When The Tumble Down Dick was closed in 2008 there were numerous rumours about its future. There was speculation that there may be a mysterious fire (as there was when the Duke of York in Camberley was torched, allegedly), it was going to be knocked down, turned into flats or a car park, or of it remained it would be a “family-friendly” pub like a Harvester (Shoot me now) or Yates’s (You looking at my bird?) and even a JD Wetherspoon. Yes, it was definitely going to be a Wetherspoon’s pub because so-and-so’s brother/cousin/son-in-law/dog had seen the plans/had inside information/got the contract/had a dream/got a phone call from god etc etc ad nauseum.
So when part of the empty shop space under the Travelodge (is that a Trave Lodge or a Travel Odge?) in Victoria Road, Farnborough, was first opened as a Papa John’s (Great, just what Farnborough needs – yet another fast food/pizza place) and then the signs were unveiled for a new pub, we knew for definite that The Tumble Down Dick was not going to be another Wetherspoon’s.
I first read about this new pub when the local branch of CAMRA, the CAMpaign for Real Ale, started discussing online, the naming of this new establishment. The only name I remember being bandied about was The Invincible – After all, I regularly work in Invincible Road, Farnborough, and it was named after the locomotive that used to take coal and stuff from the mainline railway to the old Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE)*.
Then one day, when the “official” signs on the builders hoardings outside the new pub were unveiled, so was the tavern’s new name – The Tilly Shilling.
Oh dear. What a silly name, I thought – that’s nothing near as testosterone-laden, boy’s own and beer-swilling as The Invincible. Grr. Or no Grr, as the case may be.
But then, many weeks after ruing the name of of our new future drinking establishment, I decided to Google it – and my opinion has now changed. Here’s why…
Back in 1940, during the Battle of Britain, Spitfires and Hurricanes fought the Germans over the skies of southern and eastern England. Whilst these planes have now acquired a legendary reputation, at the time they had a major drawback – Whilst pitching the nose of the plane into a sharp dive, the Rolls Royce Merlin engines, equipped with SU carburettors, would either lose power or simply cut-out. The negative G forces would push the float to the top of the float chamber allowing fuel to rush in, flooding the engine/supercharger with an overrich mixture. The Gemans, in the meantime, were flying planes with no such problems as their Messerschmitt ME109s used fuel-injected engines.
The down side of losing engine power is obvious – If you lose that power whilst in a dogfight with the enemy, you could be in some very serious trouble. The Spitfire and Hurricane pilots complained about the power losses and cut-outs and a solution was sought.
Step-in Beatrice Shilling, scientific officer and engineer at the RAE. Beatrice, fondly known as Tilly, had the simple idea of fitting the SU carb with a metal disc with a hole in it – whilst not a complete solution to the fuel problem it drastically reduced the chances of power loss and cut-out. Whilst officially named the RAE restrictor, the modification was affectionately known as the “Tilly Orifice” or “Miss Shilling’s Orifice”.
So, whist The Imperial and The Tumble Down Dick remain closed, when Farnborough’s new pub opens on Wednesday the 21st July and you make crude invitations for your friends to partake in a visit to Miss Tilly’s, just remember the story behind that name.
STOP PRESS: I’ve heard that Wetherspoons spent £1 million to convert the place from a new, empty shopspace to become Farnborough’s newest pub. If only somebody had invested that amount of dosh in our beloved old Tumble Down Dick 🙁
* I’m not old enough to have seen this but I’ve seen the old photographs in The Invincible loco went through the streets of Farnborough whilst a flag-waving conductor would stop the traffic to let the train pass