisteria winding across the front of the building is 150 years old. They say that inside is a wooden pillar taken from a ship captained by Horatio Nelson. Now lovingly refurbished, this 17th Century inn beautifully blends traditional features with the latest décor.
Greene King Pubs
The parent organisation has been running pubs and brewing award-winning beer from Bury St. Edmunds ever since the company was founded in 1799 by 19 year-old Benjamin Greene. Now, the conglomerate has 3,000 pubs, restaurants and hotels across the U.K. after acquiring other groups like Frederick King, Wright’s, Rayments, Wells & Winch, Magic Pub Co., Marstons, Morland, Old English Inns, Laurel, Belhaven, T D Ridley & Sons, Hardys & Hansons, Loch Fyne, Cloverleaf, RealPubs, Capital Pub Co., Chef & Brewer, Flaming Grill, Wacky Warehouse, Taylor Walker and Good Night Inns. Avid beer aficionados will recognise fine brews in their portfolio like Ruddles, Old Speckled Hen. In case you’re wondering, the author Graham Greene was the great-grandson of Benjamin Greene.
Abbot Ale (5%) from Bury St Edmunds where brewing can be traced back 1,000 years. The Domesday Book census mentions ‘cerevisiari’ or ‘ale brewers’, who served the Abbot in the town’s Great Abbey. It takes seven days to brew the perfect pint of Abbot Ale and the longer time makes for masses of fruit character, malty richness and a smooth hop balance. An award-winning beer, Abbot Ale was recently recognised with a prestigious 2014 Monde Gold Award. There is also Abbot Reserve (6.5%), a stronger ale in the same range with full-bodied, smooth and mature taste characterised by fruitcake and toffee flavours.
What we really want to know is if the secret 75-year-old ale which never went on sale is drinkable. Greene King brewed the beer to celebrate the coronation of Edward VIII – the king who was never crowned. They held it back, of course, when Edward abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson….
Dirty Duck (Greene King): Waterside (Near Map No.10)
By the waterside of the river Avon and opposite the Swan Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Theatre is the pub with two names – the older is ‘The Black Swan’ but the new name originated from the American GIs that camped across the river during the Second World War. I guess you can imagine that a black swan is like a “dirty duck”.
The pub is famous for its Actors Long Bar with the bay window facing the theatre as a favourite haunt of the Royal Shakespeare Company after their shows and before the Saturday matinees.
A multitude of thespian signed portrait photographs line the walls and some of them are even four-legged “movie stars”.
Garrick (Greene King): High Street (Near Map No.5)
Next to Harvard House on the High Street is The Garrick Inn in a timber framed building dating back to the 1400s is reputed to be the oldest licensed pub in Stratford-upon-Avon. It proudly displays the old town council licence plaques on the walls. It has a rich history including plagues, fatal fires and priest holes; many former “occupants” still visit from the “other side” as ghostly apparitions. If you want to know more, try the Stratford Ghost Walk.
A list of former occupants indicate that earliest owners (1446 – 1491) worked as barbers, carpenter, clerk and brothel keepers. There are records the occupants from 1567 – 1634 were weavers and drapers. There are gaps in the history but the first publican is listed in 1750 and the last recorded publican in 1896.
The pub is named after David Garrick (1717 – 1779), an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced theatrical practice throughout the 18th century, and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson. He promoted realistic acting instead of the prevalent bombastic style. In Stratford, he is remembered for his work in bringing Shakespeare to contemporary audiences. In 1769, Garrick staged the Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford-upon-Avon ostensibly to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Bard’s birth even though the event was five years too late!
Queen Victoria’s favourite novelist Marie Corelli makes another appearance as a photo on the wall. We first heard of her during our Stratford Town Walk tour. In 1909, at the suggestion and enthusiastic support of the English novelist and Stratford-upon-Avon resident Marie Corelli, the adjacent ‘Ancient House’ at 26 Hight Street was purchased by the American millionaire Edward Morris of Chicago and given to Harvard University, thereafter known as Harvard House.
We washed down our pub grub of calamari rings, sausages & mash and pan-fried sea bass with – I kid you not – Garrick’s Shakesbeer! It was a surprisingly fine pint of bitter.
Is there any respite from Greene King pubs in Stratford-upon-Avon?
Old Thatch Tavern (Fuller’s): Greenhill Street (Near Map No.2)
On the corner of Greenhill Street and Rother Street is The Old Thatch Tavern: a Grade II listed pub dating back to 1470. It claims to be the oldest pub in town and the only remaining thatched building in Stratford-upon-Avon. Inside is traditional pub food, good ales and service. Only 300 yards from Shakespeare’s Birthplace, the walk from Henley Street to the pub via Meer Street or The Minories is recommended for the quaint shops along the way, including antique emporia.
Olde English Words
It is interesting to note that the streets in the area make reference to previous markets like Sheep Street and Rother Street. Rother means cow, from Middle English rother, ruther, reother, from Old English hrūþer, hrȳþer, hrīþ (“neat; ox”), from Proto-Germanic hrunþaz, hrinþaz, related to Dutch rund (“ox”) and German rind (“bovine; beef”). This was because of the granting of a charter by King Richard I (Lionheart) allowing a weekly market. Getting ‘market town’ status was key as wool packs and sheep flocked, literally, to town. Obviously, cattle also arrived in herds.
Adjacent is the Shakespeare Memorial Fountain (also known as the American Fountain); a Victorian public monument by Jethro Cossins of Birmingham, in an individual and expressive Gothic style, displaying particularly high quality detailing and stone carvings. It was erected in 1868 to celebrate the life and work of William Shakespeare and sponsored by the American philanthropist and publisher George William Childs.
It is a 3-stage tower approximately 18m in height comprising a tall conical spire with gargoyles taking the form of different animals and cylindrical turrets with conical spirelets to each corner, topped with decorative, wrought-iron vanes and a central spire. The lower stage has gabled diagonal buttresses capped with statues of the British Lion and the American Eagle holding shields with the Royal Arms and the Stars and Stripes. The south side has a trefoil-headed entrance and flanking recesses, formerly containing a barometer and thermometer. To the east and west is a trough for horses and cattle with smaller troughs for dogs and sheep below, and to the north is a drinking fountain. The top stage has gabled clock faces, with finials representing “Puck”, “Mustard-Seed”, “Pea-blossom” and “Cobweb”, characters from Shakespeare’s play Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Old Thatch Tavern is a Fuller’s tied-pub.
Although 1845 is the foundation year of Fuller’s in London, marking the signature of partnership papers of Fuller, Smith & Turner, the story had been brewing long before then. Beer had been made in Chiswick, London for more than 350 years, when it was common for large households to brew their own beer. In the late 1600s, one such private brewhouse was in the gardens of Bedford House on Chiswick Mall. Another, operated nearby at the cottage of Thomas Urlin. Those were the foundation breweries of today’s Fuller’s.
In 1816, the brewery acquired the Griffin name and emblem. The Griffin had previously been the symbol of Meux and Reid’s Brewery in – Honest, Guv! – Liquorpond Street but when that business collapsed, the brewery owners moved swiftly to snaffle the name.
Since 1845, many famous ales have come out of the brewery. Chiswick Bitter was introduced in 1930. In the 1950s, London Pride took centre stage and in 1971, ESB was launched. Fuller’s was the first brewery to win the CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain award with three separate brews. ESB was first to take the CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain title in 1978. London Pride won in 1979. Following two more wins for ESB, Chiswick Bitter completed the treble in 1989.
Apart from beer money, the pub crawl is a cheap way to explore Stratford-upon-Avon on foot, without having to pay entry fees for the Shakespeare Family Homes. The downside is that you may not remember any of it!
Other Articles about Stratford-upon-Avon and Nearby
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web magazine. He was former CEO of PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).