17th February 2020


On Monday night I met up with friends on the edge of Chelmsford, which hasn’t graced this blog since 2016, amazingly.

Handy for Stansted

With a couple of hours to kill I had time to do the county town justice.

No-one told me it was now a city. One of Nick Clegg’s main achievements in coalition, apparently.

To celebrate city status they were just about to demolish the much-loved flyover taking you out to the honeypots of Maldon and the coast so familiar to our Pubman of the Year.


You can see the flyover below, just right of the “Motel” at the bottom.


That OS extract makes Chelmsford look vaguely exciting; a locks, a weir, a viaduct, a mill, a giant blue fish, a cricket ground.

But county town status brings with it lots of functional responsibility, not least being a test bed for modern architecture neatly split between church, commerce and shopping (grief, I’m turning into a poor man’s Pevsner).

Cutting edge Sally Army
Shiny shops

You have to look for the old stuff, but it is there.

As good as it gets
Banks nick all the best buildings, don’t they ?
Beautiful cathedral

Only one busker, who I give a quid to for his stirring rendition of “Fields of Athenry“. I always reward buskers who don’t rely on Ed Sheeran.

“Nothing matters Mary, when you’re free”

That should alienate my Irish readers anyway.

Functional, clean, dominated by upmarket chain diners. A bit like Guildford, then. Without the hill or the chip on its shoulder, and with better street art.

Dragon art

Good pubs, too, around the station and the cricket ground.

What happened to them and their lovely beer

As I’ve noted before, Essex folk still drink, and not just on Friday and Saturday nights either. You’ve a greater chance of a Monday lunchtime pint in Essex than almost any other county.
If I’m in need of truly authoritative advice on somewhere to drink, I always head straight to BRAPA, the Egon Ronay of pubs.

He strongly recommended the Queen’s Head, last visited by me a decade ago.

Gawd bless you Vicky

“It had the ‘holy trinity’ of c**p pubness. A surly barmaid (Dad reckoned she smiled for a millisecond on arrival, I didn’t even witness that!), she was miserable to the point I felt a bit uncomfortable as we waited for the drinks to be served. It was freezing cold – I know it is hard to heat some of the bigger older pubs but no effort was made here. Oh, and thirdly, the beer was rank.”

wrote Si last April. A thumbs up if ever I read one.

Typical backstreet Essex

I reckon 90% of you would love this as your local.


Bench seats, a symphony in brown, those chunky handpumps, Irish landlord, the only sound the sound of laughter, reliable breweries,


foaming, treacly pint of Tring stout (NBSS 3/3.5).

Top presentation

Half a dozen locals formed the 5 o’clock gang around the fire, underneath the Mann, Crossman & Paulin sign that will be replaced with a Bass one on 11 April.

Perfect pub scene ?

So, what does BRAPA know?

The blokes talked pebbledash and post-Brexit trade deals, stuff they’d read in the Sun about Health and Safety regulations, neighbours shooting themselves in the foot and blokes with twenty double bypasses.

There was only one thing wrong.


Every other word. Literally. Imagine Adele dropping a Novello award on her little toe. Sir Humphrey would have exploded.

But big swearers make big drinkers, I guess.

Next time I’ll revisit the Orange Tree that Si actually did like.


And another thing. The Spoons had run out of the quinoa salad, so I had to have mushy peas with the skinny steak.


Brutalist Spoons celebrates 2019 GBG entry



  1. I had almost forgotten about Gray and Sons and that I used on of their fifty pubs, the Railway in Chelmsford, in July 1974 just two months before the brewery closed and their pubs were supplied by Greene King.
    “The Spoons had run out of the quinoa salad” – Yes, and there’s a rumour that they’ll soon run out of unskilled staff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul, I unfortunately missed Gray & Sons by a similar margin to you managing to sample their wares. A shame, as I was told their beers were very good.

      Something about the company being clobbered for death duties, and having to sell the brewery, in its prime town centre site, in order to pay the taxman. I see they still continue as a pub-owning company.

      As for Tim running out of unskilled staff – self-inflicted, so no sympathy there!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Paul (s), I rate the Grays estate very highly. There’s been a dozen or more in the Beer Guide over the year, all effortlessly unspoilt, often Victorian, with good beer and banter.

        A bit like a less ornate Sam Smiths with the brewing contracted out!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. T’other Paul,
        Yes, “self-inflicted, so no sympathy there”
        Tim not finding anyone to ‘blanket’ his ‘pigs’ for Christmas was only the start.
        Encouraging ordering by mobile gadgets while sat at a table as a move towards self-service is a desperate measure that won’t solve his staffing problems. Fewer staff will mean longer queues, more stressed staff and yet more frustrated customers.
        But it won’t be just Tim’s problem. 69% of abattoir workers are EU citizens so should we accept meat prices maybe tripling or should two-thirds of us meat eaters go vegetarian ?
        Interesting and worrying times.
        And then there’s climate change. in Lichfield pubs this lunchtimes I’ve heard terrible news about flooding in not far away Burton on Trent.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Never set foot in Chelmsford, and I don’t think that report will prompt me to change my mind.

    In my experience, pubs in Kent and Essex are probably the sweariest in the country. It’s all those exiled Cockney geezers!


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