Family owners of Hitchin pub reminisce ahead of 40th anniversary
- Credit: Archant
A Hitchin pub is set to celebrate 40 years since it was first taken on by the current landlady’s family.
The Pruttons first started pulling pints at The Highlander in Upper Tilehouse Street on October 7, 1975.
The 300-year-old free house with stone floors, a roaring fire and a French-influenced menu is now run by Charlotte Prutton and her Biarritz-born husband Eric Ransinangue.
But the family connection – marked by a photograph which still hangs on the wall – began with her father Howard, his brother John Howard and sister Janet England.
Howard recalled: “We opened on a Tuesday because they always used to grant new licences to start on a Tuesday.
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“On market days we had a special licence allowing us to open until 4pm, instead of closing at 2.30pm as normal – when I did close at 2.30pm, people would say: ‘You can’t do that, we want to drink until 4pm.’
“The secret of running a good community pub is keeping it clean and making it family-orientated. A big change over 40 years is many pubs welcoming children now.
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“I was more of a rugby man but we always used to have a lot of hockey players from Blueharts come here.
“I’d been promised Young’s beer for our opening, but the day before they said they couldn’t deliver.
“Well, you can’t have a pub without beer, so somehow we got Greene King in which saved the day. We’ve had it ever since – and never sold Young’s.
“It’s a shame pubs are closing. There used to be three within 200 yards of us which have all gone.
“I’m very proud of Charlotte for the way she and Eric have kept it going and have put their own stamp on it.”
Charlotte added: “I was talking to locals Tim Wheeler, and his father Derek Wheeler, who was in here on dad’s opening night.
“There’s a handful of free houses in Hitchin, but I’ve no idea if any have remained in the same family for so long.
“Eric and I took over eight years ago on October 10. We’ve tried to keep it traditional, but up-to-date.
“It’s for our customers to say but hopefully we’ve given it a new lease of life, while keeping the good old English pub charm.
“If we’re still here in another 40 years maybe we can say we did.
“We’ve great staff and some of the nicest customers, and couldn’t have carried on without the massive support of our family and friends.”
Derek Wheeler added: “My wife and I were in here on the opening night.
“When Charlotte and Eric took over they get a new carpet. I asked: ‘Have you still got the old one?’ We salvaged it, and I now use the carpet where we stood on the opening night for my workshop!”
The pub will be staging a coffee morning from 9.30am to midday on Friday, October 2 in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.
• Molly Malone’s in Nightingale Road has reopened after a six-figure facelift.
The pub was registered as a community asset when previous owner Greene King wanted to sell the site last year.
Current owners Hawthorne Leisure took over the pub and have now pumped £100,000 into the refurbishment.
Landlady Julie Ambrose told the Comet: “A lot of money has been spent on doing it up, and we’re very pleased with the results.
“Everything about the interior will be different, including the fact we’ve knocked down a wall in the back, where the pool table is, to give us more space.
“We also have a new back bar, too. It’s been great that so many people in the Hitchin community and beyond have supported us – I’d say to everyone, come down and visit us to see the ‘new Molly’s’.”