The Old Green Tree in Bath has been voted Pub of the Year by the local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Long one of Bath’s most popular pubs with locals and visitors alike, this is the second time it has won the award, having been Pub of the Year back in 2005.
Since then it has been named UK City Pub of the Year by the Good Pub Guide in 2008, and recommended by the National Geographic Magazine as one of the ten best pubs in England. It has also received Trip Advisor Certificates of Excellence in 2015 and 2016.
The history of the Old Green Tree goes back exactly 300 years, to June 1716, when a milliner called John Cornish bought part of a former bowling green to start building Green Street. Legend has it that the name of the pub celebrated a tree which stood next to the bowling green. Originally, the pub was much smaller than it is today.
The beam across the ceiling halfway along the main bar indicates the back wall of the eighteenth-century building. Despite its size, though, it had its own brewery in a yard at the back, which continued to produce beer until the early twentieth century.
The Old Green Tree was a free house until 1928, when it was taken over by the Lamb Brewery from Frome, who extended it, built a smoke room where the brewery had been, installed a new frontage and panelled the walls with oak.
Since then, it has hardly changed, and in recognition of its timeless quality, it is listed – along with less than 300 other pubs nationwide – on CAMRA’s National Inventory of Pubs with Historic Interiors. There has been one important – and very welcome – change, however, for the Old Green Tree has long been a free house once again.
This means its landlord, Tim Bethune, can source the very best of beers from local microbreweries. Old Green Tree Ale, brewed exclusively for the pub by Blindman’s Brewery of Frome, is an especial favourite, as is Butcombe Bitter. But with six real ale pumps, new beers are constantly being introduced. Local cider from Ashton Press and Honey’s of Midford, just outside Bath, is also available, along with a carefully selected range of wines, spirits and bottled beers. Locally sourced food is available at lunchtimes, with favourites such as sausage and mash and doorstep sandwiches alongside daily specials.
Tim Bethune has been at the Old Green Tree for over 15 years, working as manager for Nick Luke from 2001, before taking over the lease in 2014. His philosophy is simple: ‘I see myself and the staff as caretakers here, keeping up the traditional elements of this historic pub. We have no music or background noise in our three oak-panelled rooms. It’s all about having a decent pint and a good chat with old friends and newcomers alike.’
With the new award coinciding neatly with the pub’s 300th birthday, it is clear that this venerable Bath institution is in good hands. And, as locals toast Tim’s success, they can also drink with confidence to the next 300 years.
Copy and photos courtesy of Andrew Swift.