The Railway Tavern

The Railway Tavern ~1920
Bell's Postcard
The Railway Tavern ~1905
Robert H Clark Postcard
Joyce and Eric Walbey
Photo by Joan Gane
Peter Cooper in 2009
Photo by Tim Gane
Joe and Aggie Chamberlain in 1953
Photo belongs to Peter Cooper
Regulars outside The Railway Tavern on Coronation Day 1953 Back Row; L-R Albrey Smith, Sid Smith, Gordon Childs, Dave Huggins, ?---, Lol Cooper, Peter Cooper, Ron Pepper, Derek Cooper, Jack Wing, ?---, Charles Calvert. Front Row;L-R John Pateman, Dennis Oakman, Neil Dash, Jim Catley, Flora Catley, Roy (Mel) Winter, Harry Waldock, Betty Cooper, Fred Waldock, Basil Dash, Reg Pluck, William Waldock, John Howell, Bert Waldock, Norman Clark, Doreen Waldock, Alex Miekle, Ann Cooper, Charlie Calvert, Fred Sims, Herbert Jacklin. Kneeling ; Albert Dash, Daisy Smith.
Peter Oakman
The Railway Tavern ~ 1955 viewed from the war memorial
Ken Winter
Looking towards The Railway Tavern from the War Memorial ~1930
Bells Postcard

The Railway Tavern first became a public house ~1858, seven years after the railway came to Meldreth.  Situated in the High Street, Meldreth, between Allerton Terrace and the entrance to the Station car park it would have a been a convenient place for the navvies building the railway, travellers on the railway and workers in the goods yard.  It was a popular village pub until it closed in 1959.

It was open all day and has a Victorian post-box in the wall  outside.  Local men used to make the excuse that they ‘had a letter to post’ to visit the Railway Tavern.

From at least 1911 to 1948, the Publican was Benjamin Kirby, who lived there with his wife Edith. They were both from Elmdon in Essex. Apparently in the 1920s, Benjamin used to keep a jar of sweets to reward children bringing back empty beer bottles.

The Railway Tavern closed for business in 1959.  It had been a pub for 101 years and left The British Queen as the only pub in the village.

Since the pub closed it has had various uses including a shop selling swimming pool supplies, a financial services office and an art gallery.

Memories of The Railway Tavern

Eric Walbey

Eric remembers taking his accordion down to The Railway Tavern at Christmas for a good old sing song.  He also remembers playing darts in The Dumb Flea by candle light.  “The beer was Fordhams and it was very good”.   He also remembers that The British Queen always had a good log fire and the football club used to meet there on a  Monday evening to pick the team for the next Saturday.

Peter Cooper

Peter Cooper remembers moving into the Railway Tavern at the age of fourteen when his father took over the pub from Ben Kirby in 1948.

“The tenancy with Phillips Brewery became vacant and Dad had always fancied being a landlord and he enjoyed every minute of it.  The Railway Tavern was a dark and dingy place with brown walls, no electricity, only gas lights and an outside bucket toilet which I had the pleasure of   emptying most Saturdays!  Dad worked down The Atlas during the day while Mum ran the pub and then Dad and Mum ran it in the evenings.  We had a full license and Mum made the occasional sandwich if anyone wanted one but it wasn’t like the pubs today.  We sold Smiths crisps of course.

There used to be quite a few regulars come in.  Aggie and Joe Chamberlain and her sister Iris often used to come.  Aggie was broad cockney and used to swear like a trooper.  I taped her one evening with my Grundig tape recorder.  She didn’t believe it was her when I played it back. 

Tommy Meikel was another regular.  He had a false leg and one day Dad hit his leg with a hammer.  Unfortunately though he hit the wrong one and poor Tommy didn’t half shout!

Once I asked Dad why he always drank halves.  He said, ‘Boy, my customers often say ‘do you want a drink Lol?’.  If I have a half they’ll buy me another but if I say I’ll have a pint they won’t ask again!’

I was with Dad when he died in the upstairs bedroom in 1958.  I was doing my national service at the time and I was transferred to Bassingbourn so I could help Mum.  We kept the pub going until the brewery closed it in June 1959.”

Bill Wing

You can hear Bill Wing’s memories of the Railway Tavern by clicking here.

Comments about this page

  • The photograph of “The Railway Tavern ~ 1955” was taken by me. The person in the photograph is my grandfather,who lived at No. 6 Allerton Terrace. He was walking to my mum’s house for his dinner at midday. He died in 1957 and is buried with my grandmother in Meldreth cemetery. The photograph must have been taken before 1955 because I used the main uprights of the station sign to build my pigeon loft in 1954. John Sims, who also raced pigeons, and I dug up the posts, which were made of oak and very heavy after the sign had fallen into disrepair!! I don’t think that I was stealing the posts because I built the loft on station ground (there is a photograph on the web site). 57 years later though I still have them.

    By Ken Winter (13/04/2011)

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