Here we go back to when ‘Britannia Ruled the Waves.’ Naturally our Nautical History and navigational skills are reflected in our Pubs.
Not only the sea is involved – we are an island full of rivers, lakes, estuaries and man made canals and waterways. And anything that floats has a Pub connection.
A rich compendium of words anchors it all together. Do you know a ketch from a yawl? Or who will win the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race ? Can you scull in a skiff and where is the best Pub to ‘Push the Boat Out ?’ Our choice for this would be Norfolk.
‘Push the Boat Out ?’ Our choice for this would be Norfolk.
So Norfolk is where we start in the bustling little harbour town of Wells-Next-the-Sea. Here you will find The ALBATROS – the curious spelling comes about because this is a Pub on a boat of that name. Not just any old boat but an 1899 North Sea Clipper. Moored at the Quayside it is easy to spot the high masts. Full of atmosphere and nautical history it has much else to offer. It can be booked by bands, there is much in the way of food and you can eat Dutch Pancakes on deck. It is larger than it looks and below decks the holds no longer have to hold goods to be transported. Plenty of room for cask ale.
Now to keep our findings in shipshape order and not drift into uncharted waters we shall cast off with our most admired admirals.
Lord George ANSON. 1697-1762
In 1740 he was given a squadron of 6 ships to have a go at the Spanish, in the Pacific manned mostly by Greenwich Hospital Pensioners. By the time they reached a rendezvous at Juan Fernandez Island he had only three ships left. By 1743 only his beloved Ship CENTURION had survived – and with this he captured a Spanish Galleon and returned with what turned out to be 32 wagon loads of treasure.
In 1745 he defeated the French at Finistere and his prestige was further enhanced when he completed his best seller ‘VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD’ which featured his travels in the CENTURION between 1740-44. It outsold Daniel Defoe’s ROBINSON CRUSOE.
He became a first Lord of the Admiralty and instigated many dockyard reforms.
ANSON ARMS and other Pubs bearing his name are sprinkled in locations from Manchester to Yarmouth but our choice of Pub goes to The SHIP CENTURION in the High Street of Whitstable in Kent. A fine nautical Pub in a seaside town to match, with its own bay. A Free House well known for hospitality, choice of beers, festooned with hanging baskets of flowers in season this 3-storey Victorian building is full of Whitstable History and memorabilia.. TAKE A VOYAGE ROUND THE PUB.
Sadly, the sign writer settled for the Romans, but we also have the The Ship Anson in Portsmouth, Hants, which does depict our head.
ADMIRAL John BENBOW. 1653-1702
‘Oh, Benbow lost his legs, by chain-shot, by chain-shot,
Down on his stumps did fall and so loud for mercy called,
“Oh fight on my British Tars,
It is my lot, It is my lot” ‘……..
And so in 1702 after a 5 day running battle against the French in the Caribbean the valiant Admiral became a theme for balladeers as he departed from life.
A Shropshire man, he seemed popular all over the country and quite a few Pubs bear his name, but one of the most popular is The ADMIRAL BENBOW at Penzance in Cornwall. It is a protected building of solid whitewashed granite dating from the 1600′s. It had extra protection from a smuggler with a flintlock pistol lying along the roof ridge as some sort of look out. You are quite safe – he is only an effigy.
At one time the Pub had a whole museum attached to it and if this has gone there is enough smuggling and nautical memorabilia to drink in or get wedged in during the tourist season.
Robert Blake – (1599 – 1657)
The word Admiral comes from the Arabic meaning ‘Commander of The Sea’. When it was first used by the British as a Commander of a Fleet I am not sure – but BLAKE must have been one of the first to take this title on board.
As a Cromwell supporter he had served in the Long Parliament, became a general in the Civil War and was then transferred to run things at sea. Here he could use his ships to harry Royalists along the coast and on off shore island strongholds. He also shattered the fleet of Prince Rupert before it could arrive to support the King Charles.
Then came the first Dutch War from 1652 – 4 where he did very well and in 1655 he put paid to a fleet of Turkish pirates.
Finally it was off to the Spanish West Indies with a victory at Santa Cruz but on returning he died of a fever contacted there.
There is still we hope a BLAKE ARMS in Bridgewater, Somerset the town where he was born, and the house he was born in should still be a museum. Sadly Bridgewater seems to be a town that does not have a single Pub mentioned in any of the major Pub Guides. It has been ignored or by-passed by The Camra Good Beer Guide, The Alistair Aird Good Pub Guide, the AA Pub Guide, The Michelin Pub Guide and The Sawday Pubs and Inns. All for the year 2010.
With no funding or access to a time travel machine we cannot instantly beam ourselves to Somerset. It is a county which I have paid quite a few visits to over the years – yet never to Bridgewater. Perhaps there is a time warp of some sort.
There may still be an ADMIRAL BLAKE in London, I have stuck pins in maps which should be a slight improvement on needles in haystacks. There may also be a BLAKES HEAD left in Sheffield. Who can tell?
Lets see if we can fare better with ADMIRAL BLAKENEY.