During the course of excavations for a new building currently being constructed in the centre of Northampton a 13th century malting oven was uncovered. This was dismantled and reassembled not too far from its original location and can be viewed today.
The 13th Century malting oven
Wooden Walls of old England
Public Houses linked to the war
Civil war ghosts in Northamptonshire
The Worlds End Public House, Ecton Village, Northamptonshire.
The name is an interesting one for a public house, and one suggested reason for the pub having the name The Worlds End is that a temporary prison compound may have been there for royalist prisoners taken at the 1645 Battle of Naseby.
The pub is said to have got its name from the time when it was used as a temporary prison for those captured at the Battle of Naseby in 1645 on their way to face trial in London. Because of the fairly primitive medicine available at that time many soldiers on both sides died of wounds suffered during the fighting and just as likely from the ill treatment they received from their captors, hence the name The World's End.
The cellar its is said was used as a mortuary and over the years many landlords have reported the sound of footfalls and shadowy figures in the basement. I often used this pub as a young man but at the time was completely unaware of its connection with the war, now whenever I pass it I think back to what it may have been like to those unfortunate individuals who spent their last days on earth imprisoned within its walls.
As well as its connection to the war Ecton is best known as a place of pilgrimage for visitors from the United States, being home to the family of Benjamin Franklin for over 300 years. A blacksmith by trade, Franklin's father was born here in 1655 and is buried, with many of his ancestors, in the churchyard.
The Falcon, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
The Falcon is a 500-year-old Cambridgeshire pub believed to have been used by Oliver Cromwell and thought to be the oldest pub in Huntingdon, this 16th Century inn was reputedly a Civil War headquarters for Cromwell, who was born in the town in 1599. Believed to be where Oliver Cromwell had his headquarters and also where he recruited his New Model Army. The English statesman's army defeated King Charles I's forces at the Battle of Naseby in 1645. Cromwell later co-signed the king's death warrant. Cromwell addressed his troops from the upstairs window of the Falcon when they were stood in the market square.
Renaissance in brewing in Northamptonshire.
In the dark days of my largely misspent youth the beer available was with a few notable exceptions uniformly bad, there were some shockers, beer that had no right to call itself beer by any definition of the word, which is why is those far off days I drank lager.
Since then in line with the rest of the country we have seen in Northamptonshire a rise in the number of small breweries from something like eight a few years ago to twenty two, all producing a variety of it has to be said mostly very good brews. The people that started these enterprises are passionate about beer, its quality and its availability to the widest spectrum of beer drinkers.
A few years ago I discovered a dark beer "Beijing Black" being served on draught in a pub I had gone into for a meal, and dark beers are what I favour, Porters, Stouts, Milds, these are my beers of choice and this particular beer is brewed by PotBelly Brewery.
I made a note of the breweries details and contacted them the next day and I asked if I could meet the owners and take a look around the brewery fully expecting to be told they were too busy, so imagine my delight when Ian one of the owners said "come over tomorrow and I'll show you round".
So on a Saturday morning I travelled over to meet Ian and chat with him about the business, Ian can be seen below removing the yeast from the top of the latest brews in the three fermentation tanks.
Conditioning vessels Pinky and Perky
I got chatting to Ian about how the business has started, and about the building the brewery was located in which looked very much like an old factory, and an interesting story emerged of how three work colleagues had worked in the same building when it was a leather factory making belts and other leather items, sadly competition from abroad eventually caused the company to stop trading.
Before this happened Ian had with another of the lads Tony tried to keep the business going while Glen experimented with small scale brewing, with a view to seeing if this could be another business for them.
Glen also touted round the local pubs to see if he could raise any interest in their fledgling beers, and their success was such that I'm told that now Potbelly supply hundreds of outlets with their products.
Indeed you can see some of their beers not only in pubs but also in local supermarkets which is proof that locally produced drinks and foods are now taken a lot more seriously.
The Potbelly story I'm glad to say is only one of many tales of how enterprising individuals have revitalised brewing and provided to the great British drinker a wonderful variety of beers which beer drinkers 30 or 40 years ago would have died for.
At the weekend I went to one of my favourite country pubs -
And above you can see all the local producers they use including PotBelly, if you are ever visiting Northamptonshire I would highly recommend this pub / restaurant, the food is excellent and very reasonably priced and the service is superb, I know a lot of places can talk the talk when it comes to customer service but here they can walk the walk, and they do it consistently.
Happy eating and drinking.
We all need a day out occasionally, a bit of light relief from work and other such inconveniences, so yesterday it was the annual pilgrimage to the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia in London, it’s something I do every year with some old school mates who I spent a lot of my misspent youth in the local hostelries with.
So after a nice little train journey from Northampton Castle Station to Milton Keynes and a change there to London Olympia takes us to our venue, but such is the popularity of this beer orgy that long queues form outside so we bypass this by visiting a Pub just up the road a few minutes walk away which is a Fullers house The Hand and Flower. Here we have a few pints to while away the time until the queue had disappeared and for me its usually a pint of Chiswick Bitter and whatever else I see which takes my fancy, disappointingly this year Chiswick Bitter was not on.
I'm going to be honest the dark Star Pale Ale I tried was not a patch on Chiswick Bitter, and I was disappointed to see more Dark Star beers on offer than Fullers own beers, and this sentiment was echoed by my fellow drinkers, still change happens so I will have to live with it but hopefully Fullers will continue to brew Chiswick Bitter.
I have usually had a look at the beers that will be available on the GBBF website which has a great facility to let you search for specific beer types and strengths and mark out a few for sampling, these are more often than not dark beers like Porters and Stouts which over the years I have acquired quite a taste for.
This year I had Arbor Ales "The Devil Made Me Brew IT" a Stout, a Porter by Brass Castle called "Bad Kitty" and a Dark Revolution Stout called "Velveteen, in the event I only got to try the Arbor Ales beer which was good but at over a fiver for a pint I thought well overpriced, the Bad Kitty wasn't on when I went to try it so I substituted this lovely dark beer.
Stags Fell, a worthy substitute.
So this is me and my old mucker Martyn who I've spent over 45 years sampling beer with, when we first started drinking beer was uniformly bad with Breweries like Watney's churning out some crap beers the with the like of Starlight which was akin to drinking your own urine only not as flavoursome.
In those far off days lager was the drink of choice for most of us not because we particularly liked that but because the alternatives were few and as mentioned already pretty bloody awful.
Happily over the last twenty years we have seen a resurgence in brewing and the range and quality of beers is probably better than its ever been with the irony being that more and more Pubs are closing down,
The passion for beer which is thankfully not confined to old geezers like me is great to witness as plenty of young men and for that matter young ladies attend the event and its probably these people who will keep the beer world alive and kicking in to the future.
One thing I love about Brewers apart from their end product is their general creativity, Butchers Tears, I love that as a brewery name, the Brewery is Amsterdam based, and although I sometimes try the occasional beer from the Netherlands I find them mostly too strong for my liking, although that being said a nice glass of Amstel in the Summer goes down well.
Food at the Festival is varied, you can get everything from a Pastie to Roast Pork rolls, Indian Street food, Seafood, Pies, Pickled Eggs, German Sausage, Burgers, so if you get the munchies (which you will) there is always something to nibble on.
Oh and the Burgers are quite exotic -
"Various exotic burgers from around the world made from kangaroo, ostrich and zebra or try our Aberdeen Angus beef burgers all served in a fresh brioche bun with mixed salad leaves a Cheddar cheese slice and a selection of relishes."
Hands up who remembers the bloke with the basket of seafood coming round the pub on Friday or Saturdays nights, I can't remember the name of the company but I'm sure some of you will put me right.
Here is the blurb form the Seafood stall at this years event -
"Seafood may sadly no longer be a feature of the British pub scene but we like a good tradition! We have a range of top-quality, fresh seafood from cockles, whelks and mussels to prawns, crayfish and smoked salmon. Cromer crabs are a speciality. Come and sample the (in)famous traditional jellied eels, wake up your tastebuds with rollmops, or just soak up some liquid with a tasty and substantial seafood baguette or sandwich. Whether you need to refuel, want a lighter option, or just try something new come along and see us at the seafood stall"
Pork Scratchings, whoever though of this as a snack food should have been knighted.
There is usually live music at the venue and some of the bands are really good, but the cavernous nature of the building doesn't lend itself to good accoustics which is a shame as it doesn't do justice to the musicians who are doing their best to entertain the people sitting having food or just a general rest.
I would have liked to seen and listened to this band -
Bad Touch have been an entity since late 2009. We draw our influences from artists such as, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Black Crowes and Black Stone Cherry to name a few. As such, our sound is deeply rooted in Blues / Southern Rock, but we like to feel that we remain contemporary. We’ve recorded and self-released two studio albums, and have recently recorded a third, which is awaiting release as BT are newly-signed to Marshall Records. Our sound and ethos is all about having fun and if you want to know more you’ll have to come to a show! www.badtouchrocks.co.uk
Walking around the venue you could easily clock up a fair distance as its huge, which helps burn off a few of the calories added by the beer, but maybe if that's your concern a gym would be a better venue than a beer festival :) apparently you can get fit in a gym, although looking at lycra clad arses is not my favoured way of spending time, each to their own as they say.
Hand Of Doom, a great name for a beer from this part of the country.
Apart from boozing there are other things to try, Northamptonshire Skittles is a game which can still be seen in many pubs in the County, used to spend many an evening tossing the cheeses, ooh ere missus.
While I was wondering around I came across a selection of bottles of beer brewed to mark special occasions, nice to own something like this,
There were Northamptonshire Brewers present at the festival and I wanted to try Phipps "Midsummer Meadow" but unfortunately that had sold out, so I had to make another substitution which was Panther's "Summer Daze".
Phipps Midsummer Meadow has won awards and was rated as one of the best beers in Britain by Roger Protz the editor of the Camra Good Beer Guide, so I was a little disappointed but I'll seek out that particular beer before the Summer ends.