memories of yeovil

memories of yeovil

Yeovil's pubs in the 1970s remembered by Bob Osborn


I suppose I ought to say it up front - I quite like beer. Several years ago I was inspired to create the History of Yeovil's Pubs website, which has now been expanded to form this present website, Yeovil's Virtual Museum, formerly the A-to-Z of Yeovil's History. Despite this, and what you are about to read, I really am neither an alcoholic nor a binge drinker.

I moved to Yeovil in September 1973 from Enfield, north London. During my first year in Yeovil I made a supreme effort to visit all the pubs in town and ceremoniously placed a red dot on my map of Yeovil that adorned the wall of my office. Within the year I had visited all of Yeovil's pubs and had 40 red dots on my map. I also had a map of south Somerset on the wall with another 150+ red dots, but that's a story for another day.

I used to have my lunch in the Greyhound most days from 1973 until about 1976, washed down with a couple of pints and followed with a couple more at the Mermaid. The Greyhound had a bit of a ‘spit and sawdust’ reputation from the early 1980’s onwards and often featured local motorbike gangs in the local press (as with the Globe and Crown opposite).

I must admit that I spent more time in the Mermaid than any other pub. During the mid to late 1970s and well into the 1980s I was in here nearly every lunchtime anyway as, at that time, I worked in the Council offices across the road and our back door was, fortuitously, directly opposite the 'Merm'. Because of its proximity to the animal market, the Mermaid enjoyed special traditional market day opening hours that meant that farmers and dealers attending the market could get a 'wet' breakfast at something like seven in the morning. The Mermaid was one of several pubs in Yeovil that were allowed special market day opening hours on Fridays, basically staying open all day at a time when most pubs only opened for three hours at lunchtime and then closed for the afternoon, opening again later for the evening session. More than once I've taken a half-day's leave from the office and had a 'market day afternoon' which, at the time, was a rare treat now almost forgotten with today's relaxed 'open all day' licensing laws. The Mermaid was also the place to eat for an evening out - I took mum and dad in there on one occasion for a meal and dad had whitebait for starters. Mum looked on and asked to try one - but insisted dad took off the head and then fillet it before she would try it! And while I'm reminiscing about the Merm's restaurant - who remembers the bloody great vine that came in through the window and covered pretty much every square foot of the restaurant's ceiling - and every meal had to finish with a Meringue Chantilly.

The Three Choughs also had a fair bit of my money in its time. I used to call in for a pint or two on my way home from work but only used the 'back' bar for these occasions. The Choughs' front bar and restaurant were usually full of farmers, etc. especially on Fridays, being market day, But I remember you were almost obliged to wear a tie and jacket if you wanted to dine there in the restaurant, especially in the evenings as it was considered Yeovil's 'posh' restaurant.

The Wine Vaults was the 'in' place of the late 1970s and well into the 1980s but tended to get very crowded, so I didn't visit that often in the evenings but it made a nice change at lunchtimes. I remember the row of huge barrels above the bar and all the furniture was wooden and seemed like oddments recovered from a series of skips - real 'character'.

The Glovers Arms had a good skittle alley ‘out back’ where I played for many years during the 1970’s, as part of Tony Robins' team based at the RAFA Club at Fiveways. I seem to recall a glass dividing wall to the rear of the Glovers, but my memory is distinctly hazy on this point – probably something to do with the copious amounts of beer drunk on skittle nights!

I also dread to think of the sheer number of pints I consumed in the Hole in the Wall under the tenancies of 'Mad' Liz and Annie, from 1973 onwards. The main thing I remember is that there were two bars, saloon to the left and public to the right and a bar-to-ceiling post on the corner of the bar delineated the two. We used to buy our beer in the public bar because it was a penny cheaper and then take a step to the left to drink it in the 'saloon' just to annoy Annie - I got threatened with banishment several times for this prank.

The Butcher's Arms, always something of a drinker's pub, was also a regular haunt and has continued to be so until the present day. It still amuses me that at least one of Yeovil's pubs retains an outside gents' toilet.

The Duke of Clarence closed in 1965 and a Chinese takeaway and a taxi company occupied the ground floor and new shop fronts were added. In 1979 the Duke of Clarence had its greatest honour to date, when I lived in the first floor corner flat for a year or two. Although I never drank in there I did put on a stone in weight as a result of my very frequent visits downstairs to the takeaway. I remember one Christmas Day, it must have been quiet in the taxi office as around lunchtime a couple of the drivers, a bit worse for wear, rushed out into the street and placed lots of clothes on the bollards opposite. We watched on, somewhat perplexed, and soon saw a stark-naked and quite drunk taxi driver staggering across the road to retrieve his clothes!

Finally, hands up those of you who remember the Pall Tavern as the Berni Inn in the 1970's and early 1980's with its three restaurants and five bars. Those were the days - we used to eat here with great regularity. Check out the ad at the very bottom of the Pall page. Still one of the few Yeovil pubs selling decent ales and always features in our regular Gentlemen's Cultural Walking Refreshment Tours of Yeovil (i.e. crawls).