Public House of the Month



The friendliest pub-restaurant in the New Forest, the Empress of Blandings is named after PG Wodehouse’s legendary pig.  Situated right on the edge of the New Forest National Park and only a few minutes’ drive from the M27, the Empress of Blandings is convenient for Paultons Theme Park, the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and Lyndhurst. 


Tel: 02380 812 321

  • Meeting Room
  • Free Wifi
  • Car Park
  • Garden
  • Dogs Allowed
  • Vouchers


Posted on May 2015

Chris Gilmour is the General Manager of the Empress of Blandings. In his new additional role as Cluster Region Manager, his spare time is hard to come by. Here, we catch a free moment, to find out more about his working life at Hall & Woodhouse.

How did you start in the hospitality industry?
I was a kitchen porter, aged 16 years in Surrey. Then I continued to work my way up in the kitchen for ten years. I moved onstage about 8 years ago to work up the managerial ladder.

Have your previous jobs differed from your current one?
I’ve always worked for corporate brands, so it’s nice to know you’re involved. I see Mark and Anthony Woodhouse (the Chairman and the MD) every month for one reason or another. It’s a nice personal touch, and seeing directors of the company in the pub on a regular basis does make you feel appreciated. 

How long have you been the General Manager of this pub?
I’ve been managing the Empress of Blandings for about 18 months now. It’s much more than a pub, it’s a really enjoyable place to be. 
(Chris won the Best Newcomer award at the 2015 Managed House Awards, and has just returned from the prize trip to Prague)

And what do you like best about managing the Empress of Blandings?
The team, I was lucky enough to take on an amazing team when I arrived to manage here.  About 98% of that team are still here, which makes me feel like we must be doing something right! Everyone enjoys the work, and loves the Empress as though it’s their own business. I think every member of my team owns a little piece of the pub. 

So how do your Team and how does your pub sum up the Hall & Woodhouse values?
Team work is number one. They spend time at work and then hang out together out of work. We share the same goal, from a business and personal point of view. We’ve embedded a positive attitude in the Team and it makes things run very smoothly.

Tell us more about the Empress of Blandings, what is special about your pub? 
The Empress of Blandings is a prize-winning pig in a series of P.G. Wodehouse novels. As you can imagine there is a bit of a pig theme throughout the pub. We reckon there must be around 600 statues around the place, and the number is always growing! Our Guests like to bring in little pig souvenirs, to the pub from their holidays. We even have a league system where the best make it to the back bar! It is another quirky touch that makes the Empress special to the Guest and the Team. 

How does the Empress of Blandings play a part in your community?
We host all kind of meetings, but more recently we’ve played a bigger part for the youngest in our community. We did a tour around the building with the kids from the local primary school, and held bread making days in the kitchen for the scouts. It’s not necessarily the first thing you would expect of a pub and restaurant! We also have a whole host of car clubs that visit throughout the year, so you can imagine that all those sleek vintage cars draw quite a crowd. We put on some bacon butties and tea, and we get to enjoy the beautiful cars.

If I were to buy you a drink from the bar, what would you like? 

It would have to be First Call, it’s a classic! I’m not usually a bitter drinker, but if I’m visiting a H&W pub, it will be First Call every time. 

What would you order to eat with your drink of choice?

Our beer-battered Fish & Chips goes especially well with a refreshing pint, or perhaps a Fish & Chip Shop Platter if I’m feeling very hungry. 

What’s good to see and experience in your area after a visit to the pub?
Of course I should mention the New Forest. It’s a beautiful part of the country, and naturally we get lots of people in the Empress who are visiting the New Forest. We are also very close to Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World.  
What’s your favourite season of the year at the pub?Christmas and winter is my favourite season in the pub. We’re a country pub so it’s a warm, cosy community vibe. It feels like time slows down a bit, so you get a chance to relax and enjoy.

Thank you for your time, Chris. We wish you, your Team and the Empress of Blandings the best for the future.