New and Rediscovered - Part 3

The third instalment of Justin Mason's journey around pubs in Brentwood.

The Gardeners Arms, Brentwood

In the oldest part of Brentwood, just behind the High Street, you’ll find the Gardeners Arms.

Built in the early eighteenth century as a workhouse for the poor of the parish, it fell under the ownership of the Billericay Union Workhouse in 1835 before being sold as an inn two years later.

It stood on Back Street in those days and overlooked fields leading to Thorndon Woods, but times change and so did the name of the road and it now stands stoically on Hart Street whilst giggling day trippers on their TOWIE tour scuttle briskly past on their way to the Crown Street boutiques.

The first thing I notice on entering is how dingy the place is.

I cross to the bar and have a choice of Greene King IPA or Sharp’s Doom Bar so I opt for a half of the latter. It’s poured in silence, the barman only speaking to tell me the price, and he takes my money and retreats to a stool on the other side of the counter.

Two men who look to be in their early sixties sitting adjacent to where I stand stop talking whilst I’m at the bar, only resuming their conversation when I’ve taken my beer to a far table.

The horseshoe shaped seating area was clearly once two separate bars, lit only by eight dim lamps, a fruit machine, five keg founts and two large televisions showing an R&B music channel. The barman is listening to talk radio from a old transistor and it sounds as if it’s coming from the inside of a wet cardboard box.

The beer is passable if unremarkable so I quickly finish the last third and head out into the rain.

The Rising Sun, Brentwood

It’s unusual for a pub to open in the middle of the afternoon these days. Three o’clock used to be the time when last orders were called not so long ago, but from Monday to Friday this is the time that the first pint of the day is pulled in the Rising Sun.

Noted as a “beer shop” in an Essex Chronicle report of 1851 and a quarter of a century later as a "beer house”, the current building dates from 1912 when the original was demolished and rebuilt in what was its own garden to accommodate the widening of the Ongar to Tilbury road on which it stands.

It is currently the only pub in Brentwood to feature in the Good Beer Guide and consists of two rooms with very separate uses. One is the lounge with a scattering of tables and chairs as well as some stools at the bar, whilst just beyond a smaller brighter space has two dart boards and a fruit machine.

Five hand pumps are arrayed in front of me as I enter, with Timmy Taylor’s Landlord, Fuller’s London Pride and Sharp’s Cornish Coaster permanent fixtures with the other two usually featuring a local beer, at least one of which is from the nearby Brentwood Brewery.

It’s obviously a regulars pub as everybody seems to know everyone who comes and goes, and although I don’t fall into that category they’re friendly enough and don’t seem bothered that I have entered their midst. It’s relaxed, and I feel comfortable taking my pint to a nearby table to watch the evening unfold. 

It’s fairly busy, not overly so but steady enough and I find myself wishing this pub was on my walk home rather than being in completely the opposite direction.

I can’t think why I’ve never been in here before and order myself another pint. I could be here a while.

Mike Hampshire