The Old Bookbinders Ale House (Morrells)
Victor Street, Jericho, Oxford

Greene King IPA
Archers Golden
Everards Tiger

Pontus Lurcock writes:
Oh dear. I've always liked this place, even when they filled it with
tat, but now they've gone and taken the beers away. The six
gravity-fed casks are still there -- they've even added a cooling
system to them -- but you're unlikely to find any surprises there. On
this occasion one was dispensing Archers Golden and the rest were

Current Greene King policy appears to allow for a small set of guest
ales, rotated with varying frequency in all their pubs to give some
semblance of variety. It would work fairly well if you only ever
visited one Greene King pub, but that's practically an impossibility
in Oxford. So instead you get an endless round of GKIPA, Abbot,
Ruddles Country, Old Speckled Hen, and (occasionally) Archers Golden
or Everards Tiger. Nothing wrong with any of those, but for the
Bookies it represents a very sad decline.

So, what's good? The monkey nuts are still horrible, and everyone eats
them compulsively while complaining about their horribleness (for a
while they were roasted, making them much better, but that's stopped
now). The music is a little on the loud side and entertainingly
eclectic (I forget what was playing, but it made me smile). I dispute
the classification of the pianola as tat, since it does (or at least
did) get used for live music. I was mildly impressed to note that a
tat radio in the back room has been wired into the sound system (or
rather, its speaker has), similarly detattifying it.

I concur with the saloon comparison: I'm rarely able to go in without
musing on the potential for some kind of slapstick bar brawl. You
could stun your opponent with a sequence of three copper kettles (each
producing a different note), sock him with a Victorian-style crutch,
break a drum over his head and uppercut him into the pianola, which
would spontaneously burst into "Camptown Races" at twice the usual

The "not sure" door is still there, though the legend is postered
over. The Gents still contains the monumentally depressing and
incongruously proud Whitbread poster, charting in the form of a family
tree the local breweries and beers they have absorbed and destroyed
over the years. Strangely appropriate. Oh, and there's a big screen
back-projection telly perched uncomfortably in a nook opposite the

Fortunately, even in the absence of exciting beer, the Bookies still
has nice staff and a pleasant atmosphere, and it's far from being a
bad pub. But it's a shame to see the beer go.

Colin Batchelor wrote:
Some months ago, the pub was like this:

   The northern half of the pub has white walls, sharp lighting, and a
   tiled floor, not to mention a bar serving Morrells Oxford Bitter and
   Varsity.  The southern half has greeny-blue upholstery, odd black
   rafters on the roof, restauranty type chairs, a fish tank, and good
   solid dark tables.

   Darts boards in both halves; the southern one was being used for a
   women's darts match. One eighty-year old woman gave us a bowl of
   sausages.  "Fill yer boots" she said.

   It's not as good as it used to be when it did Mild and had a bar
   billiards table. (

Now, however, the CEO of Morrells, formerly of the Magic Pub Company has come 
in and filled it with Walter Mitty's quantities of bar tat, the most
extravagant being the working player piano at the far southern end next to an
actually working mangle.  The whole thing looks, underneath the old pump clips 
(about as many as the much longer-established Wharf House), as if it's trying
to be a Wild West saloon.

The best things about the pub are the six gravity-fed casks behind the bar,
the complete surviving Morrells range plus six cask pumps on the bar, a dozen
or so single malts hanging from the top of the bar, and real cider.  Proper
still stuff.  Made by Bulmers sadly and not cloudy, but there you go.

Washing line connecting the front door to a bell, toilets with handles on both 
the hinge and the normal sides of the door, in between  a door marked "not
sure" opening onto a wall with a poor trompe l'oeil depiction of what must be 
Victor Street.  This rings a bell.  There's a big lucky-dip barrel full of
monkey nuts, but apparently they're not very nice.  What Owen thought were
wood shavings glued to the floor are in fact old bits of monkey nut shell.

Newspapers on offer are the Mail and the Telegraph.  Huge collection of
cigarette lighters mounted on the wall amongst the old bottles of beer, the
Guinness jugs and the chamberpots.  No evidence of books or bookbinding
paraphernalia except for a tiny wall-mounted advertisement for a book
press made by someone called something like Frank Westenhoeft, but I could be
wrong. (

Further note:
Pianolas and player pianos are in fact the same thing.  The differentiation I
was trying to remember was between player pianos, and reproducing pianos.  The
latter are altogether of a better stamp, and can do different loudnesses on
different keys. Now that's clever. (8.vii.1999)

Mark Dickerson writes:
Pub renovations can allow one to try and get into the mind of an owner, and Ye 
Olde [sic] Bookies is no exception.  Morrells have spotted the changes in
Jericho and attempted to produce a sanitised version of the past, with the old 
shove ha'penny as the only evident fitting from the old order, lightly
varnished and wackily-labelled.  I have to admit to going here quite a lot,
because they've at least attempted to serve a large, well-kept range of beers, 
service is friendly, and the clientele is still mixed.

It's certainly good for beer, but it's also good for seeing how close one can
get to a particular model and miss the mark. Someone's done an "Ale-House",
but it at least looks like they've been to the Harcourt Arms, the Hand in Hand 
in Cambridge and the Maltings in York first.  The clutter is spontaneous and
terribly managed; somewhere there is either a warehouse full of tat 
or a buyer of tragic little collections.  I can bear the pump clips, but only
if they serve any of those dark beers, sometime.  Fingers crossed.

and adds:
I was rather stunned to see a mild on (as guest), and very good it was,
too.  A mixture of quiet studious types and raucous locals present this
time.  The fireplace has been knocked through and the pianola moved into a
small panelled back room that would be pleasant if not filled with musical
junk used to justify the blaring rock'n'roll.  Less junk overall this time,
though.  Or perhaps I'm getting used to it.  Help.  (15.v.2000)

Appears in Kate Pugh's Vegan Oxford.

2002-07-13 / 3.vii.2000 / 16.v.2000 / 31.x.1997