Living Treasure of Dorset – Charlie Newman, pub licensee
'I go to take my dogs for a walk and never come home empty handed'
Published in July ’15
The Square and Compass oozes character from the hatch that serves as the bar, to the regulars, without which no decent pub is complete. Charlie Newman – whose grandfather, Charles, took over the pub in 1907 – is determined to change it as little as possible and, apart from the addition of a fossil museum, he has kept it the same. He bought the freehold in 1994 a year after his father, Ray, died and then they had a party for about ten years: ‘Now I’m all sensible,’ Charlie laughs.
‘This pub can tick quite a few boxes,’ he says, explaining that visitors come after the easy circular walks nearby or they come by bicycle, after climbing, or for sustenance after a trek from Weymouth.’
The pub is also well known for live music, with bands playing their own songs, not covers.
Charlie also makes cider in a barn round the back – about 24,000 litres this year – and to his knowledge has only ever had one pint returned, so he must be doing something right. Ale is obviously the mainstay of the pub’s drinking menu but there is never any cider left over.
He makes three types – a dry (Eve’s Idea), a medium (Sat down Beside ’er) and the sweet Kiss me Kate – and began cider-making a decade ago after acquiring an old twin-screw press. For fun they set it going and held some demonstration days at the front of the pub. It was powered by a tractor and a great big leather belt. After a couple of years of this fairly makeshift set up Charlie decided to take it seriously. He manages an orchard and harvests the fruit from its 140 trees. He also accepts apples from locals and buys in some from a Dorset grower (varieties like Chisel Jersey and Dabinette). It’s physically demanding – a twelve-month cycle by the end of which, they are absolutely exhausted and with some ‘really good lads’, he presses 200 tonnes of apples in six back-breaking weeks.
Charlie has a smallholding where he has seven Dexter cows, three Iron Age pigs which he explained are ‘wild boar cross Tamworth, really hairy and quite wild’, seventy ducks, chickens and bantams, three geese and six dogs.
He is a keen fossil-hunter, but doesn’t ‘really set out to go fossiling; I go to take my dogs for a walk and never come home empty handed. It’s just the pleasure of finding something; it’s that little reward for a journey.’
Most of his finds end up in the pub museum and he shares more interesting items with other enthusiasts, including his sister and Steve Etches.
Charlie’s mother’s family, the Smiths, farmed nearby from the mid 17th century: ‘so we haven’t gone far ‘ave we? I like the fact things have gone almost full circle. This pub is very important to me and to lots of other people.’ ◗
❱ Portrait by Millie Pilkington, pen-portrait by Liz Pope. Abridged from Great Faces of Dorset, published by Dovecote Press at £20, ISBN 978-0-9929151-0-0,