IT’S an Ashley Cross institution, a cornerstone of people’s lives since the first pints were pulled there in 1833. Now The Bricklayers is facing the next chapter with a new owner and a new look.

Having taken over the pub in November last year, Jan Crump spent months getting to know the locals and understanding what makes The Brickies tick before closing for a refurbishment that is ready to be unveiled next Saturday, July 26.

“I can’t wait to welcome back all our lovely loyal locals as well as lots of new friends,” says Jan, who has made her home in Ashley Cross and run a business there for more than 20 years.

“The Brickies is a proper British pub in the very best sense. The regulars love it and many of them have been coming here for three or four generations – you don’t often find that any more. What we’re doing is respecting that heritage and enhancing it as we take The Brickies into the 21st century.”

Protected as a Local Heritage Asset, the pub’s original double door façade and arched windows have been restored and the old bar extended to incorporate a new deli counter with coffee and cakes. Many of the walls have been stripped back to expose the bare bricks beneath and a glass roofed conservatory houses a botanical garden.

Artist Paul Mahoney has created a feature wall mural to incorporate elements of the pub’s rich history and Jan has worked with local interior designer Fiona Merritt on the look – a fresh, modern take on classic Victorian colours and furniture – using local contractors including Penn Hill Builders, Haroys Joinery and Global Steel Fabrications.

Opened in 1833 as a beerhouse called The Builders, its two small bars served the craftsmen and labourers that were building St Peter’s Church opposite and living in the adjacent row of cottages. By the time the South Western Pottery opened in 1857 making drainpipes and bricks using clay from local workings, it was fully licensed as The Bricklayers Arms public house.

As Ashley Cross expanded during the late 19th and early 20th century, the pub cemented its position as a local landmark being owned by Styring’s Poole Brewery and then Eldridge Pope, but has been a free house since 1998.

From the 1970s it was an important part of the local live music scene and its folk club attracted top names through the 1980s and 1990s such as Martin Carthy, Robin Williamson, Wizz Jones and Attila the Stockbroker.

“Live music is coming back,” adds Jan. “The locals have told us what they want and it’s up to us to get it right so we’ll have music nights and other community events like a pub quiz and charity nights.

"For the first time though The Brickies is going to be a food pub, but we’ve been told to keep it simple so it’s classic British dishes done well with great ingredients – fish and chips, brilliant pies, Sunday roast – traditional family pub food. We’ve also got our own Brickies best bitter with a badge designed as a trowel.”

As far as Jan is concerned – The Bricklayers may have had a refresh, but it will always be The Brickies.

“I’m really just the custodian of The Brickies,” she says. “The essence of the pub is the community and all the generations that have been before and those yet to come. We’re only here to serve the beer – although these days we also do the best of British food, coffee, teas… and botanical cocktails!”