Pubs of Greenbank: An Oral History Project

Nuria Bonet Filella, Pubs of Greenbank

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If you are a pub-goer, you’ll almost certainly have a story or two to tell that could only happen in a pub. These stories can become the stuff of legends and be passed down to friends, family and punters. Don’t you sometimes wish someone would write them down?

The ‘Pubs of Greenbank’ project is collecting stories from the pubs in the Greenbank area with the aim of preserving and sharing them. The end goal is to put on a guided tour to highlight those that are still operating as well as those that are long gone. Hopefully Greenbank regulars will be able to reminisce about good times and learn things they might not yet know, while newcomers will be able to discover the history of this fascinating part of town.

Greenbank lies between North Hill and Greenbank Road, and was a lush green hill until the 19th century. Many of the streets have names that relate to the Napoleonic Wars (1803-15), which hadn’t long finished when they were built; for example Armada Street, Waterloo Street, Nelson Street and Wellington Street. By World War II, there was a mind-boggling density of pubs; one every corner is not far off the mark. This means the area has long attracted drinkers and encouraged multi-pub visits. The map shows the ones I’m aware of.

① Clifton Inn ② Providence Inn ③ Fawn Social Club ④ Nowhere Inn ⑤ Seymour Arms

❶ Hill Park Inn ❷ Wellington Hotel ❸ Friendship Inn ❹ Sir Francis Drake ❺ Prospect Inn ❻ Radnor Inn ❼ Chester Cup ❽ Clarence Arms ❾ Grand Duchess ❿ Plymouth Social Club

The ‘Pubs of Greenbank’ project has real personal significance as the area’s establishments have been an intrinsic part of my time in Plymouth; my own history can’t be told without mentioning Greenbank’s pubs.

When I arrived in Plymouth for my doctorate in 2014, I moved into a one-bedroom flat on Waterloo Street. After a week of loneliness, I decided to seek out a local pub on the Friday evening. The first pub I encountered was the Fawn Social Club. I didn’t know that it’s a private member’s club. I was surprised that the door didn’t open and knocked. I was let in somewhat reluctantly and with the warning that ‘you might find us a bit boring’. Suffice to say, it was a long night, by the end of which I’d become part of the darts team. This was hardly because of my throwing ability, but because they needed another female team member.

Little did I know that I would become part of a community that provides beer and entertainment, but also support, integration into the local community and a routine. During this period of self-isolation it feels very odd not to take part in Monday darts, Wednesday euchre, Thursday ladies darts, Friday drinks, Sunday meat draw, and so on. The pub community is still going strong though as the landlady Ang keeps in touch with her customers and makes sure everyone is well.

Fawn Social Club
Photograph Ian Dickinson

The pubs of Greenbank have distinctive characters that make them interesting. The now closed Hill Park Inn, for example, is said to have been the residence of the Police Superintendent of the station across the road. The pub was also the first to permanently sell a new beer at the time… the now very popular Doom Bar! The Providence Inn is hardly bigger than your lounge but has an impressive choice of ciders and real ales. There are claims that the Nowhere Inn’s jukebox was at one point the best in town. The Seymour Arms has reopened after a recent closure and now has an impressive sausage and mash menu.

Still trading: Clifton Inn, Providence, Fawn Social Club, Seymour Arms, Nowhere Inn

Shut: Hill Park Inn, Wellington Hotel, Friendship Inn, Sir Francis Drake, Prospect Inn, Radnor Inn, Chester Cup, Clarence Arms, Grand Duchess, Plymouth Social Club

If you don’t have any memories to share, you can become part of the Greenbank pub community instead by attending the guided pub tour, when the situation allows it. Come and discover the history of the hill!

One thought on “Pubs of Greenbank: An Oral History Project

  1. We have been drinking in Greenbank for 34 years and have many happy memories of the Wellington, the Clifton, the Hill Park and these days mainly the Providence. Happy talk to you

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