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Amber Rooms - Sidwell Street

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This is not historically one of the most interesting pubs in Exeter as it was only built in the 1950's, but I have included it as it has become an important venue for music in the city. However, I must mention that there was an earlier pub in Paris Street, named the Greyhound. This establishment, destroyed in the 1942 blitz, was owned by the same brewery as the rebuilt Greyhound.

Some trade entries for the Greyhound in Paris Street.

1850 - Greyhound, Edward Howe - White's
1871 - Spiller. C., greyhound inn paris-street - Pocket Journal
1878 - Greyhound, Charles Spiller (105 Paris St) - White's
1897 - Greyhound, Frederick George Brand, Paris st. Exeter - Kelly's
1923 - Greyhound, William Thomas Chambers - Post Office

The Modern Greyhound

Sidwell Street was badly damaged in the bombing of 1942 and it took more than twenty years for the damage to be rebuilt. Buildings on this side of Sidwell Street date from around 1958. Sidwells House, the building to the left of the Amber Rooms was the editorial office, printers and distribution depot for the Express and Echo who moved, during 1958 from their old premises at 225-6 High Street. The new hotel was built on the site of the Poltimore Arms which had existed until 1912, when the premises became a motor garage. The site was leased by the City Brewery from the City Council on a 99 year lease, on 28th January 1958. The license was transferred from the old Greyhound which was next to the Bude Hotel, in Paris Street. The same brewery lost six public houses to the blitz in Sidwell Street alone.

Opened as the Greyhound on 21st April 1958 as a hotel incorporating a restaurant for 80 diners on the first floor. It also had a Cocktail Bar named the Gay Dog Bar. Its first landlord was Mr Leonard Worral who had been a customer of the Paris Street Inn, another City Brewery house that was lost in the blitz.

The Printers Pie

The Greyhound was refitted in 1982 at a cost of £100,000 and renamed the Printers Pie. It was named Printers Pie after the mess that the type made on the floor when the set type was accidentally dropped. The bar was opened by the Mayor and the first pint pulled by the editor of the Express and Echo, John Budworth. The wine bar attached to the main bar was closed down after 18 months as it proved to be too trendy for the modest folk of Exeter - it reopened as a pub bar and renamed the Greyhound!

It was in 1990 that music was introduced to the Printers Pie as the then owner thought, that apart from the clubs on the quay, there was little music within the city for the young. An arson attack badly damaged the Printers Pie at 7am one June morning in 1994. It was thought that someone set light to a news stand outside the front and the resultant inferno spread through a doorway into the building.

In 2002 it was renamed Pi, a short name and an even shorter existence as it closed and reopened as the Amber Rooms in July 2003.

From the late 1980's, the Printers Pie (Amber Rooms) became an important venue in the Exeter music scene. Thom Yorke of Radiohead played there with his student band Flickernoise and also with the 'Headless Chickens', and the place is credited for nurturing many groups that are well known today. Andy Cato of Groove Armada has played there (he produced the Shakin' Ass tune for Renault) while Radio 1 DJ's Skitz and Rodney P are also regular acts. Now, it is the venue for hip hop and dance.

Source: Express and Echo clippings, Geoffrey Prings history of Exeter breweries and the Amber Room management, Greyhound photo from In The Land of Bill Brewer - The City Brewery in Exeter. © 2005 David Cornforth - not to be used without permission

The Amber RoomsThe Amber Rooms.The Printers PieThe printers Pie. Photo Sean CreechThe Greyhound HotelThe Greyhound Hotel.

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