DUNCAN BARKES Raising a toast to The Murrell – let’s hope it stays the same

Last week saw the end of an era.

The Murrell Arms in Barnham, one of my favourite pubs, saw its landlady pull her last pint after an amazing 47 years behind the bar.

Daphne Cutten handed the keys over to the new tenants and left one of the few remaining examples of a proper good, old-fashioned boozer.

Daphne and her late husband Mervyn became the licensees at The Murrell in 1964.

Now, I fully understand why many pubs whack a whopping plasma TV screen on the wall for the footy, and indeed why noisy fruit machines and jukeboxes playing the latest whah-whah music are regular feature.

But thankfully The Murrell has never housed any of these.

I hope it stays this way. Sometimes we are too quick to modernise and ‘move things on’. The Murrell is one of the few pubs where one can sit and sup in peace.

For entertainment you can leaf through a decade-old copy of Private Eye, Punch or Country Life.

Occasionally an acoustic guitarist might strum, or try your hand at Ring the Bull. The Murrell is one of the few pubs in the country where you can still play this traditional pub game.

Under Daphne’s auspices food was good, honest, simple fare.

The fabulous Earley’s butchers just over the road provided locally sourced meat, with sausage ploughman’s and bacon hock being firm favourites on a small-but-perfectly-formed menu.

Not a microwave or a deep fat fryer in sight. The ale was also superb, served straight from the cask.

The interior is like something from a movie set. Entirely authentic, the walls and ceilings, last painted in the 1960s, are adorned with all manner of quirky knickknacks.

The ‘snug’ is precisely that; room for just three punters.

This column is a tribute to Daphne Cutten, who has been part of the fabric of the village for almost half a century.

It is also a plea to the pub’s new tenants: please recognise this glorious jewel for its special charms.

Don’t turn it into some kind of ghastly fake theme pub, which I would consider an act of supreme vandalism.

With Daphne at the helm The Murrell became a truly great pub.

Please take care of it.