Monday, April 28, 2008

The Fortescue

There is a pub in there somewhere amongst the gloom!!

Several beers had been sampled before we went there so the number of photos taken on the night is a bit scant. I did realise that on the evening and managed to get a couple before we left. This is a shot of the interior of the main part of the pub devoid of punters and ready for bed just as is the right thing at the end of the day. There is something kind of quaint and touching about this. In this day and age of relaxed opening hours there are basically no restrictions on when pubs can open and "closing time" isn't the death knell to an evening that it once was. This actually surprises me. If I was to nominate a pub on Mutley Plain as one likely to stay open late then it would be this one. It would seem to me to be in-keeping with the type of pub that it is and the type of customer that it attracts. If this was a film the screen would now go all wibbly wobbly and there would be the sound of hands being drawn across harp stings before we emerge in a different place altogether. That place being the past.

I can't speak for the deepest recesses of history but I can go back to the early '80s and that is tantamount to the same thing. Youngsters who stumble across this blog may be surprised to hear that at one time there was just 3 pubs along the whole of Mutley Plain. They were the Hyde Park at the, er, Hyde Park end of the Plain and the Nottingham at the other (now called The Junction and rebranded as The Freebooter during a brief Firkinisation) and the Fortescue. It's hard to believe now but that was once all there was.

The Fortescue used to have a small front bar behind which was a larger back bar. It was an odd sort of a pub with an eclectic clientele in those days. It had the reputation as being Plymouth's first Gay Pub, for a start. I had friends who just would not go there!! I don't know if it was or whether it was not because I rarely went there myself as a result and if I ever did drink on Mutley then I went to the Hyde Park not least because it was closest to where I lived.

Heading further back into the past as we like to do on occasion when the evidence is there for us we can guess that this building was built in 1905. Rather conveniently it is dated on the exterior!! I suppose that means that the rest of the Plain was built then too.

There is also some rather retro exterior detail in the guise of the lamps outside. Now I might be odd but these lamps brought back to me one of my earliest memories as a kid growing up in Peverell in the '60s. I actually remember the gas light man!! Only vaguely but I do remember him. I'm sure our back lane had old fashioned gas powered lamops and they used to be manually lit every day. I guess they were manually extinguished too but I do not remember that. This seems very odd to me. Surely that sort of thing was done away with long before? If it was not then why on Earth do I remember it? Anyway I was intrigued enough to photograph the inside of the lantern housing. Was this gas powered? Was it a remnant of the past? I don't know. I do know it had a bulb inside it now though.

The Gas Man memory is weird. It fascinates me. I'm not sure it's even a real memory ~ it is certainly very vague. I have another memory from way back then and that is of a woman with a pram who used to walk the back lanes calling out "Rags Sell!!" I'm not sure whether she was buying or selling rags; both probably. You just don't get stuff like that anymore just like you do not ever see a bloke with a cart that goes from street to street sharpening knives on a grinding wheel. It's funny how times change. What are the equivalents these days?

[wibbly wobbly and more harp music back to the present]

Somewhere along the way the inside got altered. The front bar was knocked into the back bar and the layout that we see today emerged. One thing that has stayed with the pub is it's eclectic clientele. This place just could not be more different to the almost adjacent Mutley Crown. No big screens for a start. If you want to watch sport then don't bother trying to do it here. Whereas the Mutley Crown is a Fun Pub sort of place this is a more traditional kind of spit and sawdust studenty, counter-culture kind of bar. I'm not saying that this is a good or a bad thing. It doesn't bother me at all and if I was to choose a local along the Plain these days it would be this one. It is a proper kind of traditional pub with no pretensions that it is anything else. That kind of does it a disservice though. The Fort has long since been the only home in Plymouth to the mighty ale known as "Spingo". This may be a new one to most. Spingo is a real ale and it is made at the Blue Anchor down in Helston. There are 3 versions but I forget the names now. "Middle" is one of them and, somewhat confusingly, it is the weakest. "Weakest" in this context should be treated with considerable caution. Any Spingo is stronger than most beers. It is serious stuff and once a year there is a coach run down to Helston just to go to the Blue Anchor. If you ever go down there it is well worth a visit. I have done this a couple of times and it is a day out not for the faint-hearted. Anyway Spingo is just one real ale and there is always a selection of different ones on offer here and there is a a Real Ale Festival coming up over the months of April and May.

I'm not sure as to the food on offer here. I know they do a Sunday Roast but I have never eaten here ~ it doesn't strike me as a foody pub and there was no menu on show when I was there. If you do want to eat something there is a pizza take away next door. One of the pubs good features is that even when it is busy you always seem to get served quite quickly. That was as true the night we were there as any other.

Still time to come to an end with another admission of a little deceit that I have used here. That evening I lost my mobile phone. Well I didn't actually. It was at home all along but for a while it was presumed lost. I went back to ask if it was there and it was not. Whilst there I took the pictures that are in daylight. That is the deceit. Some of the photos were taken the day after. It was a bit of luck that I did really. I spotted this graffiti on the back wall:

Art or vandalism? I have to admit I rather like such things although I'm happy enough to admit that I would be less than pleased if it got sprayed on the wall of my property, I guess. Still I think it brightens the place up.

I'm glad I did or else I would have forgotten to add that the Fortescue has the biggest and best, not that that says much, beer garden of any of the Mutley pubs and I was preparing to photograph this too when a group of 4 kids came past. "Why are you photographing that?" the girl asked. So I explained as briefly as possible. "Will you take our picture, mister?" So I did. I didn't realise at the time quite what poses they had adopted but the resultant picture makes me laugh so here it is:

Finally a pub with a picture of Muttley on the outside cannot be a bad thing!!

The Fortescue as a pub: recommended.

As a football pub? Hmmmmmm...


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