Watford has a rich brewing history but many of the pubs that were once located in the town pulled their final pints several years ago.

The Watford Observer has featured plenty of these venues during the past three years as part of our weekly dip into the archives of our friends at Watford Museum.

To kick off our local history and nostalgia coverage in 2024, today we begin an A to Z look back at all of those pubs – including focusing on some that have a particular significance.

From The Anchor to The Fox, scroll down this page to see images of the first 11 pubs we’re featuring, together with the original captions kindly supplied by the museum’s volunteer archivist Christine Orchard.

While the majority of these establishments are consigned to the history books or the memories of former regulars, some are open today and remain an important part of the local communities they serve.

Watford Observer: The Anchor c1930The Anchor c1930 (Image: Watford Observer)

The Anchor

Christine said: “The Anchor was established in Lower High Street by 1851.

“In the 1860s and 1870s it had become known as the Old Anchor and was run by William Keen who also provided lodging accommodation.

“Business must have been reasonably good as the Hit or Miss beer house was next door.

“Perhaps the area may have had some interesting aromas mixing with the beer, as on the other side of the Anchor was Payne's pork butchers shop.

“The Anchor was closed around 1957.

“The site, which is opposite Ausdens, is now a car dealers' forecourt.”

Watford Observer: The Angel beer house in March 1893The Angel beer house in March 1893 (Image: Watford Museum)

The Angel

Christine said: “The Angel beer house was in Lower High Street and in this 1893 photograph can be seen to the left of the lamp post.

“The scene, which had probably been the same for many decades, altered around 1910 when the pub was pulled down and a new house built.

“Beyond it, to the right of the lamp post, the two-storey building was also rebuilt. I believe this is where George Ausden's is now located.

“The photograph was taken by Watford architect, A Whitford Anderson.”


Watford Observer: The Bedford ArmsThe Bedford Arms (Image: Watford Museum)

The Bedford Arms

Christine said: “Daniel Roots was one of the Bedford Arms’ first landlords and he was running the pub in the early 1870s. It seems the pub was already trading when he took it on.

“The Watford Observer, in 1868, records an application for what appears to be a new spirits licence made by William John Bunce. He had been running the pub as a beer house for over a year and a half.

“This Langley Road pub was closed in November 2012 and redeveloped as housing.”

Watford Observer: The Coachmakers Arms c1930The Coachmakers Arms c1930 (Image: Watford Museum)

The Coachmakers Arms

Christine said: “The Coachmakers Arms was opened around 1850 and was probably named after its landlord’s trade, as George Homer Ware was a coach builder, originally from Dorset.

“The pub was in High Street, near to the flyover and approximately where the Yorkshire Building Society is today.

“By 1881 Francis Pooley had taken over at the pub and it continued to be run by him and later just by his wife until around 1912.

“The pub is shown here in the late 1920s and the poster affixed to the left of the pub makes it clear how long ago the image was taken.

“The advertised film was called ‘Jaws of Steel’ which was released in 1927 and was a silent adventure film featuring the dog star Rin Tin Tin.”

Watford Observer: The Cricketers Arms in the 1930sThe Cricketers Arms in the 1930s (Image: Watford Museum)

The Cricketers Arms

Christine said: “The Cricketers Arms was originally known as the Masons Arms after the trade of the first landlord.

“The pub’s name changed in 1860s and by 1871 it was tenanted by John Bonham Ryder, beer house keeper with his young wife and their daughter, just 11 months old.

“The pub faced onto Watford Fields and could be reached either from Watford Field Road or down Fox Alley from the High Street – the Benskin brewery building beyond was located on the land behind Watford Museum.

“The photo is dated to 1935 and is part of the Museum’s Benskin’s pub photo collection.”

Watford Observer: The Crystal Palace in June 1907The Crystal Palace in June 1907 (Image: Watford Museum)

The Crystal Palace

Christine said: “The Crystal Palace public house was located in High Street not far from Queens Road – it is difficult to locate today as this stretch of shops is part of the Atria shopping centre.

“It is believed the pub was opened in 1854 and one of the first families to run it were the Rossons. Joseph Rosson was also a greengrocer although it seems unlikely he traded from the pub.

“This photograph was taken by a local architect, A Whitford Anderson and is dated 26 June 1907. It is probably the last views of the pub before it was closed.”

Watford Observer: The Devonshire Arms in January 1969The Devonshire Arms in January 1969 (Image: Watford Museum)

The Devonshire Arms

Christine said: “Benskin’s brewery-owned pubs could be found over a wide area and not just restricted to Watford.

“The Devonshire Arms is one such pub which used to be at 158 High Road in Bushey Heath.

“It came into Benskin hands in 1923 having been owned by Sedgwick’s brewery.

“This photo is from the 1930s and shows the pub when it was run by John Coles.

“I believe the pub, which may have first opened in the early 19th century, was closed in September 2006. The site was later sold to a developer and today there is a new house.”

Watford Observer: The Dog at the time of its closureThe Dog at the time of its closure (Image: Watford Museum)

The Dog

Christine said: “The Dog public house was in Hempstead Road, roughly were the pedestrian crossing at the corner of West Herts College is today. It is believed a pub was established here around 1720 and was known as the Holly Bush. It had stabling for two horses.

“The pub, still known as the Holly Bush, was bought by William Smith, a brewer, in 1773. By 1823, its name had change to the Dog and a friendly society was established here, then in the 1860s it was briefly known as the Dog & Partridge.

Watford Observer: The bar in The DogThe bar in The Dog (Image: Watford Museum)

“It was a popular pub with hay carters, although I’m not sure if they were permitted to pull-up on the roadside whilst they went in for a drink. The roadway was likely broad enough so this may have been the case.

“I believe the Dog closed around November 1969.”

Watford Observer: The Eight Bells is on the left of this old pictureThe Eight Bells is on the left of this old picture (Image: Watford Museum)

The Eight Bells

Christine said: “The Eight Bells, in High Street, had been named the Barley Mow in the 1760s although it is believed a pub had been on this site prior to this date.

“One of the earliest known owners was Sam Smith, a brewer.

“The pub appears to have become the Eight Bells, c1790, and was run by many people including John Kilby who held the pub in the 1840s and 50s.

“It remained the Eight Bells until it was closed in 1956 when it and the adjacent building were demolished. Today Primark is here.”

Watford Observer: The Fox and Fox Alley c1930The Fox and Fox Alley c1930 (Image: Watford Museum)

The Fox

Christine said: “The Fox public house was at 206 High Street which is roughly opposite the fire station.

“The pub is believed to have opened around 1854, the earliest known landlord was George Colley. As well as a beer house keeper, George was also a blacksmith.

“This 1930’s photograph includes an alley, known as Fox Alley, and shows a number of buildings so it is possible that he had a workshop or forge behind the pub.

“The pub closed in 1956 and eventually this building and those adjacent were demolished.”