Friday, 20 May 2011

brewery gate, st thomas'


I was sad to see the old Brewery Gate pub boarded up when walking through St Thomas' in Oxford earlier in the week. From the for sale sign it looks as if it is being sold for development--residential, most likely.

The sale marks the end of the Morrell's Brewery story for me. When I first moved to Osney Island, a little further to the west of St Thomas', the brewery was still working and the smell of the malt wafting across Park End and Hythe Bridge Streets was always a delight when heading into town to the libraries on brewing days. The Brewery Gate was, as its name suggests, by the Morrell's gate, with its elaborate iron arch, and was the brewery pub.

For a time in the nineties we used to walk over there on Saturday nights for a pint or two quite often and it was always a place we visited every now and then during all the fourteen years we lived on the Island.

I can remember one afternoon years ago when I'd submitted a review for a paper and I went to the Gate for a drink to celebrate. I sat in a corner, enjoyed the bitter and read a few Llewellyn Powys stories from a first edition I'd bought.

The last time I visited was to attend a meeting about the Oxford fringe festival. The pub was different from what I remembered--dark and crowded with people speaking over a wining mike and stand-up going on in a corner. Fun, though.

It's strange to think that for much of the time we were on Osney, St Thomas' had virtually no residential property and yet the pub still seemed to do a good trade. Now all the old offices and businesses--even the brewery itself--have been redeveloped as flats. The area is teaming with people, yet the pub shuts down.

I remember doing some research into the plans for redeveloping St Thomas' at the county library yonks ago. Places like Fisher Row had been condemned and the families moved out to estates on the edge of town during the mid-1950s but then the scheme had ground to a halt for almost fifty years while the council, I suppose, resolved various issues. I'm not sure what the sticking point was but what surprised me was that the council drew up the original plans for condemning the houses and redeveloping the area during the Second World War. So odd to think of all those urban renewal debates and all that town planning going on while the bombs fell on less fortunate cities.

I remember talking to my friend Bill who used to deliver the papers on Osney about what it was like growing up on Fisher Row during the forties and fifties. He told me about how he and the other children had eagerly awaited the baker putting out the big jam tins after he'd filled cakes and doughnuts. The baker would always leave some jam for the kids as a treat. Bill loved it there, I think.

2 comments:

  1. Egerton,
    With such a display of nostalgia, the proverbial "cusp" is behind you! ;-(

    ReplyDelete