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The Dogs Head: McMullen's paint job shows it’s not easy being green

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According to a local tourist information centre guide, "the house at 6 Market Square, in which Charles Brazier (brother of town benefactor Joe) lived, had previously been an alehouse called the Dog’s Head in the Pot, first recorded in 1643.

"This unusual but far from unique name apparently referred to a dirty, slovenly housewife who, after letting her dog lick the cooking pot clean, then used its tail to wipe it dry. This may well have been a humorous interpretation, but the alehouse also went by the names of the Dog’s Head and Pot, the Dog and Pot, and the Dog’s Head’’.

It is also said that any alehouse with such a name was the sort where the landlady’s moral standards were about as fastidious as her approach to hygiene, her dubious gastro-pub often doubling up as a house of ill repute. Obviously, in the days before electricity, there could be no red lights, so the burghers of Stortford just had to find another way to identify the business.

The Dogs Head - formerly Baroosh - in Market Square, Bishop's Stortford. Pic: Vikki Lince (15125737)
The Dogs Head - formerly Baroosh - in Market Square, Bishop's Stortford. Pic: Vikki Lince (15125737)

The establishment closed after 260 years of service to the town and market. It is not recorded that it was still covering the breadth of trade that the name suggested it might have done in earlier days. It ceased trading in 1902 and the pub name died with it. Until now.

Baroosh, in Market Square, is being relaunched as a ‘sports bar’. What’s one of those? Well, it’s a pub with lots of big-screen TVs that sells more beer by getting ‘the lads’ in (and a fair percentage of ladies, too) to enjoy the big match whilst imbibing vast quantities, screaming at the ref, insulting the opposition and generally having a great time without having to pay the extortionate gate money demanded at the ground to do the same thing. You just have to be a little careful about which team you support and how you dress to announce it. Probably best not to, actually...

Anyway, I ramble. After more than 100 years of no Dog’s Head in Market Square, pub chain and brewer McMullen & Co is reviving the old alehouse name (albeit without the apostrophe) for another innings in support of its new venture.

I presume that this revival came from a little research into the history of the square. One can’t help thinking, however, that maybe McMullen's didn’t research quite enough. After all, knowing what we now know about dogs and pots, would you want to partake of a bar meal or any other delights at any Dogs Head?

Oh, and they’ve painted it green! How do I feel about that? I reserve my opinion until I’ve seen it face to face. However, I can’t help but comment, as others already have, that Pircio was twice refused consent for a frontage that was universally considered by townsfolk to be attractive, while this – fronting Market Square and mostly disliked by everyone – is OK, so say the professional defenders of our conservation area.

I have to say I don’t find it too offensive from the photographs, maybe even a little bit interesting.

It might look better made of wood, on the seafront at Hastings or down one of the lanes in Brighton, but I’m less convinced that it’s perfect for the centre of our conservation area.

I’m surprised that there appears to be no consent needed for change of colour. A trawl through the East Herts Council planning database shows only one application for the site – and it’s to do with advertising consent. This has yet to be determined, but incorporates a very obvious visual statement about the change of colour. The papers, with full-colour illustrative mock-ups, show very clearly that the building is to be painted green.

Did any of the neighbours object? What about the town council? Did they not find it at least worthy of a comment? It seems they had no objection to the advertising proposed, but did they fail to notice that the colour of the building was going to be green? Or did they get black and white copies of the papers to consider?

To be fair to the East Herts planning officers, it seems that they did consult with the Natural, Historic and Built Environment advisory team at county council level – twice in seven days, in fact. It could be interpreted that this was almost as if the second consultation was an “are you sure?” response to the result of the first.

The county experts decided on both occasions to make no comment and it seems the district officers took it no further. If there was to be an impact statement, this is where it should have come from and it didn’t. Once again, questionable input from the county council. This is a bag of worms worthy of a rummage, methinks. Councillors Woodward and Wyllie please note.

If permission were needed, I would love to see the justification for approval, if only to restore my faith in the officers to do a good job. After all, they are getting a bit of a reputation for dual standards around here – and this application (or lack of one) doesn’t help their cause. If someone is awake at Wallfields, I think there could be an explanation due.

One way or another, it all seems to be going to the dogs.

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