Mothballed canalside pub the Fiddle & Bone has remained virtually untouched in the 12 years since it closed its doors, prompting the developer who is bringing it back to life to compare it to the Marie Celeste.
The historic pub, which shut down amid complaints over noise, is to finally reopen following extensive restoration and refurbishment.
The pub, situated behind the Grade II* listed Roundhouse close to Birmingham’s Brindleyplace, was once a thriving jazz and blues venue, but complaints from residents of new flats nearby forced it to close its doors.
Now the Sheepcote Street pub is set to enjoy a new lease of life thanks to a partnership between the building’s owners, the Canal & River Trust, and Birmingham business Sherborne Wharf.
Earle Wightman, managing director of Sherborne Wharf, which owns canalside moorings, provides services to canal boaters and runs canal boat trips, said much of the pub remained exactly as it was left in 2002, when it closed.
“It was like the Marie Celeste,” said Mr Wightman. “They were the words I used when I first walked in three years ago.
“There were pumps on the bars, tables and chairs out and even glasses.
“When we went into the cellar we discovered barrels that still had beer in and there was also a store that still had dried and tinned food in it.”
Mr Wightman said the restored Fiddle & Bone would use many of the old fixtures and fittings and even some of the furniture, adding that the general layout and interior of the pub would stay roughly the same. The pub will feature four bars, a restaurant and a private function room.
Work is also taking place to develop a courtyard area for eating and drinking and a two-metre wall has been removed to open it up and enable access from the canal.
Sherborne Wharf is also relocating its boating facilities to the Fiddle & Bone site and the courtyard will feature a boat yard providing a chandlery, pump out, diesel and laundry facilities. In addition the firm’s office will move to the pub complex.
Highlighting the courtyard as one of the most exciting aspects of the revamp, architect Anthony Chorley said: “Having looked around the building initially I realised how divorced it was from the canal due to the wall.
“Taking that down allows access to the pub from the canal and gives anyone sat in it tremendous views.”
The deal between the Canal & River Trust sees the building leased to Sherborne Wharf for 30 years and the trust is also providing some of the funding to refurbish the building.
Mr Wightman added that live music would also return to the pub, which once saw an impromptu appearance by Nigel Kennedy during the Birmingham International Jazz Festival, but that it would not be on the scale seen previously.
He said that while the pub had obtained an entertainment licence, they had been consulting with neighbours and measures were in place to limit noise.
“It turns out the agent who supplies jazz bands and other music for our boat trips was the same person who used to supply music to the Fiddle & Bone,” he said.
“We are already thinking about some of the events we will put on but we have addressed the noise issue.
“There is a sound control which cuts off the music if it ever gets too loud so we’re conscious of decibel levels and also timings.”
The new pub is hoping to cash in on the redevelopment of the nearby Barclaycard Arena, as well as planned housing development in Icknield Port loop, which at 55 acres is the biggest brownfield residential site in Birmingham.
Cheryl Blount-Powell, development manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “The whole Icknield Port loop is up for redevelopment with more than 1,000 houses as part of a partnership between Birmingham City Council and the Canal & River Trust.
“It involves regenerating the area and linking it back to the city. When that comes on-stream we are hopefully going to see this become a really vibrant area.
“For us at the Canal & River Trust it is really exciting to have two developments in one here – a boatyard and also a pub for the local community.”
The pub is set to reopen in late February or early March.