Barney Felce tells the story of The Pomfret Arm’s journey from abandoned shell to thriving Northampton pub (and it’s not a hipster bar)…
Back in 2013 my brother Matthew and I stood in the garden of The Pomfret or “The End” as it was in its last incarnation. We had been looking for some office space and Matthew had done the obvious thing and started looking at empty pubs. We were discussing the possibility that it could be re-opened and talking about names. The Bloated Fox was one name that we toyed with. This wasnt as a result of a focus group consultation or anything like that, it was because we had one in the garden.
But in the end we decided it couldn’t be The End, or The Bloated Fox. We decided to go back to the original name of The Pomfret Arms. That is if we decided to try to open it up again.
We thought we’d have a bash at it and so the gradual transformation of the place from a trashed old boozer into where we are at now started. Even though the building is looking better we still have a trashed old boozer now though, you can normally find him at the end of the bar at around five pm most days.
To be honest a pub is only as good as the people that use it. We’ve been lucky enough to get a good core of regulars. There’s no typical Pomfret patron. They come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Except astronauts. As far as I know we don’t have any of them who come in regularly, or if they do they are keeping it quiet.
There was a fair bit to do to the old place, the roof leaked, the electrics and the plumbing had been stolen. The cellar was non existent and it was painted in a selection of odd colours. After a few setbacks we got it to a level where we could have a go at selling some beer. It was what you might call a slow start.. Probably not helped by the fact that we only opened at the weekends originally. If anyones thinking of opening a pub then I think a good piece of advice would be “Be open!” We have had a steep learning curve, luckily I think everyone could see we were making it up as we went along and was very forgiving.
There wasn’t much of a plan as to how it would grow or which direction it would go in. It just sort of did. We wanted to avoid being labelled a hipster bar, but those ruddy hipsters had got their fingers in many pies and we were definitely guilty of having a few “bearded” traits along the way. Yes there was a bicycle powered disco, and yes we’ve had a lot of weird and wonderful real ales. Its also true that we’ve had customers using spinning wheels in the pub on a winter’s night. But these are just hipster-based coincidences.
Over the past few years The Pomfret has evolved from a pop up pub with a cask of ale on the bar and a few bottles in the fridge to a fully functioning proper pub. Like real people would have.
This has been as a result of our optimistic hit and miss approach coupled with getting some very well experienced staff. The manager is now Hannah Gray, our niece. She’s done her time in other pubs before taking on the role of manager, and a cracking job she has been doing for the last year.
She’s hand picked just the right amount of junk to nail to the walls and selected the luminescence level required by adding and taking away fairy lights until it is just right. Actually quite a lot of the stuff on the wall does have meanings to the place and to our family. There’s the usual assortment of old photos of the pub coupled with more modern pictures, such as the one of me when I was lead singer of the Bee Gees (see if you can spot that one?). There’s a picture to the right of the front window of a bunch of guys playing cards. Well that’s us, back when the pub was quiet enough to play cards in on a Friday night. To the right of the fireplace is a black and white picture of a young woman. Thats our Gran, Mabel Felce. It’s a family affair at The Pomfret. Matt’s wife Katherine has transformed the garden from a fox graveyard into a pretty special place. Northampton’s best beer garden? Maybe.
What does the future hold for The Pomfret? There is talk of a new hand dryer in the ladies, although this may be a rumour. There are often discussions about food, but then we usually get distracted and go out for something to eat. As long as there is beer and people to sup beer then The Pomfret will provide that much needed service. The good thing about not following fashion is you can’t fall out of fashion. So see you at the bar for a pint of Old Scutcheons Lawnmower IPA and definitely no food served in a tin mug.