Not quite sure why, but I’ve like a little kid waiting for a delivery from Steve Earl Football Programmes, anticipating my big overnighter in Market Drayton with my Auditor friend Charles (not his real name, of course).

I think it’s the remoteness of the place (a whole ten crow miles from Stoke) and its relative obscurity until the arrival of yoghurt and beer factories recently that appealed.  Getting reasonably priced accommodation has also been a challenge, so thanks to the Millstone , pretty much the ideal B&B.

This small town, the size of a Lymm, gets most of its visitors because of the factory that produces this:-

Oddly my sons thought it made a fairly rubbish souvenir, but I couldn’t find any gingerbread this morning.

We were mightily impressed by the place.  Not quite as quirky as Whitchurch (pubs apart) but with plenty of architectural oddities, and some real beauty in St Mary’s Church and the row of three black and white pubs, two of which have just entered the Beer Guide.

The first impressive building is the Tudor House Hotel, a majestic building lacking either real ale or customers. Our first pint is next door at the Sandbrook Vaults, Joule’s new pub in town.

Proper beer, proper beer mats, proper bench seating.


The Joules Brewery Tap gets its own post tomorrow (it’s brilliant), but the Vaults is very nearly as good.  Perhaps closer to their Glebe in Stoke than their mildly foody pubs in Cheshire, this was Charles’s first Joules pub and the Pale impressed (NBSS 3.5), reminding us both of Bathams at its best.

Pub Curmudgeon has said good things about Joules pubs, and this one has their trademark standard of refurbishment, proper seating and well-judged memorabilia. No food, but plenty of other draws, including the live music that is a feature of several Joules houses.

Next door is the only mild disappointment of the night (not the dirty thoughts box):-

Pump clip of the year

The name change from Clive and Coffyne to Tudor Bar seems to have brought a dramatic change in beer policy, and another attractive looking, if very basic, pub couldn’t make up for a dull half of Blackburn’s Burton’s finest and no atmosphere.

When we walked past again at 9pm, the pub had shut up for the night.  No fun being the only member of staff in a pub with no visitors.

After the Red Lion and an excellent curry at Oruna, we sensed a strong recommendation from WhatPub for the non-Guide Salopian Star, particularly with the promised beers from local Battlefield.

Words fail me when it comes to the Star.  It’s just a wonderful place to be very drunk (not that I was).  Scruffy, chatty, bizarre, unsettling; and then there’s the glitterball.  Three people were engaged in unintelligible debate to the accompaniment of “American Pie“. A lone beer was fine, but this is proof that you don’t need real ales to make a fantastic pub.

I tried to think of a similar place, and could only think of a few places in Presteigne and Knighton; it’s a pub on the border.

Unwisely, we finished at the Spoons.  I can see why that’s not in the Beer Guide, but we also saw why most of the town’s pubs were so quiet. Brigg all over again.

Googling Market Drayton brings up this image.  I’m very glad we didn’t meet this cat in the Salopian Star.


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