Friday 12th February 2016
The Pheasant is a pub that has come in from the cold. During the mid-2000s it was extremely run down, sold no real ale and suffered with a terrible reputation. It was finally closed in 2009, seemingly unloved and never to serve another pint.
By this time it was in the charge of one of the big pub-owning companies. Its recent life of slow degradation could be considered as almost the standard metaphor for a considerable number of urban pubs that are run by these companies.
Thankfully, it is now owned by Everard’s Brewery, although you wouldn’t know it from the signing. The pub re-opened during May 2014 with a brewery at the rear that produced its first beer the following month.
Actually it wasn’t a new brewery as it had been moved here. It was the Ironbridge Brewery, formerly located in a old foundry at the Wharfage, almost underneath the iconic bridge. The outhouse at the back of the pub had formerly been used as a function room and at one time, even as a Greek restaurant!
Everard’s own the building and have paid for its refurbishment in collaboration with the operator and owner of the brewery, Dave Goldingay. They have similar deals that are often referred to as their Project William. The licensee then pays them a monthly rent. They are more or less free of tie and offer beers from other small breweries alongside their own. The only stipulation from Everard’s seems to be that they have to stock one of their cask beers.
Once moved the brewery was renamed as the Wrekin Brewery, after the famous nearby hill. Actually it is even more apposite as the old Wrekin Brewery was opposite. The Pheasant Inn, as it was first known was owned by them. The brewery was established in 1870 by Thomas Taylor and became under the control of the Murphy family during the 1920s. According to the Brewery History Society there is still an extant etched glass door panel with the brewery’s logo at the Smithfield Hotel in Bridge Street, Wellington.
The Murphys were very forward looking and acquired many pubs in the area. They ended up with an estate of over 200 pubs spread throughout Shropshire, Herefordshire and what is now the county of Powys, across the border in Wales.
The brewery came to an end in 1969 when it was sold to Shrewsbury & Wem Breweries and closed. This company, in turn, was owned by Greenall Whitley of Warrington, Cheshire, who acquired it in 1951.
That company had breweries in St Helens (Greenall’s), Wem (Wem Brewery), Nottingham (Shipstone) and Warrington (Greenall’s). They closed them in that order with last two producing their last beers in 1991. The company stated this had been done to concentrate on their pubs and hotels. However this didn’t stop them selling most of them to various pub companies not long after.
On this visit I was with wife Linda and fellow West Midlands imbibers Steve and Russell. When we entered I noticed we were in quite a large room with the bar counter on the left. There was comfortable seating either side of the entrance door. We settled in the front right corner next to a massive brick-built fireplace with a cast iron stove inside.
At the front of the main room there is wood panelling that extends to waist height. The rear of the right side of the room contained further seating and here there was classic panelling to ceiling height.
On this there were some double light fittings that were decorated with wooden wreaths entwined with bines of red berries and ribbons, very unusual. Later, looking at the photographs, I could see that they were heart-shaped. The next Sunday was St. Valentine’s Day so I suspect that was a clue to their appearance.
The beers and ciders on offer are displayed on a wood-framed blackboard. There were two from out in the back yard: Ironbridge Gold (4.4%), a regular beer, and Wrekin Pale Ale (4.0%). Another regular beer was Everard’s (Narborough, Leicestershire) Tiger (4.2%). Guest offerings were Purple Moose (Porthmadoc, North Wales) Resolution (4.1%), Oakham (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire) JHB (3.8%), Mallinson’s (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) Mild Thing (3.6%) and Seven Brothers (Manchester) Stout (5.2%).
There were two ciders to be had: Bottle Kicking Cider Co (Hallaton, Leicestershire) Scrambler (7.0%) and another which was Rusty Apple (5.3%). I can find no details of whom produced it or where it came from.
Still on the subject of beers: Wellington is an ancient town, gaining its charter from King Henry III on 29th February 1244. Because of this there are civic, and other, celebrations on the first weekend in March every year. Shortly after we visited the Pheasant, Dave will be offering a special beer over that weekend, named “Wellington 1244”. I don’t know how strong it is but it will have a high abv. It will probably only be available for these celebrations each year, so that weekend seems like a good time to visit the pub.
The Pheasant is very much a drinker’s pub and none the worst for that, as it is a very agreeable pub to visit. It does not serve food apart from the usual pub packaged snacks. It is close to public transport so is an easy destination. I’m sure you won’t regret it should you call in.
Pheasant Inn, 54 Market Street, Wellington TF1 1DT. Tel: 01952 260683
Hours: Monday-Sunday 12.00-23.00
The pub is just 250 metres from Wellington Railway station. It is served by an hourly fast train by Arriva Trains Wales that runs Monday to Saturday from Birmingham International (Airport) via Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton going towards Shrewsbury. It then alternates to either Aberystwyth / Pwllheli or to Holyhead via Chester and Bangor. There’s an hourly London Midland stopping train from Birmingham to Shrewsbury via Wolverhampton. On Sunday there is a train only once every two hours operated by Arriva Trains Wales.
From Wellington railway station turn left and walk up the station approach road to Bridge Street. Here turn left and then right into Market Street and pass the covered market on the left. You will find the pub on the right.
It is also around 300 metres from the Wellington Bus Station.