Beer Blog

The Stile, Wolverhampton

Stile-7

I’m thinking I’ve been here before, or is it just wishful thinking, some sub conscious thought that’s produced an amalgam of The Waterloo in Blackpool and some back street boozer somewhere?

On my own, on a dank night in February I might have turned back before I arrived at this edifice of faded grandeur stranded in the midst of what is undoubtedly a lower-layer super output area. If I’d been a stranger in Leeds doing a similar walk to a pub like the Leeds Rifleman, a stones throw from the city centre, I probably would have turned back. I needn’t have done though.

Stile-1

Maybe I’ve lost it since I retired? Maybe I was camouflaged amongst the other six Beer and Pubs Forum chaps. No one was picking up on it anyway, and if they were they definitely weren’t perturbed.

At this point I must apologise to the erudite company, and anyone else who’s ever noticed. I know I can appear a bit distant sometimes, switched off, staring into another place. I was actually, listening to the conversation at the bar and the offer of thirty quids worth of meat in a plain white carrier for a tenner. Wonder where they’re getting that from then?

The pub wasn’t busy, but there were a dozen or so drinkers in, proper mixed bag, all ages, all sorts and representative of Wolverhampton’s diverse community. It was exactly the same as the other pubs though, everyone was genuinely polite and friendly.

Stile-6

The bowling green out the back, which prompted the comparison with Blackpool, is still in use. It’s a strange L shape, which is unusual for a Crown green. A new age traveller styled gadge out the back on his phone told me it would be a week or so more before the season got into full swing again. The green looked to be in decent nick for the time of year too.

There’s several rooms, but the focus is on the main bar. Martin says, ‘it’s a basic street corner gem, and it really is unspoilt.’ If I’m honest it all looked a little forlorn, especially some of the back rooms, which are the greater part of the premises.

Stile-2

I’m glad the bowling green is still going. And the pub too. Martin is right, it is a gem, a forgotten one. You could see what could be done with it in the right hands. Thing is you’d need half a million, just for starters. But, would it financially, be worth it? Place is everything in the pub world. Mind you, we’d managed to make our way there, so?

It’s a proper project for a budding Humphrey Smith, someone who would surely restore it to it’s full glory given a chance. And believe me this has once been a glorious place with it’s watchtower styled corner window and, I’m guessing, very late Victorian/early Edwardian architecture.

Mind you, if Humphrey Smith got hold of it the beer wouldn’t be the same. I had Bank’s Sunbeam, while everyone else drank Mild, I think. Better than in the brewery I thought, it had lost that fresh edge, gained a little something, a greater complexity. The only other cask beers on apart from Banks’s, was Banks’s, sorry Marston’s Saddle Tank.

I can’t remember how much the beer was? Wakefield rather than Leeds prices. The food was equally cheap. Two quid for a bowl of hearty beef stew and a bread roll. I kid you not.  I told the pretty, cheeky barmaid how impressed I was. ‘Your welcome she said.’ I’m not sure I was meant to hear the next bit, but turning to the punters at the bar she proclaimed, ‘everything’s cheap in here, you can have a blow job for a quid!’

Verdict? I’m glad I’ve been, I hope it keeps going, I hope someone sympathetically restores it to it’s former glory. If someone does then I’ll probably go back.

 

10 replies »

  1. Richard,
    But what would you spend “half a million, just for starters” on, surely not knocking down internal walls or others such structural alterations ?
    Looking at your photographs here the paintwork, both internal and external, looks quite fresh and the “faded grandeur” appears to me to be from all the notices, leaflets and CAMRA certificates that maybe clutter the pubs somewhat, but that’s what proper community pubs are about, being nearly as scruffy as our own homes so that we know there’s no need to change into our best clothes before going out anytime for a pint or few.
    I would rather have all those things on the walls than the menus on every table that have plagued even the Combermere, and I would of course rather have the daily hot food, beef stew this time pork baps last time, than anything approaching an extensive menu featuring plenty of ‘salad garnish’.
    I’m not sure what you mean by “in the right hands” when my experience from recent visits is that the Stile is already one of the best two Wolverhampton pubs for beer, one of the best two Wolverhampton pubs for food and one of the best two Wolverhampton pubs for character, however defined.
    It wasn’t my round but I think I was paying £2.65 for the Banks’s Mild on my visit earlier this year, no more than the Great Western.
    We should be careful what we wish for. Had “half a million, just for starters” been spent on the Stile a couple of years ago than I’m quite sure it wouldn’t have been on our itinerary last week. We would have saved a ten minute walk each way but, like that other proper pub with a bowling green in Crewe, we would have missed the ‘highlight of the day’ or, not forgetting ‘the jewel in Holden’s crown, the joint highlight of the day.

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    • I think I got the round in there Paul, can’t remember how much it was though?

      I wouldn’t knock anything down or change the layout. I would just sympathetically do it up, some of the back rooms were skanky and from the back of the pub there is much to be done structurally – windows, pointing, general maintenance. Likewise the extensive out buildings around the yard. Some of which could accommodate a small brewery. No, I wouldn’t change it, but I’d make sure it was structurally sound. I’ve been behind the scenes in a lot of this sort of pub and you would be surprised at he poor level of maintenance from successive brewery and pubco neglect – they don’t like spending money, especially on what you don’t see.

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    • I think I got the round in there Paul, can’t remember how much it was though?

      I wouldn’t knock anything down or change the layout. I would just sympathetically do it up, some of the back rooms were skanky and from the back of the pub there is much to be done structurally – windows, pointing, general maintenance. Likewise the extensive out buildings around the yard. Some of which could accommodate a small brewery. No, I wouldn’t change it, but I’d make sure it was structurally sound. I’ve been behind the scenes in a lot of this sort of pub (all sorts actually) and you would be surprised at he poor level of maintenance from successive brewery and pubco neglect – they don’t like spending money, especially on what you don’t see. I’d want to see those back rooms go back to what they were – I’m guessing tap room/vaults, best room and concert room. You’ve then got a bit of something for everyone – tap room in your muck, somewhere nice and a concert/club room for turns and community stuff – meetings etc. This pub has definitely not always been ‘down at heel’, it has been quite something, designed to provide a focal point for the entire community.

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    • Richard has great plans for the Great Western. It could be a good gastropub if they knocked through all the walls, replaced the Bathams with some proper craft keg from London, and replaced those silly pork baps with veggie burgers.

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    • A really good example of what I mean is the Cardigan Arms on Kirkstall Road Leeds. Run down, neglected (GK from memory). Steve Hoult has fully restored it to what it once was. In essence it’s exactly the same but back in full health. You’d love it Paul.

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  2. That looks like a cracking pub, and I’ve never been in it, despite drinking in Wolves regularly, once living there, and working in the town for 4 years. Blimey, my better half even once worked not half a mile from it, and I had a colleague who lived in Whitmore Reans. On the list.

    I do hope no-one comes along with too much money and does all the horrors listed above to it. Old pubs need to be multi-room, and a bit lived in (see Bloxwich’s Turf, for example, but you could argue that’s a bit tired now).

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    • As per reply to Old Mudgie, go and see what has been done to The Cardigan Arms in Leeds, was a run down multi room victorian gem. It’s still exactly the same but it’s had a proper overhaul. It’s even painted in the same colour scheme, it’s just cleaner and better and won’t be falling down anytime soon.

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