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Time Ladies and Gentlemen Please! – Does the Demise of Guildford Pubs Matter?

Published on: 24 Aug, 2012
Updated on: 7 Apr, 2016

The Forresters in Cooper Road, Charlotteville, Guildford will it reopen or be converted into flats?

By Martin Giles

My great-grandmother was a bit of a character. She was a brown-ale-drinking, Players-Weights-smoking (at 85 she could still blow a mean smoke-ring), Victorian lady that liked to follow the horses in between beating her great-grandchildren, at any card game she could get them to play.

If she spilt a drink she would say: “Oh no! I’d rather see a church fall down.”

Even as a child I thought it amusing rather than seriously irreverent but I wonder how she would balance the survival of pubs and churches now? Luckily it is not an either/or choice and there is no doubt both can be important pillars in the formation of a community. They are institutions that have been part of our English culture for over a thousand years since, at least, Saxon times.

So what should we make of the news that another pub in Guildford, the Forresters in Charlotteville, already closed, might not survive? [Click here to see Community’s Fight To Save the Forresters Pub.] Should we care or is it simply part of an irresistible cultural change?

Perhaps we should ask what is causing this fashion? Why is it now that younger people in and around Guildford gravitate to the larger bars in Bridge Street ‘pre-loading’ at home with cheaper booze obtained from supermarkets and off licences or even drinking it in the street while on the way?

There are probably a variety of reasons. Let me propose a few:

Alcoholic drinks are certainly much cheaper in supermarkets and perhaps cheaper there in real terms than they have ever been. Why wouldn’t anyone on limited means (not just the pre-loaders) take advantage of that fact?

Young people like to group together, that’s nothing new, but the creation of the larger bars of the type we see in Bridge Street has created, intentionally or not, an exclusively young environment in some areas where behaviour might no longer have the brakes imposed by older, more experienced heads. Some might like the freedom from supervision, but there is a price.

Pub-owning breweries faced with decreasing sales, demanding shareholders and increasing overheads have increased prices while, at the same time, squeezing the pub landlords so hard that in some cases pubs cannot remain viable, or at least attractive, business propositions.

If this crude analysis is correct what can and should be done?

The government could balance taxation on alcohol even more in favour of consumption in pubs. They might not be able to afford a reduction of their overall take but they can make adjustments.

Business rates could be made proportionally higher for the larger bars. There is a social cost to these establishments, for example in policing, so even if we do not think we should step in to protect our pub culture they should at least be cost neutral in social terms.

The stranglehold of the breweries needs to be weakened perhaps by legally guaranteeing a percentage of the turnover and or freeing landlords to source a significant percentage of their supply independently.

That’s it. Problem solved.

As a matter of interest I have attempted to list all the Guildford town pubs limited to those roughly within a mile radius of the High Street, currently open:

Still open for business Ye Olde Ship Inn in St Catherine’s, one of Guildford’s oldest pubs

The Albany, Sydenham Road

The Astolat, Old Palace Road

The Weyside, Millbrook

The Boileroom, York Road

The Britannia, Millmead

The Drummond, Woodbridge Road

The George Abbot, High Street

The Keep, Castle Street

The Keystone, Portsmouth Road

The Kings Head, Kings Road

The Kings Head, Quarry Street

Ye Olde Ship Inn, Portsmouth Road

The Prince Albert, Stoke Road

The Robin Hood, Sydenham Road

The Royal Oak, Trinity Churchyard

The Star, Quarry Street

The Stoke Hotel, Stoke Road

The Three Pigeons, High Street

The Tup, Chertsey Street

Total 19

And those Guildford pubs that have closed since 1960:

The Live and Let Live – Closed and Prepared for Demolition

The Bear, Friary Street, closed 1967

The Blackfriars, Friary Centre, closed 1989

The Bull’s Head, High Street, closed 1988

The Castle, Farnham Road, closed 1986

Diva’s, Park Street, closed 2010?

The Dolphin, Chertsey Street, closed 1964

The Forresters Arms, Cooper Road, closed 2012?

The Horse & Groom, North Street, closed 1990s?

The Little White Lion, North Street, closed 1983

The Live & Let Live, Haydon Place, closed 2012

The Mary Rose, Leapale Road (now the Five and Lime bar)

The Napoleon, Park Street, closed 1978

The Plough, Park Street, (latterly ‘Platform Nine’ and ‘Diva’s’) closed 2011

The Prince of Wales, Woodbridge Road, closed 1968?

The Railway Arms, Park Street, closed 1962

The Sanford Arms, Epsom Road, closed 1990s (now Rogues Wine Bar)

The Seven Stars, Swan Lane, closed 1970s

The Surrey Arms, North Street, closed 1985

The Vintners Arms, North Street, closed 1966

Total 19

What are your views? Do pub closures matter? Should we try and resist them or are they an inevitable part of our changing culture and economic environment?

If you wish to comment or if notices any omissions or errors in the lists please use the’Leave a Reply’ feature below.

Pub closures are not a new phenomenon. This pub, St Catherine’s Inn aka The Anchor & Hope, now a house, closed in the 1930s when the original by-pass opened. Its licence was transferred to The Wooden Bridge.

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Responses to Time Ladies and Gentlemen Please! – Does the Demise of Guildford Pubs Matter?

  1. John Schluter

    August 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Totally agree with the recommendations regarding taxation etc. I hear Weatherspoons are opening more bars, to me they are the “supermarket” of the pub trade.

    Do we seriously want a time when no matter what city or town we are in, all the shops are the same, as are the pubs?

    I for one do not.

  2. Angela Gunning

    August 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Two more pubs, both in Stoke, gone in recent years; the Parrot at the end of Woodlands Road and The Bell on the Woking Road [but now The Rose, an indian restaurant].

    • Martin Giles

      August 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      Yes, indeed, and I am sure there are others in the wider town area too for both lists. I had to draw the line somewhere so chose Ladymead to the north.
      But if readers wish to mention other pubs open or closed they are very welcome.

  3. David Bennett

    August 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I believe the list of Guildford town centre pubs that have closed since 1960 should also include The Vintners Arms, a Courage house,which closed in c.1966. It was in North Street just down from the entrance to Swan Lane.

    • Martin Giles

      August 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      Thank you David. Yes this is one I was not aware of, not starting my drinking career until the 1970s. The Vintners Arms, according to Mark Sturley’s The Breweries and Public Houses of Guildford was at 36/38 North Street. It had been, in the 19th century, part of the North Street Brewery owned by a well known Guildford brewing family, the Elkins. It closed in 1966. I will adjust the list. There was also a Vintners Arms in the High Street at what is now No. 75. It closed, according to Sturley, c. 1921.

  4. H. Bonar

    August 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    There was also The Plough on Park Street. Or was that a later name for The Napolean?

    • Martin Giles

      August 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm

      Yes, of course. Thank you. The Plough later became Platform Nine and then Diva’s before closing in 2010 or 2011. The closed up premises are still there. The Napolean was on the opposite side of the street by the junction with Bridge Street. It was named after Napolean I’s nephew Napolean III who was exiled to England following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war. He was finally interred at Farnborough Abbey.

  5. Bernard Parke

    August 27, 2012 at 10:14 am

    John Gardiner, my old head master, said that there were 97 pubs in Guildford at the end of the 19th century.

    Although a strict Methodist and a teetotaller, he claims to have counted them himself, .

    When I was doing research at Guildford Museum on The Skeleton Army it was stated that there were 30 pubs in the High Street alone, owned by aldermen and the city fathers.

    When the Salvation Army came to the town they encouraged these people to march against the Army with cries of
    ” Beef, Beer and Baccy “.

    They were afraid that The Salvation Army, with their demon drink campaign, would wreck their trade.

    Alcohol then was almost like drugs are to-day.

  6. Roger Marjoribanks

    August 28, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    The loss of the Green Man is a disgrace, of course – there was a pub there in the reign of Henry VIII – but I also mourn the loss of the Horse and Groom at Merrow, which I remember 30 years ago as a comfortable pub with a roaring fire in winter but is now a tarted up and expensive gastro-pub!

  7. H Bonar

    August 30, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Oh and there was the Hogs Head on the Upper High Street that closed a few years ago.

    • Martin Giles

      August 31, 2012 at 9:48 am

      I would not classify the Hog’s Head as a pub, more a bar. I wonder what others think?