Saturday 12 October 2013

Notes From Home - Part IV

- The Lamb and Fountain (aka Mother’s)

57 Castle Street, Frome, BA11 B3W
 So much a part of the cultural heritage of Frome that long term landlady Freda Searle has become the town’s collective matriarch. Her pub, more commonly known as ‘Mother’s’ than its formal designation, ranks as one of most unaffected and sublime of drinking houses in the well stocked county of Somerset.

 Into her early 90s, Mrs Searle no longer serves these days but can occasionally be found of a lunchtime sitting by the bar tenting a vodka and tonic, and is happy to talk to new faces as well as her crowd of devoted regulars. Like all great pubs though, the family have come to the rescue and the second and third generation of Searle women share the duties of the house, the youngest granddaughter putting in most of the hours behind the delightful Formica topped bar.

 The pub is hidden in the twisting back streets above the well known antique and tat emporia of Catharine Hill. Upon finally finding the right location, there is little to advertise the fact this rambling tumbledown building is indeed still a functioning tavern, save for the handwritten sign giving the name ‘Lamb and Fountain’ and the raucous laughter emanating from the open front door. Entering with confidence, one arrives into to a narrow corridor with off-sales hatch and a door on the right leading to Mother’s living quarters (her notably authentic C1960’s kitchen is sometimes on display if the door is left ajar). The pub rooms are on the left either side of the servery, one at the front, one to the rear, one small the other large. Both are plain and gratifyingly utilitarian, with a comforting air of threadbare elegance. The larger rear bar commands impressive views over the roofline of old Frome - a pleasing swathe of terracotta tile and chimney pot - and houses a mix of the older, more sedate regulars who are often more concerned with the Daily Express Crossword than anything you may have to say to them. The rear portion of the pub also has the added quirk of being propped on a set of rusting stilts, in perfect defiance of any modern building regulations, and adding a mere suggestion of danger to the enjoyment of your excellent and very cheap Rich’s cider or draught Doom Bar.

 The front bar plays host to Mother’s world renowned collection of porcelain ducks, as well as a great variety of Frome’s more discerning class of drunks. Your mere presence in this tiny front room will inform to the assembled regulars that they probably know you from some earlier cider sodden afternoon session, even if they don’t, and will immediately proceed to tell you all about Dave from No.65’s new car, Big Sally’s impending divorce settlement and the tragic plight of Ted and his latest curry related atrocity. Banter and good humour flow easily in this little parlour, aided in no small part by cider and the natural disposition of the local custom.

 The sheer and ill-designed steps to the gentleman’s lavatory hidden immediately behind the door also feature, as does the entrance to the catacombs underneath Frome located in the self same gents. If you are lucky, you may be treated to the amusing spectacle of 15 or so burly caving types emerging mid-tour from behind the toilet door, bedraggled and filthy, to enjoy several rapid pints before returning down the steps to the gents and never seen again.

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