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