Here is a snippet about the history of The Exhibition taken from the new book ‘Thirsty Godmanchester’ by Pam & Ken Sneath” available from Cliffords Chemist or Ethnic Origins at a price of £7.99.
There are two pub walks planned lead by Ken Sneath on the 3rd & 4th July this year.
The 3rd July walk includes a meal at the White Hart afterwards
The 4th July walk includes a BBQ here at The Exhibition afterwards.
Both walks start at 6:30pm from The Black Bull and places can be booked in advance from Alan Hooker of the Godmanchester Community Association.
The Exhibition was first licensed in the early 1850s and the name refers to the Great Exhibition held in 1851. It became a tied house of Jenkins and Jones brewery.
When we arrived in Godmanchester in 1982 the Exhibition was in a sorry state. This was the year before the arrival of Richard and Macha Pumphrey who totally transformed it. Richard explained that the idea for installation of shop fronts in the bar was inspired by a visit to the Castle Museum in York. The shop fronts in York captured the atmosphere of Victorian Britain and were perfect for a pub which celebrated the Great Exhibition. Richard, a keen steam railway enthusiast, also adopted a railway theme for the Public Bar. It was highly appropriate for a Victorian pub. Railway lamps hung from the beams in the ceiling, loco shed and wagon plates adorned the walls and customers sat on buffers, resting their feet on a single rail at the foot of the bar. An imperial ‘blue brick’ was embedded in the middle of the bar, built of metric bricks as a token to a railway platform. This one brick had come from the platform at Woodford Halse on the old Great Central Railway and had originally been laid in the Victorian period. The garden where pétanque was played was also a feature of the pub and it is perhaps no surprise that it won the Best Pub Garden of the Year competition of any Grand Metropolitan tied estate. The prize was a holiday for two in Florida. Our memory of those years was the wonderful and inexpensive food that was provided, the highlight of which was the salad bar. Not surprisingly, the pub was regularly buzzing with people. Macha remembers, ‘most weeks we did around 700 meals and the pub did 400 brewers barrels of beer per year. One barrel is 288 pints, that’s 115,200 pints a year, or an average of 315 pints a day’. Sadly the Exhibition declined rapidly when Richard and Macha departed after five years as landlords. Fortunately, when Willem and Maggie Middlemiss took over the Exhibition, it experienced something of a renaissance.