Bricklayers Arms wins Pub of the Year as Luton landlady prepares to pull last pint after 38 years

It’s the first time the pub has been given this title
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The Bricklayers Arms in Luton has been named CAMRA’s Pub of the Year for South Bedfordshire for the first time in its 200-year history, just before its landlady pulls her last pint after 38 years behind the bar.

Alison Taylor only joined the pub’s team in 1985 to help out – now nearly 40 years on she is ready to say goodbye to the Brickies, as it is known by locals. In November, she revealed she would be leaving the place she has called home for the past three decades.

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She explained: “I haven’t got a lot of energy, and the pub needs energy, it needs more events put on.”

Tony Murray and Alison Taylor. Picture: Olivia PrestonTony Murray and Alison Taylor. Picture: Olivia Preston
Tony Murray and Alison Taylor. Picture: Olivia Preston

The pub has been highly commended in the ‘Pub of the Year’ categories before, but had never won the title. Reflecting on her win, she said: “It seems a bit strange winning it after all this time. It's nice for the staff and the customers as well, not just for me, because they make the pub what it is.”

The pub has a place in the hearts of many Hatters fans who gather there on match days before making their way to Kenilworth Road. Luton Town's influence on the pub is obvious as soon as you walk in: scarves, bunting, pictures of teams in years gone by, and of course, a picture of Rob Edwards. Even the toilets have orange and blue tiles. Outside, there is a huge mural of Luton Town legend Mick Harford, which he’s signed himself.

Back in 2003, Luton Town Supporters' Trust was founded in the back room of the Brickies when unhappy fans rallied together to force owner John Gurney out of the club. The Trust’s connection to the Brickies has been commemorated with a blue plaque right outside.

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Chairman Tony Murray said: “It is a traditional pub, and Alison's always kept it like that. You walk in and it's fantastic. It just takes you back. The decor hasn't changed. But I think that's why a lot of people like it, it's sort of a constant in their life.”

On match days, the pub is crammed with fans wearing orange, and by the time they leave, a sea of empty glasses is left behind, Alison said.

Tony explained: “It’s a place [the fans] can call their own, apart from Kenilworth Road. What Allison's done here with this place, it’s like the heartbeat of the Luton supporters community.

“She will be missed. This lady shouldn’t have to buy another drink here in her life.”

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In previous years, The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has featured the pub in its Good Beer Guide for the area, often describing it as a quirky and traditional old English pub.

Gordon Beech, South Bedfordshire’s CAMRA magazine editor said: “A lot of our members are in Luton, and would know the Brickies as a good pub as far as pubs for cask ale go. I think the Brickies stands out as one of the best.

“This award is very much deserved by landlady, Alison Taylor, who has run the pub with great success for the last 38 years and hearty congratulations go to her.”

As well as the award, Gordon said that Alison will get a special achievement certificate for her time serving the community.

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One regular, who has been going to the pub for 37 years, is Philip Marsh. He said: “The community has grown around Alison because without her it wouldn't be anything. This has always been our pub, it’s not been the Brickies or Alison’s pub, it’s been ours because that’s how it’s felt. We’ve had 37 years of this, we’ve had people using this as a post office, a Christmas card delivery box, it’s been a counselling service.”

Pointing at Alison as she stood next to the bar, Philip added: “If anybody’s ever been in trouble, that’s the lady you come to.”

The final touches are being made to two new beers created just for the Brickies: one for its 200th anniversary, and another for Alison’s retirement.

On the Bricklayers Arms Appreciation Society on Facebook, customers shared fond memories of the pub under Alison’s management. Rob Oc said: “She deserves a well earned rest and will be a very hard act to follow.” While Nigel Griffiths added: “The Brickies is just a great proper pub! It is a friendly happy place for me and has been for years.

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Alison hopes the pub will be in safe hands when she passes the keys over to the new landlady in June.

She said: “We’ve got someone that drinks in here and knows the pub. She doesn’t really want to change it that much. All the staff are being kept on. She’s thinking about having beer festivals in the garden and marquees, which is excellent.”

There is a celebration on June 1 for punters to say goodbye to Alison before her final shift the day after.

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