Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Butchers Arms

Now this is the real deal. The end of the line. After this there really is Nowhere To Go. The very end of the line as far as Stonehouse is concerned. All that lies beyond here is Royal William Yard and it's
Urban Splash
yuppie flats where money is clearly no object and apartment prices start at around £350k and go up to £1.5m!! Clearly there is unease, "conflict" would be too strong a word, here between the local traditional residents who live close to one of the most deprived parts of inner-city Plymouth and who are excluded from owning property in their own neighbourhood despite having lived there for generations and the newer residents who live in an enclave only glimpsed from outside.

The Butchers Arms sits at the heart of this dichotomy and nestles, almost unnoticed, immediately adjacent to Royal William Yard's main entrance and almost out of shot but just showing on the left of this picture which utterly dominates the area with it's immense granite (?) buildings and 18 acre peninsula site creating what is in effect a sealed village protected by high stone walls. To be honest there can hardly be any more secure real estate in Plymouth ~ well if there is I'm not aware of it. These Tamarside buildings were built by order of King William and designed by eminent Victorian engineer Sir John Rennie between 1825 and 1835 and built with the help of convict labour for the purpose of supplying the Royal Navy's ships with provisions of all kinds. It must, once upon a time, have been an incredibly busy place and remained the RN's stores until the early 1990s, when the Government decided to close it.

Royal William Yard Gallery (BBC)

Royal William Yard Feature (BBC)

RWY surely contains some of the most impressive Naval and period architecture in the country and has been used by TV companies as a backdrop for costumed dramas. I actually "starred" as an extra in the Hornblower programme entitled Frogs and Lobsters (catch me in the guillotine unloading scene if you can!!) which was the last, first and only time that I ever went to the Butchers Arms ~ you just don't have much call to go down there unless visiting RWY and I'm not sure that casual visitors are even allowed and looking at the imposing entrance they are certainly not encouraged ~ the naval architects did their job very, very well after all they did not want all those precious supplies going astray, did they?

Which brings us to the Butchers Arms. Obviously, like the VOT, it takes it's name from the naval butchery that would surely once have been nearby. The pub has been gutted inside too since I was there and the single bar has moved from one side of the pub to the other and I rather preferred the older version. To be honest I would not have recognised it as the same pub that I went in before. As pubs go I'd give it a big "alright". Despite the flagstoned floor and impressive rough stone wall and bare timbers, and more naval knots displayed on the wall (was a theme developing?), the place looked a bit fake and seems caught between the two stools of new and traditional Stonehouse in a rather uncomfortable fashion. Does it want to be a cosy little local boozer or does it want to be a minimalist, trendy gastro-pub? It offers food, and quite an up-market selection, too, and a couple of real ales but my pint of Guinness was a definite second best to the one I had had in the VOT.

The main strength of this pub was the woman behind the bar, Sarah. She was quite chatty and, as it turns out, an ex-steward at Argyle ("why did you stop?" "20 quid? Would you do it?") and we had a good laugh with her in exactly the way we did not with the girl in the VOT. Maybe they could arrange a job swap?

As pubs go this one was perfectly pleasant but in all honesty nothing to write home about. If you want to sit somewhere and have a quiet beer whilst watching the 4x4s tootle in and out of RWY then this is definitely the place for you although it's prime quality for me was that it was a very short walk from the VOT.

Next: The Vine.


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