The Demise of the Traditional Village Inn
The Green Man was a picturesque village local built of local honey coloured Cotswold stone with a tiled roof and mullioned windows. It looked much the same as any other stone building in the village but had two wooden sign placed either side of the central front door which read: 'The Green Man' 'Stroud Ales'. The pub also boasted a decorative etched window which proudly advertised 'Stroud Cotswold Beers'. It looked its best in late May when the entire front was covered in flowering Wisteria. The interior of the pub was simple. There was a central corridor with a small serving hatch at the end. A small room to the right had a settle, a few chairs , two scrubbed tables and an old grandfather clock in the corner, chiming sporadically at nine minutes past the hour; the clock never told the correct time. In the centre of this room was a devil-amongst-the-tailors - a traditional pub game which involved knocking pins down with a ball hung with string from a central wooden post. There was also a dartboard located on the wall directly opposite the door, its position defying all sense of logical thinking but it was not removed to a more sensible location. The slightly larger room leading from the left of the corridor had a few musty smelling settles and glass cabinets displaying a stuffed pheasant, a large roach and a pike caught in a local lake in 1911. A head of a stag with an impressive set of antlers hung precariously on the wall. A vase of fresh cut flowers was always placed in the front window sill where the diffused sunlight shone through the etched Stroud Brewery window onto the flagstone floor. On the scrubbed tables there were often newspapers to browse through, although rarely could you read today's news - the newspapers were usually at least a week old. There was an old beamed fireplace which still retained its Victorian oven range. Above this fireplace was an old pictorial poster advertising the defunct 'Godsell & Sons, Salmon's Spring Brewery, Stroud. Celebrated Old, Mild & Pale Ales.'
On quiet nights, both doors remained closed and the focus of activity was confined within the narrow corridor. There may have only been a dozen or so customers at the Green Man but, on quieter nights, it gave the impression that the pub was full. The corridor was half panelled with wood up to waist height and the upper wall was decorated with thick wallpaper. The wood panelling and wallpaper were painted light brown . It matched the colour of the ceiling which was heavily stained with nicotine from the smoke of a thousand pipes and cigarettes. There were notices pinned to the walls notifying customers of livestock sales, and the fixture lists of the local cribbage, and darts leagues, etc. On weekend evenings the pub was packed and was often the venue for impromptu singing and music sessions.
To the rear of the pub was a sizeable garden, partly cultivated with vegetables and flower beds and the remainder laid to grass. In the height of summer there was always a fine display of runner beans, sweet williams, hollyhocks, lupins and delphiniums. The well cultivated garden was passed on the way to the gents outside toilets.
The gents were situated in a tinned roof out building. There was an black painted urinal and a single toilet without a lock. There was rarely enough water pressure to operate the flush. The washbasin was supplied with cold water only. The ladies had the luxury of using a toilet within the private living quarters of the pub.
Fred Smith was the landlord at the Green Man for many decades. He took over the license from his father in 1956. At the time Fred was 30 years old. He held the licence at the pub until he retired in 1991. Fred Smith saw many changes at his pub.
When Fred first took over the license of the Green Man the beer was brewed locally by the Stroud Brewery who owned the pub. Stroud Cotswold beer was probably no better than any other beer but that was not the point. A strong sense of loyalty and devotion to the local beer was unerring. The wooden barrels of Stroud Mild and Bitter Ales stood on an old oak table propped up by a hefty piece of wood. Fred would place a glass directly under the taps and with pour a pint with a trickle moving the glass up and down a full three feet to get the desired head on the beer. The last few precious drops were carefully extracted in a delicate operation of turning the tap on and off in quick succession. Fred loved his beer and would take great care in presenting the beer in highly polished glasses. He would spend most of the evening polishing empty beer glasses until they gleamed.
There had been rumours that the much loved Stroud Brewery was to close down and brewing transferred to Cheltenham. When these rumours were confirmed there was a great feeling of sadness. Every last drop of the local brew was savoured and even held up to the light for visual observation. The Cheltenham brewed beers were alright but Fred could not see any logical reason for closing the much loved Stroud Brewery.
The Green Man remained basically the same until 1975 although the dart board was finally removed to a more sensible position. The pub was still very popular with the villagers. Fred was renowned for his obtrusiveness. Customers would come from far and wide just to be abused. His wry sense of humour was often saved for an overcast day. A customer might innocently make the passing comment "It looks like rain" and Fred would hold up his pint of Chelt Pale Ale to eye level and reply: "so it does, and with just a faint taste of hops"! Fred was never that keen on the "new brew".
In August 1975 Fred received a letter from the planning department of the national brewery telling of their plans to totally refurbish the pub to transform it into a 'valuable asset for the local community'. A lot of money was to be invested to bring the Green Man up to acceptable 'modern standards'.
Within a month the pub was closed down for refurbishment and building contractors moved onto the site. All the interior walls were demolished to make a single large open plan bar. The old cooking range was removed and the fireplace sealed up. The old Godsell's advert was put on a bonfire and set alight. The mullioned windows were knocked out and replaced by double glazing. No attempt was made to save the etched Stroud Brewery window. The uneven flagstone floors in the pub were removed and replaced by a uniform layer of concrete. The exposed Cotswold stone walls were plastered over and the building was rewired throughout. A new toilet block occupied the site of the old flower and vegetable patch and the remainder of the garden was tarmaced over to provide additional car parking. New illuminated signs were erected at the front of the pub.
The architects from the brewery were very pleased with the refurbishment. The interior designers completed the work by laying expensive wall to wall carpets, fitting an artificial ceiling with bright fluorescent lighting and adding framed paintings with scenes of distant landscapes around the walls. The bar was also of the latest modern design and featured a row of brightly illuminated keg fonts on the plastic surface. The new look pub opened in March 1976.
To make life easier for the landlords the brewery now supplied beer in aluminium kegs. The beer was served at a cold temperature, fizzy, and always consistent. It was decided that beer drinkers should prefer a standard national product - the same beer anywhere, anytime. Modern technology had enabled unreliable cask beer with sediment to be replaced by a guaranteed product which was much easier for the pub landlord to serve. It was served cold and fizzy to mask the fact that the new keg beer no longer had the 'proper' taste of beer... and no more unsightly wooden barrels.
Fred Smith was very pleased with his new look pub. There were certainly more people using it including a lot of customers from the newly built council estate. His wife, Sarah, was now actively involved with the running of the pub preparing meals. The old regulars did visit the pub but took offence when Fred told one of his long standing customers to remove his dirty boots as he might damage the new carpet. Some of the locals also took objection to the introduction of a juke box.
To begin with the new Green Man was very popular, not so much with the old locals but with a newer type clientele. The new customers, mostly from the council estate, tended to be younger and particularly enjoyed drinking the cold lager and listening to the juke box at loud volume. It got quite boisterous on occasions but Fred was able to keep an orderly house at most times. Some of the older customers began to drift away and drink bottled beer at home where they could enjoy a drink in peace.
Fred was able to reintroduce traditional beers in the mid 1980's. but was restricted to a very limited choice by the national brewery. However his clientele had become so accustomed to drinking keg and lager he had difficulty selling it. In the old days he had been able to sell at least three large barrels of Stroud Beer but now he had trouble selling one barrel with potentially more customers.
By the 1990's the interior of the Green Man was looking worse for wear and required major refurbishment. To add to the problem Heath and Safety Regulations had prevented Sarah from preparing meals on the premises as the kitchen was deemed inadequate. The pub could no longer offer food. The brewery were unwilling to pay for the necessary improvements so Fred and Sarah decided to take retirement in 1991.
The Green Man saw a succession of landlords in the 1990's. The juke box was replaced by a louder CD machine and a large video screen was installed. The beer quality was dubious and real ale was no longer available. Karaoke was also introduced to the pub in an attempt to attract more custom. The local press speculated that the pub was used for the exchange of drugs and evidence of drug taking was found when the police raided the premises.
The once plush burgundy carpets had become stained and worn by the late 1990's and the pub had become tatty. Posters were crudely sellotaped to the walls. The keg beer was served through dirty pipes and the beer glasses were filthy. The pub was frequented only a dozen regulars, young men with tattoos, short hair, and body rings through every available orifice. Shouting and verbal abuse took the place of normal conversation. The response by the new landlord was not to remonstrate with these characters but to turn up the volume of the audio system which had the effect of drowning out their obscene language.
The very last licensee of the Green Man wanted to change the name of the pub to the Squashed Hedgehog but understandably met with opposition from the local council. He had faced rebuke from the authorities on an earlier occasion when he tried to introduce lap dancing to the pub. The final straw was the application to the local magistrates for the pub to stay open until 1 o'clock in the morning.
The last pint of beer was pulled in the Green Man last week. A barrel of beer was brought in from a small micro local brewery and was served direct from the bar. Many of the villagers who had not been to the pub for many years went to the pub on its final night. The local thugs did not turn up. The 'in house' audio system was turned off and the usual thumping of techno music was replaced by an elderly gentleman playing popular tunes on his portable electric piano. It was a very successful evening. Fred and Sarah turned up and talked in fondness of the original Green Man.. if only they could have their old pub back... The following morning the fixtures were removed from the interior of the pub and the windows were boarded up with plyboard. Now the residents of the village no longer have a pub to go to.