Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Rebus inspector

This is a pub that certainly stands out. Most of its neighbouring buildings in Cricklade Street in Cirencester are built of Cotswold limestone, which is also the dominant material in Cirencester as a whole. The Brewer’s Arms, on the other hand, is a resplendent concoction of 1902 with timbered gables at the top and red tile cladding on the middle floor – plus some red brick with bands of stone on the ground floor just visible in my photograph. The records show that a pub with the same name was here in the 1840s, so this must have been a rebuild, and the design was by William Drew & Son, from Swindon. The Drews threw everything at this facade, rather in the manner that the great brewery architect William Bradford liked to throw everything at a brewery, combining many different materials in a single structure, something he did most memorably perhaps at Hook Norton.
It’s no accident that the architects came from Swindon, because in 1869 the Brewer’s Arms became an Arkell’s pub, and Arkell’s brew their beer in the great railway town. No doubt the beer travelled from Swindon to Cirencester along the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway, which was built precisely to connect Cirencester to the GWR ‘capital’. The pub still serves Arkell’s beer, and it’s not just the big painted sign that tells us this. The facade also bears one of Arkell’s charming ceramic plaques with its boat and the date of the brewery’s foundation, 1843. It’s not just a boat, of course, but an ark, for this is a rebus: Ark + L = Arkell. The idea came from one of Arkell’s directors and the prototype was made by Heber Matthews in 1948, and went into production in 1952.* As with several other brewery plaques or ‘house marks’, the manufacturer was Doulton.† It’s just the sort of long-lasting marker of commercial distinctiveness that I admire.

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* I’m indebted to the website Defunctimissive for information about the date and designer of the plaque.

† I’ve previously posted examples of the West Country Breweries and Morland plaques.

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