Pat Bartlett, retired landlady of the Flower Pots Inn, Cheriton, Hampshire, died on 30th August – her 95th birthday. She was a remarkable woman, one of the old school. Tough, unbending, confident in her own views, not someone to mess with. She also created, with her husband John, a pub that many people would love to have as their local. A real pub for people from the village. But many people from far afield willingly travel miles for the pleasure of drinking in the pub they created.
Let me quote a few paragraphs from an article I wrote for the Hampshire Chronicle in 2002:
“One day in 1989 the man from Whitbread came in and told us they were going to sell our pub,” says Patricia Bartlett, licensee of the Flower Pots. Facing the loss of her livelihood and her home, Pat said ‘Thank you’ – “and that was pretty well that,” she adds wryly.
To see the full picture you need to start elsewhere – such as the Lounge Bar of the pub itself. There you’ll find a framed photograph of Pat and her late husband John standing attentively behind the bar on 17 February 1968. It was their first day as landlord and landlady.
The Flower Pots was at that time part of the tied estate of Strong & Co. of Romsey. It had become run down and unprofitable, and Strongs were looking for new tenants. At the same time, John Bartlett was looking for a change of direction. When Strongs offered them the tenancy, they took the plunge and began a new life.
At first it must have been hard going. They were new to the trade, and getting back business that’s gone elsewhere is a long, uphill slog. They must both have had what it takes, though, because in due course they turned the business around. Then in 1969 Whitbread bought out Strongs, and the Flower Pots became a Whitbread house.
In the late 1970s John’s health began to deteriorate, and in 1982 he died, leaving Pat to run the pub with the help of her daughter Jo.
And so to 1989 again and the Whitbread man’s bombshell. Jo and her partner Paul Tickner decided to try to raise the capital to buy the pub. With Pat’s help they succeeded. So the Flower Pots became a free house, selling a variety of different beers. Planning permission was later obtained for a purpose-built micro brewery across the courtyard from the pub. Brewing began in 1993.
Of course all that was just one aspect of Pat’s life, the aspect that touched my own life – that and her love of horse-racing. Now that her long life has come to its end, we salute her for creating and preserving one of the few truly traditional pubs left in southern England. To adapt the epitaph for Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St Paul’s cathedral, go to the Flower Pots and,
If you seek her monument, look around you.