ITV's DNA Journey in Winchester: Hampshire country pub The Northbrook Arms welcomes comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan – Hampshire Chronicle
A 19th century Hampshire village pub played a starring role in the return of one of ITV’s hit shows.
The Northbrook Arms in East Stratton proved an unlikely link between London-born comedian Rob Beckett and Hampshire as the on-screen funnyman set off on a quest to unearth the secrets of his past in the broadcaster’s popular programme, DNA Journey.
Joined by fellow comedian and best friend Romesh Ranganathan, the voice of Celebs Go Dating and star of panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats embarked on a road trip to chuckle his way up his family tree using a mix of DNA and genealogy, meeting relatives and ancestors he never knew existed along the way.
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The episode aired on Thursday, September 29 at 9pm, some two years after it was originally filmed.
Staff and friends gathered in the function room of the quaint Stratton Lane watering hole for its long-awaited national TV debut.
Adam Shanley, who owns the pub with his wife Kate, said: “We were contacted by Voltage TV (the production company) back in 2020 and we didn’t actually know who it was that was coming or what it was for.
“We just got told they were coming to do some filming, and being quite a sleepy pub we just said ‘yes’. It wasn’t until the actual night they turned up we found out it was Rob and Romesh. They said it would be for ‘high profile’ celebrities, but they definitely exceeded expectations.”
Rob started his journey on the show in Winchester where he discovered his links to the city.
A local historian unearthed records of Frederick Beckett – his Great Great Grandfather who grew up right in the heart of the town alongside 15 other siblings.
Rob said: “I’ve always liked Winchester, I’ve got friends down here and I’ve done a few giggs here, too.”
Having grown up in Winchester in the days it was plagued by poverty, Rob discovered Frederick lost five of his family members by the time he was just 16.
From there, he decided to up sticks and move to East Stratton where he started working as a servant in The Northbrook Arms.
Crews visited the pub for two seperate days of filming as Frederick’s affinity with the village and the boozer evolved.
After learning of the poignant role it played in his Great Great Grandfather’s escape from his formerly troubled life, Rob joked: “I’m going to have to buy it now, aren’t I?”
Mr Shanley took over the pub in April 2019, a month before the pandemic hit and venues were forced to close, and he revealed Rob has since played a vital role in helping him and his wife navigate their business through a difficult period.
He introduced the couple to local comedian Paul McCaffrey, helping them form a connection which Mr Shanley described as “game changing”.
Since then, with Paul’s help, The Northbrook Arms has hosted 23 comedy nights with big-name acts such as Alan Carr, Sean Walsh, Andy Parsons, Ivo Graham and Lloyd Griffith all performing.
“The biggest difficulty of keeping this all under wraps until the show aired was that we haven’t been able to attribute or credit Rob for all of that glory,” Mr Shanley added.
“He is fundamentaly the introduction that made all that happen. We are very aware we have been punching well about our weight, and I can thank him or Paul enough.”
He added: “Rob has been back since. We had him and his family for lunch when they visited the area on holiday last year.
“He definitely embraced it and supported us in an environment where neither party could declare any association – there was no benefit to him whatsoever other than being a genuinely great guy. Everyone involved was really amazing and respectful.”
Alongside the construction of a new restaurant area, Mr Shanley says he and his wife have ‘grand plans’ for a swimming pool and spa as well as further accomodation.
However, he says maintaining the original character of the building has been key for them since they took over, and welcomed the ‘beautiful’ link between Rob and the venue.
“We’re not a big developer and we’ve not bought this site to knock it down and turn it into loads of buildings or flats. Genuinely we’re really passionate about the history of the pub and we’ve done a lot of work to maintain its original features and character.
“So, it’s a very happy coincidence this has come out of nowhere, you couldn’t have planned it. To find out that someone so famous has got such a historical connection to it is amazing.”
He added: “There have been a lot of challenges since we took this pub on. And while there’s no expectation on our part as to what this might bring, to have East Stratton and the Northbrook Arms put on ITV and potentially the world stage is quite exciting.”
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