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We’ll Fight and We’ll Conquer Again and Again.

Heart of oak are our ships, heart of oak are our men;

We always are ready, steady boys, steady,

We’ll fight, and we’ll conquer again and again.

So goes the chorus of the song Heart (or often Hearts) of Oak written by actor and playwright David Garrick in 1759, the year of the British naval victory in the Battle of Quiberon Bay. It could very well apply to the oarsmen of the Cambridge crew in the University Boat Race as around a fortnight ago, for the seventh consecutive year, they beat their dark blue rivals. The margin of victory this year was three and a half lengths.

The last post, about the Pike and Eel, featured my return to Cambridge for the first time in over forty years. Mrs Bygone Boozer and I were staying for a couple of nights in a hotel on Newmarket Road and there could only have been about twenty boat lengths between our accommodation and the Corner House, so we thought that we'd give it a look-see.

The Corner House on Newmarket Road.
The Corner House on Newmarket Road.

"HOW MUCH?!!!!"

Just as with a similar situation in the former Hog in the Pound I'm sure I didn't actually vocalise the question. A pint for me and a half of cider for Mrs BB in the Duke of York comes at a cost of £5.80. The same order here was 53% more expensive. 53.4% if I'm sticking with three significant figures. I handed over the £8.90 and sat down next to the shuffleboard table...

shuffleboard corner house cambridge make sure that I really enjoyed my pint of Tiny Rebel's Cwtch.

Really savouring it at that price.

It couldn't have been too bad as I did go back for a second. In for a penny, in for almost eighteen quid. I felt that I could have done with a comforting cwtch myself to help me recover from the financial fright, but Iris wasn't in the mood for cuddling.

Iris at the corner house cambridge
No chance of a cwtch from Iris.

As stated above, but in case you missed it, there were three and a half boat lengths between the two eights a fortnight ago and if you walked out of our hotel door and headed for three and a half boat lengths in the opposite direction from the Corner House you would find yourself standing where the subject of this post once stood.

On the above map extract, the left of the two marked inns is the former Hearts of Oak with its bygone close neighbour being the Bell Inn. Why have I chosen to go with the Hearts of Oak? It's quite simple really. I have a photograph of it.

The Hearts of Oak selling Dale's Beers.

The earliest reference to the Hearts of Oak that I've been able to dig up is in the 1881 census when Edward Bolton is listed as being there, at the address of 76 Newmarket Road.

Extract from the 1881 census.

It seems that it was called the Bull ten years earlier when in the hands of Christopher Thurston...

Extract from the 1871 census.

...was anonymous when being run by Margaret Low...

Extract from the 1861 census.

...but was certainly taurine in nature when her husband was alive. It even had a colour – the Black Bull.

Extract from the 1851 census.

In 1901, when Michael Cozens was the publican in residence, the Hearts of Oak was still at number 76...

Extract from the 1901 census.

...but renumbering had taken place by the time that Percy White was recorded as being at number 172 "Known as Hearts of Oak", a decade later.

1911 Census.

Around 1914 we can see from the electoral register that Charles Swann had arrived at the Hearts of Oak...

Extract from the 1914 Electoral Register.

...where he remained until he retired, making his final appearance in a trade directory in 1938.

Extract from the 1938 Cambridge Blue Book.

Sixty years later, in 1998, Cambridge researcher Mike Petty wrote this piece which mentioned Charles and the Hearts of Oak in the 1920s – along with the Silver Winkle. What's the Silver Winkle? Read on!

Memories, 9th April 1998, by Mike Petty 

Ted Cash revived memories of his youth last week when he slotted two pence - more than twice the old fine - into the famous Silver Winkle. 70 years ago the money would have been demanded from him had entered the bar of the Hearts of Oak public house in Cambridge’s Newmarket Road without carrying his own miniature winkle or been heard to blaspheme. 

The Silver Winkle club had been instituted by the pub’s landlord, Charlie Swann in 1921 when times were particularly hard in this hard-working part of the town. Many men were employed in the gasworks, Watts’s wood yard or at the Cambridge Brick Company. Ted’s family was shoemakers with a shop next to the Abbey church. Here they made fine quality boots and shoes from scratch, drawing on the stocks of leather stacked in their stores. Work was collected from Cambridge shops or brought in from the village by horse and cart, prepared and returned the following week. There were unusual repairs: Ted recalls how his grandfather had a problem of how to spot a small slit in the thigh-high Wellington boots worn by men who worked in water. The solution was to set fire of a piece of material which was 
placed it inside the boot. Then they watched to see where the smoke came out - and thus find the hole where the water came in. 

People those days worked all hours, but still found time to tend their allotments at the bottom of Leeke Street, off Coldham’s Lane, where Silverwood Close now stands. They were proud of their produce, which was displayed in fortnightly flower shows at the Hearts of Oak, taking 
over the billiard tables for the occasion. The first prize was 15 Woodbine cigarettes, the second 10, and the third 5. One memorable exhibit was submitted by Sammy Lloyd, carefully covered to avoid the prying eyes of his competitors. When unveiled in all its glory, there it stood, two feet high - a fine wild thistle. It won! 

In pride of place on the bar stood the eponymous Silver Winkle, presented to the club in 1924 in memory of Con Griffiths. Con owned a boxing ring which was delivered by the Bruce brothers to the Cambridge Corn Exchange whenever needed for the fights. At the Varsity matches Ted was a water boy, fetching the water that was used to spray and splash the boxers 
who changed at the side of the hall and went back to their colleges after the bouts were over. 

As well as the fines for transgressing Winkle Club rules members paid sixpence a week into club funds which went to finance an excursion to the seaside. They travelled on big solid-tyred, open motor coaches supplied by the Brown Brothers of Oakington and - being a pub outing - they stopped for drinks en route. However on one memorable occasion their destination was not the seaside but a stately home. For the back street lads were invited to Croxton Park, home of Sir Douglas and Lady Newton. The occasion was the wedding of their daughter - the club was not exactly invited to the wedding, but to see the wedding presents. 

All that is now in the past but lives on in Ted Cash’s memories, some of which I featured a few weeks ago. This article was spotted by a Newsreader who knew that the silver-plated Winkle was still with Charlie Swann’s granddaughter, just a few streets away from Ted’s present home. Thus it was that Ted and the Winkle were reunited after more than 60 years. 

As a child I remember the trips from Gorleston to Cambridge to visit my grandmother in Trumpington. We'd drive along Newmarket Road to turn left at the Rose and Crown, a 'landmark pub' like the Griffin in Thorpe St. Andrew and Blofield's Globe, before passing Parker's Piece and the Botanic Garden. The last time that I made that journey was in the late 1960s. The Hearts of Oak would've been standing then, but in the mid-'70s that stretch of Newmarket Road was widened and properties on the south side of the road were demolished to allow for this. These included the King William IV, which was Grade II listed, so I doubt that much sympathy was offered to the Hearts of Oak that I'm presuming disappeared at the same time.

Here is a view taken from around the same spot where the photographer was positioned when the black and image further up the page was captured. The ladies in that photograph would be roughly where the nearest concrete planter is situated on the central reservation and the bulk of the Hearts of Oak would've been standing on the west-bound carriageway of the A1134.

The view in September 2021. © Google 2024

The Hearts of Oak has gone and, walking into the city centre from our hotel, we discovered that the Rose and Crown no longer exists as a landmark pub. There are no prizes for guessing what's coming soon.

The Ordnance Survey map extracts are copyright and have been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the terms of this CC BY licence.

If you've read this far, then thank you. Possibly, like me, you may have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. Clicking here will take you to a searchable/sortable index which you can use to see if I've already featured any lost locals from your locality. You can also subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.



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