Wetherspoons – Suffolk

As I bored everyone with here, my travel has meant that I’ve managed to visit a lot of JD Wetherspoons over the years. So in an attempt to remember them all, I’ve decided to try and write about them. As explained elsewhere, other perfectly good pubs are also available and of course should be visited   🙂

There are eight JD Wetherspoon outlets in Suffolk, and another three which have closed. I’ve visited seven of the eight open pubs and two of the closed three.

Figures: (which are more for me than to interest anyone else):

Number visited : 7/8 (open pubs) 2/3 (closed pubs)

Favourite pub in county : Willow Tree

Corn Exchange (Bury St. Edmunds) – Located on the top floor of the town’s corn exchange building which opened in 1862. There was a burst of these openings in the 1850s and 1860s following the change in the Corn Laws, but most started to fall out of use by the late nineteenth century, although many of the buildings have survived. The building was split into two floors in 1969 and it opened as a JD Wetherspoons in 2012, despite some ridiculous plans in the 1960s to entirely demolish the structure.

Incidentally, Wetherspoons have a minor issue with customers using the app to buy things for people at other tables, which is a potential nuisance if a table ends up with 13 pots of peas. Unfortunately, they’ve also had an incident where someone sent a customer a banana, which raised all sort of race-related issues for the company. Anyway, this review is where the pub thought something was a joke and wasn’t….

“Ordered a banana waited 45 mins went up to the bar for the staff member to tell me they didn’t bother bringing it because it’s normally a joke. Awful attitude why have it on the menu if you won’t bother bringing it.”

Cricketers (Ipswich) – This large pub has been a Wetherspoons for some time, a 1930s building formerly known as the Town House and Millars (or at least according to CAMRA that’s what it was called, I’ve known it as the Cricketers since I first went there in 2004).

It’s quite a vibrant pub, although I note a complaint was made on TripAdvisor by a customer who was with her children and was asked to leave in the evening because that’s a requirement of the pub’s licence. The woman then went to take photos of staff at the bar, which she admitted doing, although this seems like erratic behaviour for someone out with their children. Anyway, the pub responded and added “you have since returned on Saturday 22nd June 2019 at around 10am where you physically assaulted on our shift managers by throwing a glass in his face”. I feel more than sorry for the poor staff involved in this, I hope the police took action.

Although I’m also surprised that the pub charges for extra gravy at 75p, I’ve never encountered that at any Wetherspoons, although I’m sure it happens frequently as I don’t tend to go about asking for extra gravy that often.

Drabbet Smock (Haverhill) – This pub has more of a cafe bar feel, comfortable although perhaps a little soulless, although that’s perhaps primarily as it’s a conversion from a former butcher’s shop and shopping unit rather than a grand historic building. And a Drabbet Smock is a form of clothing which was made locally, a pub name that I rather like.

I love this review on TripAdvisor, primarily as there’s a photo of the broom which has been thrown down.

“I cannot believe it, now having dinner and the rude staff literally just cleaned the floor and the table next to us and without any hesitation just threw his broom down next to us and walked outside for a social without hatting an eyelid, blocked my passage of getting up and left all the stuff there, im disgusted and outraged and not an apology in sight.”

[Closed] Golden Lion (Ipswich) – I only went in here once, in around late 2004, with my memory of the pub being very hazy. This was one of the Wetherspoon outlets that was closed down, perhaps because it was just a little small to be viable (I say small, I can’t remember quite how big it was, but I always got the impression it was small), despite a handy central location in the town. Last time I walked by, the building was closed and no-one has yet to take it over, a shame as I’m sure it could work well in some sort of slightly large micro-pub (I accept that’s not actually a thing though) type arrangement. I have no recollection of note about the interior, but there’s been a hotel at this site since the sixteenth century, when it was originally known as the White Lion.

Golden Lion (Newmarket) – Popular with those working in the racing industry, or at least there always seem to be horse related conversation every time that I’ve been in, this is a slightly smaller Wetherspoons, albeit with a large pub garden. It was once the Golden Lion Hotel, and there was an ad in the Sporting Life on 3 February 1900 when the entire premises were up for sale. The advert read:

“An exceptional opportunity to purchase this old-established hotel public, which is in the market for a short time only, owing to a leading firm of brewers having purchased the same, and only wanting the beer trade, which is comparatively small to the large and very profitable wine and spirit trade that is done. As is well known, it is one of the leading hotels in this flourishing town, with a billiard room, and accommodates some of the leading sporting and other gentlemen and trainers, also having very extensive stabling, which are always readily to let to them. The property is leasehold and requires a cash of around £3,000.”

And, a little pop over onto TripAdvisor amused me (I’m so easily pleased it’s untrue):

“I waited 10 minutes overall to hopefully buy 2 coffees. By this time my husband who had been watching this unfold signalled to me to go back to our table and said ‘Look I need to speak to the manager as the staff are not serving properly or fairly. On returning to our table he was horrified as when he spoke to the ‘manager’ to say the service was unacceptable the manager rudely said ‘Oh all right. Goodbye then‘. Not the thing to say to a customer.”

I’ve long since muttered privately to myself, and indeed posted on this blog to the two people that read it, about slow service, but I’m not sure I’ve ever got a manager and told them that it’s unfair. Anyway, I was amused that the pub replied and said they were sorry and that it was actually a customer who said “goodbye then” and not a staff member…..

Grover & Allen (Sudbury) – I actually thought that I’d been here, but it transpired that I had muddled it up with the Haverhill pub. So, at some stage in 2020 I might manage to make my way here….

Joseph Conrad (Lowestoft) – Situated opposite the town’s main railway station, this always seems to be one of the cleanest Wetherspoons, although no doubt it has its moments as well. Named after the Polish/British author, I’ve heard a few people accidentally call this pub the “Heart of Darkness”, which is one of Conrad’s books. The pub also seems to fare better in terms of reviews than some of their other outlets manage, perhaps they just have a competent manager, unless the people of Lowestoft aren’t very demanding.

Although, to be fair, this customer wasn’t pleased on TripAdvisor….

“went in for a couple of beers and was told by a staff member what do you want customer service gone out of the window will not go back”

A staff member asking a customer what do they want doesn’t strike me as worthy of a 1 out of 5, but there we go. And another review is titled “Homophobe and Chips” and I’m sure there’s some likely quite exciting back story to this:

“A recent visit with family brought a surprising appearance in the shape of the duty manager.His purpose to inform me i was on their most wanted list of banned customers !The reason? I am allegedly a homophobic. I duly asked for the police to attend, because it was a false accusation.”

And another customer complained about a manager not committed to customer satisfaction. The pub’s reply tells me all that I really need to know.

“After our discussion I am very sorry that you disagree with our policy on drinking responsibility however as I said the staff are only doing their job and trying to ensure the safety of yourself and other customers.”

King’s Head (Beccles) – I remember this pub from before it was a JD Wetherspoons, and it was a much less interesting affair then that did have a tired feel. The pub has several hotel rooms above it, although there’s a limited space for customers for dining and drinking, so finding a table can be difficult at times, although I think that an extension was completed in 2019 to provide more space. The pub appears to me, if I may generalise in such a manner, to have a much more middle class customer base than some of the other pubs in the chain and it’s also in one of the higher price bands for food and drink.

My favourite TripAdvisor review for this pub was a customer who was livid as they had found grass in their meal and claimed that the pub had tampered with their food as they had complained about their meal.

“My Daughter found some grass, actual grass with little roots, in her salad, I have attached a picture taken of the said grass. Never before have I experienced anything quite like this.”

The pub were polite in their response, but it really doesn’t look like grass to me, it looks like mixed leaves. But, the photo is on TripAdvisor for those who want to make their own minds up about whether a staff member rushed outside to find some grass to chuck in a meal.

[Closed] Robert Ransome (Ipswich) – For a time this was the third Wetherspoons in Ipswich, although they’re back down to one as this and the Golden Lion both closed. This was a Yates before 2009 and they took it back in 2017, but it always seemed a strange purchase to me as Wetherspoons have the Cricketers located opposite, although I assume they wanted to operate this as more of a student venue. The building was once a carpet shop and it seemed to be quieter than the Cricketers when Wetherspoons operated it, which is perhaps why they closed it. But, I’m sure Ipswich could do with another outlet of Wetherspoons though, just one seems a little low at a time when the chain is looking to expand again.

Willow Tree (Stowmarket) – Although this is probably my favourite of the chain’s pubs in the county, it’s also the one that I’ve seen the most arguments and the most abuse to staff in. And they’ve had flooding issues when it rained on two occasions when I visited, but otherwise it’s a cheap and cheerful location which is spacious and is rarely as rammed as some other pubs.

The pub opened in 2012 and the building is entirely new, with the former offices that were on the site having been demolished in 2008. Just as Lowestoft and Beccles seem to be well reviewed on TripAdvisor and similar sites, the Stowmarket pub seems to be struggling in comparison, although maybe their locals have higher expectations.

And, on the matter of TripAdvisor, this lovely customer gave 1 out of 5 and wrote:

“Only me at bar 16.00 on Friday… No staff, then one appear to say having a drink because allowed. Dont argue that, but these ignorant specimens need to remember who pays there salary. On that, it will be a long time before I set foot in this worst managed WS in the country.”

The pub had a look at the CCTV and reported that the customer actually waited only 53 seconds. Unforgivable….

[Closed] Wolf (Bury St. Edmunds) – This was one of the earliest Wetherspoons outside the capital, but it had a relatively short life span as it only operated from 1996 until 1998. I had always assumed that it closed as the company opened the Corn Exchange, but it seems that there was a bit of a gap between the two events. The building has been used for various purposes since Wetherspoons left, but it re-opened in early 2019 as the craft beer bar, Tavern at St. John’s.