A pint at the local #2 The Rifle Volunteer, Ware

Written by Les Middlewood

The Rifle Volunteer, on the corner of Collett Road and Musley Hill, Ware, harks from 1841 when it was owned by Samuel Adams, a Ware maltster. It was built as the town residential areas spread north on the hillsides overlooking the town centre. By 1850 it had gained its original name – the Union Jack – and as well as its bars had a club room and a garden with arbours and summerhouses. The pub was one of a number of ‘locals’ including the Crooked Billet, Rising Sun. Windsor Castle and Cannon Tavern, which opened to serve this area of the town. It took its current name around 1870.

An early landlord was John Dye who presided over the pub between 1855 and 1870 and who must have witnessed the setting up of the Ware Rifle Volunteers in late 1859. The Volunteer force was formed in line with many others, as communities in England showed their concern over French belligerence and militarisation – the nation’s army having seen a serious depletion of numbers in previous years. By 1860 the group had proudly becoming the 9th Corps of the 2nd Administrative Battalion of the Hertfordshire Rifle Volunteers. It is unknown whether the pub had any direct connection with the setting up of the Volunteers but it was not the only pub in the land to adopt the name. By the 1920’s it had locally gained the nickname the “bandsman house”, the pub a base for the local band led by a Volunteer, Jack Dye, immortalised in a 1920 poem written by John Rogers which lists the town’s pubs that existed at the time (there were 46) – “The ‘Volunteer’ in Jack Dye’s time, nicknamed the bandsman house”.

In 1850 Samuel Adams sold the pub to Thomas Cox, who had acquired the Cannon Brewery in Ware. The brewery was sold to McMullen’s in 1864 but it seems that the pub was acquired by William Baker and Sons, Hertford brewers who owned it until they themselves were bought by McMullen’s in 1920. The pub developed some rooms for accommodation. It remained in Mac’s hands for 70 years until 1990, when the “Vollie” was put up for sale and it was purchased as a Free House by Ruby Dunn. In 1997 it was sold to Marston’s of Burton on Trent and underwent a major refurbishment, opening the pub up inside – but just 2 years later it was sold yet again, to Greene King with whom the pub remains today. In its last 50 years, the pub has operated as a popular community pub, with a strong traditional pub games leaning including 2 darts oches and a pool table. A petanque piste has been moved into the small car park. There are pub teams of crib, dominoes, pool and darts and TV Sport is also a favourite draw. The pub offers accommodation with six modernised and refurbished en-suite bedrooms available for hire. Current leaseholders, Hayley Summerson and Nigel Buckley decided that it would be sensible to recreate a smaller bar, to enable those wanting a quieter drink to move away from the lively main bar. Against all trends, a two-bar pub has been created, not the other way around! At the bar, Greene King IPA and Abbot are on handpump. With the addition of live bands often on Fridays and poker and bingo nights during the week, the pub is busy most evenings of the week. From April to October, in association with Greene King, the pub is this year hosting “The Voice of Ware”. Sixty local singers will be taking part to see who will be crowned with the title – and receive the £1,000 first prize. Nigel says “Quite simply, our pub is a lively and popular traditional community local – where our customers are to the fore and enjoy meeting here with friends and family”. The pub opens at 4pm, Monday to Friday and all day from noon at the weekends.

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