A pint at the local #14 The Chieftain, Welwyn Garden City

Written by Les Middlewood

Now in its third incarnation, the Chieftain in Cole Green Lane has certainly seen its surroundings transformed – from a rural local serving the small community of Hatfield Hyde into a large Garden City pub serving the residential area of Woodhall in today’s Garden City.

First references date back to 1830 when the pub was known as the Woodman and in the hands of Nathaniel Cheek, starting a family ownership that continued for almost 100 years. The pub was leased to Baker’s Hope Brewery of Hertford by 1904 and when McMullen’s bought the Baker brewery, in 1920, they inherited the lease which continued until 1924 when the company bought the pub outright. The first licensee in the 1830s was William Howe, a woodman as it should conspire – hence the name of the pub? The original pub once sat next-door to The Row, a run of cottages that stood at the northernmost end of Hatfield Hyde but as the Garden City development gained momentum and the new housing “approached” the Woodman, McMullen’s saw the opportunity to provide a new pub that would be built to serve the modern requirements of the burgeoning Garden City. The Woodman was demolished and a new modern Woodman erected (picture, above).

By 1939 the large two-bar pub with jug and bottle was selling 1450 barrels of beer per year and all from a bar said to be the second longest in England. The major re-fit of 1978 was accompanied by a new name for the pub – the Chieftain. In the 1966, in nearby Panshanger Park, the burial chamber of an important Celtic chief (probably from the Catuvellauni tribe) was found, containing important artefacts which are now held and displayed in the British Museum. For a time, the pub was run as a joint venture between McMullen’s and Whitbread and it wasn’t until the early 1990s that handpumps re-appeared for AK, soon to be followed by Country Bitter. In 2007 McMullen’s felt it was time for a rethink. The pub pulled its last pint in November of that year and it was boarded up with an uncertain future as a broader scheme of pub and housing was considered. Fate then intervened – a fire in February 2008 destroyed the disused building.

A smaller pub was first considered but with planning permission achieved the current timber-clad pub, built at a cost of £1.4m, was opened in 2011. The contemporary single-bar interior has retained some traditional features such as the open fire and the patio has been recently been given further refurbishment. Managed by David Higgins, the pub sits well in its community and offers Mac’s AK, IPA and the monthly Mac’s special beer. It has a 2 for 1 menu of pub classics, burgers and grills. Open all day from 11am (12 Sun), food is available from noon to nine. Tuesday in quiz night.

The Monday – Saturday 403 bus service connects Welwyn Garden City railway and bus station to The Woodhall shopping parade – a 1-minute walk from the Chieftain.

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