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Chris Lloyd: ‘A private man with a huge public impact’





Chris Lloyd, the landlord of the Free Press and Cambridge Blue for almost 30 years and well known in the rowing community, has died after a short illness, aged 83.

His wife Debbie said that for a “private person”, Chris had made “a huge impact on the public” in the licensed trade as well as rowing and rugby circles.

Chris and Debbie Lloyd behind the bar at the Cambridge Blue. Picture: Debbie Lloyd
Chris and Debbie Lloyd behind the bar at the Cambridge Blue. Picture: Debbie Lloyd

Chris was born in Aylesbury in 1941, educated at St Faith’s School, and rowing was part of his life from a young age.

“He was a very successful oarsman at Oundle School and he was stroke of a crew that rowed at Henley in 1959,” said Debbie. “He was a member of Cambridge ’99 in his teenage years, he was at Christ’s College and he trialled for the Blue boat.”

He moved to Brighton in 1960 and went to teacher training college. He returned to Cambridge in 1976 and taught at St Faith’s.

Debbie, from Maine, had come to Cambridge in 1974 and said: “We met on Orchard Street. Chris’s sister was close to the woman I was sharing a house with, and she walked in with Chris and that was it.”

The couple started in the Free Press in 1978 and Debbie said that with his “Christ’s College and rugby club connections, he was the perfect landlord”. The couple’s son Toby was born in October 1979.

The pub introduced a smoking ban long before it became the law. Debbie had been doing some part-time research into hypertension and the ill-effects of smoking.

She said: “By 1992 we had both managed to quit smoking but we were still suffering the effects in the pubs - you could cut the smoke with a knife and I thought enough is enough. It was a hard decision, smoking was popular. One woman said she came to the pub to relax but she said: ‘I wouldn’t have smoking in my house’. And this was our house.”

Chris Lloyd at Henley. Picture: Debbie Lloyd
Chris Lloyd at Henley. Picture: Debbie Lloyd

The couple had bought the Dewdrop Inn in Gwydir Street in 1984 and opened it as the Cambridge Blue in April 1985 and ran both pubs for a while. “We then leased the Blue to Banks & Taylor and later Nethergate when Nick Winnington was there - he was quite a character,” said Debbie.

They ran both pubs again for a time in late 1999 and finally left the Free Press in May 2000: “The minute we went to the Blue, it was no smoking,” said Debbie.

On retiring in October 2007 they lived in Milton. Debbie said: “Chris worked 8am-noon five days a week in the boathouse and was rowing at the weekend. We would cycle into Cambridge on Friday nights and do a pub crawl with some of our favourite customers.”

When Chris came back to Cambridge in 1976, he started to coach rowing and was part of a veterans crew.

Debbie said: “There were few colleges he didn’t coach - sometimes he was coaching three crews a week - and he was involved with CUWBC. The rowing community he touched is absolutely immense. He was well known in Cambridge and beyond.”

Chris Lloyd, left, at the Town Bumps 2016 with Cambridgeshire Rowing Association president Bill Key. Picture: Debbie Lloyd
Chris Lloyd, left, at the Town Bumps 2016 with Cambridgeshire Rowing Association president Bill Key. Picture: Debbie Lloyd

At the Free Press they set up a rowing club straight away. Debbie coxed a novice crew and they both took part in the 1978 Bumps. On leaving the pub, the club became the X-Press Boat Club with Chris as life president.

A piece of Cambridge Boat Race history was prominent in both their pubs. Debbie explained: “Our friend Peter Hobson was the cox in 1984 and the boat hit a barge and broke off the bows, so the race was held on the Sunday. The boat was auctioned and we paid £1,000 for the bows. It stayed at the Free Press, the Blue, then Churchill boathouse where Chris was assistant boatman for 23 years, and now it’s back at the Free Press.”

A broken hip in 2011 brought an end to rowing for Chris. He was also a keen rugby player and played for Shelford when the couple met, later moving to Cantabs and playing into his 50s.

Debbie said one of his favourite things was to ‘adopt’ honorary sons: “Lots of students were living far away from home and they saw us as parental figures.”

Recalling their time in the Free Press, Debbie said: “In our early days, we opened at 10am-2pm and 5.30-10.30pm. Because we were open early, we often had the street cleaners come in. And on one occasion, we had the street cleaners, the lavatory cleaners and two peers of the realm!

“We had multicultural and multinational staff who were often over-qualified - some had PhDs. We ran very good pubs with a very good atmosphere.”

Having served thousands of pints to customers, Chris Lloyd enjoys one in retirement. Picture: Debbie Lloyd
Having served thousands of pints to customers, Chris Lloyd enjoys one in retirement. Picture: Debbie Lloyd

Among their customers was Jack Lang, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Raspberry Pi, who died on 23 April.

Debbie said: “Jack was one of our first customers. Being a good cook, he was always interested in our menu. In the 1980s Jack became the partner of Chris’s sister Diana and they opened Midsummer House. And ironically, Chris and Jack ended up in Addenbrooke’s in adjacent beds.”

She concluded: “Chris was quite shy and quite modest. A friend asked me: ‘How did such a quiet man impact on so many people?’ He was a private person who made a huge impact on the public.”

Chris died on 2 May. His funeral is on 31 May at Cam Valley Crematorium in Great Chesterford, followed by a reception at Shelford Rugby Club, which will livestream the funeral.



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