The Castle

A 'warts & all' account of the transformation of a run-down pub in Bradford-On-Avon into a 'proper' Inn (food pub with rooms). Written by Alex Reilley & Pierre Woodford

Monday, March 26, 2007

We've got our logo

After a number of draft's we've got a logo. The logo comprises all the key elements of what we're about - a flatcap, a couple of fat chef's, a castle (most important), pork pies, a pint glass etc, etc. Question is can you see the face?

The Third Week

It's the beginning of the third week and the builders have made steady progress, as you can see in the top picture we have opened up the wall into the old toilets and created a much better space, the windows are going to be replaced with a 1.5 metre sash window to bring it in line with the rest of the windows in the building. In the second picture there are two openings, the one on the right will be reinstated as a window frame (no glass) and made a feature of, this will also help to strengthen the wall and the entrance into the room will be through the doorway to the left. This room will have a few book cases and the fireplace at the end is going to be cleared out, made good and have a hob-grate placed into it (picture above). All three rooms will have open fires to help heat the rooms and lets face it there is nothing like having a drink of your favourite tipple in front of an open fire.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it!

The time had come to go to a few breweries and taste what was on offer in Wiltshire in the way of good beers for our pumps, some of the breweries instead sent us to pubs where their beers were on offer but still, we got to try some lovely beers and the day proved to be very productive (it's not often that beer and productive go together!).

David, Alex's father in-law, joined us on the trip. Being a beer buff and member of CAMRA he was on board to provide some expert advice. In all six of us went, with Peter being the nominated driver of his mini-bus. We all met at Peter's house at 11.30 to start the expedition and set off heading for the relatively new The Three Castles brewery in Pewsey where we were made very welcome and sampled a few of their very fine beers (top picture). After that we were in need of some food so headed of to a pub that we were told sold beers from Box Steam, unfortunately they had run out so we had to settle for 6X, not a beer we intend to stock, with a bit of nosh. After the quick pit-stop to refuel we set off in search of Blindmans (second, third and fourth pictures and not strictly in Wiltshire, Somerset in fact), where again we were welcomed and given a little talk on how their beers were made and were given the name of a local pub where their beers were on offer so we set off to find it. It was closed and reopened at 5.30, time was getting tight as we needed to get to Frome for our next appointment so we left it.

In Frome we descended upon a nice little pub that was owned by the Milk Street brewery. Again some great beers were tasted and a very nice stout too. We had a good chat with the owner about his beers and where he heralded from, before tucking into a full pint of our choice. Alas it was then time to leave and head back to base. Once back in Bristol & with the wind in our sales we took the executive decision to carry on with our tasting as we thought it should be necessary to try as many beers as we could whilst we had our expert in tow. We eventually found our way to a small pub by the name of Cornubia owned by another fairly new Wiltshire brewery called Hidden Brewery (fifth picture) and again settled in to taste some mighty fine ales. With much beer swilling around inside us it was 'curry time'.

The following morning was 'challenging' but the trip definately answered some questions for us if although it did raise some ones: -

Should we ditch the idea of selling Guinness & carry a good local porter instead?

We really like the idea of having our own house ale - a pint of Flatcapper has a great ring to it. But do we simply re-badge an existing ale (very common practice) or do we get a brewery to brew our very own beer?

How many ales should we carry & should all the ales be from Wiltshire with the exception of 1 that is our 'Foreign Guest Ale'.

Lots to ponder, but it's so nice having total freedom to deal with anyone we choose & not be tied.

Revealing The Hidden Window

The builders have carefully taken away the infill and have revealed what was once a window, it has great proportions and when it is tidied up and lime plastered, will house a fantastic painting and a little seat for guests to relax on. In answer to the previous comment we are going to be a proper inn, where tv averse drinkers will be made welcome along with all other patrons to enjoy good ale (we have recently been on a beer tasting exercise to decide on beers for the inn. It's a hard life!), good wine and good food. Eventually we will have four rooms, but have decided to open up the ground floor first.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Creating Space

Meanwhile the boys inside are carefully taking out walls that we have permission to enabling us to widen doorways and creating larger rooms. Whilst doing this we are continually finding little treasures, for example in the top photo to the left of the pillar is a walled up old window which we are hoping to take all the stonework out and make a feature of. The middle picture is of our kitchen to be, after taking out a block wall and opening the room up we now have a bigger space to work with than previously thought. And the bottom picture is of an old doorway which we have taken through to what was the old ladies so we can essentially create an L-shaped room.

Cleaning Our Pipes!

It's Wednesday of the second week and we are having the glamorous job of the drains being jetted and surveyed, as the name suggests this entails a length of hose attached to a high pressure pump at one end and a nozzle creating a powerful jet of water at the other. This will hopefully clear any possible blockages and enable the guys to get their mobile camera down the pipes and enable them to see if there are any problems that need sorting, this also saves us from digging unnecessarily along the length of pipes inorder to have them inspected.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

End Of The First Week

Our builders have managed to get as far as possible with carefully lifting all of the boards up exposing the far from sturdy joists - some joists have been completely eaten away & in one of the rooms it's a miracle that no who was stood in the shower suddenly found themselves behind the bar! These will then need treatment for woodworm and also to be examined by the conservation officer in order for us to get permission to replace any of the old elm ones that are unusable. This could have taken a while but luck is on our side and we are informed on Friday that the officer can visit the site on Monday 19th March, we also need to run a few other things by the officer including the colour of our exterior wall, a small matter of having to replace an old lintel and a couple of other items that have cropped up over the past week. If all goes well we should be back on track at The Castle with the chippies and stone masons starting work mid week. We are hoping to use the elm and pine boards that we have taken from the first floor and utilise them in the rooms downstairs, they would add great character by being visible rather than being hidden under some carpet and more importantly save us a few quid in the process.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Day one & the builders have been busy. The old kithen & 'cellar' are now one room - this will house the new kitchen. There are also now 2 openings between the old ladies toilet & office - the ladies toilet block was a 60's addition & we have reinstated the old exterior door opening & the old window (taken down to the floor). It's amazing how much bigger & lighter it makes the space feel.

The 'new' kitchen

The opening from the old ladies toilet into the old office - this is going to be our snug.

We've actually started

The scaffolding is up & we get straight up there to have a look.

The photo below shows the extent of the pubs garden. It needs a bit of TLC but it's a fair size & south facing & there are very few pubs in Bradford with gardens. We're going to be laying some slate at the entrance to the pub & have a fairly substantial outside seating area.

The views over Bradford & beyond are really spectacular from the upper floors of the pub. With the vantage point that the pub enjoys it's easy to see why it's called The Castle.


Take it from me, lighting is the most important feature of any design. The amount of places that are filled with lovely, expensive fixtures & fittings that are then 'ruined' by someone's inability to operate a dimmer switch will never cease to amaze me.

With the pub we really wanted something a bit salubrious - a sort of wild west whorehouse feel to the lighting (not to the pub obviously!). Amazingly, & after an exhaustive google search I found exactly what I had in mind (see top 2 photo's). We're going to get 5 shades for standard lamps & a couple for table lamps to dot around the pub. The only snag is that the shades, which are custom made by a couple of sisters, are from America so it's going to be a bit of a leap of faith. Should look fab though. The standard lamps will be complemented by some OTT wall lights (see photo) that we are busy purchasing off Ebay.

Buying's fun

We have started buying some 'stuff' for the pub. Recent purchases include: -

An old mahogany bank counter out of an Allied Irish bank that we're going to use for the bar.

Various club chairs (see above) for both the pub & the rooms.

A couple of gazelle heads (we also bought a crocodile head but thought better of it).

Some fantastic oil paintings that came out of an old gents club & ended up in a reclamation yard - all with some damage that is currently being repaired (photo's to appear later).

Some great Gesso mirrors.

Lots of 'country scene' prints including a set of 4 prints depicting 'The first ever steeple chase'

The logo

We have got our designer working on the pub's logo. After a few castle related ideas (including a sand castle) he comes up with a slighly off the wall suggestion using the illustrator from an ironic cook book called 'First, peel the otter' (the illustation above is from the book). We like it & set him to work designing us a coat of arms to incorporate a castle (obviously), a flat cap, a gazelle head (we've bought a couple of antique gazelle heads), & some food related iconary like a pork pie, knife & fork that sort of thing.

Gordon Ramsay

Great rumour going round town that Gordon Ramsay has bought the pub. He hasn't by the way.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


It's the beginning of March 2007 and it's been a long wait but in the end it's worth it we have been given permission to start work although there are a number of conditions, well three sides of A4. Pierre's moved down from London & the builders & stonemasons are all lined up & ready to go.

The Castle has had all the crap taken out and is ready to be overhauled and bought back to life as an Inn where good food and good drink is to be served and, in time, where guests can stay in our luxuriously planned rooms. The scaffolding is up and we will start work first thing on Monday 12th March. It is by no means going to be quick and easy, years of neglect mean that there is going to be a lot of work needed to bring this great building back to life.

The plan is to get the pub up & running in 12-15 weeks with the rooms to complete some 8 weeks later. So with any luck we'll be quaffing our first pint of ale & tucking into our first plate of proper pub fodder sometime in June - although don't be surprised in May if you read an entry on the blog stating our intention to open before Christmas!

The Enforcers Turn Up

Unfortunately we get a visit, whilst we are on site a couple of enforcement officers turn up not looking too pleased with what we are doing without the relevant permission. They may have been alerted to our clear out by Dave's massive skip parked at the front or possibly just on a random day out from the office to have a look at Grade II listed buildings in the area, I suspect the former. After a long conversation where we explained that what we were throwing out was in fact worthless and couldn't possibly be listed, we were told to halt all works and that we couldn't do anything until we got approval, we were going to be in for a long wait. We decided to go for a drink and let the planning and listed building consent take its course.

The Clear Out

In November we decided that whilst we were waiting for planning and listed building consent to come through we may as well clear out all what we thought to be worthless junk i.e. the old bar, all the old bathroom suites and a whole mish mash of rubbish that no one would miss. Dave decided to hire a skip to get all the junk out of the place, only it was no ordinary skip and I doubt if he could have found one bigger if he tried!

The Space Beyond

When we managed to squeeze through the gap and investigate the space beyond. It's like something out of Scooby Doo! There's bits of original floor left (some of which is a little unsafe as one of the builders was later to discover), the remains of lath & plaster walls, a door with some very sinister markings on it (like someone was locked in there & was marking of the days!), & there's 150 year old cobwebs thick with dust. Despite the rooms needing a little bit more than a general tidy up & redecoration we see potential for another couple of (stunning) bedrooms. We get both the architect & our conservation officer out to have a look & it's decided that it's possible but is not going to be cheap (now there's a surprise). We decide to apply for planning separately to the main application & stick the idea in our top pocket for a rainy day (phase 2).

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