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Friday, 30 December 2011

#042 The Spotted Dog, Digbeth : 1998 to 2011

There were two Spotted Dog pubs in Digbeth and I've been in both of them. This one is on the corner of Alcester Street and Warwick Street...and is still open.

This is how it looked in 1998, but at that time I'd never been inside.

However, in 2007 I had the opportunity to visit some pubs that we'd never been in on any of our canal trips before. So we did a mini pub crawl through Digbeth and started at The Spotted Dog. This photo was taken on the evening of 24th August 2007.
In the intervening 9 years there are few changes apart from a lick of paint and some greenery added to the outside. Inside I remember it as being a nice, cosy Irish pub with a friendly atmosphere. Our friends were already there and had stationed themselves in the quite substantial garden/patio area. Inside the pub was a fantastic map of Digbeth from the 1800's that showed all of the pubs within about a quarter of a mile. Out of the approximately 20 pubs shown, only 3 or 4 were still in existence! The only downside was that the only lager available was Carlsberg which, in those days, was almost undrinkable (but that didn't stop me!!)

And here we are in 2011! Another lick of paint and the greenery on the corner appears to have grown unchecked! Like many pubs in the area, The Spotted Dog is also a venue for live music. It is also one of the establishments at the forefront of the campaign to keep live music in Digbeth. Over the past few years, more and more people now live nearby in the new developments and some of them don't like the sound of music at night. So they complain and the council have to investigate, resulting in the potential for any of these venues to be closed down. Very frustrating for the pubs that were there and playing music long before the influx of new residents. So far the resistance has been successful.

This is the nineteenth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

UPDATE : #027 The Old Wharf, Digbeth : 1998 to 2011 (RIP?)

Sad to report that, since I took my photos in August, The Old Wharf closed on 5th December as reported here. It seems that my optimism from October was unfounded. 

Here is another link, to a eulogy for The Old Wharf giving a first hand perspective on the good times had there.

Anyway, here's a picture just to remind you what a striking appearance it had.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

#041 The Fountain Inn, Tipton : 2003 to 2011

This is a pub I wish I'd visited before 2003. The Fountain Inn has a long history and survived when the Tipton Green area was substantially redeveloped in the late 1970's. Now the pub stands, almost alone, amidst buildings that are less than 20 years old.
Our first visit was at lunchtime on 27th August 2003 on our way back from a canal trip that had taken us to Leicester. As I remember, it was a pleasant pub that served very good pub food at very reasonable prices.

Four years later and we make another lunchtime stop on 6th September 2007 on our way back from our second trip along the Llangollen Canal.
Very little had changed...fortunately.

And so to our most recent visit. Again lunchtime on 6th September 2011, this time on our return from a trip along the Caldon Canal.
Very little has changed, but the vegetation is now in hanging baskets and the signage on the side of the pub is more restrained. Inside it was still the same, but there was one aspect that I've not encountered for a long while. The barmaid was young and gorgeous, far more attractive than you would expect to find in a small backstreet boozer and she was very good at her job (usually ability seems to be in inverse proportion to attractiveness!). This set me to thinking that you don't often find young, attractive barmaids in fairly bog standard pubs any more. I'm sure it used to be a more common phenomenon, but maybe I'm just getting old and developing 'rose tinted' glasses!

The main reason that I wish I'd visited The Fountain Inn sooner is it's history. The pub sign depicts a boxer which, at first sight, seems to be somewhat incongruous with the name. But, as the sign by the door and the statue by where we moored indicate, this was the training base for William Perry, the Tipton Slasher. He was a bare knuckle boxer and was Champion of England from 1850 - 1857. His nickname derived from his style of fighting.
He was originally a canal boatman but became famous as a fighter in his teens. Ultimately he ended up back in poverty after betting everything on his disastrous last fight. Amazing how things don't seem to have changed for boxers in the intervening 150 years!

Friday, 16 December 2011

#040 Moby Dick's : 1998 to 2011 (RIP?)

Back in 1998 Moby Dick's was a completely new discovery for me down a side street I'd never been on before.
A typical street corner pub, similar to several others in the area. Needless to say, I never made it back there for a drink.

Onwards to 2011 and it is closed, boarded up and, by all accounts, ready for demolition to make way for the Eastside Locks Development. This is a new concept to me, but looks very good on paper, but whether there will ever be the money to complete the project is doubtful in this economic climate. 
Moby Dick's featured, in the distance, in #023 O'Neill's earlier in my blog.
This is the eighteenth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

#039 Saracen's Head, Weston, Staffs : 1987 to 2011

The first time we visited the Saracen's Head in Weston was in 1987. We'd passed through in 1981, but were on a tight schedule and didn't stop there. It was a lunchtime stop and the pub is as close to the Trent & Mersey Canal as you can get without being on the bank!
 I don't really remember too much about it other than there must have been food on offer as we stopped for lunch on Tuesday 14th July 1987.

I found it difficult to believe that the next time we stopped at Weston was in 1999!
This was an evening stop on Tuesday 31st August 1999 on our way to the Caldon Canal. Apart from the new signage there was a conservatory added to the back. When inside you can see that this feature has been added to give a more substantial eating area making the Saracens Head more of a restaurant than a pub.

We returned again in 2000, this time on the way up to Manchester.
This was lunchtime on Tuesday 29th August 2000.

Next visit was an evening stop on Monday 16th September 2002 on our way back from the Caldon Canal.
It's interesting to note that although seemingly exactly the same, there are subtle changes over the 3 years - mainly in the outdoor seating and the hanging baskets.

It wasn't until this year that we stopped in Weston again...on our way back from the Caldon Canal!
This was on the evening of Saturday 3rd September 2011. Now we can see a lot of changes on the outside - gone are the Bass Worthington signs, gone is the picture of a Saracen's Head and it's frame. The standard of cars in the car park is also somewhat higher than when we first visited here in 1987!

We didn't eat here on this visit (we haven't eaten here since 1999!) but we did pop in for a couple of pints and, inside, it is pretty much the same as I remember it from the last visit.

I'm not sure who owns it these days, but judging from the Saracens Head website it looks as though it is a free house, but it could be owned by a pubco!

Monday, 5 December 2011

#038 Big Bulls Head, Digbeth : 1998 to 2011

I'm not sure if I've ever been in the Big Bulls Head in Digbeth. Certainly in 1998 when I took this photo I'd never set foot inside the pub.
It looks like a typical street corner boozer and, although I've done a few pub crawls around Digbeth, I seem to recall that whenever we passed by it was always busy and so we kept on walking.

As the Big Bulls Head is on the main drag through Digbeth I wasn't surprised to see it is still thriving in 2011.
From a physical point of view it has hardly changed in 13 years, but it has obviously been painted and well maintained. The Big Bulls Head has its own website extolling the virtues of its pub food (looks good - proper pub food!!) and their Bed & Breakfast facilities.
This is the seventeenth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series.