February 2023.

When I finished the GBG in September, I’d visited and been to a Guide pub in every GBG “county”.

Except one.

Poor old Northants decided not to provided any new entries in the first post-Covid Guide, either because they hadn’t been able to visit pubs properly, or because the county’s pubs are particularly consistent.

A bit of both, and a notable lack of micropubs compared to Lancashire or Kent.

Instead, your first newbie heading west from Cambridge is a club in the northern suburbs of Kettering, dangerously close to the craft hotbed that is Corby.

Clubs are rarely a GBG ticker’s favourite, with the only blogworthy issue that frisson of excitement as you press the buzzer and await the debate about membership/visitors fees/guest books etc. None of that here, door opens, straight in.

Midland Band Club is the epitome of solid, from the walls to the customers to the beer range.

Actually, seven of them, all from decent sized regionals.

How do you choose ? Why, wait for the bloke who beat you to the bar by 10 seconds to decide, of course.

What you drinking, mate ?”. Everyone is “mate” until they ban that as sexist too.

He ignored me twice before finally realised I was shouting in his ear and told me it was the Butcombe.

A bit late for a Winter Wonder, perhaps, but it was cool, rich and gorgeous (NBSS 3.5+).

And as I observed the bar fill up with what looked like escapees from a Northants beer festival it occurred to me this might well be Kettering’s top beer pub.

Rarely have I seen so much cask pulled in 20 minutes.

You only had two guest beers on when you took over” said one Old Boy.

Helps if you lot drink them” said the Guvnoress.

Bench seating, Old Boys called sweetheart. ham rolls £1.80. Bingo ! (Sundays).

But it still felt more clubby. A 60s soundtrack of Dionne and Cilla, a warren of activity rooms,

running to darts and pool and skittles,

and whatever sport this is.

And a fine line in humour.

If it was in Sheffield I’d probably visit every week and join the Pub Quiz team, seen here in 1933 after their narrow victory over Raunds WMC.

Northants, I’ve missed you.


  1. “A bit late for a Winter Wonder, perhaps” but Slater’s Blitzen is still on in the Morris Man a three minute walk from me with licensee Hari having taken several casks of it when the brewery closed in the new year. It’s still drinking well with the Nepalese food, as probably would the other beer, Doom Bar.


      1. I’m obviously behind the times, as I didn’t know that Slater’s had closed. Sad news, indeed.

        I’m not a fan of clubs, per se. Pete Brown has written a book on the subject, but it wouldn’t alter my perception of a concept that restricts entry to the general public, even though “strangers” can be signed in.

        Pete Brown is a northerner though, so he probably feels more at home in a club, than a southerner, like me!


      2. Yes, especially sad with them having got the quality right from starting in March 1995. I knew them well with being the BLO for the first twelve years in Eccleshall before they moved to Stafford. Their pubs were in Eccleshall, Crewe, Wolverhampton and Stafford and their most famous, and for several years popular, beer was Top Totty.


      3. T’other Paul,
        I’m also “not a fan of clubs” but have never questioned the “concept that restricts entry to the general public”. Members who own a club should decide who they admit just as a brewer owning a tied house should decide which beers it sells. I’m all for treating everyone fairly but within reason.


    1. There are clubs ‘n’ clubs, if you know what I mean, Paul?

      I mean, the Black Rocks club in Cromford – back in the day – was a belter for blues/prog rock/heavy enthusiasts, and bikers…


      1. Etu,
        Yes indeed, and you’ve reminded me that I’ve ben to many folk clubs since 1971 though that of course is who’s hired a pub room rather than an establishment built for the performance of music.


    2. T’other Paul,
      The “restrictions on entry” I’m more concerned about are “closed weekday lunchtimes” when it’s meant to be a PUBLIC house as if I’m meant to be less thirsty that time of the week.
      Clubs have never appealed to me as, other than formerly a working man, I’ve never been a member of a political party, played or had an interest in any sport or otherwise been what they have been established for. I do though believe that clubs play an important role.


  2. What a find! Surely Corby Mark knows this mysterious Midland band game…my money will be on a pub game only found in Northants played by Bass drinkers only whereby they have to drink a pint upside down whilst balancing a triangle of beermats on their feet…it was very popular n the sixties apparently.


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