However, in a small town/large village with plenty of pubs and little passing trade, it struggled, and ended up being closed for a couple of years. To their credit, the owners, Robinson’s Brewery, rather than just selling it off, decided to spend a lot of money refurbishing it, and it opened again for business on Friday 1 April.
The problem is that, in doing so, they’ve greatly eroded its previous unspoilt character. The key change is that the original bar – surely the core feature of the pub – has been replaced by a modern, curved effort, and it has been opened up in to the front left tap room. Apart from this, the tap room and the “smoke room” opposite the bar are largely untouched. Yes, I would prefer velour seating and carpet to leatherette and parquet, but that doesn’t affect its historic character, and nor do the inevitable scatter cushions.
The small snug on the right of the front door apparently never had fixed seating, so it’s not a case of having removed it. The interior has been extended at the rear to create two new drinking spaces, but that doesn’t on its own detract from the original parts.
This is the previous bar, as shown on the National Inventory website:
And this is its replacement, creating a very different and much more open-plan feel:
If you came upon the Holly Bush out of the blue, you would probably still think it was a pleasant, cosy pub with a number of original features. But it’s now basically an open-plan pub with separate areas, not a multi-roomed pub. And it must be said that Robinsons are being rather cheeky in their press release in referring to its National Inventory status, which will almost certainly be lost as a result of their changes. The question has to be asked whether there is a straightforward trade-off between heritage and viability, and if the same improvements could have been achieved while showing more respect for the original layout and fittings.
When I called there were five cask beers available – Unicorn, Dizzy Blonde and Trooper, plus the seasonals Jester and Beerdo. There’s also an extensive and fairly reasonably-priced food menu. I’m not sure whether it served food in the past, but it certainly didn’t in its last few years.