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Disappointment of the week with Wittenden on the Pub Forum

Square & Compass, Worth Matravers, Swanage

Worth Matravers
BH19 3LF

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Pub SignMan left this review about Square & Compass

Blessed with a great location on the side of a hill, looking down across the fields to the sea below, this is a fantastically well preserved pub serving this small quarrying community and the flocks of tourists who descend here for the surrounding walking country. The pub has been owned and operated by the Newman family for over 110 years now (a plaque in one room commemorates their 70th anniversary), and this consistency of approach has helped them feature in every edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide – one of only five pubs, at the time of writing, to hold this distinction. As classic, rural pub interiors go, this place has to be one of the best examples in the country, having retained its corridor servery and two room layout with minimal alteration over the years. Passing through the front garden, with its various benches affording great views out to sea, you enter to the quarry stone floor corridor with the serving area directly opposite. The corridor turns 90 degrees to run to the left, passing a second serving hatch and a small alcove where you can prop you pint and stand should no other seating be available. The main room is to the right of the corridor and sees a parquet floored room with wood panelled and Purbeck stone walls filled with standard tables and chairs under a simple wood beamed ceiling. An attractive stone fireplace on the end wall was lit on our post-Christmas visit and the room was accordingly packed with locals and walkers all wanting to warm up around it. The walls have been decorated with a few pictures and photos, mainly of local interest and a number of CAMRA certificates were lined up along the left hand wall. The other seating area appears midway along the left hand branch of the corridor. This is a more compact room with hard, fixed bench seating around three sides and some low stools in the middle. The room is dominated by a massive fireplace which covers the entire end wall and has an ancient looking stove inside, a fine bottle collection above and a few interesting old bits of furniture around it. The walls here have various interesting bits of breweriana on display, plus more local photos and some old maps of the surrounding area. The corridor extends as far as a final room at the far left hand extremity of the pub, which has been converted into a small, single room museum, dedicated to the area’s famous geology and fossils. There are no full dinosaur skeletons here – it’s a more modest affair – but there are a couple of replicas of famous local fossil finds, plus interesting fossil and stone displays and a few bits of dubious taxidermy.
The serving hatch means there is no bar as such (although the second hatch to the left does have a small counter of sorts), so you place your order and the friendly staff trot off to pour the beer from elsewhere. There were four ales on when we visited – Hetty Brown HPA, Moonlit and Old English plus Settle Ernie’s Milk Stout – plus four real ciders. My half of the Moonlit was lovely and my other half enjoyed warming up over some mulled cider. Food comes in the form of pasties, rolls and the like and is sensibly priced.
I used to visit this pub every year after our traditional Boxing Day walk along the coastal path – a tradition that I’d not observed for about 15 years – so it was great to return this Christmas and find it as great as I remember it. This really is one of the UK’s top pubs and whilst it is far from simple to get here, perseverance will be well rewarded.

On 4th February 2019 - rating: 9
[User has posted 2347 recommendations about 2347 pubs]

Moby Duck left this review about Square & Compass

A remote country pub, exposed to the elements but extremely cosy inside. It is of course well described below, we got there ten minutes before the midday opening time which proved fortunate as within twenty minutes people were queuing outside the door to get served, such is its popularity and this on a dreary and drizzly November day. There were a couple of beers from Hattie Browns, brewed locally in Swanage plus Powder keg IPA, dangerously nice at 6.0%. Well worth the trip out here but turn up early.

On 30th December 2018 - rating: 9
[User has posted 1295 recommendations about 1282 pubs]

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Just a quick pint, then I'm off left this review about Square & Compass

Iconic, remote country pub in a splendid position overlooking the Jurassic Coast. Picture-book white-washed building, with the most traditional layout inside with the narrow entrance hall leading to the main serving hatch. There is a second hatch down the left-hand side corridor leading to a snug and small museum, and a slightly larger room can be found off to the right. Famed as both a cider and beer pub, there were many of the former and five of latter (including the connected Hattie Brown's Moonlight, £3.50). Difficult to get to, but absolutely worth the effort...

On 16th April 2017 - rating: 10
[User has posted 5808 recommendations about 5808 pubs]

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Blackthorn _ left this review about Square & Compass

I don’t think there’s anything I can really add to the excellent reviews below, so I will just document the beers that were on offer when I visited.

These were Palmer’s Copper Ale, RCH PG Steam, Kite’s Bluestone Bitter and Goodens Gold from the Flower Pots brewery. Ciders were well represented with home pressed ciders consisting of Kiss Me Kate, Eve’s Idea, Sat Down Be Cider and American Mother. Besides these, the more regular offerings were Stowford Press, Cider by Rosie, three from Westons – Old Rosie, Organic Vintage and Perry and three from Hecks – Port Wine of Glastonbury, Kingston Black and Blakeney Red Perry.

On 31st July 2013 - rating: 9
[User has posted 1709 recommendations about 1645 pubs]

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John Bonser left this review about Square & Compass

My brief sojourn to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall could only really have one pub as the first port of call - The Square and Compass.

Named after the local activity of quarrying, it's a fine old stone farmhouse style building, high up in the Purbeck Hills, not too far from Swanage and affording excellent sea views.

Arriving by car on a recent Sunday lunchtime ( park in the nearby car park for £ 1 - honesty box provided ), I felt somewhat out of place in my trainers and brewery logo'd sweat shirt, finding that most of the other customers were walkers in sturdy boots and shorts, displaying knobbly knees and carrying walking sticks, or alternatively were super fit looking cyclists. There were also a few seemingly locals, each with the obligatory large dog in tow. Thankfully, the "Chelsea set", to whom previous postings allude, were not conspicuously noticeable.

The pub consists of 2 basic rooms at either end of a short, low, wood panelled, flagstoned central corridor, down which you pass to reach the hatched bar counter at the end. The room on the left is basic and has fixed bench seating. The room on the right, where live music sometimes features, is slightly larger, is equally basic and contains a few CAMRA certificates ( including one for 30 years in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide ) and also cider and perry awards. It's one of only a handful of pubs to have appeared in each GBG edition - 37 to date ( up to 2010 ).The Square and Compass is also listed in CAMRA's National Inventory of Heritage Pubs.

Further on the left is an interesting museum of local artefacts and fossils, to which admission is free. It's certainly the first pub with an in house museum that I can remember visiting. Mind you, some pubs - and here I'm particularly thinking about the well known Yew Tree - are museums in themselves.

Seating outside at the front, with splendid views of the English Channel, consists of some long wooden benches and a rather higgledy - piggledy collection of tree trunks and stone slabs acting as tables and seats. There's no sun umbrellas, but these weren't needed on my visit.

There's a grassy garden area to the right of the pub, but a notice warning that "the cockerel can be very unfriendly and is best avoided" appeared to have discouraged anyone from using it. There's outside toilets, but in a modernised block.

Food consists of home made pasties and pies, served on flimsy paper plates, whilst stocks last.

I'm going to do my grumpy old man bit now. When large swathes of Dorset's beaches are off limits to dogs in the summer months, I find it incomprehensible, in a pub like this with narrow corridors and not a lot of room at any time, particularly when busy, that a customer is allowed to bring into the pub a dog that is basically not much smaller than a Shetland pony, as was the case on my visit. Thankfully, most other customers were more accommodating and sensibly left their mutts outside.

Beer is served direct from the barrel from the small room at the end of the corridor to customers who queue in the corridor at busy times. Given the lack of space, this can give a degree of intimacy to proceedings. Beers on were Palmers Copper Ale and Dorset Gold at £ 3.00p and £ 3.10p respectively. Downtons Chockwork Orange ( 5.8% - notably, also £ 3.10p ) ran out during my visit, but was a non-starter as I had the car. There's also a good selection of hand pressed ciders available.

This was a very memorable visit and you really should try and get here if you haven't already been.

On 5th October 2010 - rating: 9
[User has posted 560 recommendations about 560 pubs]

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Rex Rattus left this review about Square & Compass

This really is a destination pub, as it’s effectively at the back of beyond. When I was in recently there was a mix between hikers who had undertaken a cliff walk, and some who had obviously driven there. It’s pretty small inside with the “bar” essentially a hatch through which the barmaids (at least there were barmaids when I visited) pass the drinks. The ale is gravity dispensed, which is very unusual these days. On my visit they had three real ales on (Palmer’s Copper Ale; HopBack Crop Circle; and Abbey White Friar) plus cider of course. The ales were around the £3 a pint mark. I had the White Friar – perhaps a little too sweet, but that’s just a matter of taste – and Crop Circle, which was an excellent summer ale.
As you go in you are faced with the serving hatch; to the right is a small, but comfortable looking seating area; and to the right a small museum featuring some local history, with the emphasis on fossils. This is the first time I’ve seen a museum in a pub, though one or two have almost been museums in their own right. But this pub really comes into its own when the weather is good, as the view over the cliffs and out to sea is quite spectacular. Outside seating consists of a few picnic benches; lumps of wood and stone for tables and more stone and tree trunks for seats. I don’t know another pub anything like it. It’s definitely worth going out of your way to find - indeed I expect anyone who has visited has made a special effort to get there, as it’s hardly on the way to anywhere. Highly recommended.

On 13th August 2009 - rating: 10
[User has posted 2545 recommendations about 2463 pubs]

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Quinno _ left this review about Square & Compass

This rural gem is one of the few pubs which has featured in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. It really is a pub for all seasons - beautiful outside with a beer in summer; lovely inside with a real fire in the winter. It's a haven for walkers and is also dog-friendly. The only mobile phone network I could pick up here was French, so phone home before you start on the drink.

The pub looks like a farmhouse from the outside. The interior is bare stone, flagstone floors and real fires. Nothing much has changed here over the years – no TV or fruit machines here. Two drinking rooms are separated by a narrow corridor which hosts the notorious serving hatch – notorious because it can quickly get jammed up when more than a few people want a pint, which in the case of this pub means quite often It can be a real wait sometimes but what can be done? If the hatch is demolished everyone will cry “shame!” so we'll just have to be patient. It's part of the charm I suppose. I found the funny museum a bit pointless - is it really worth having it? I'd wager that the room would be better off for drinking in given the popularity of the place. Perhaps put a relief bar in there for peak times?

On to the beer – there were 3 ales on when I went (Ringwood Best, Barnsley Oak Leaf and Rudgate Ruby Mild) served well from stillage. The ales were also complimented by a decent cider selection so you could easily do a good session in here on a summer's day. Prices were slightly above average (between £2.80-£3.10 for the real stuff). Food-wise there are pasties to be had, which are OK if a tad expensive for what they are (and that they're served on flimsy paper plates). However better to have this than proper diners fayre which would block the place up even more than it currently is. Clientèle are a mix of locals, walkers, tourists and the curious ale-geeks (me).

All in all the S&C is pretty dammed good but it suffers from its own notoriety at peak times. Despite the faults it's got to be worth the trek.

On 6th July 2009 - rating: 9
[User has posted 3921 recommendations about 3909 pubs]

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Richard Kightley left this review about Square & Compass

best kept secret in England, Europe, the world. Best view, best live music, best festivals, best beer, best chickens... the Pasties keep you going Do not go there...and crowd out the people. advice.-don't plan on going anywhere afterwards...

On 11th February 2009 - rating: 10
[User has posted 1 recommendations about 1 pubs]

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Steve Thorpe left this review about Square & Compass

An amazing pub in a fantastic walking area. A real unspoilt gem of a pub that has been owned by the same family name since 1907! A genuine free house with 4 or 5 ales and a raft of ciders on offer. Food is basic - pasties but you'll be too busy soaking up the ale and atmosphere to worry about food!

On 13th August 2007 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 130 recommendations about 126 pubs]