The Edgeley Escapade
You lucky people, two 'From the Archives' posts in one week.
This time we go back to March 1985 and a Stagger on my doorstep, which I remember taking part in (it actually took place in January). The author was the pseudonymous 'Jock Stroller' who in fact was, and is, Alastair Walker who lives with his wife Angela in Whaley Bridge. I still see them for a few beers from time to time. As you'll see, his write-ups tended not to mince their words.
As we'll see later this Stagger caused ructions, in more ways than one. Anyway, here we go...
Beer scores from 0 (undrinkable) to 4 (excellent).
The first Good Beer Guide survey crawl of 1985 kicked off in the Alexandra, Northgate Road, off Castle Street, Edgeley. This excellent multi-roomed Victorian pub, with a superb ornate listed interior is a perfect example of how excellent many of Robinsons pubs were before their current wave of so-called improvements turn them into boring identikit, one-room bars that are totally devoid of character. The beer was also in good nick with the Bitter (63p) averaging 2.75 and the mild (60p) 3.75. Handpumped Old Tom is available at the ridiculously low price of 98p. The pub is slightly off the beaten track but is definitely well worth a visit.
Turning right up Northgate Road, and right again brought us onto Bloom Street, where the Hollywood is located. Formerly a private residence, this is now a large, rambling pub with many rooms to suit all tastes. It is owned by Pennine Joke (Hosts) so it will doubtlessly soon be turned into a licensed astrodome or such like. Beware of low-flying drunks and very noisy children lobbing beer mats 'Odd-Job' fashion! Wilsons mild (62p) and bitter (64p) scored 2.9 and 2,2 respectively.
Turning right took us up to Castle Street. The third port of call was Wilsons Royal Oak, a predictable Brewers Tudor type pub. Short measures all round and no sign of a price list. The West wing of the open plan lounge is called the Regency Suite and the East wing the Royal Box. I doubt if the royal family would be inclined to visit this nondescript pub! Bitter (66p0 scored 2.5 and mild (63p) 2.9.
A little further up castle Street is the Prince Albert. This good basic boozer is somewhat spoiled by the cheap and nasty Brewers Tudor interior but sells a reasonable pint of Wilsons mild (62p, 2.9 scored) and bitter (64p, 2.1). Note the interesting directions for the toilets before going back out to Castle Street and the Sir Robert Peel.
This Greenalls pub has recently been modernised and most people agreed that the new decor was an improvement. The comfortable and congenial atmosphere was compensated by good beer on handpump, with mild (64p) scoring 3.1 and bitter (66p) 2.4.
Back to Wilsons in the Pineapple where the bitter (65p) scored 2 and the mild (64p) was unavailable. This boozer is somewhat nondescript but not unpleasant. I am reliably informed that there is a lovely mirror in the ladies loo!
Across the street lay the Windsor Sports (ex Castle), a recently tarted up Pennine Joke pub. The keg decor was complemented by keg mild, in this pseuds pub which looks like an art nouveau McDonalds with pool tables. In fairness there were a lot of sweaty bodies packed in, so it is undoubtedly popular, unlike the handpumped bitter (64p) which only managed 1.8.
A bit further on lay the Jolly Crofter. For some inexplicable reason this uninteresting pub was even more popular than the Windsor Sports. The bitter (66p) received the night's poorest score (1.1). There was a ridiculously loud jukebox playing bloody awful 'music', short measures were dispensed by unfriendly staff. The only point in its favour was that the mild managed a fairly respectable score of 2.4.
A quick diversion to the other side of the roundabout led us to the Armoury, an ex-Bells pub with many excellent small wood-panelled rooms but a disappointing lounge. Robinsons mild (60p) scored 2 and bitter (63p) 2.5.
Back across the roundabout to the Grapes for last orders. This good, basic boozer is on the reserve GBG list and has an excellent chance of getting into the 1986 Guide. A convivial atmosphere is reinforced by good beer and good prices. Robinsons mild (59p) and bitter (63p) achieved 2.9 and 3 respectively. Since it was the end of the session we were forced to sample the Old Tom (£1.06) which scored 4 (enough said!!)
NB: Since this crawl Robinsons increased their prices by an average of 2p per pint.
What happened next
Well may you ask. There were repercussions.
Firstly, one of the local newspapers decided to aggregate the scores and publish a 'CAMRA league table of Edgeley pubs' or something along those lines. Needless to say, that wasn't too popular among the lower ranking pubs - cue outraged letters. This prompted a re-think on how Staggers were written and in future, average scored were dropped in favour of comments like 'the beer was above average'. More long-winded perhaps, but much less controversial (although scores were still recorded for beer quality monitoring - as they still are).
The other minor explosion came from the direction of the Jolly Crofter where the licensees objected to the phrase 'short measures dispensed by unfriendly staff'. This prompted a reconciliatory visit by a few of us which did patch things up. Mind you, our stay was accompanied by so many ostentatious displays of generous topping-up that by the time we left the bar top was awash with surplus beer.
So, what about the pubs themselves? The Alexandra still trades as a Robinsons tied house and its architectural merits have been recognised by a place on CAMRA's National Inventory of heritage pubs. You can read all about it here. For the record though, it's neither Victorian nor 'off Castle Street'.
It's not entirely certain that the Hollywood started life as a private house. What is certain is it closed in January 2012 and has since been converted into a nursery school. I remember going to a CAMRA committee meeting in one of the upstairs rooms and a local brass band playing in the next one, which made conversation difficult to say the least.
On to Castle Street now and the Royal Oak is still open, albeit 'to let'. It's had a variety of licensees in recent years and could do with some stability I think. It still sells cask beer (well, usually anyway). The mock-tudor interior has gone, along with the Regency Suits and the Royal Box.
The Prince Albert was a two-roomed, lounge-and-vault, Wilsons pub back in 1985, with a long-serving licensee. The pub was knocked through after he retired but today it still fills a role as a community pub with, generally speaking, a more mature customer base. It's run by the Craft Union Pub Company. This is a division of Ei (formerly Enterprise Inns) concentrating on community locals - and which seems rather keen on cask beer. The Prince Albert currently has Wadworth 6X and Taylor's Landlord on handpump. The Sir Robert Peel is a Punch Taverns pub which is currently 'to let' or rather as the sign puts it 'pub lover wanted'. It can be quite a lively pub at times and does not, as far as I know, sell cask beer (although it has dabbled with it from time to time). Back in the day, this was a tied house belonging to Joseph Worrall's Windsor Castle Brewery, which was sited just off Castle Street.
Next up was the Pineapple, one of the few remaining mid-terraced pubs around, and another Worrall's tied house once upon a time. It's a remarkable survivor and is, I think, independently owned. Very much a locals' pub, no cask beer has been sold for years.
The Pineapple was almost across the road the the Windsor Castle, which had become Windsor Sports back in 1985. This was a classic example of a Host Group refurbishment being left untouched for far longer than its anticipated shelf life and in later years it all just, literally, fell apart. The old Windsor Castle Brewery was located behind the pub which formed part of a terrace. The brewery sold out to Wilsons in 1896 and in the 1930s the whole site was redeveloped and the new pub always looked somehow out of place among the smaller pubs and shops on Castle Street. After its Sports phase the pub has various incarnations, one as 'The Joseph Worrall'. It finally closed in June 2006 and after two years blighting the area, it was knocked down and replaced by shops and flats, which you can see here. It is, I think, lucky that the Edgeley Discount Store lost the 'u' from its sign, rather than the 'o'.... The aforementioned Jolly Crofter is also still up and running. It hasn't sold cask beer for years, though. Unlike the Armoury, which is something of a local flagship for Robinsons. Despite some minor opening out, it's still a multi-roomed community local, which has thriving darts scene and is home to various local groups (the meetings to organise Stockport Beer & Cider Festival are usually held there). The wood-panelled lounge is a particularly fine room, and the Robinsons beers are among the best you'll get in Stockport. Unsurprisingly it's a regular fixture in the Good Beer Guide. And finally, the Grapes. This was a fine local, run for many years by Dave and Sandra George, with immaculate Robinsons beers. After Dave and Sandra retired it was taken on by Noel and Val Jones, who moved there from the Spread Eagle on Hillgate (which Robinsons closed to turn into brewery offices). They'd settled in nicely but then got the chance to fulfil a lifetime's ambition and departed to Crete. The Grapes closed in February 2012 and is now a café.