The Queens Head pub is usually referred to as a university pub. Not strictly true since it serves the whole community. But as in most University towns, various pubs become known (because of their closeness to campus) as such. Indeed when I first came to Reading in 1968 as an undergraduate and was introduced to the Queens by 3rd. year students who gave us our local induction, the bar and the lounge were known (and labelled in bold signs) respectively as "The Town Bar" and "The Gown Bar".
It is also affectionately known as "The Nob" or "The Nobs Head" (though maybe this should be spelt Knob?). Perhaps this is from the English idiosyncracy of "nob" for aristocrat or leading member of society?Or similarly the expensive heads on well-to-do gentlemans walking sticks? The London Victorian Dictionary of 1848 states:
Nob, the head ; a fellow carrying a high head, a man of money, of respectability.
The exterior of the Queens Head pub on Christchurch Road near to the University of Reading gives all the outward impression of being a Victorian building. Its architecture and red with yellow-brick facade boldly proclaim as much- and even complete with the old stone (or carved brick) effigy of the elderly Queen Victoria inlaid.
However a little tour with the current landlord to scratch beneath the surface suggests maybe an older history: there are stables at the rear, suggesting a possible connection with coaching inn history? If you go into the Bar, follow the shape of cornice around the ceiling opposite side from the counter indicating were a fireplace was: this was the end of the Bar, in the area where the pool table is was a drive way for the horses to get to the stables at the back!
Also the landlord says he has found old fireplaces in each of what is now the lounge and the bar. Since writing this, the old fireplace in the lounge has been revealed, opened up and restored and a charcoal burner will be put in
Certainly the tendency of many supposed "Victorian" pubs is that the Victorian facade is just that, or there is a whole new extension of Victorian origin built onto and fronting a smaller and very much older inn at the rear.
What is refreshing is that the exterior of the pub and the road itself have hardly changed in the best part of hundred years: a picture on the wall from 1935 would hardly be different from today.
The list of licensees at the bottom of page proves that the pub was functioning at last ten years before Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837.
Restoration of Tradition
In terms of history and tradition the present management (who have been here a year) have restored this pub to a living focus for the local community. Of course its cleaner, sharper, simpler, but cosy (sofa and arm chairs in the rear section ear the dining hatch). But friendly. Several university clubs have their committee meetings in the lounge (my own real ale club which Niall and I have just founded also meets here); there are always four Camra approved Real Ales available, at least two of these rotate on a weekly basis; the food is reasonably priced and as far as possible the ingredients locally sourced; there is no music in the lounge!; the bar (as is tradition) caters to a younger and slightly noisier clientele- but all in a good atmosphere.
An old fireplace has just been opened up in the rear part of the Lounge and this is going to have a wood burner in it!
There is now a twice annual mini-real ale festival. Next one is in- not sure!. And the prices are sustainable for those who are tired of the town centre hikes: a good quality real ale for around £2. 90p. a pint.
On draught you will find:
Lagers= Becks; Fosters; Stella Artois; Kronenburg 1664.
Ciders= Strongbow; Bulmers; Old Rosie (7.3%!)
Real Ales= Usually four available. Greene King and London Pride are the two regular ales. Then two being rotated weekly as guest ales from a range of regional real ale breweries. Full list coming soon!
(the traditional or "real" ales I have had here so far include: Oxford Gold; Dr. Hexters Healer; Hobgoblin; King John; Old Speckled Hen; Doom Bar; Good Ol Boy; Old Hooky; Wadworths 6X, Abbot Ale, Rocking Rudolph, Ringwood Fortyniner, Starlight, Old Sarum, Entire Stout, Moondance, Crafty Shag, Spitfire, Resolute, Boondoggle,)
Real Ale Festivals
Once or twice a year they have a mini-Real Ale Festival. They have approximately 139 ales to choose from and make a different selection of these for each festival. Festival usually last two days. The next one is:
Saturday 19th.- Sunday 20th. March 2011.
The staff are young, friendly, helpful, humorous, professional and know what they are doing, especially with how to keep a cask conditioned ale in good condition. More like something you would expect in a good old fashioned village pub.
Caters to a varied clientele of ages and types. Pleasant atmosphere.
Some interesting pictures on the walls of the pub and the local area in bygone days. The loos are clean, well appointed & maintained and have hilarious pictures/cartoons above the urinals!
There is an outdoor area at the back where bbqs are served in summer. There used to be a mouse called Trevor who used to visit the pub garden.
There is a good variety of pub type meals. All reasonably priced. Despatch from kitrcghen after4 ordering at bar is speedy. and cheerful. Try the cheesy chips- good with a pint. Also for those of you with a sweet tooth you've got to go for : Filthy Kate (we wont go into Stus Banana or Fruity Billy!). Don't upset the chef.... jeepers he is tall and he works out!
Real Ale mini-festivals twice a year.
The real ale club of Niall and Steve will be meeting here.
Charity fund raising events..
1827/Thomas Atto/../../../Hornimans Directory ***
1830/Thomas Atto/../../../Pigots Directory ***
1870/Robert Bedwell/../../../Macaulays Directory ***
1891/Frank A Meekings
1895/E J Hill
1899/E J Hill
1900/Edward John Hill
1901/Edward J Hill/Publican
1901/Sydney C Hill/Son
1903/E J Hill
1949/Mrs Georgina Rex
1952/Mrs Georgina Rex